My Maundy Thursday Mess

If my alarm went off, I didn’t hear it. In fact, the baby was the first thing I heard this morning as my eyes opened and saw the numbers on the clock.

7:34

It was 7:34 AM, approximately 34 minutes later than it was supposed to read. At this point on a Thursday morning, I should have been adding last minute things to the oldest’s book bag, feeding a baby a bottle, and helping the middle soul with a fashion crisis while securing my leather bag for a morning of work.

Instead, the clock is reading 7:34, and I’m still laying in a pile of disheveled sheets.

Busting down the stairs in our little cape cod, I clumsily greeted everyone and headed for my contacts. After a whirlwind of dry shampoo, toothpaste, and some new eye liner, I emerged with a messy bun and a need for coffee.

After kissing the oldest goodbye and feeding the baby, I turned my attention toward the clean load of dishes that was waiting in the dishwasher. Since I had a few moments to spare before needing to leave, I decided to tackle the cupboard-ready dishes. As I pulled, stacked, and placed the dishes, I realized I hadn’t seen or heard our Evie Rae for over 15 minutes. And if you know Evie, that’s a LOOOONNNGGG time to not hear or see her. Hastily, I called for her.

“Evie! Where are you? Evie?!”

From behind her brother’s bedroom door, I heard her muffled voice.

“I’m in here, Mommy!”

Opening the door, I found her sitting on the bedroom floor in a pile of organized Legos.

“Evie, what are you doing, sweetheart?”

“You asked Caden to pick up and organize his Legos last night, so I thought I would do it.”

I was speechless.

“But Evie, that wasn’t your mess to clean up,” I responded in humble shock.

“I know, but I decided to show love.”

Tears welled up. And just as soon as those tears welled up and the words reverberated in my head, I realized that there couldn’t be more apt words for a Thursday morning.

In the rush of the morning and in the chaos of the scrambling, I hadn’t remembered the sacredness of this symbolic Thursday. I had been busy and hurried and because of it, my heart hadn’t had time to reflect and ponder.

But as I stood in that room with my little girl, the one who was knelt on the floor in a posture of service, I couldn’t help but repeat the same words I had just repeated.

“But that wasn’t your mess to clean up.”

And as we finalized the last-minute Thursday morning details before leaving the house and driving to the sitter’s house, my girl and I marveled at the beautiful parallel of her selfless act and His sacrificial love.

It’s true; it wasn’t His mess to clean up.

Hanging on that cross, He died for my mess.

Suffering on that hill, He bled for my mistakes. 

In absolute perfect holiness, He cleaned up a mess that was NONE of His responsibility, but ALL of His choice. 

We created the mess.

We screwed up the plan.

We made a disaster of His beauty.

We rejected His offer of perfect communion.

And with arms outstretched and a will bent, He cleaned up the mess. 

He wiped away our guilt.

He took away our transgressions.

He bore our shame.

He received our stripes.

He took on the mess of the world, and He made it His very own.

And on those wooden beams, He redeemed our mess in a way that our best efforts could never, EVER do.

In a posture of humility and in an act of unmerited and undeserved grace, He took our tremendous mess and gave us infinite mercy and indefinite love. 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:3-11

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Teach the NO; Respect the NO

Have you ever had one of those parenting moments where you’re tempted to jump in and stop things before things get “out of hand?” Those moments where you’re tempted to step in before someone or something “blows up?”

Sitting in the front seat of our KIA, I drove toward downtown while simultaneously eavesdropping on the conversation behind me, contemplating what my parenting role should be.

Squash it or Give it space? 

Already, she had asked him several times to “stop” the teasing. I could hear her emotions flaring, and I could hear the little thrill in his big-brother voice.

“Caden! I asked you to stop!”

As I dodged the potholes, I made a conscious decision to let things unfold and step in if needed. I wanted to give them a chance to “work it out” and “work it through,” and I wanted to see how they would or wouldn’t use the tools they’ve been given.

“Caden, please stop doing that. I don’t like when you say that.”

Continuing to tease her about her platonic friendship with another little boy he retorted, “Is he your boyyyyyyyyfriend?”

“Caden! Respect my ‘no!’ I asked you already!”

In a hushed tone, he pushed her one more time. “You love him, don’t you?!”

And that was when mama bear dodged the 47th pothole and stepped in from the front seat.

“Caden? Did you hear your sister?”

Sheepishly, he answered with a quiet “yes.”

“And what did she ask of you?”

“She asked me to stop.”

“And what did you do?”

“I kept going.”

“You’re right. You disregarded her ‘no,’ and you kept pushing the boundaries.”

“I’m sorry Evie. I know I was wrong.”

Though his voice sounded remorseful, I wasn’t sure his heart was repentant. So taking advantage of a captivated buckled audience, I decided to take the issue to the deep-end.

“Caden, what would you do if you saw a sign on a beach that said, No Swimming! Sharks Seen?”

“I would stay out of the water!”

“And why would you stay out of the water?”

“I wouldn’t want to die!”

“Yep! You would heed the warning because you would see the threat as imminent and real. You would take it seriously because you take death seriously. So why didn’t you take Evie’s warning seriously?”

With embarrassment in his voice, he answered, “Because I didn’t take her seriously.”

“You’re right. And you didn’t think that death was a possibility, did you?”

“No,” he answered.

“You know what, Caden? Though physical death was not a threat, death in some form is always at stake when we don’t heed the warning and respect the boundaries.” 

A pin goldfish could have dropped, and I would have heard it. The backseat was all ears.

“How did death enter the world?”

“Eve ate the apple,” his sister responded for him.

“You’re right! And did death happen right away?”

“No,” he responded.

“You’re right; it didn’t. Eventually, Adam and Eve would physically die but in the meantime, other things died. Their time in the garden died; their constant access to God died; their ease of life died; the respect and love in their relationship with each other died; and their purity died. SO many things died because Adam and Eve didn’t heed the warning. So what can die when you don’t respect your sister’s no?'” 

Silently, he paused in the backseat. With his sister and I waiting with bated breath, we listened as the words tumbled from his mouth.

“Well, our fun could die, and her trust could die, and our relationship could die.”

“You’re right, buddy. And do you want the fun, trusting relationship you have with each other to die?”

With zero hesitation and complete sadness in his voice, he exclaimed, “I don’t want that. I am so, so, so, so sorry, Evie. Would you forgive me?”

“I forgive you, Caden, and he’s not my boyyyyyyfriend,” she emphatically replied.

As we drove the rest of the way to our destination, there was an air of conviction and an awareness of both relationship and respect. And not once, after that, did I hear any further pushing of boundaries…at least in that day.

I found myself thinking about that “car conviction” for the rest of the day, and I’m not sure I’ve really stopped since.

Friends, we need to respect the “no” of others.

Friends with kids, we need to teach our kids to heed the “no” of others.

Because I truly fear that if we don’t respect the “no” and teach the “no,” then we are bound to raise and perpetuate a generation of souls who not only abuse and bully one another, but who also spread death in other areas of their lives.

“No” is not an invitation for coercion. “No” is not an occassion for guilt-tripping. “No” is not a space and place for manipulation. “No” means “no.”

“No” does not give you the right to bully. “No” does not give you the right to threaten. “No” does not give you an opportunity to silence the voice of another. “No” means “no.”

As image-bearers, we have a responsibility to teach our children to respect one another.

As image-bearers, we have a duty to teach our children how to love one another.

As image-bearers, we have a burden to teach our children the consequences of not heeding the boundaries of His Word, of our society, and of others.

As image-bearers, we must DO the things we TEACH. 

And if we refuse to do that or if we become lax in stewarding that responsibility, then I fear we are perpetuating a world where life is squelched and death is near.

In short, we could be raising children who become adults who don’t respect the “no’s” of others.

Friends, I won’t pretend that teaching the “no” is always easy and respecting the “no” is always fun and YET…I believe a “yes” to respect and a “yes” to obedience can be both life-giving and life-saving.

May we be people who love and respect each other well and may we remember that when we don’t, “sharks” are always lurking!

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The Afternoon We Fought Satan in Our Living Room

It was about three weeks ago that I sheepishly acknowledged I can be a little lot selfish with the gifts I have been given.

It was about three weeks ago when the Lord surprisingly prompted me (late one night) to think about how I could use those gifts to demonstrate lavish kindness.

It was about three weeks ago that I hesitantly (and VERY nonchalantly) prayed that the Lord would peel my hands off the gifts He’s given me and the manner I prefer to use them.

And it was about three weeks ago when I challenged the Lord to specifically show me how HE wanted to use those gifts.

And it sounded a little bit like this…

God, if you want me to use my gifts in the way you’ve prompted, then you’re gonna have to bring that opportunity to me. I don’t know how to find or create that opportunity, so you’re just going to have to do it. 

And that was it. I prayed with my eyes opened and my mouth shut, but my soul was speaking and my heart was listening.

And I don’t know why I get surprised when He does what we ask Him to do (even if it’s uttered in hesitant, sheepish, nonchalant whispers), but it ALWAYS surprise me. And I would imagine that it might always surprise my finite, fallen self because I’m just not wired (boo to sin) to always expect the infinite and awesome.

So when I got an email…TWO DAYS after that opened-eye, mouth-shut prayer…I wasn’t expecting it. In fact, my dull-sighted soul didn’t even “see” it as the answer.

Reading the email, I saw the requested need. Re-reading through the email, I started pondering the ways that this request could be met. And after reading and re-reading it several times, it donned on me that maybe (just maybe) this was the God-created, God-brought opportunity that the Lord had prompted me to pray.

To be honest, I was skeptical.

Sitting on the couch that evening, I brought the email to my husband’s attention. With absolutely NO prior knowledge about my hushed Spirit-prompting that I had received two days prior, he listened. And then he said the very words that the Spirit had uttered to the ears of my soul.

“Ya know…that sounds like a really kind way to use your gifts. I think you should pursue that.”

I was shocked.

Over the next day, I prayed over the email and then responded.

In a way I have never offered before (because like I said, I can be selfish with how I use the given gifts), I offered.

And within a few days, the offer was taken, and I was moving forward in the offering.

It was a Friday afternoon when I said, “yes,” and within 15 minutes of leaving that conversation where I felt the Spirit leading, I found myself in a cloud of irritation and in a whirlwind of anger.

The kids were being loud, and I was suddenly mad. The baby was whining, and I was suddenly annoyed. After a day of smooth-sailing and happy-living, I found myself in a place that had taken me immediately and entirely off-guard. Yelling, barking orders, and feeling at the brink of losing my ever-blessed cool, I had come un-done.

Why was I so angry? Why was I so mad all of a sudden? Where did this rage come from? I had just gotten off of my cycle! For goodness sake, this couldn’t be hormones, could it?!?! 

In an attempt to shake off the anger, I called for the big kids and pulled them to my lap.

“Tell me something that was a blessing from your day!”

Both kids quickly answered.

“Tell me something that surprised you today!”

Both kids answered again.

And then my son, with hesitation in his voice (probably because he feared having his head bitten off and swallowed again) asked me, “What was surprising about your day, Mommy?”

Surprised by him turning the question toward me, I answered in the most honest way I could.

“Honestly, I’m surprised that I’m so angry right now.”

Without missing a beat, he inquisitively responded, “Who were you on the phone with, Mommy?”

Quickly, I explained the situation and outlined how the Lord had prompted me to offer my gifts to bless someone. Though I can’t share all of the details of that conversation, my son heard the details and said something that I never want to forget.

“Well that sounds like the enemy, Mommy. I don’t think he would want you to use your gifts to help someone else…the enemy doesn’t want people to hear the good news of Jesus!” 

Immediately, the gravity of his words pulled the tears from my eyes. He was right. He was soooo right.

In that moment of surrender…

In that moment of obedience…

In that moment of offering…

Satan saw an opportunity to distract my heart from the movement of God, and he took full aim with all his hellish arrows.

The arrows of frustration were shot. The arrows of irritation were launched. And before I knew it, there was a battle of anger that was threatening to steal HIS moment of Spirit-led, God-ordained opportunity GLORY!

Caden was right.

If God was moving in my heart, then the enemy needed to be moving, too! And moving he was!

BUT GOD.

Using the voice of a 7 year-old boy, He spoke. And when He used him to speak, it made it even more abundantly clear to both my heart and mind that THIS was the opportunity He wanted for me…for them…for HIS work and HIS glory. THIS was not a happy-accident or a fluke-chance, THIS was the handiwork of God.

“You’re right, Caden. You are very, very right! Satan must be scared of God’s good plans.”

As we sat on the floor with that new-found, Spirit-given insight, we did what any army does when they see their enemy.

We let out a battle cry and my, oh my, was it ever loud!?!

Raising our arms with our fists in the air, we (all three of us) shouted with a noise that our enemy couldn’t possibly un-hear.

“You’re a liar, Satan!!! You’re a liar!!!”

Over and over again, we shouted that battle-cry from the middle of our living room that only served to rally my resolute and fan the flame of my faith.

He wouldn’t win because HE had.

Grabbing my son in my arms, I pulled him close and simply said, “Thank you, Caden. Thank you for letting God use you to speak to Mommy’s heart. I can hear and see evidence of the Holy Spirit alive in you.”

With a smile the size of the Mississippi girth, he nodded and said, “You’re welcome, Mommy.”

And though I don’t have proof, I think it’s safe to say that on that Friday afternoon (about three weeks ago), heaven shouted and the enemy shuddered.

Friends, the reality of 1 Peter 5:8 is relevant to EVERY aspect of your 2019!

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

And just as relevant is the living, active Truth found in 1 John 4:4!

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

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“Mommy, this is EARTH…”

I was standing in the bathroom, attempting to apply eye liner, as my little girl sat at my feet on the bathroom floor. Like usual, we were shootin’ the breeze and rackin’ up our word counts for the day. FYI: Did you know that a study was done on the differences between male and female communication, and they found that women (on average) have a 20,000 word count each day as opposed to men who have a 7,000 word count??? Ummm…duh! Did we REALLY need to conduct a research study to learn this?!?!

I digress, but hey…maybe I’m running behind on my word count average today. (Wink)

Anyway, we were talkin’ about why mommy chooses to apply brown dust to her face, and why I like to paint lines on my eye lids, and when she will be old enough to use lotions in pink containers and perfume in glass bottles and before I knew it, the conversation swam to the deep-end.

Truly, I have no clue how we got there, but we did. Within seconds, I found myself lamenting over the sadness and grief I was feeling related to a particular situation in our lives.

My little girl sat and listened, listened and sat.

When I turned to make sure my captivated audience of one was still listening (she was), she looked up at me with wide eyes and said in a matter-of-fact spirit, “Mommy, this is earth. It’s not heaven. It’s going to be sad here.”

Sitting cross-legged on the floor with sparkled leggings and a patterned tunic, she waited for my response.

To be honest, I was a little blown away by her theologically-sound response…by her wise assessment…and by her condensed summary of the words she was hearing pour forth from my heart.

“Evie Rae, you are right. You are SO right. This IS earth.”

Sensing that she had said something wise, she continued.

“Yeah, Mommy. And we can’t expect to be happy here all the time because that only happens when you live with Jesus.”

Folks, tears and eye liner are like toothpaste and Oreos; they don’t mix so well.

Her words created both a sting and a balm.

As I finished getting ready, I kept mulling over her simple and profound words. And today, almost a week later, I am still mulling.

Isn’t that just the hard-fast Truth???

THIS IS EARTH. 

And because it’s Earth and because we don’t live with Jesus…

Pain is present and hurt is real.

Relationships are broken and communication is flawed.

Sadness exists and bitterness grows.

Abuse happens and neglect is here.

Families break and death occurs.

Truth is refused and fears are alive.

Doubt persists and divisions threaten.

Grief is everywhere and loss is commonplace.

Tears fall and anger flows.

Weariness abounds and sickness is near.

Friendships are hard and work exhausts.

Forgiveness is painful and humility is hard.

Marriage is effort and kids are exhausting.

Journeys are scary and waiting is long.

Yes. THIS is NOT heaven. 

And when we lose sight of this, we lose sight of the hopeful Truth found in 2 Corinthians 4:17.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Or as the Message version translates it…

These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. 

Friends, as we wait for His glorious return and/or for the deliverance of our bodies, may we remember that though this imperfect Earth is not our home, heaven is coming! And my oh my, is it going to be an eternal glory of “big potatoes!”

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:14 (NLT)

 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. 1 Peter 2:11 (MSG)

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“Daddy, Please Take It Off”

We were getting ready for bed–bath, jammies, and packing lunches–when my little girl walked into the kitchen and asked, “Mommy, God is the most important, right?”

Laying down my PB&J knife I turned to her and said, “Yes. Yes He is. Why do you ask?”

Immediately, she came again with another question. “He’s more important than my tattoo, right?”

Looking at the sparkly rose that rested on her arm (the one that Belle gave her at the Princess Ball this weekend), I responded and said, “Yes, Evie. He is. Why do you ask?”

To be entirely honest, I had ZERO clue where this was headed.

“Mommy, I’ve been focusing on my tattoo all day. I have been making it the most important.”

I was floored. Truly, I had no clue that her heart had been so focused on it…no idea that her gaze had been so fixed.

Kneeling on the floor, I took her in my arms and simply said, “Evie Rae, I love that your heart knows what is most important. I can see Jesus working in you.”

She smiled; I pushed back some tears at the edges of my eyes; and we continued on with bath time.

As I finished making a bed time bottle and scooped some ice cream for a bed time snack, I heard her words in the bathroom.

“Daddy, please take it off.”

Immediately, I knew she was speaking of the tattoo.

“Oh it’s okay, Evie. You can just keep your arm above water. We don’t have to wash it off. Let’s try and keep it,” was her daddy’s response.

I walked to the bathroom because I could hear emotion in her voice.

“No, daddy. Please take it off. I don’t want to focus on it so much.”

Locking eyes with her daddy, I simply said, “Babe, she wants it off. She doesn’t want it to be the focus of her attention. I think we should let her take it off.”

In agreement, he grabbed the washcloth and began to take off the sparkly rose that lined her little arm. As I left the bathroom, I just wept.

Our girl knew her heart. She knew where her gaze had gone, and she was bothered by her preoccupation. In her fear of the tattoo coming off, she had spent the day focusing on it. In her Spirit-filled, soon-to-be-five-year-old heart, she knew that she was being consumed by the sparkle…making it the “most important.”

And what was her response?

She wanted to remove it.

She wanted it gone.

She wanted freedom from the fixation.

And as I thought through the wisdom and maturity in her response, I was humbled.

It wasn’t the tattoo that was bad; it was her preoccupation with it. 

Oh, how her mama relates!

TOO many times, I get focused on the “sparkles” of life. TOO often, I get fixated on the “temporary tattoos” of life. TOO frequently, I give up my freedom and find myself consumed by the things that threaten to shackle me to this earth.

Approval. Appearance. Competency.

My time. My work. My leisure.

This. That. Them.

And on and on it goes.

And do you know what I don’t always do that our daughter did tonight?

I don’t scrub them off. 

Instead, I justify them…rationalize them…cozy up with them…compromise with them…and refuse to believe that sometimes the “pretty and good” can become idols of my heart and statues in my soul.

Not often enough do I turn to my heavenly Father and humble ask, “Daddy, would you please take them off?” 

How quick He would be to help His children to tear down the things we have shackled our hearts to! How committed He would be to help us take off the things we have bent our knees in worship to! How faithful He would be to help us with the things that hinder our WORSHIP, distract our DEVOTION, and preoccupy our PRAISE!

Friends, He is a jealous God who wants ALL of our gaze, and He wants ALL of us because we are ALL of His.

His glory demands it; His holiness deserves it; and His love drives it.

For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

I don’t know what glitters with gold on the “arm of your life,” but here’s what I do know…

God is ready to help us break the chains; He is eager to tear down the walls; and He is able to scrub off the things that defile our worship and threaten our souls.  

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. Psalm 107:13-16

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Mama and the Back-Burner, Egg Days

“I think we are going to have to reschedule. She’s just not feeling well.”

The text was followed with some sad emoji’s, a brief lament over the need to cancel, and a promised date to reschedule.

She was sad; I was sad, and I could feel it through the phone.

With the hustle of the holidays, a heart surgery and hospital stay, school schedules, doctor appointments, and a myriad of other things [now including a child with constipation], we haven’t been able to connect for a period of time.

And though it’s hardly the end of the world (like not even a little), it still stinks.

Confined to her home…running on little sleep…with a sick kiddo…a new’ish baby…another kiddo in school for a mere 3 hours…and the promise of a snow storm that could keep her stuck and stir-crazy for a few more days, my mama-heart sunk as I thought about the disappointment she was probably feeling.

Standing in my kitchen, with a baby in my arms, I cooked my breakfast and prayed for her.

And as I looked down at the stove, I saw my egg whites cooking on the back burner, and I just cried.

If that isn’t the perfect picture to describe the messy-reality of being a mama, I don’t know what is!?!?!?!

Because being a mama is a WHOLE LOT like being a back-burner egg. 

You serve; you pour out; and you love.

You sacrifice; you lay down; and you love.

You share; you give up; and you love.

And then…you do it all again.

Day in and day out, you put the needs of others before your own.

Day in and day out, you lay aside your agenda and put down your desires.

Day in and day out, you take the backseat and the back burner to the needs of those you love and serve.

And though there is tremendous blessing in being a mama and incredible joy in loving those littles, sometimes it feels a whole lot like SACRIFICE. 

Because it is, friends. IT IS. 

Loving IS laying down; serving IS sacrificing; and doing it day in and day out, can be really, really hard.

So grabbing my keys, I headed to Trader Joe’s for a quick bouquet. Actually, I also came out with a bag of green beans, a jar of marinara sauce, and a package of red lentil pasta (because let’s be real, no one ever left TJ’s without something that looked and sounded good), but I had the flowers.

With a bunch of daisies, sunflowers, and eucalyptus nestled in my arm, I knocked on her down. And almost immediately, the tears came.

Words were shared; hugs were given; and Truth was spoken.

I don’t remember the exact words I shared, but I know I shared the essence of Matthew 16:24 and 1 Peter 4:13 because mama doesn’t remember the addresses of His word too well, and it ALL seemed appropriate and needed.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me…But rejoice that you share in the sufferings of Christ.

Mamas, the truth is…we DO serve; we DO sacrifice; and we DO suffer. And the other Truth is…we get to follow in His footsteps as we lay down our “crowns” and pick up our “crosses.”

The way of motherhood is sacrificial love, and so is the cost of discipleship. 

He didn’t promise it would be easy; He didn’t promise it would be pain-free; BUT, He did promise that He would never, ever leave and that our reward would be secure in heaven for all of eternity to come (Hebrews 13:5 and James 1:12)!

Friends, I don’t know what cross He has asked you to bear (mama or not), but may I encourage you with the following:

No back-burner egg ever escaped His gaze or His grace. 

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Sidewalk CHURCH

Caden and Evie,

The roads are covered; the driveways are coated; and the grass is concealed by the beauty of the recent snowfall. Big mounds of white, fluffy flakes are everywhere, and it’s beautiful. Cold air, chimney smoke, frosted trees, and the sound of plows blanket the landscape of Kettering, Ohio.

And because all this beauty is hiding all the spaces where cars drive and people travel, church was canceled this morning.

So pulling out the griddle and heating up the water, we left our jammies and bed time hair and instead, poured coffee and made blueberry-filled pancakes. And while we took it slow and enjoyed the company of one another, we used the extra time to start learning your AWANA verses for the week.

As I opened your Sparkie’s book, Caden, I read the following:

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16

In order to complete this section of your book, you are required to not only memorize Romans 1:16, but you are also encouraged to share the gospel (found in the words of John 3:16) with two people outside of your home. And if I’m being honest with you, that feels like an overwhelming task for a little soul.

As we started to memorize your verse and talk through the two people you could share the gospel with, I felt angst in my soul. I felt torn. I felt weird. Truth be told, I felt completely conflicted asking you to do something that I, my 35 year-old self, sometimes feel “ashamed” to do.

I felt like a hypocrite, and I hated it. 

So taking a brief moment, I silently prayed for both of our hearts. I prayed for my hypocritical tendencies; I prayed for boldness for the both of us; and we moved on with our snowy Sunday.

Sometime between breakfast, lunch, and a playoff game, we secured our boots, grabbed our shovels, and headed out to the driveway to dig ourselves out of the thick, white blanket that was enclosing our cars.

As your daddy and I shoveled and as you guys jumped from snow bank to snow bank, I heard the “Hello” of Mr. Kevin, our next-door neighbor. Carrying a shovel in his hand, he came over and began shoveling alongside of us. And per usual, he launched into the “many problems of mankind.” As daddy cleaned off the porch and attended to the cars, I continued to shovel and smile as Mr. Kevin talked and talked.

“Ya know, Jessica. Mankind is the problem with this world. We aren’t nice to each other; we don’t respect one another; and we just demean one another. Christopher Columbus was an awful man; racism is a problem; and our government is a mess. I’m scared for your kids, Jessica. It’s an awful world, and we need good people like you guys in our society to help fix it.”

As I listened, the Spirit quickened my heart.

Jessica, tell him the Truth. Do not be ashamed. Share the gospel.  

Surprisingly, with very little fear, I stopped shoveling and said, “Ya know what, Kevin, I think you’re right in a lot of ways. Our world is a mess, and mankind is a problem, and I think God’s Word talks about all of that. From a biblical perspective, the sin of mankind is the problem and this world is a mess, but God gave us a rescue plan not in us…but in Him.”

He stopped shoveling; I stopped shoveling; and kids, we had CHURCH on the sidewalk. 

In front of our houses and beside the road, we talked about grace, and we talked about sin. We talked about the origin of sin, and we talked about our inability to be good enough to save ourselves. We talked about the reason why Jesus was crucified, and we talked about the ultimate solution for our government, mankind, and our world found. We talked about the Garden of Eden; we talked about the Creator of the world; and we talked about how Christ in us can bring glory to God while we wait for His return to eliminate sin and fix this world.

Kids, the Spirit empowered Mommy to share “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” and because of His empowerment, seeds were planted and soil was watered. Mr. Kevin didn’t have a personal response in that moment, but he didn’t walk away. Standing in piles of snow, he listened as I shared. And ya know what? That’s where it all begins.

As we said “goodbye” and as I dusted off my boots and headed into the house to find our “Build a Snowman” kit, I couldn’t help but praise the Lord in humble adoration. He knew my fear this morning; He heard my silent prayer; and He made a way for me to share His power.

And as I thought about the events of the morning, I was reminded of the importance of not just doing church but being the church. 

Kids, there is nothing wrong with meeting together on Sunday mornings. There is nothing wrong with gathering in pews, singing songs of worship, and hearing the Word of God preached in a building where we gather together at our respective times. In fact, there is so much RIGHT about all of that.

And yet, there is so much WRONG in all of that if we never bring our “church” outside of our buildings. There’s so much WRONG if we leave our faith for Sunday mornings and our grace for the confines of our pews. There’s so much WRONG if we leave the gospel in our safe gatherings and in the walls and halls where we worship as a corporate body. There’s so much WRONG if we prioritize “doing church” over “being the church.”

And guess what kids? I’ve been guilty of doing all of that and truth be told, you will too.

So today, on January 13th, 2019, I want you to remember that we carry His Spirit within us. And where we go, He goes. And where He is, “church” can happen. And when we “are the church,” we carry with us all the power that Romans 1:16 promises.

Kids, “being the church” looks like a whole lot of different things, but here’s what I can tell you…it begins with a relationship. And as that relationship grows, opportunities come. And when those opportunities come, by the grace and empowerment of God, we can share the GOOD NEWS that goes with us to ALL THE PLACES…which sometimes leads us right to the end of our driveways.  

We’ve taken leftovers to Mr. Kevin. We’ve shoveled his driveway. We’ve brought him cookies. We’ve picked him tomatoes. We’ve waved. We’ve told our story. We’ve borrowed his tools. We’ve asked him questions. We’ve let him mow our grass and pick our weeds. We’ve cut him flowers. We’ve talked countless hours about politics, books, foster care, investments, finance rates, and everything in between.

Kids, we’ve been building a relationship with Mr. Kevin for 3+ years–a relationship that has led him to the conclusion that we are “good people” who will “help fix society.” And when he openly affirmed this, we had the perfect opportunity to share with him the “WHY’S” of the “WHAT’S” we do.

And if you ask me, THAT is both doing and being the “CHURCH.”

So though there was no “church” this morning, I would submit there was…right on our sidewalk.

As I always tell you when leaving the house, “Be a light; be a blessing!” And today I’ll also ask, “Caden, Evie? Do you want build a snowman be the CHURCH?”

Love,

Mommy

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