The Day You Paid for a Stamp and Wrote an Apology

Caden,

I don’t know if you’ll ever read the stuff I’ve written, but maybe just maybe…you will. And if you do, I want these memories and anecdotes (both happy and hard) to serve as sweet reminders of our love for you–reminders of our commitment to raising and training you to be a young man who walks in integrity, lives in love, and follows hard after Jesus.

So today, I’m writing you a letter about the day we made you pay for a stamp and write your grandmother an apology letter.

The details of your behavior aren’t important (sin is sin, and sin is never okay), but we want you to know that because we love you and care about your character, there are several reasons why we chose this specific punishment for your six year-old self.

  1. We wanted you to take ownership for your behavior. Though you may have been triggered or hurt by someone or something else, your behaviors are always and will always be your behaviors.
  2. We wanted you to take the time to acknowledge to someone else (even after the fact) that your behavior was not acceptable. Hopefully, taking the time to acknowledge your wrong, not only gives you an opportunity to reflect on the offense, but it also gives you some extra time to search your heart and allow for a soft and remorseful heart.
  3. We wanted the apology to take some effort. Because apologies can be easily uttered and moved on from, we wanted you to take the time to offer a heartfelt apology that required something from you. And for you, writing involves some effort, so you penned your apology with ink and a few tears.
  4. We wanted you to realize that your actions, though forgiven, can be hurtful and affect others. People are made in His image and because they were made in His image, they have value. And because they have value, we want you to realize that your actions should be ones that honor the value of the creation. And when they don’t, we need to confess and repent.
  5. We wanted you to know that though it’s good to accept the apology of another and move forward, it’s also okay to sit with your sin (a bit) and acknowledge it. Too many times, we want to ask for forgiveness without feeling the weight of our sin. We want to move on, and we want to move on in a hurry. Why? Because we don’t like our sin, and we don’t want to sit with our brokenness. But when we sit with it (for a bit), we realize our need for both earthly and heavenly forgiveness.
  6. We wanted you to realize that your sin (though not always immediate) has consequences, and sometimes those consequences “hit” us in places that are dear to us. Because of that, we asked you to use your own money to pay for the stamp to send the apology. We know that was hard for you, and we’re okay with it; sin hurts us, too.
  7. We wanted to teach you humility, helping you acknowledge that your imperfections and sins can only be made right by the ONE who is perfectly sinless. If we can’t acknowledge our imperfections to finite souls, how will we ever acknowledge them to our infinite Creator?
  8. We wanted you to know that because we love and care about your heart, we were willing to take the time to address your behavior in a tangible and intentional way. We were willing to help you invest in your apology because we have a vested interest in stewarding your soul.

Son, we love you and are crazy proud of you. Truly, you are all kinds of special and all kinds of wonderful to us. And because we love you (imperfections and all) and because we believe you and others have value, we asked you to spend your money, time, and effort on writing an apology letter to your grandmother on Wednesday, October 11th, 2017.

Love,

Your grace-needing, mercy-dependent parents

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Books, Books, Books: A Birthday Give-Away

So you know that Anne of Green Gables meme that floats around this time of year? The one that says, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers?” You’ve seen it, right?

Well, I have to exercise self-control and not re-post and re-share that beautiful and happy meme every single day of October. Because yes, it’s so very, very true. I LOVE OCTOBER.

The cooler temps, the colors, the crunchy leaves, the hot drinks, the reappearance of scarves, pumpkins, the autumn sunshine…oh, and my birthday! This girl is not gonna lie; I love birthdays, and I love that mine is in October. October 2nd, to be exact. TODAY!

I remember my mom telling me that when she went into the hospital to deliver me, the world looked all kinds of different when she left (the leaves, the colors, and a baby!). I have always cherished that memory, and I find myself (each October), thanking God for the beauty of seasons, life changes, and growth.

So since this birthday girls loves Octobers, books, birthdays, and giving, I’m gonna give away a book on my birthday…on this very lovely, autumnal day!

So what book am I giving away? 

I am giving away TWO copies of The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together by Jared C. Wilson.

And why am I giving away this book

  1. It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up such a raw and honest book. A book that unpacks the meaning of “following Jesus” in the most genuine and non-fluffy way I’ve heard in a long time. SO GOOD.
  2. The title encapsulates my entire life and walk with Jesus. I’m an imperfect soul who needs grace. Why? Because I can’t keep my life together without it and without Him.
  3. I think we need to read stuff that unpacks the difficulties of walking with Jesus. Sure, there are a ton of self-help books that offer trite words and pithy suggestions for what a disciple of Jesus looks like, but to read deep and honest words about the hard and ugly of walking with Him is well…honey for the soul and meat for the journey. We need the “real” as we face the “real hard.”

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book? 

It’s hard to choose, but here are a few of the lines that cut my soul to the core!

What is discipleship, then, but following Jesus not on some religious quest to become bigger, better, or faster but to become more trusting of His mercy toward our total inability to become those things.

To be gospel-centered is not to be law-avoiding. As Dallas Willard says, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but is opposed to earning.” So it’s not about “letting go and letting God” or some other similarly sincere but shallow spiritual hooey.

We are parched. We are starving. We are thirsty and hungry for the glory of Jesus.

So how can you win a copy of this book? 

In the comment section below, share your favorite season/month and the reasons WHY it’s your favorite, and I’ll choose two, random winners on Wednesday at 10AM (EST) to win a copy of this wonderful book!

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Our Help, His Enough

I’m not even gonna lie, I wasn’t very thankful for her “help.”

Attempting to hang onto the side of the cart, while simultaneously reaching with all her might for the green onions, she was trying her best to offer help. She really was.

“Mommy, I am helping you!”

Grabbing for the stray can of black beans at the bottom of the cart, grasping for the cottage cheese, and straining for the frozen OJ, she was bustin’ her little buns to help.

“I am such a big helper! Aren’t I, Mommy?”

I didn’t say anything.

To be honest, she wasn’t really “helping” me…or at least that’s how I felt.

“I’m a big helper, right?”

She kept asking it over and over as I tried to figure out how to wrestle $113.00 worth of groceries into 5 Aldi bags before lunch time arrived and nap time left.

I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to lie, AND I didn’t want to answer with the truth.

The reality was…

I felt like she was in the way;

I felt like she was making the trip longer; and

I felt like I could do it faster and better without her.

Truly, I was having such a “mom-jerk reaction” to my little girl’s sweet attempts to be a “helper.”

Why couldn’t I find her “help” enough? Why couldn’t I be thankful? Why was I so hell-bent on my version of “help?” And why was I so stinking consumed with the task of loading my cart that I couldn’t see her heart in the middle of it all?!?!??!?!

My attitude was a pile of poo, and I knew it.

“Mommy? Can you hand me those cans?”

Realizing my heart was in all kinds of crappy places, I made a conscious effort to STOP and to ALLOW.

Handing her can after can after can (Why was this the week I bought 7 cans of black beans, 2 cans of corn, and 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes??), she thoughtfully and kindly took each can from my hand and stacked it on the loading shelf.

As I waited for her to retrieve each can…and then place each can…and then turn each can, the Spirit took the time to humble my task-focused, un-thankful, mama heart.

Jessica, aren’t you glad I don’t have the same attitude toward you and your “help?” Don’t you ever think I have the same feelings about you and your “human help?”

I stopped dead in my Aldi-lovin’ tracks.

The Spirit was right; He was sooooo right.

When I meet with hurting clients in the middle of my office, offering hope and help from my human self, does God look down and think, “Wow! I could do that sooooo much better?”

When I fumble through my human words and attempt to preach the Gospel in the middle of discipline, does God look down and say, “Sheesh! I could do that soooo much faster?”

When I volunteer to serve and meet the needs of those around me with my human hands, does God look down and sigh, “Man! I wish she would get out of the way?”

When I awkwardly attempt to share His story through my human experiences, does God look down and grouchily utter, “Wow! I could think of a 101 other, more efficient ways to do that?”

I really don’t.

Why?

Because God knows we’re broken. He knows we aren’t perfect, and He doesn’t expect us to act contrary to our dust-created selves. He knows we’re “slow,” rather inefficient at times, and desperately weak in most areas where we offer our hands, our hearts, and our help.

And even though God knows we’re busted and broken saints, hangin’ off the kingdom cart wielding our best attempts to proclaim His fame and help in His name, He wants to use us.

He wants to partner with us; He wants to use us; and He wants us to grow in relationship while we do it.

No, he doesn’t need our help. And sure, He could do it a bazillion times better and a trillion times more efficiently (Hello?! Whole world…7 days?! BAM! All kinds of powerful and all kinds of efficient!) But that’s not the point.

God wants our help and even enlists our help because not only does He love us and want to be in relationship with us, but He is also committed to His mission of showing the whole world His glory.

We don’t have to be perfect to be used. 

We don’t have to “know it” all to be used. 

We don’t have to be strong to be used. 

And we don’t even have to be “good at it” to be used. 

And neither did my daughter. 

Had I looked at the heart of her help and pondered the motivation for her meager assistance, maybe just maybe…I would have marveled at the beauty of her willingness with a thankful heart.

Maybe I wouldn’t have fixated so much on the method, but rejoiced in her servant-driven heart.

Maybe I wouldn’t have found so much fault, but reveled in the beauty of her faithful and willing hands.

Maybe I wouldn’t have focused so much on the time, but celebrated the joy of our relationship.

As I buckled my helpful girl into the backseat, I planted a big kiss on her head and with the most heartfelt  and humbled “thanks” I could muster, I said, “Evie, thank you soooo much for your help. Your help meant soooo much to me.”

And with eyes the size of two full moons, she beamed and said, “You’re welcome, Mommy. I love helping you.”

May we, too, be found willingly eager and faithfully committed to “helping” our Master–trusting He wants us and will use us…no matter the size of our “help.” 

 

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The Result of Eve’s Apple Eating: 50 Things

  1. Multi-part sippy cups
  2. Child sleeps in when you are awake at 6:30 on a Thursday morning; child wakes up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning when you are asleep.
  3. Opened bags of snacks that have dumped in the bottom of your purse
  4. Pooping during meals
  5. Peeing during meals
  6. False poops and pees during meals
  7. Sneezing while feeding green beans to a baby
  8. Caillou
  9. Stray Legos in your heel
  10. Laundry for daaaaaayyyssss
  11. Unquenchable thirst at 8PM
  12. Bathrooms at the back of the store
  13. Jeans and shoes that fit for all of two months
  14. The eternal missing sock
  15. Pee on the floor
  16. Pee in your scarf
  17. Sandal buckles for 3 year-olds
  18. Chunky, vomited formula
  19. Poopy diapers in the middle of nap time
  20. Stuck arms in crib rails at 3 AM
  21. Paying to have someone else watch your kid, so you can pay to spend time ALONE with your spouse
  22. Paying for something that will catch poop and then be thrown away
  23. Lukewarm coffee
  24. The packaging on cheese sticks
  25. Toilet paper rolls and small children
  26. Feet in the back of your seat
  27. Kids bring home germs and give germs to parents
  28. School Fundraisers
  29. Neck rolls accompanied with cottage cheese-like stuff
  30. Red juice
  31. Candy racks that stand exactly 36 inches tall
  32. Cheeto fingers
  33. Gum
  34. Walking with a 30 lb baby carrier car seat across the burning-lava asphalt while juggling a small child in the Kroger parking lot
  35. Hiccups, Blow-Outs, and Runny Noses
  36. “How many more bites?”
  37. Carpet with children
  38. Car rides with children
  39. Cleaning with children
  40. Coats with children
  41. Whining
  42. Tattling
  43. Whining about tattling
  44. Homework for children parents
  45. Car Drop Off lines
  46. Snapping onesies at 4AM
  47. Doing anything at 4AM
  48. $5.99 Kid Meals that feature bowls of Kraft mac-n-cheese
  49. Attempting to schedule anything during flu season
  50. Peeing with small children at your ankles

Eating DQ ice cream cake during nap time=not a result of the fall

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Loving Her, Modeling Him

Our son never told me I was his “best girl friend;” he never aspired to be a “mommy” when asked what he wanted to do when he got bigger; and he never walked around the house mimicking the things I did.

He just didn’t, and that was perfectly okay.

He wanted to swing a golf club like his daddy; he wanted to shave his non-existent beard; he wanted to be a city manager when he got big; and he wanted to grow hair on his body “like a man guy.”

And it was adorable.

I always knew (and still do) that he loved me, but I never felt like I had a pair of watching, adoring eyes on me. I never felt the weight of being his role model, and I certainly didn’t feel any kind of pressure to “do” or “not do.” Not that I didn’t care about setting a godly example or modeling fruit for him, but I didn’t feel as responsible for modeling like I do now.

But now I have a little girl.

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And that little girl wants to carry a baby around the house like mommy carries a baby; she wants to wear “tu tu dresses” like mommy wears; she wants to spray herself with “smelly spray;” she wants to sip on hot lattes; she wants to wear strappy sandals; and she wants to talk just like her mommy.

Now I’m not suggesting that I currently feel a burdensome weight to be the “Proverbs 31 Woman,” or a taxing pressure to model godly femininity (What is that anyway?!?), but I do feel a sense of honored duty–a privileged responsibility–to model being a grace-rescued soul who has a Kingdom mission.

Because though it’s cute and adorable that she wants to mimic the tasks I do and the things I wear, I find it more important to shape her heart…to impress upon her the beauty of being a woman who doesn’t just love Jesus, but a woman who follows hard after Him…no matter the cost.

And as I was watching her this morning, toting her baby around and multi-tasking a game while knee-bouncing her baby, I felt this joy well up within me. It’s hard to explain, but it felt like champagne bubbles of excitement rising to the top of my soul as I thought about the beautiful privilege I have to be her mommy, and the special role and voice that gives me.

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Because though I think there may be value in teaching her the basics of cooking, cleaning, and managing her home, and though it will be necessary to instill the values of modesty, true beauty, and godly confidence, I want to model so much more.

I want to model love–the kind of love that sacrifices for others; the kind that goes the extra mile and believes the best; and the kind that intentionally invests in the things that matter.

I want to model joy–the kind of joy that remains no matter the circumstances; the kind that rejoices when others get what she doesn’t; and the kind that oozes from a soul that smiles deep within.

I want to model peace–the kind of peace that rests in His mighty arms; the kind that makes others feel at ease in her presence; the kind that anchors when the storms rage and the wind howls.

I want to model patience–the kind of patience that walks the distance even when it would be easier to give up; the kind that is willing to sit with others in the middle of their hard; and the kind that believes in the perfect timing of her Savior’s plans.

I want to model kindness–the kind of kindness that thinks of others and asks about them; the kind that remembers another’s needs and purposefully prays over them; and the kind that cooks a meal, bakes a cake, or sends a gift of roses.

I want to model goodness–the kind of goodness that sees beyond the surface and looks at the soul; the kind that does right when no one else is looking, applauding, or caring; the kind that extends grace and offers mercy even when it doesn’t seem fair.

I want to model faithfulness–the kind that refuses to walk away from good friendships and a loving marriage when times are troubled; the kind that holds His hand even when it can’t be seen; and the kind that perseveres through the monotonous and mundane.

I want to model gentleness–the kind that tames the tongue and bridles the anger; the kind that whispers hope and offers a hug; and the kind that says, “You go first.”

I want to model self control–the kind that is able to resist the temporary fixes and the empty promises of this world; the kind that “says no” to the luring temptations and the tantalizing idols; and the kind that knows how to discern the “when,” the “if,” or the “not at all.”

I want to model the things that matter, the things that last.

I want to model Kingdom values and eternal hope that stands the test of time.

I want to model grace, confession, and the beautiful-messy truth of imperfectly following a perfect Father with other imperfect, grace-needing people.

I want to model what it looks like to live and love differently because of His great sacrifice and our great treasure.

I want to model a life that finds excitement in preaching HIS story, of sharing HIS love, and of proclaiming HIS good news.

I want to model HIM… through the platform of being “her mom.”

More than anything, that’s what I want my dear daughter to see in my heart, hear in my words, and watch in my actions.

Christ Alone, Mommy’s Cornerstone.

That’s the message I want her to hear…the one I want her to reverently fear…the one I want her to dearly hold near.

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Books, Books, Books: A September Give-Away!

I cannot even express how excited I am about this month’s book give-away! Seriously, friends. This book is all kinds of wonderful and beautiful. Not to mention, its pages hold such awesome and timely Truth.

When I read it to my oldest two, they absolutely LOVED it. Sure, they were glued to its pages (the illustrations are super fun and rather colorful), but they also loved seeing pictures of children who look like their foster sister (Friends, our children’s books are lied with white people!!!). In fact, this whole book is about the diversity and beauty of God’s family–His fearfully and wonderfully man image-bearers. Truly, I think every soul (age 2 to age 102) should read this book!

When we read the disheartening and sinful ways that people can choose to treat others who differ from them, my heart sunk. It’s never fun to expose your kids to the sinfulness of this world, the nastiness of our hearts, and the ugliness of our sinful and sometimes systemic ways…but it’s necessary and good if we want to encourage love and promote change.

As I read, it was obvious our oldest was tracking with the content, but I wasn’t entirely sure if our 3 year old was “getting it.”

But as soon as I read the words, “People ruined God’s very good idea…People fight with each other. People are mean to each other. People laugh at each other,” she scrunched her little face and shared such honest and true words.

“Mommy, that’s rotten!” 

I don’t think I’ve ever heard her use “rotten” (I know I don’t use that term), but she was right. The unfair, unloving, and ungodly ways we can treat others who differ from us are DOWNRIGHT ROTTEN.

So what book am I giving away? 

I am giving away TWO copies of God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story About God’s Delightfully Different Family by Trillia Newbell.

And why am I giving away this book?

Three reasons!

  1. We need to teach our children this Truth.
  2. We need to talk with our children about the beauty of God’s design.
  3. And we need to tear down unloving and unfair walls that are anti Gospel.

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book? 

I literally cried when I read these words.

God MADE it. 

People RUINED it. 

He RESCUED it. 

He will FINISH it. 

How true! Because of His holiness and because of His work on the cross, not only will He right all wrongs when He returns, but we can love and do right while we’re here!

So how can you win a copy of this book? 

In the comment section below, share a “glimpse of God” you had this week and on Sunday at 9PM (EST), I will select TWO winners!

 

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19 Things You’ve Said that I Don’t Want to Forget

Caden and Evie,

Your daddy and I were worried about how you would feel about our decision to foster. We were worried you might feel displaced, resentful, and maybe even jealous. We were concerned that it might be a hard transition, that it might drastically change our family dynamic, and that you’d possibly rebel against the whole idea. We worried you might not “attach,” and we were concerned you’d struggle with new roles and new spaces on our “family couch.” We were concerned that our decision to love might make you feel unloved, confused, and maybe a bit angry. We had concerns about the changes it would bring to our family time, our schedule, and how it would affect the attention you receive. Suffice to say, we had a few concerns about this decision.

And yet…we did it anyway.

We did it because not only did we feel led to open our hearts and home, but we felt nudged to let the Gospel lead our decisions, not our fears and not your comfort. We made a commitment to let go of our need for safe and secure in order to make a commitment to trust and love. We made the choice to walk this road as a family unit in hopes that we would grow, learn, and change as a team. And lastly, we felt confident that as much as a little soul might need a foster daddy and a foster mommy, they might also need a foster brother and a foster sister.

And wow, we’ve been utterly and entirely blown away by your response…by your love…by your relentless sacrifice and flexibility.  There’s so much we could say about your response and how you’ve transitioned and handled it all, but I decided I wanted to keep track of the things you’ve said. Because let’s be honest, your words speak for themselves and they speak better than I could speak on your behalf.

So kids, whether she stays forever or leaves tomorrow, I wanted you to have your own words to serve as a reminder for how much she’s meant to you–a reminder of your deep love for her–and a reminder of the beauty that can grow when you step out in faith.

In this post, I’ve changed her name to “sweet girl” to protect her identity, but let’s be honest…that’s one of your very favorite names for her. 

I love you. All three of you. And always will.

-Mommy

  1. “Mommy, if ‘sweet girl’ has to go back to her home, do you promise to take lots of pictures and paste them all over our house?”
  2. “Will we get to keep ‘sweet girl’ for a long time or a short time? I hope it’s a long time.”
  3. “If we have to give ‘sweet girl’ back, I can’t wait to get the next baby and love them.”
  4. “Mommy, I know she’s not my official sister, but she is still a sister in my heart.”
  5. “One time at school I wrote a bad sentence. I said I had only one sister, but then I realized that was not true. I pretty much have two.”
  6. “I think ‘sweet girl’ loves you, Mommy. She always looks at you like she loves you a lot.”
  7. “I hope God decides that she should live here forever.”
  8. “When ‘sweet girl’ grows up, I hope she always remembers me.”
  9. “Do you think we’ll get to see ‘sweet girl’ walk and say her first words? I really hope so.”
  10. “I hope ‘sweet girl’ gets to stay until Christmas because I want her to get presents from under our tree.”
  11. “I can’t imagine how hard that would be if I were ‘sweet girl.’ I can’t imagine how it would feel to not see your other family.”
  12. “If ‘sweet girl’ stays with us forever, I am going to walk her to school on her very first day and hold her hand the whole way.”
  13. “I think we would have a big hole if ‘sweet girl’ leaves, but I also think you wouldn’t be so busy.”
  14. “If I took ‘sweet girl’ to the circus, I could just sit her in the middle of the tent, and she could blow bubbles and spit for everyone.”
  15. “I am not going to my bed until ‘sweet girl’ comes to bed. I don’t sleep without her.”
  16. “I think our family feels better with ‘sweet girl.’ “
  17. “When ‘sweet girl’ is gone, I feel like there is a giant hole.”
  18. “I didn’t think I would like two sisters, but it’s been pretty awesome.”
  19. “Mommy, Evie and I are playing house and caring for our baby. We love having a baby to take care of.”

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