“Mommy, I’m Scared.”

A couple days ago, our eldest and I were sitting at the table talking about our fears. I have absolutely no clue why the topic came up (I don’t remember anyone struggling with any particular fears that day), but before I knew it, my oldest was delving into all of his fears.

And as I listened, I heard a theme.

I’m scared when I wake up in the dark and I’m alone

I’m scared when you ask me to go empty the trash cans upstairs by myself

I’m scared when I go down by myself to the basement. 

I’m scared when I don’t know where you are

And though I could have guessed that going down to the dark basement, riding roller coasters, and speaking in front of people probably don’t land on his list of Top 20 Favorite Things To Do, I don’t think I would have known that being alone is one of his biggest fears.

He has never expressed concern about it being dark at night; he’s never had a bad dream that I know of; and he’s never shared any fears about monsters, bad guys, and creepers under the bed. So to be honest, I have never really thought of our son as being a very scared soul.

Anxious? Sure.

Scared? Not so much.

So as I listened to this little soul and as I thought back to the ways I’ve watched him struggle when forced to be alone, it all kinda clicked.

Our son does not like to be alone. 

He wants the presence of others. He craves the companionship of souls. And as I have said before and will say again, “He is the most relational introvert I have ever met.” So why I didn’t put it all together, I don’t know. But I did a few days ago, and now I know.

And as I thought about his fear of being alone and desiring the presence of others, my heart resonated in a sweet and tender way.

See, though I’ve never really been scared of being alone (Until maybe I became a mom and can never seem to even pee alone!), I have recently found myself fearful of taking a path without the presence of God. 

Now before it sounds like I obsessively fear the whole “perfect will of God” vs. the “permissive will of God,” let me explain.

Sure, I believe there are many ways to “displease” God (He is not a fan of sin and doors and roads that lead to sinful living and sinful behaving), but I also believe there are a million and one ways to please God.

I believe God calls us to love Him, love others, and share the good news. Apart from that, I believe there are LOTS and LOTS of ways we can love and honor Him with our lives. In short, I don’t necessarily get hung up on the whole “perfect way to follow Him.” As 1 Corinthians 10:31 states, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

God wants our hearts; He wants our trust; and He wants our obedience. Do I think I could have sung a love song back to Jesus by being a teacher? Sure. Do I think I could sing a love song back to Jesus by being a stay-at-home mom? Absolutely. And do I believe I am currently singing a love song back to Jesus by being a counselor right now? YES!!!

Again, I believe there are many, many ways to live lives that honor Him, and I think we get distracted from His kingdom purposes when we become obsessed with there being “only one right way” to do that. God loves us; He wants to use us; and He can do that in many capacities and in many ways. There is grace, and we can’t thwart His sovereign plans. End of story.

Wow. That was a lengthy disclaimer. 

I’m talking about the angst that comes when following any particular path (you name it) without (acknowledging first) the desire to follow and be in the presence of God.

One of my favorite Scripture passages that the Lord recently brought to mind (again) is a passage found in Exodus 33.

Moses is getting ready to lead the people of Israel. And though he’s not questioning where the Lord is asking him to go, he is questioning the who that is leading him.

Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me…33:12

And the Lord responds, My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 33:14

And the response of Moses just sends holy goosebumps right up my spine.

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 33:15

Moses doesn’t want to go without the presence of God. And every time I read it, I love it more. Why? Because Moses knew that it was the presence of God that would sustain him, no matter the path and no matter the walk.

Moses wanted God, not a path. 

Sure, I want my husband to get a new job. But if the Lord isn’t leading, I don’t want to go. 

Sure, I would be glad to foster again. But if the Lord isn’t leading, I don’t want to go. 

Sure, I will step out of fostering. But if the Lord isn’t leading, I don’t want to go.

Sure, I will step out of a discipleship relationship and into another one. But if the Lord isn’t leading, I don’t want to go. 

Sure, I will move houses and change cities. But if the Lord isn’t leading, I don’t want to go. 

Like our son, I don’t want to go alone. 

I don’t want the reigns…

I don’t want my agenda…

I don’t want my will…

I don’t want my path…

I don’t want “the things”…

I want His presence. 

And though I can be assured He never leaves me, I want to invite Him into each and every decision…seeking His face, asking for His presence to go before, and giving Him both the first and final say on the paths I walk.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

For He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

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The Hard of Hurting

As a parent, it’s hard to watch your children struggle. It’s hard to watch them wade through the heavy, sort through the sad, and grapple with the difficulties of grief. It’s hard to see their tears; it’s heavy to sit with their doubt; and it’s just downright painful to feel the angst of their souls.

It’s hard to walk a road lined with suffering; it’s painful to walk a path of sacrifice; and it aches to walk in a world where hurts still abounds and tears still exist.

Hurt is hard.

And as I’ve watched Caden and Evie navigate this road of loving and letting go, it’s broke my mama-heart in all kinds of gut-wrenching and unexpected ways. And if I’m being honest, I’ve wanted to rescue them from all of it.

I’ve wanted to wave my magic wand and make it all go away. I’ve wanted to lessen it, change it, and even take it away. I want to take those drippy eyes and tender hearts and wrap them in the largest roll of bubble-wrap I can find…refusing to let them feel the burn of heartache and pierce of struggle.

And as I’ve thought about my earthly tendency to rescue my children from the struggle of this planet and the hard of this life, I’ve realized that God has given us a special piece of Him inside of us.  In fact, I would suggest that it’s a God-given, Creator-placed quality that bears the image of His endless love. It’s that part of us that says, “I want your hurt to stop.”

And as I think about that, the Spirit takes my breath away.

Because doesn’t my struggle with my children’s pain mirror the pain of our Heavenly Father?

He didn’t want us to experience hard and hurt; He didn’t intend for us to struggle and weep; He didn’t plan for us to live on a earth when families break, hearts tear, and babies live in a world where they need safe homes.

He didn’t.

And when woman ate of the apple and man broke the command, I can’t help but think that a giant-sized tear fell from the face of their Father.

Children, this wasn’t what I intended. This isn’t what I wanted for you. 

From then on, just like the serpent promised, souls would know of good and evil. And with that evil would come a mixed bag of sadness, suffering, and struggle.

Struggle was never His design.

But because of His great love and because of His deep compassion, our Father saw our struggle and He saw our pain, and He said, “Son, let’s rescue them.”

Friends, if God has placed eternity in our hearts as Ecclesiastes 3:11 states, then I believe He has placed within each and every one of us a desire to rescue the hurting…a longing to stop the pain.

And though that doesn’t remove the pain or change the hard, it gives me a deep sense of thankful gratitude for a Savior that whispers right into the middle of our hurt, “I see you. I love you. And I will come to rescue.”

I can’t take the pain away from my earthly children, and I can’t stop their sadness, but I know the Holy One who can. And as I help them navigate the gravel road, carrying the sacrifice they don’t want to give, I can point them to the RAM IN THE THICKET–the ONE who died for our hard and bled for our hurt.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, [or saying goodbye to foster babies] for the former things have passed away. And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Revelation 21:4

Praise be to Jesus! Praise be to our hope of heaven! Praise be to the One who has conquered the struggle and is coming for our victory!

 

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Be a Mama Who Struggles with Jesus

Yesterday was hard.

The kids were irritating, climbing the walls like stir-crazy cats in the middle of Winter. The teething baby was refusing a nap and providing me with too-many opportunities to clean the carpet with Resolve. The To-Do list was greater than the hours, and the attacks of the enemy were coming left and right.

I was fighting discouragement, battling distortions, and resisting a million and one moments when I felt like raising the white flag of DEFEAT.

I was tired; I was drained; and I was overwhelmed.

And just when I didn’t feel like it could get any more frustrating, I received a call from hubby sharing another round of hard and disappointing news.  Truly, it was one of those days where I empathized with Alexander and his “terrible, no-good, very-bad day.”

I was tempted to escape to the couch and retreat to the cupboard but instead, I turned to the treadmill and grabbed my iPhone. As I turned on the machine and scrolled to the first worship sing I could find queued on my phone, I begged the Lord to meet me in the middle of my messy day.

As my feet began to move and the words began to play, these lyrics reverberated both my ears and soul.

There is a truth older than the ages
There is a promise of things yet to come
There is one, born for our salvation 
Jesus
There is a light that overwhelms the darkness
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us 
Jesus, Jesus
There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages
He is Jesus, Jesus
The last line of each stanza seemed louder than the rest.
Jesus. Jesus, Jesus. He is Jesus. 

And as clear as day, the following thought popped into my weary soul:

Jessica, be a mama who struggles well; be a mama who struggles with JESUS. 

As I thought through this thought, I had a series of other thoughts that came quickly on its heels.

I want to be an Abraham who walks with faith up the hill. 

I want to be a Noah who believes the rains will come. 

I want to be a Joseph who responds with grace in the middle of evil. 

I want to be a Moses who trusts in the desert. 

I want to be a Joshua who confidently moves forward

I want to be a Hosea who loves when it’s hard

I want to be an Ezekiel who speaks the difficult word

I want to be a Daniel who prays through the threats and rests in the fire

I want to be a Paul who bears up under persecution

I want to be a Peter who walks on water. 

The heroes of the faith flooded my mind as quickly as the tread beneath me.

And what did all of these men of faith have in common?

God. God, God. He is God. 
Through the darkness, through the storms, and through the troubles, it was their faith in God that equipped them to face the battles and move forward in obedience. It was their steadfastness in the Lord and their belief in His sovereign hand that gave them them the courage to walk on and lay down.  It was their rest in His power and their trust in His plan that allowed them to pick up their proverbial bootstraps and continue on in persevering love and committed service.
Jesus. Jesus, Jesus. He is Jesus. 
That’s what I want my kids to see; that’s what I want my kids to hear; and that’s what I want my kids to remember.

I don’t want them to remember a strong mama; I want them to remember a dependent soul.
I don’t want them to remember an overwhelmed mama; I want them to remember a trusting soul.
I don’t want them to remember a fearful mama; I want them to remember a faith-believing soul.
I don’t want them to remember an angry mama; I want them to remember a loving soul.
I don’t want them to remember a discouraged mama; I want them to remember a persevering soul.
I don’t want them to remember an anxious mama; I want them to remember a resting soul.
I don’t want them to remember a perfect mama; I want them to remember a praying soul.
I want them to remember that in the middle of mama’s hard and in the midst of mama’s struggles, she claimed (though imperfectly), “Jesus. Jesus, Jesus. He is Jesus!” 
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Books, Books, Books: A Big People and Little People Give-Away

Happy New Year, friends!

I wish I could tell you I sat and thought about a new kind of give-away for 2018, but I didn’t.

Why?

Because I love books, and I love giving them away! And I’m okay if I spend the rest of my life giving away books every month until the day I die (I might just make that my forever resolution!). Truly, I love it. And if I could afford to give away more, I would!

It’s a blessing to resource others–putting books in your hands which allow you to not only grow in your own walk with the Lord, but also allow you an opportunity to disciple those littles you are shepherding. For me, it’s all kinds of WIN-WIN!

So what books am I giving away this month? 

I am giving away ONE copy of Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson and ONE copy of Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers by Diane Stortz.

And why am I giving away these books?

I am giving away Batterson’s book because it’s my first read of the New Year, and I am loving it! It’s my first Batterson book (gasp!), and he has me hooked with each and every word. His look into the seven love languages of God (Scripture, Desires, Doors. Dreams, People, Promptings, and Pain) and how He uses each of these things to communicate in loving and specific ways to our hearts, is speaking to my heart in such tender and intellectual ways. It’s soooo good.

I am giving away Stortz’s book because not only are the illustrations absolutely charming, but it’s also the first devotional book of the New Year that we are doing with the kids. I am loving the perspective of Stortz and the unique ideas she pulls out from each of the stories (OT-NT); I am also appreciating the prayers she writes at the end of each devotional. Oh, and the kids are loving it!

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from these books? 

From Whisper:

How did God create? With His voice! The universe is His way of saying, “Look at what I can do with four words.” The voice that spoke the universe into existence is the same voice that parted the Red Sea and made the sun stand still. His voice can heal a withered hand or a wither a barren fig tree. His voice can turn water into wine, install synaptic connections between the optic nerve and visual cortex in a blind man’s brain, and resurrect a man four days dead. There is nothing God’s voice cannot say, cannot do. And frankly, He can do it however He pleases! He can speak through burning bushes, Balaam’s donkey, or Bethlehem’s star. His voice can write on palace walls or shut the mouths of lions. It can quench the flames of a fiery furnace or stop a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The voice of God is all-powerful, but that’s only half the story. His voice is also all-loving. 

From Words to Dream On: 

Make believe stories often begin, “Once upon a  time…” But God’s true story starts like this: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”Out of nothing, God made everything. No one else could do that! God created light and darkness, the sea and the sky, and the land. He made tall trees and bright, beautiful flowers pop up on the land. With a plink, plink, plink, He hung the sun, the moon, and the stars–more stars than you could ever count, and He knows each one by name!e filled the air with soaring birds and the seas with fish and whales, dolphins and snails. 

So how can you win a copy of one of these books? 

In the comment section below, share your favorite Christmas gift you received this year, and I’ll choose two, random winners on Saturday (Christmas Eve, EVE) at 10PM (EST) to win ONE of these books.

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Walk in Confidence: You are His

Dear Evie-girl,

Today, when I walked out the door with you, you were donning a light-pink, winter pea coat, a pair of bright-pink sunglasses, a magenta-colored purse, and a variety of multi-colored necklaces and bracelets.

You were dressed to the nines.

In fact, you even stated, “I’m dressed for Paris, Mommy.” And though it wasn’t perfectly articulated, I believe I heard a subtle, French-esque accent as you emphasized Paris. Truly,  you were all kinds of adorable.

So why am I writing you a letter to recount this scene and to describe the attire you wore on this rather warm day in January?

Because I want you to know that I loved your confidence!

I loved that when we walked out the door, you were completely and entirely secure in what you were wearing and how you were wearing it. You were content and confident–carrying yourself with an air that stated for all to unknowingly hear, “I like who I am, and I am who I am.”

And as you marched into that pizza shop, donning those pink, bedazzled sunglasses on a winter day, I couldn’t help but pray that no matter what you wear or what you look like, that you would be both confident and content in the beauty and uniqueness of God’s handiwork in you.

Because dear girl, there are going to be things around you (and even in you) that will threaten this belief and distort this contented confidence.

The magazines, the media, and the many voices of this world will offer you a variety of definitions of what beauty is and where confidence can be found. The world will prescribe a picture of what you should be, look like, and do. And the enemy will tempt you to believe that being or looking like someone else is more appealing, most needed, and absolute necessary for you to feel content and satisfied with who you are.

But little girl, don’t bite of that apple and don’t partake in that fruit of lies.

Because no matter what you wear, look like, or feel, you are a creation of His and you don’t have to be more or do more.

You are enough because you are His.

You are secure because you are His.

You are loved because you are His.

You are valued because you are His.

You are beautiful because you are His.

You are significant because you are His.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made to be His.

And though I would be elated if you never had to do battle in order to resist these lies that threaten to disrupt and overturn this beautiful truth, I know you will…because I know I have.

I know you will have to work to take those thoughts captive; I know you will have to fight to refute those distortions; and I know you will have to constantly and continuously tune your heart to find your identity in Him.

It is hard and necessary work, and it will require discipline and practice, and you will most definitely fail and fall at times, but it is good and holy work to fight the battles (each and everyday) to hide yourself in the perfection of His identity…to rest in the uniqueness of His handiwork.

Why?

Because when we are nestled in Him, we can walk out in confidence…being whoever He has created us to be and doing whatever He has called, equipped, and gifted us to do.

And this is exactly why I took the time to write about today.

Sweet girl, as you journey in and out of the doors of this life, may you embrace the words of Ephesians 2:10, believing and trusting that “you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I love YOU forever,

Mommy

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Fostering: Our Net, Our Tribe, and The Next Step

There was a time in my life when I felt like our lives were filled with more takers than givers, more drainers than fillers. There was a time when we felt like we poured and we gave; we gave and we poured. There was a time when we had to step back, step away, and even step down in various areas of our lives–making room for more reflection, more boundaries, and more opportunities to re-charge. There was a time when we had to do an honest inventory of our capacity, our priorities, and even our relational needs. And to be honest, friends, that time felt like it lasted a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time. And though there were various contributing factors that shaped that very tiring period of our lives, I can’t say we’re there today.

 

In fact, it hit me (approximately 23 days ago) that I believe the Lord has used this process of fostering to reveal just how big and how wide and how deep the love of our tribe is.

And as I’ve reflected over this reality in recent days, I have been brought to my knees in humble gratitude for the net that lies around, above, and beneath us–a net of people and hearts who have truly supported, sustained, and even caught us when life felt hard and the journey felt heavy.

This net has brought meals; it’s sent gift cards; it’s provided childcare; and it’s provided coffee dates. It’s provided shoulders to cry on, hearts to lean on, and words that have breathed timely truths and kind encouragement. It’s a net that has sent clothes, bought diapers, penned notes, written checks, and delivered unexpected and intentional gifts to all five of us. It’s been a net that’s invited us for meals, taken us out on dates, and sent us packing for overnight get-aways. It’s been a net that has welcomed new, embraced different, and encouraged faithfulness. It’s been a net that has called, texted, e-mailed, prayed, and pursued. It’s been a net that has sent hand-crafted ornaments, bought personalized gifts, and gifted us a family photo shoot. It’s been a net that has asked intentionally and checked in consistently–a net that has supported the weight of our weary and held the pain of our fears. It’s  been a net that has rallied around us, hemmed us in, and gone before us in prayers and petitions. It’s been a net that has allowed space for angry questions, blunt honesty, and panicked break-downs.

This net has been built of our family, our friends, and even those in my Facebook communities. This net has been next door, online, and in the contexts of our church, our work, and our alma mater. This net has been consistent, encouraging, and tender. This net has cheered us on, cried us on, and even drug us on. This net has been our tribe of love, our quilt of consistency, and our home of safety.

This net has been a gift of God’s wild and abundant grace to us–a gift that is undeserved and could never be repaid.

Family and friends (both near and far), we’re grateful for each and every one of you. Because whether you have known it or not, you have been part of creating a grid of woven fibers that have held us, carried us, and probably (at times) rescued us. YOU have been that net; you have been that tribe.

You have loved us so well, so big, and so often in the past 8 months that I have literally struggled to keep up with the thank-you notes–a problem I have never had, nor ever imagined.

Thank you.

Though we expect we will hug and kiss our littlest goodbye, we have no clue what the next month will hold.

But here is what we do know…

  • We have a God who is all-knowing, all-loving, and ever-committed to our good and His glory;
  • We have a net that is strong, supportive, and steadfast; and
  • We are not done fostering.

Though we anticipate taking a small break to grieve and re-group, we are planning (as long as the Lord prepares the way) to open our home and hearts to another little soul who needs a loving home, safe arms, and a net of people who will welcome them, love them, pray for them, and be their tribe.

As I have said before and will say again, there is nothing super-awesome or super-spiritual about us or what we are choosing to do. In fact, it probably sounds like a whole lot of crazy. Trust me, it sounds and feels like a whole lot of crazy to us, too. But if there is one thing the Lord keeps impressing into depths of my sometimes scared soul, it’s the reality that through His strength and only by His grace, we can give up the comfortable and controlled to follow Him down the path of crazy and courageous.

And because we have such a “great cloud of witnesses” (Abraham, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Ezekiel, Daniel, David, Samuel, Mary, John, Peter, Paul, and a whole net of other believers and fellows saints that have gone before and stand with us today), we can run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

To God be the glory, great things He has done!

 

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“Mommy, God’s Love Promises”

We were sitting at the table last night, doing our nightly devotions, when Evie pops up and adds her 2¢ to the conversation about Adam and Eve and their choice to eat the apple.

“Mommy, they should not eat the apple from the ‘tree of know good and know bad.’ That was a bad choice.”

“You’re right. That was a bad choice.”

“Yeah, but God’s love promises.” 

“It does? What do you mean?”

“It promises love to us for always, so it will never stop even if we make bad choices.”

My mama heart grew 12 sizes big. I absolutely loved the words she strung together to communicate such Gospel-centered Truth.

She’s right; His love truly does promise. And because I wanted that Truth (spoken so beautifully by our 3 year-old) to permeate my heart and mind a little more, I took a stroll through Scripture, noting the promises of God. Because let’s be honest, we’ve got a lot of earthly racket that so often threatens to drown out the promises of His love.

He promises to fight for us. Exodus 14:14

He promises to never leave us. Deuteronomy 31:8

He promises to be with us in the middle of our fears. Joshua 1:9

He promises strength for the weary. Isaiah 40:31

He promises hope for our future. Jeremiah 29:11

He promises provision. Matthew 6:31-33

He promises life eternal. John 3:16

He promises freedom. John 8:36

He promises to work for our good. Romans 8:28

He promises to meet our needs. Philippians 4:19

He promises wisdom for those who seek. James 1:5

He promises forgiveness when we own our sin. 1 John 1:9

God’s love promises. 

And as I made this list, recording the ones that spoke to my soul, I was struck by how many promises I had jotted down.

Did you count them?

There are 12.

Didn’t mean to do that…just happened. That’s exactly 1 promise for each month of the year.

So ya know what? As I enter this New Year, I am making a commitment to dedicate an entire month to focus on each of those 12 promises.

I want to dwell on those promises and linger on those “love promises.” I want to look for ways I see those promises worked out in my life, and I want to record the faithfulness of His love to me…even when I don’t deserve it and certainly can’t earn it. I want to spend more time creating a case for God’s faithfulness in 2018, watching and waiting for the ways He wants to whisper His “love promises” to me and over me.  I want to saturate my mind with more of Him and His Word–making less room for the enemy’s lies to take root, distortions to grow, and for the world to creep in and get cozy in His temple. I want to crowd my mind with His love; I want to inundate my heart with His goodness; and I want to soak my soul in His kindness. This year, I want to be on the lookout for the many ways His love promises.

And in order to keep me accountable to this desire, I am going to commit to writing a blog post (each month), outlining the ways I have seen the handiwork of His love, the faithfulness of His promises.

Friend, could I encourage you to do the same? No, you certainly don’t have to write a blog post each month…but how about taking a stroll through His Word in these last days of 2017, claiming just 12 of His promises? How about making a resolution in 2018 to keep a record of His “love promises.” Whether it be in a journal, on your phone, on a blog, or in your heart…why not take a stab at logging His promises of love (revealed in you, around you, and maybe even through you)? What say you? You in?

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant [promise keeping] and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. Deuteronomy 7:9

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