Friday, December 14, 2012

R Word

The R word...

Over the last few months I have heard more and more people using the R word.  Adults, teenagers, children, men, women throw around the word retarded as an insult. 

"You are so retarded."
"I look retarded.  You look retarded."
"That's so retarded."

Just typing the words, the insults, makes me physically ill.  Every time I hear someone use the R word I feel like someone is punching me in the gut.  And it just isn't son, Jacob, told me he heard a friend say retarded and he wanted to get up and punch him in the face (thankfully my Jake practiced the fruit of the spirit, self control, and didn't react negatively)!

You see when I hear the word retarded, I am reminded that

my daughter struggles in school to read, learn math facts, etc
my daughter cannot watch her brother play basketball because the whistles and loud noises are too much
my daughter hasn't had a positive "church" experience in the last few years because there was nothing for her
my daughter doesn't play and socialize with other kids her age
my daughter behaves differently and people look, and question, and judge her and us
my daughter becomes frustrated when she cannot do something that she knows other kids her age can do
my daughter is anxious about school
my daughter cannot eat a meal in a restaurant if the balloon lady is walking around making balloon animals
my daughter will crawl into the fetal position and cover her ears if people chew gum and pop bubbles and don't notice that she is withdrawing
my daughter will have a much harder isn't easy for her...

You see when I hear the word retarded ...

my daughter's face pops into my mind
my daughter's laugh rings in my ears
my daughter's smile reaches my heart
my daughter's hugs wrap around my waist
my daughter's kisses are felt on my cheek
my daughter's incredible insight on life touches my soul
my daughter's love for her sisters and brother warms this momma's heart
my daughter's love for dogs makes me smile
my daughter's incredible memory astounds me
my daughter's observations of the things around her amaze me
my daughter's sense of humor makes me laugh
my daughter's face pops into my mind

The word retarded isn't an insult.  My beautiful daughter sees life in ways like no other person I know.  She is excited about the rain.  She laughs at the most delightful, inappropriate things.  She has made her mom, dad, brother, and sisters more compassionate human beings.  She has changed our lives for the better.  We can love others better.  We are more patient and less judgmental of those who are "different".  I am so thankful that God trusted us with this precious little girl and entrusted us with raising her and loving her.

I have had the honor to share Scottie and my mommy perspective on the flippant use of the word retarded.  I have heard one of my students chastising another for using the R word.  I have had young ladies and men approach me and apologize for saying the word.  I don't believe that these students or even most people say the R word with the intention to insult people with a low IQ.  It is an easy insult to throw around...a way to describe something...a word that society has accepted as an appropriate insult. 

My prayer and hope is that once you meet my daughter, the word retarded will no longer be a word that is thrown around with little regard to those who have a lower IQ or the families who love these amazing children of God.  My prayer and hope is that the word retarded isn't what defines my daughter but rather her life, love, and laughter is what others experience and remember.

The next time you hear (or perhaps slip up and say) the R word, I want this face and smile to pop into your head.

Scottie and her friend, Gus

Scottie with her sisters

Scottie wearing my wedding dress

Here is Cate Scotlyn Denton (Scottie)
She is a child of God.  She is someone's daughter,  She is someone's sister,  She is someone's granddaughter.  She is someone's niece.  She is INCREDIBLE!
"For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb. 
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well." 
Psalm 139:13-14

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tired of Being Offended

Scott is in ministry....his full-time job is working for a church.  He hasn't always been in ministry so we are still trying to figure it all out.  Ha!  We will never have it all figured out, BUT there are some lessons that I have learned over the last 4 years.  Interestingly the most important lesson or truth is a simple statement I heard while listening to a wise woman as she shared with middle school girls.

When you CHOOSE to be OFFENDED, you STOP being EFFECTIVE.

I spent these first years in ministry choosing to be offended...not all the time and not about everything, but regardless, every time I chose to be offended by someone else, I became less and less effective in ministry.  I found myself pulling away and going into self preservation mode.  I stepped away from ministries that I know God had called me to...I no longer served with the same fervor and passion...I stopped seeing people the way God sees them.  I didn't consciously say, "I am offended."  But by not keeping my eyes on Jesus, His calling and His truth, I allowed the offenses to steer me away. 

As I wrestle with this truth, I have to come to terms with the fact that I am not always at fault for the offenses.  The other party may in fact be offensive and hurtful, but my reaction to them is something I need to...must...100% own.  What hurts me is probably not something purposely orchestrated by someone else.  I need to get over myself and the idea that there are those who sit in their home plotting how to make me feel inferior, small, or insignificant.  How incredibly prideful I have been because it isn't about me!  I allowed the offenses to be about me and lost sight of what it is really all about...

Loving others.
Serving others.
Loving Jesus.
Serving Jesus.
Seeking truth.
Speaking truth.

God gave me gifts and areas of ministry that I was passionate about and I allowed the offense to outweigh the power of the Spirit within me.

Will I still be offended?  Probably.
Will others still say and do things that are hurtful?  Probably.
Will I allow Satan a win by choosing to be offended?  NO!
Will I allow the offenses to dictate how the Spirit can and will use me in ministry?  NO!

I cannot control others (I have tried).  But I can make an intentional choice to not be offended and allow God to continue to use me in ministry.

Scott started a new job a few weeks ago and for the first time since we have been in ministry, I have the ability to sit back and allow God to reveal His ministry for me.  There is no hurry or dire need that I must fill.  The best part is that the urgency I feel to get involved isn't because anyone needs me, but rather that I need (want) to serve.  I want to jump in and love, serve, share, and allow God to use me in the most effective way possible.

It starts with me.  I will choose not to be offended so that I can be effective.  It starts with me.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I simply must love them!

We recently returned from a mission trip to San Jose, Costa Rica.  As you might expect I experienced many things and had the awesome opportunity to serve with my husband, our son Jacob (age 13), our daughter Emma Grace (age 11), and 11 other amazing people. 

The church we served is in the process of opening a daycare for children whose parents If they did not have the daycare to go to, they would be left at home.  Many of these children end up as street kids...either dropping out of school or falling into the dark world of child prostitution.

Our children physically worked at the daycare...cutting down coffee plants (Jacob used a machete...WHAT?) and moving branches just to name a few.  However, the best part of the week was watching my kids PLAY!  They played hard.  Despite the language barrier, they played with children for hours and hours. 

Our first real work day consisted of working at the daycare and planning for the VBS we were hosting during the week.  I spent hours waiting for the director of the daycare to sit down with me to talk about what they wanted and needed from us that week.  I learned two important things during this sit down.

1.)  They needed us to help with the construction projects and the VBS was important, but what they really needed was for us to encourage them in the work they were doing.   I strongly believe that after we left what they will remember most about our team were the times we sat and talked and prayed.  They would remember that we didn't get upset when the schedule changed or that the bathroom our men wanted to build didn't get built.  They would remember that we simply wanted to serve them.

2.)  One of the communities the church reaches out to consists of the socialoutcasts.  One of the poorest areas in San Jose is down the road from this church.  They are refugees from Nicaragua.  They are poor.  They are not well liked by the Costa Ricans.  Their families are often broken and dysfunctional.  Their homes are made from whatever they can find...trash...when we pulled up to spend an afternoon with the kids, a roof on one of the houses fell off.  (Mom moment: Kids keep a good 5 feet from the houses, just in case.)  Our guide told us that incest is a common problem in this community.  Families live in small houses and sleep in one bed.  Moms are often at work while boyfriends stay home.  Young boys and girls have witnessed or experienced incest for generations.  What in the world could we possibly do to help?

As I sat on the bus, I watched the landscape change and all I could do was think about how could we help these young girls.  I couldn't stomach the idea of going to play for a few hours just to walk away knowing that their abuse would continue...who will fight for these girls?  My American mind was spinning and I wanted so much to ask the church what they planned on doing.  What could they do to help educate the men and women and keep them accountable for the well being of their children? 

We got off the bus and carried a trunk and suitcase full of bubbles, balls, fingernail polish, jump ropes, crafts, and so much more.  The kids (and their moms) start pouring into the fenced-in area where we planned on setting up our stuff.  Whenever we pulled an item out of the trunk, the kids (and their moms) started reaching and grabbing and asking...they weren't trying to hurt us; they just didn't want to miss out.  They have gone without for so long that a little bottle of bubbles is a treasure worth begging for...(Mom moment:  Kids shouldn't carry or handout anything, just in case.)

It didn't take long for our kids to jump in and play.  Jacob and the other boys started playing soccer with the locals.  No language necessary because playing ball is a universal game and form of entertainment.  Emma Grace found a little girl close to Zoey's age.  The little girl wore a t-shirt and a diaper and Emma Grace carried her around.  Some of our ladies sat down and painted faces and fingernails.  The three men on our trip are three of the finest, most godly men at our church.  They loved on these kiddos...having a positive male influence is a huge gift we were able to give these children.

The hours went by so fast and before I knew it we were packing up our stuff and headed back to our hotel...our kids were going to end their day with swimming, a great dinner (rice and beans, included), and then would fall asleep in their own beds (Jacob had a king size bed) in an air conditioned room.  We left that afternoon and there was no plan in place to "fix" anything.  There were no immediate answers and resolution; however, I learned the most amazing lesson.  Sometimes (ok most times) it isn't about fixing the broken, rather it is about loving the broken.  We showed up that afternoon with one goal in mind.  We were going to play and love on some of God's children for a few hours.  We wanted them to know that they are worth it.  Jesus came and loved the lost, broken, and sinful.

I don't have to be in a poor refugee village in order to love on the lost, broken, and sinful.  They are all around every community.  They are at our churches, neighborhoods, and schools.  I don't have to fix them or come up with a plan to solve all their problems.  I simply must love them.

 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This the great and first commandment.  And a second is life it:  You shall love your neighbor has yourself."  Matthew 22:37-39

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  I was naked and you clothes me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me....And the King will answer them, Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."  Matthew 25:35-36 and 40

Friday, June 8, 2012

God's Whisper

Our sweet Scottie has asked every day since school has let out for the summer if tomorrow is a school day or if it is summer.  It would be one thing if she only asked once as she goes to bed, but that is not the case.  She probably asks no less than 50 times a day...50 times!  We try so hard to not get annoyed, and we simply answer her that it is summer! 

I wish Scottie had confidence in our answer. 
I wish she could just rest and have peace that she has weeks left until school starts again. 
I wish she was able to keep our answer and hold on to it and not doubt. 
I wish she did not feel anxious.

This afternoon in the car the question was asked again and my first instinct (after we have answered it numerous times already today) was to ignore her.  Then, I felt God whispering.

God wishes I had confidence in His answers, His Word, His Him.
Jesus wishes I could just rest and have peace that He is in control and He will direct my path.
The Savior wishes I was able to hold on to the Truth and not doubt.
The Holy Spirit wishes I did not feel anxious.

Thank you Lord, for not ignoring me...

(My sweet Scottie how grateful I am that you continue to teach me lesson after lesson.)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Beautiful, Precious Word of God

The last few weeks of this school year, my 8th grade students and I read God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew.  Honestly, I was not sure how the kiddos were going to feel about this book.  Would it mean the same to them as it did to me?  Would they be intrigued by Brother Andrew's journey and God-given mission?  Brother Andrew's mission was to minister and serve the "church" behind the Iron Curtain beginning in the 1950s.  On one of his early trips to Prague he attended a local church and it was there that he discovered something that would forever change his life.

Brother Andrew watched as people walked into church...a couple carrying hymnals, a few with Bibles, and an occasional person with a loose leaf notebook.  The following is an excerpt from this book.
"The service began.  I took a seat in the back and immediately had a surprise.  Almost everyone seemed farsighted!  The owners of the hymn books held them out at arm's length, high in the air.  Those with loose leaf notebooks did the same.  And then I realized: the people with books were sharing them with those who had none.  In the notebooks were copied, note by note and word by word, the favorite hymns of the congregation.

It was the same with the Bibles.  When the preacher announced the text, every Bible owner in the congregation found the reference and held his book high so that friends nearby could follow the reading,  As I watched those men and women struggling literally to get close to the Word, my hand closed over the Dutch Bible in my coat jacket.  How much for granted I had always taken my right to own this Book.  I thought that I would never reach for it again without remembering the old granny in front of me now, standing almost on tiptoe, squinting as she strained to see the words in the Bible her son held aloft."  (pages 94-95)

Because of this experience and knowledge that the "church" wanted and needed the Word of God so desperately, Brother Andrew began smuggling Bibles into the communist countries. 

When I read this passage, I was overwhelmed because I was reminded of a time when I could not get enough of the Word of God.  I spent hours pouring over scripture...I craved it...I was drawn to the pages, to the ink, to the message for my life.  I wrote notes along the side.  I underlined verses that spoke truth and encouragement to my soul.  The pages of my Bible are worn and beautiful and precious to me.  I can only imagine standing in service and squinting just to read along with the pastor.  I can only imagine the deep desire to have the precious words in my call the book my own.  These men and women would sit and transcribe the Bible onto loose leaf paper just so they could have it for themselves...can you imagine?

As my class and I sat outside talking about the book, I wasn't sure where our discussion would take us.  But once again these young men and women enlightened me and God impressed it in my heart that perhaps, these 13 and 14 year olds really get it.  They know where their generation is headed and they recognize that their parents' generation is accepting their path, but they are quietly saying that it may not be the best path and no one is stopping it.

I asked them the following questions and here are their responses:
  • Does your church encourage you to bring your Bible to church?
    • No. 
  • Does your pastor read from the Word of God (in text form)?
    • Some said yes.  Others said that their pastor reads from the screen or perhaps from an iPad.  Many said that it is not uncommon to go through a worship service without ever opening the Bible
  • Do your bring your Bible to church?
    • Many said they don't think about it, and once they get there they don't worry about it because it is on their smart phone.
  • Do you think there is a difference between reading the Bible in text form and reading it on your smart phone or tablet?
    • There was not ONE student who said that it was the same.  They all said that they felt like reading and studying the Word in text form seemed more personal and engaging. 
    • I had another student point out that when he does read scripture from his phone, he gets distracted because he has access to facebook, email or the internet.  He said that the end result is that he doesn't have a full worship and teaching experience.
      • Side note from me: I saw a man text or checking his email in church Sunday.  This distraction is not just for the 8th grader, but for anyone who uses their phone as their Bible.
      • What God moments, God blessings, and God truths are we missing because we are multi-tasking?  (This comes from the queen of multi-tasking!)
  • Do you think that your children's generation will own a Bible in text form?
    • Most said that if their children did, they didn't think they would actually use them.
  • What do you think about the advances in technology and the impact it is having on the "church"?
    • Varying answers:  One student said she wishes they still had basic Bible lessons and Bible drills to help them learn verses and the books of the Bible.  She said that she thinks that the church is trying too hard to entertain them instead of teaching and inspiring them.  Another student said that he thinks that this is the path their generation is on, but wishes that his parents would help them stop it.  He wants his parents to encourage the Bible in text discourage the use of the smart phone on Sunday morning.  He said that because his parents don't (and in many cases have also stopped using the Bible in text form), then he just goes with the flow.  Another student said that because the Bible is always with them (on the large screen at church or on their smart phone), she is missing the opportunity to think about the importance of God's Word by the very act of bringing it to church.
I could not believe how honest and real these millennials were in their responses.  They were impressed by the churches behind the Iron Curtain because they understood the importance and power in the Word of God.  They were envious of the lengths these Christians would go to just to have access to the Bible, and we take it for granted.  Sunday morning, the Word of God is not our first priority, but rather an after thought.

Statistically, the millennial generation is more technologically savvy than the generations before them.  They are also walking away from the "church" at a high rate for a variety of reasons, but the end result is that they no longer see the importance for organized religion.  Churches are trying to find ways to engage these millennials in their faith and are reworking their worship services, promotions, and events in order to try and reign in a few of the millennials as they walk away.  Churches across our nation are becoming more technologically engaging through videos, the web, social media, and by their teaching styles.  I haven't been in a church in over a decade where they didn't have the scripture on the large screen... so why bring your Bible?  What message is the church sending to the millennials?  We want them to know and understand that organized church has a purpose and place for their lives.  We want them to recognize the importance, yet we are not modeling the importance of the very Book we base our beliefs upon.  Is the church sending mixed messages?

I do not have the answer on how to keep the millennials engaged in their faith, but based on a conversation with 28 young men and women, I do not think the answer is to put our Bibles on the shelf.  I do not believe that this is what they want or need...they are following the lead of the generation raising them...the parents, pastors, and church staff who are trying to reach them but in the wrong way.

I came home and made a decision.  I will start with me and my household.  I will bring my Bible to church and when the pastor starts to read, I will open the Word of God and read along.  I will ask my children if they have their Bibles when we leave for church Sunday morning.  I will not pack away the beautiful, precious Word of God.  At home, I will encourage my children to place their hands on the text...I will pray they will fall in love with the Holy Scriptures and that they will be a generation that stands up to those who have gone before them and shout "We want to open the Word of God and we will put away our tablets and smart phones!"  I will not take my Bible for granted.  I will remain in His Word, His beautiful, precious Word.

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  Hebrews 4:12

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."  Psalm 119:105

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  John 1:1-2

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I'm a Words Girl

Scott and I attended a church conference in Austin the last week of February.  The conference covered a plethora of topics, but the underlining theme is how to live a missional life and how to create a church that is on mission together.  Honestly, Scott REALLY wanted me to go because he thought I would understand where he is coming from when we have discussions about what discipleship should look like.  I have felt for months that he was minimizing the experience I had at our church early in our marriage.  Our Bible study, my mentor, and my friends had the biggest impact thus far on my spiritual journey.  Scott, on the other hand, has had a change of heart on how discipleship could be accomplished in a different way.  So here I sat amongst hundreds of men and dozens of women listening to what was being said, and I had a negative reaction to one single word.  I write the word on my notepad and ask Scott what they mean.  I sit...think...fume...then as soon as I can, I ask Scott, our friends, and pastor if I am totally off base.  (They nod their supportive heads and tell me they understand what I am saying, and when THIS word is mentioned for 2 days they chuckle at how annoyed I am!)

You might be asking yourself what is this word that has me in such an uproar?  The word is incarnational!  How can this wonderful word be so irritating to me?

The speakers told us to be incarnational.  Scott's best explanation as to what they mean is, "That we are to go into the world and share the gospel."  Ummm OK I get that.  I agree with that, but shouldn't we use a different word?  Incarnational means something entirely different to me.  It is a beautiful word that says with just 5 syllables that Jesus loves us with such fervor that He was willing to leave paradise in order to live amongst us and share the TRUTH with us and through His death He completed the ultimate sacrifice for us, mere sinners.

Incarnation according to Merriam-Webster is:
  • a (1): the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form (2)capitalized: the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ b: a concrete or actual form of a quality or concept; especially: a person showing a trait or typical character to a marked degree <she is the incarnation of goodness>
  • the act of incarnating : the state of being incarnate
  • a particular physical form or state : version <in another incarnation he might be a first vice-president
I think I am most bothered that we are taking this amazing word and changing the meaning...somehow lessening its true meaning.  Its life-changing, life-saving meaning.  I absolutely believe that as believers we are commanded to take the gospel to the ends of the earth!  God's Word leaves little room to wiggle out of this truth.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit"  Matthew 28:19

"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."  Mark 16:15

"but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."  Acts 1:8

An important truth for a believer to understand and apply that truth to their daily life is the concept of going, sharing, telling, and discipling.  It isn't something we can pass off to the few who are passionate and "gifted" in teaching.  That isn't how it works biblically, nor will we be able to accomplish the Christ given command with the "elect" few.  So many Christians sit on the sidelines and pat the backs of the few who are taking the gospel to the lost, hurting, and the forgotten.  So do I believe that believers are supposed to go and share the gospel?  ABSOLUTELY!  Do I believe that we should apply the word incarnational to mere humans?  NOPE!  I don't.  (Scott thinks I am a words person and I get hung up on words...maybe he is right...OK I am sure he is right.  Regardless, I don't want anyone to describe me as incarnational.)

We are entering the week of remembrance of God's provision for us.  He provided the ultimate sacrifice for our sins so that we might stand righteous before Him.  We think about Christ's death...the pain...the agony...the rejection.  We celebrate and give thanks that Jesus did not remain dead, but rose again and stands beside His Father.  We take a week to reflect on the AWESOMENESS of God and how much He, in fact, does love us.  What Jesus did for you and for me... that is totally different than what I do when I minister to the homeless.  What we do when we live our life missionally, or living our life with the intention of serving those we encounter and sharing the gospel is beautiful and obedient.  But, I am not choosing to leave Heaven and the Heavenly Father to be me.  I am trying to be an obedient child of God.  I do not want to put my puny efforts on the same page as the incarnation of Christ.  I just don't! 

With my arms stretched to the heavens I give thanks to the Messiah!  Thank you Jesus for loving me.  Thank you Jesus for mercy, grace, and truth.  Thank you my Savior for being incarnational!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Easier Internationally?

One night last week, Scott and I sat on the porch swing and talked until well past midnight.  We talked about ministry, church, our family, and how we are doing in reaching those around us.  Conversations like this one replay in my mind for days, and I spent time thinking about the direction our life could have gone, the direction our life has gone, and the direction our life will go.

A few years ago, Scott and I applied to the mission board and we were turned down (twice) because of our Scottie and their concern with how she would do in another country.  We believed that we were supposed to transplant our family into another country and simply be life for Christ and as we had interactions with others, we could demonstrate and share the hope of a Savior.  We understood that God placed Scottie in our life, and He is her Creator so if we were told no then it was a no we could accept.  After our second rejection from the mission board, Scott accepted his first ministry calling to help plant a church.  We believed that God had prepared our hearts for ministry, and we were excited to go on the journey.

Last week as Scott and I assessed how things were going, I made the comment that I thought it would be easier to be in another country and minister to those around me.  Living here in our country, in our comfort zone, I realized that we don't reach out to our neighbors.  I work at a Christian school, have Christian friends, serve in a church and have left very little time to minister to the those we are in need...the lost and the hurting.  I fill my days with taking care of My family in My home.  I decide what interactions I want to have and what I am willing to do.  I check off all the appropriate Christian things off of my Christian To Do List.  (I play the part very well.) 

Yet, I am not satisfied.

I am not satisfied because I am not living my God purposed life to its fullest.  I am not satisfied because God designed His children to do more.  He has placed a desire in me to love the lost and hurting and when I do not obey, the Spirit will continue to poke and prod me towards obedience and service.

Perhaps it would be easier to live in another country where my "job" is to love my family and live my life out loud!  Perhaps it would be easier if my only purpose was to share the hope I have with those I encounter.  Perhaps it would be easier if the comforts of "home" were removed.  But I serve a God who is not a God of hypotheticals, but a God of ACTION.  I need to become intentional wherever I live...America or Portugal.  I need to do the things my Father has commanded me to at home, in my neighborhood, and as I go about life.  I need to allow the Spirit to guide me into the uncomfortable because it is there, and only there, that I will find satisfaction!

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

"There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."  Proverbs 23:18

"the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel"  Colossians 1:5

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope"  2 Thessalonians 2:16

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."  Romans 5:5

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who me?

This week is spring break and we invited three of our nieces to stay with us.  We have had so much fun with them and there has been LOTS of laughter.  This evening I sat with two of these young ladies and we talked about life.  Somewhere in the midst of our talk they imitated me when I correct or discipline or "get onto" one of the kids.  I will be honest, their imitation startled me because the way they saw my actions was not how I see myself. 

I had that "Who me?" moment!

I realized tonight that my tone and correction are seen by my kids entirely different than how I intend it to be as I correct them.  I need to stop and look at myself through my children's eyes and today my nieces gave me a glimpse.  I am not proud of what they see....

If I want my children to be kind and speak with love to one another, then I need to have kindness and love spilling out of my heart and mouth.

If I want my children to be respectful to others, then I need to demonstrate respect even in the midst of times of correction.

If I want my children to demonstrate the fruits of the spirit, then I must demonstrate the fruits of the spirit.

If I want my children to handle conflict in a calm, godly way, then I certainly need to handle conflict in a calm, godly way.

What an awesome opportunity to see me through the eyes of someone else, but this opportunity hurts and I cannot ignore what I saw.  I must slow down and become the person I so desperately desire my children to become. 

Lord, please start with me.  I ask that the Holy Spirit would help me to see myself as they see me.  I ask the Father to teach me how to parent as He wants me.  No more excuses or more "Who me?".  This realization may hurt, but from pain comes change and from a godly change God will be glorified. So Lord, please start with me!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I have had a lot on my mind lately...

What is it that we are looking for in our churches?  What are we willing to tolerate because we receive the many benefits the church has to offer?  Are we willing to challenge our churches to do more? 

I am astonished that there are churches who pat themselves on the back because they have "given"  millions of dollars to "missions" but the truth of the matter is that the "missions" money may actually cover the salary of a missions' pastor, media expenses, or perhaps a self promoting event.  Shouldn't missions money be committed to the parts of our country and world who are lost and hurting?  The idea of "given" implies that it wasn't God's in the first in place.  It is ALL God's money...what does He want the church to do with it? 

I dream of American churches who are no longer focused on building programs that continue to serve themselves.  I dream of American churches who no longer ask what do our members want, but rather how can we guide our members to serve and love like Christ.  I dream of American churches who do not settle for giving a small percentage of their overall tithes and offerings to missions, but rather give and give until it hurts.  Churches that sacrifice something like a billboard in order to build a well in Africa.  I dream of American churches that no longer focus on how to get more people to come to their building of worship, but rather how they can go to the people and worship with the their places that take them out of their comfort.

I know I am not alone in this dream.  I know that others see the same thing I see and feel the same urgency to minister to the lost and hurting.  One of the problems is that the members of the church are asking their leaders to continue to provide programing for themselves.  The members want the church to disciple their children.  The members demand that their church keep up with the mega church.  Why?  Why have we become an entitled church?  Why are we raising a generation of children who feel they are entitled?

I have thought about this entitlement issue for years.  Honestly, there may not be an easy answer to why?  I realize that, but I know that if we were raising a generation of children who were in love with Jesus and gave their hearts and lives to Him alone they would not feel entitled, but they would feel compelled to do more for others in order to give God, not themselves, the glory!  We need churches who push us to think outside of ourselves.  We need pastors and leaders who are willing to love us enough to challenge us.  We need Bible study teachers who open the Bible and teach the Word of God with such passion that we want to learn more.  We need to serve others more than we demand others to serve us!

In the last month, I have attended a church conference and had many conversations with great friends.  I have heard truth, God's truth, and I have also seen heads nod yes to false statements.  I am amazed at how someone can publicly speak with confidence and the words out of their mouths are not biblically sound, yet the audience heads continue to nod yes.  I want to stand up and shout NO!  Think for yourselves...not about yourselves...think of what Jesus would do...not what can the church do for me...think how can I serve the lost and hurting...and not what program could help me keep the kids entertained.

Let me take a second to say I am not writing about a particular church...I am certainly not writing about my place of worship.  I am writing about the shift our church (the collective church) must make in order to do what God has asked us to do.  I am writing about Christians funneling what their church says and does through the Word of God and demand that their church be different...demand that their church make a difference in all nations. 

"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”   Matthew 28:18-20
"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms."  1 Peter 4:10

"Don't do anything from selfish ambition, or from a cheap desire to boast; but be humble towards each other, never thinking you are better than others. And look out for each other's interests, not just for your own."  Philippians 2:3-4

I want so desperately for my four children to love others as only a believer who has given their life completely to the One who has saved them can.  I will not leave it to the church to disciple them.  It will not be a church program that teaches them how to glorify God in everything they do and say.  This desire requires walking with them and serving the lost and hurting.  We will study the Word of God and ask, "What can I do?".  I will start with me.  I will start with my family.  I will allow our Shepherd to guide us along the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23). 

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Yesterday was one of those days that I wish I could have a do over.  By the time I came home from teaching and everyone was settled into their evening routine, I just wanted to crawl into bed and pretend that the day had never happened. 

In a quick five minute conversation about my day with my husband, he summed up my day by saying, "Sounds like you are feeling emotionally humiliated."  As I write the words, they make me smile because they sound so harsh and unloving.  When the truth of the words actually gave me great perspective and encouragement.

You see I was emotionally vulnerable reason...just vulnerable.  I allowed others (including Scott) see me unguarded and broken.  I was humiliated by my human weakness.  I was humiliated that I was not cool, calm and collected; I was not in control. 

As I rocked my sweet Zoey to sleep last night, I reflected on Scott's words and God spoke a new word to my humiliated heart.  I am loved by a God whose mercies are new every morning.  I am loved by a God who knows and understands that YES I am in fact human, but I have hope of a brighter tomorrow.  I am loved by a God who can take my mini-emotional breakdown and use it to demonstrate His love for me.  I am loved by a God who uses ALL things for His glory.  I am loved by a God who loves me entirely and completely, and He is not surprised by irrational moments.  I am loved by a God who sees the woman He wants me to be even when I cannot.  I am loved by a God who gives me ample opportunity to learn and grow...never EVER giving up on me.

Instead of going to bed feeling defeated and hopeless, I went to bed feeling hopeful and encouraged.  I will not allow my yucky human moments define who I am or who I will be.  Only God and His truths will define me.  Today, I choose God's definition!  Today, I choose to believe what God thinks of me!  Today, I choose to believe in the One who created me!  Today, I choose God!

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hopes is in him, to the one who seeks him"  Lamentations 3:22-25

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."  Romans 5:5

 "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made."  Psalm 145:5

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Slow Down

The to-do list around our home is growing longer and longer by the day.  There are so many little projects I want to tackle, but it is just too overwhelming.  Instead of accomplishing them I spend my time thinking, dreaming, writing, becoming more and more unproductive.  Where is the line between impulsive and over thinking?  When do you just need to stop thinking and start doing?  I wonder if I ever knew where the line was or if I just moved it the last few years.

I used to be such a "task-oriented girl"...not being that girl wouldn't be so bad if I had become a "in-the-moment-girl".  I know that I  missed little moments with my family because I was too wrapped up in getting things done.  I know that I lost opportunities to teach, serve, and encourage others.  So now that I am not accomplishing much why am I still missing these moments and opportunities?

I need Jake to shout, "SLOW DOWN MOM because I turn 13 in a few months and in the next few years I will make choices that will shape who I am and will be."  I need Emma Grace to whisper, "SLOW DOWN and listen mom because the problems I am sharing with you may seem silly and insignificant, but to me they are huge.  I need you to acknowledge my feelings and give me godly insight and encouragement."  I need Scottie to giggle and say, "SLOW DOWN mom and share Jesus in a real way because I am capable of having a relationship with Christ".  (Oh that one hurts my heart)  I need Zoey to babble, "SLOW DOWN momma and enjoy my new discoveries and my many firsts because I can bring so much joy and unity to our family."  I need Scott to remind me in his sweet gentle way to SLOW DOWN and cherish our quiet moments because one day the children will be gone, and we must have a thriving relationship now and then.

The truth is what I hear in this moment is my Abba Father singing over me and speaking to my soul.  "SLOW DOWN my child and spend time with me.  You may not be checking off items on the to-do list, but that was never my intention for your life.  My desire for your life is to love me and love others.  My desire for you is to have a growing relationship with me.  My desire for you is to raise a godly, young man and 3 godly, young ladies whose lives will glorify ME, their Abba, not you!  My desire is for you to serve your family, church, and community as though you were serving Me.  It isn't about being superwoman; it is about being a godly-woman"

SLOW DOWN....slow down.....take it all in and let my life (your life) glorify the Living God who created me (you), loves me (you), and died for me (you).  I hear you....slow down!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Stay Home Mommy Day"

My sweet 7 year old Scottie was ill last week.  Of course, I did not realize she had a double ear infection and a sinus infection until Thursday afternoon.  I, also, did not realize that God had a lesson in store for me...

It began with a Monday off for Martin Luther King, Jr and our family enjoyed our time together.  Scottie, apparently, really enjoyed the extra day.  Monday night the tears began and continued the rest of the week.  She would cry and cry and cry.  When we asked her what was wrong, her responses were "I am sad" or "I don't need to go to school" or "I stay home mommy day".  We tried all the ways we knew to encourage her, make school sound like the MOST exciting place, and reassure her that at the end of each school day she would come home.  When we tried to dig deeper and ask her why she was sad, her response never made sense, "because I am happy".  We discovered that Scottie did not know why she was sad.  She did not know why she wanted to stay home.  She was not able to tell us why she did not want to go to school.  She did not have the answers, but she need with great certainty that what she DID want was a "stay home mommy day".

Mommy panicked and realized that Scottie has been suffering for months with anxiety.  Because she is developmentally delayed and has receptive/expressive language disorder, she hasn't been able to tell us that she was anxious or worried or scared.  She suffered silently...she started to withdraw at school...she was alone.  Mommy and Daddy wanted nothing more than to sweep her up into our arms and make her feel safe and loved.  We only discovered that the anxiety was there because her body was sick.  She could no longer control the emotions because her body was not strong enough.

As I reflect back on Scottie's week, I am overwhelmed because I know what it feels like to keep everything in.  I know what it feels like to be sad, lonely, and anxious, but not really understanding why.  I know what it feels like to crawl in bed and stay there....wait, that was not my Scottie's response.  She did not want to hide out in her room secluded from the ones' who love her.  She wanted to be in a safe place, our home, and be with the people who love her most. 

My Father, wants me to want nothing more than to run to Him and find shelter and strength in His arms.  He calls for me and wants to pick me up and encourage me.  He showers me with love, mercy, and grace.  His love letter, The Bible, was written for times when I do not understand or when I am lost.  He loves me...unconditionally.  He loves me!

"I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings."  Psalm 61:4

"He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  Psalm 91:4

The next time I am feeling anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, sad, and lost I will RUN not walk or meander, but RUN to my Father.  I will follow the example of my sweet Scottie and desire nothing more than a "Stay Home with My Heavenly Father Day"!  My prayer is that others would learn from my Scottie!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Burden?

"You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it" says the Lord of hosts, "
and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you  bring the offering! 
Should I receive that from your hand?" says the Lord.  Malachi 1:13

Do I go to worship simply to check it off a to-do list?
Do I pray and spend time with the Lord because I have been told that I am supposed to?
Do I give my 10% tithe because I am afraid not to?  Or it is expected of me?
Do I serve at my church because my husband is a staff member?

Does God look at what I present him and wonder why I bother because it isn't done with godly intention and a pure heart?

WOW!  I am not sure how to process any of that because I want to deny with great conviction that worship and service have not become a burden.  The truth is that there are some days...some weeks...when my service, giving, and worship is a burden.

I don't want to present anything to the Lord and have it viewed as tiresome, so what do I do about it? How do I get back to the "heart of worship"?

Ironically, it isn't anything new!  God has laid out a plan and examples for me and it is quite simple.  I must have an intimate relationship with Him.  If I spend time with my God through prayer, meditation, scripture, corporate worship, and aligning my heart with His, then the only possible outcome is adoration, praise and worship cannot help but flow from my mouth, actions, and heart.

It starts with me.  I get it.  I want it.  I accept it.  I will allow God to mold me into the godly woman He has designed me to be; so here I am...start with me!

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Scottie

Today was awards day at school...I usually work Friday mornings, but today I was off and I was so excited to go to Emma Grace (age 10) and Scottie's (age 7) awards ceremony at school.  My night had been rough and the morning wasn't much better, but I was determined that I would go to Scottie's which started at 8:15 (too early)!

My Zoey (16 months) and I sat in the back and I shoveled snacks into her mouth attempting to keep her from being too loud as I sat through Perfectly Punctual and Perfect Attendance awards.  Scottie sat with her class with all the other first graders and would occasionally look over at me.

I am always so nervous when I go to one of her school events...more times than not she gets upset and wants to come home with me.  I have to make the decision between not showing up and wondering what she feels and thinks when her mom isn't there, or I can show up and wonder what she feels and thinks when I leave her there.

Our sweet, little girl is a special needs child...special needs.  The "special" part is true, but aren't all children special?  "Needs"...well don't all children have needs?  There isn't a word or term that can adequately describe a child with special needs.  She is the child who changed me..changed our family...and made us more compassionate, patient, and loving.  She has taught me more about love in the last 7 almost 8 years than any other experience or person.  She is witty and innocent and sweet and sings Chris Tomlin one minute and the Black Eyed Peas the next.  Scottie loves her family first and foremost. 

If she could live on a farm surrounded by animals she would be in heaven.  If we could go to Disney World, every month she would be the happiest little girl (truly the most magical place on earth).  I never have to wonder how she is feeling when she is in her "safe" place, our home.  School is another story.

Don't get me wrong she has amazing teachers.  They genuinely care about her and want the best for her.  But she would rather be home!  Lately as I tuck her into bed at night and tell her tomorrow is a "school day" she shakes her head no and tells me "stay home mommy day".  If Jacob or Emma Grace had said this to me, I would have asked why they feel that way and we could have a conversation about how they feel.  When Scottie tells me this, I try and try to understand what she is thinking and how she feels, but I walk away not knowing.  I walk away not knowing my child's heart.

Today after her awards ceremony, I walk to her and hug her and take her picture with Zoey.  She starts to cry and my heart breaks.  I walk her to her classroom and kiss her and tell her that in a few hours I will pick her up from school.  I say all the right things and I do the right thing by walking away.  But that walk down the hallway with my sweet, sweet girl crying and saying "my mommy" is the longest walk...the hardest walk.  I second guess myself and I cry out to my God and ask why my little girl.  Why does life have to be so much harder for her.  Why?

Then I am reminded that the same God I ask why, created her and loves her more than me!  The same Abba that I cry out to, placed her in our family because there is a master plan.

"I will give thanks to You, for I (Scottie) am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well."  Psalm 119:14

As I tucked in Scottie this evening, she looked at me and asked "stay home mommy day?".  I simply smile and say, "Yes tomorrow is a stay home mommy day!"  What a difficult day for a "special needs" mommy, but what a wonderful gift God has given our family.  Thank you Lord for our Scottie and help us to be a more compassionate and loving people because of her!!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

One Family's Step of Courage

I have some incredible friends that have entered into my family's life about 2 years ago.  They have encouraged Scott in his ministry; they have loved on my children; and they have given me the friendship I needed when we moved to a new area and I was feeling so disconnected.  However, the best part of this growing friendship is that they have inspired us by their steps of faith, courage and understanding of the "Start With Me" mentality.

David and Jennifer have 6 kids and their lives are full and busy.  Early in their marriage they made time to get to know and minister to a family living in a lower socio-economic area about 15 minutes aways.  It wasn't always easy to love the family, but they would go back over and over.  A few years ago, the mother died of cancer and left a house full of kids for her mother to take care dads in the picture and very little money.  David and Jennifer could have continued to do what they were already doing...pick the kids of up for play days or to go to church.  They could have prayed for the family.  They could have continued being involved without disrupting their lives and their family.

They knew God wanted them to do more.  They knew they could do more so they decided to become the legal guardians of two beautiful boys.  Not knowing where the path would lead them or what hurdles they would have to jump, they welcomed them into their family.  It hasn't been easy.  They would be the first to tell you about the struggles these boys had and continue to have...emotionally, academically, and mentally.  They would also be the first to tell you that there have been many tears, but there has also been so much laughter.

I continue to be inspired by their act of courage.

I recently read Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis and she talks about courage.  Katie was an 18 year old girl who committed to a 10 month teaching assignment in Uganda and in the last 4 years she has adopted 14 girls and cannot imagine doing anything other than ministering and loving the people of Uganda.  She says, "I believe there is only one truly courageous thing we can do with our lives:  to love unconditionally.  Absolutely, with all of ourselves, so much that it hurts and then more."  (page 251)  David and Jennifer are courageous...they don't know where this adventure will go, but they were willing to start with themselves and take the first step trusting God would lead the way.  They were willing to love two more children.  What a beautiful picture of courage! 

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  Hebrews 11:1

Lord, I am throwing my hands up in surrender.  I am willing to take the first step.  I want to see a change in my family, church, community, and country, but I realize that it begins with me.  So here am I...use me...start with me!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Il n'est pas de moi!

The last few weeks I have read, heard, and witnessed many incredible stories about adoption.  The momma in me gets wrapped up in wanting to gather other children in need and shower them with love and invite them into our family.  The humanitarian in me is saddened that there are children who are going to die because there is no access to HIV medication, clean water, shelter, or food.  The believer in me feels urgency to be obedient to the call.

I have told anyone who would listen to me about the adoption conference I attended, the blog I read, the book I devoured in a few hours, or examples of dear friends who are living James 1:27.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained."
I am excited by the reminder.  I am ready to DO take a be obedient.  I am studying God's Word trying to wrap my head around what my role as believer MUST be...I talk and debate and cry and praise and question.

Then a few days ago our son, Jacob (age 12), looked at me and said, "Mom, maybe it isn't about you.  Maybe this is about our family going on mission trips and working with orphans.  Maybe it is about me (Jacob), and one day I will start a ministry or adopt some children." 

WHAT!  Not about me....this amazing 12 year old, young man is absolutely right.  I have been trying to figure out how we could fly to Ethiopia and adopt a couple kids, or what ministry I could start to help bring awareness and necessities to those who are in need around our community, country, and world.  Maybe...just is about being passionate and teaching (through how I live my life with words and deeds) our children that we are called to care for the orphans, widows, and the destitute.  Maybe as we serve soup to the homeless in downtown Houston, our children will be inspired to change the world by sacrificial service.  Instead of worrying about what to do with this feeling of urgency I am experiencing, I need to demonstrate what it means to love others as myself.  Mother Teresa devoted her life to the orphans, widows, and destitute of India and treated each person she encountered as though they were Jesus Christ.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”   Matthew 25:31-46

Can you imagine how the church would grow and the number of lost who would come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior if we would simply love as Mother Teresa did?

So thank you Jacob (oh wise one) for showing mom that it isn't about me (il n'est pas de moi), but it still must start with me!