Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Hitchhiker

For years now, years, I have been reading the devotional "Voices of the Faithful" Missionary stories from all around the world serving with IMB. What makes a missionary overseas different from a missionary serving here in North America? Better yet, what is the difference between a missionary and a Christian? These are thoughts and questions that have challenged me lately and spurred me on to challenge my brothers and sisters in Christ. Aren't we all to share the Gospel, live it out in our daily lives if we claim Christ, even if it isn't our vocation (ie: Pastor, youth worker, evangelist, etc.)? Yes. So what is that one thing that sets apart knowing who Jesus is and LIVING for Him?  Living intentionally. Praying for God to open our eyes to see what He wants us to see, to be obedient to move into action and to be bold enough to share Him.

With that being said, here is my own story of when I recently was convicted to start praying more boldly for opportunities to be Jesus' hands and feet. Let me just say it went against anything I thought was sane or safe and I'm not saying "go do what I did" at all, but rather to encourage you that sometimes, when we pray big, He asks for big faith that might seem scary and unsafe.


There are a few different routes from my house to my parents. Two of them are about equal distance and time, just different sides of the lake, a different view. One particular way goes through trees and winds down the road to a glorious view. It was below 30 degrees and hardly any cars were out on this deserted road in the middle of a small town. Except today, when there was a man in a thin hooded sweatshirt who quietly stuck his thumb out as I slowed and swerved pass him. Yes, past him. I didn't stop, phew! Because what mother with two small children would pick up a hitchhiking man?

I didn't stop.

I turned around.

I know, irresponsible right? But here is the palm thick-sweat heart racing dilemma, I had absolutely no desire to turn that car around, or stop and ask him "Hey, what's up?" Because I'm so slick with words like that. It was an instant argument with God that seemed to go on for much longer than the 30 seconds it took me to turn back around and talk to that man. My heart was gripped and it wasn't for this stranger it was for what God was calling me to do. It was almost audible and I couldn't deny for a moment that it was from God and not me. So I rolled my window and we talked. I asked bluntly "So what's you're deal? You on drugs or something? What are you running from?" He was shy and a little embarrassed but I pressed "If I'm going to even consider letting you in my car with my two precious babies in the backseat, I'm going to drill you before I unlock it." He insisted that I need not worry myself with him, he would be alright and apologized. But truly, he was in the middle of nowhere in a sweatshirt and nothing else to claim on him. I didn't let his condition break my heart, I hardened it, thinking of excuses. But one thing is sure- when the Holy Spirit insists on something it is hard to ignore or deny it is Him.

He passed whatever test it was that I had impromptu made up in my head. We talked about where he had come from and where he was headed- almost 50 minutes away by car. It was his first time hitchhiking. He was my age. As I unlocked the car I told him to put his seat belt on and that I had 911 on speed dial in my hand ready to hit send. I am still thinking this is all crazy and asking God why He would ask me, a woman with two children in the backseat, to do this. (Perhaps you too are thinking how crazy I am and God would never ask such a thing and judging me as a parent. It's okay, I might do the same to you too, because I'm not God and I see things with human eyes also.)

I pulled out from the side of the road into a parking lot and he stammered over and over again, "Why did you... why are you..." before finally conveying his own shock that I stopped for him. My answer was honest - "Because I felt like it was what God wanted me to do." And then I saw that man spill tears for the first time and immediately my heart warmed and I knew, God this had nothing to do with him needing a ride, this man needed the hope of Jesus today!

"So, you are a Christian! I knew it! I could sense the Holy Spirit in your eyes." He told me. Now I had the watery eyes. "I'm a Christian too, I'm born again, I just have back slide so far." He confessed.

Now I have a grown man weeping in my car and I am overwhelmed, unsure of what to do next. Craig is having coffee with a friend about half an hour away, so I just start heading there.

On the way, he asks "Do you talk to God every day?" It was the simplest question with the easiest response. "Yes," I said "every day." And then he wept more, crying out in a hushed voice "God, I miss that!" I shared the Bible story of the prodigal son and God's never ending love for His children, how is mercy and grace covers us if we just turn back to Him, He will receive us no matter our condition.

We were interrupted with Abigail, who will be 4 years old at the end of the month, asking why our new friend was crying. I shared that sometimes grownups cry because of how our hearts feel, not just when we get boo-boos.

We arrived at the coffee shop where I text Craig to meet me outside, which he wasn't expecting. He took the surprise with great grace as he asked why I had picked up a man hitching a ride. Craig and the man went into the coffee shop together where Craig and his friend had already been sitting. They talked and prayed with the man and our friend even gave him a Bible.

Craig dropped the man off at his location, praying with him as his nerves were still a wreck with anticipation of his destination. Leaving his phone number with him, the man with a Bible now and nothing but his thin sweater and nothing else he owned, he went in the house that we pray he was welcomed into.

I just wonder, what if I had taken my usual route?

What if I had gone with what was sensible and smart and drove straight home and ignored the undeniable prompting of the Holy Spirit?

He had walked his skinny bones 5 hours out and was in the middle of nowhere and would most likely have froze that night in our -6 degree weather.

Then that man would not have received the encouragement he needed to know that God still loves him and that even in his darkest hour, God was watching over him and sent him 3 Christians to remind him of that.

This isn't a story about what we did, but like I said in the very beginning, I read these stories of missionaries of "great faith" overseas, but really they are ordinary people living for Christ and their faith is being stretch, all for God's glory. Regardless of the names of people, who did what and when, the Story is that JESUS is our Great Rescuer which compels me to share my redemption story and how no matter what, you are never too bad, broken, far away or have gone too deep to be out of reach for our Great Father's arms to reach in and lift you up, hold you close and mend your wounds.

One of my favorite songs by Jesus Culture- One Thing Remains

And one of my favorite verses of all Isaiah 61:1

Friday, December 13, 2013

A sacred day, my boy turned one.

It is nearly Christmas with only eleven days to go.
Just ten days ago we celebrated the first birthday of our sweet baby boy. Ten days. How can that even be?

Can you feel this season whizzing by? Thanksgiving and less than a week later my boy turned one!?

I had hoped to celebrate his birthday in some special way, something Pinterest worthy. Days later, my heart stung with guilt, especially when someone said it was like "any other day." It wasn't. Not for me. The Momma who birthed him on that sacred day. Each hour that passed on December 3rd brought thick-sweet memories of the time leading up to meeting "my boy".

We didn't know the gender, we chose not to for either of our children. We liked the surprise and anticipation. He came rather fast and easy, just like his sister and also like her, he snuck in before midnight. Those kids.

December 3rd this year wasn't just his first birthday to celebrate a year of life, but for me, it was a sacred time of closing a chapter of motherhood as my baby turns a boy and as I can no longer reflect on "this time last year" without him, or anticipating him.

I have thousands of photos and memories to celebrate 
the past year we have had together. 

This year, all I wanted for his birthday was to savor it. The rest of the years that the Lord gives him will be all about him and not his Momma. But this year, I wanted to savor it. You see, I look at my babies lives so fragile. With Abigail having kidney/ urinary troubles from two weeks old and on, to the chaos we faced with doctors and health care burdens, this year for Jakob was rather a "breeze". He truly is the happiest and easiest baby I could imagine. (Which I am so incredibly thankful for and don't take for granted!) Each day we have together is a gift, for we don't know how many any of us will have.

I must have whispered "Happy birthday sweet boy" a thousand and one times to him that day.
Poor kid cutting teeth took some solid naps that day, so my time was really limited with him.

My Mom called and insisted on seeing her littlest grand-baby that day. After all, she had an Elmo balloon, little cake and gifts for him (more than his own Momma prepared!). My only goal was to be able to take him out for ice cream for lunch with his big Sissy. So, impromptu, Mimi joined us and surprised us with Pepe and cousins! It was a sweet celebratory hour of watching my boy open his first gifts, plunge his face to the cake box and squeal as he pulled the string to his balloon. And eat ice cream for lunch. Of course.

That night our good friends came to join us for dinner and cake with their little boy, Jakob's closest to age friend! (so in the end, I did give him a tiny party after all?) This weekend we will have a little double party with his Grandpa which will be so fun in the future, I'm sure they will have a ball finding ways to celebrate their birthday's being only several days apart!

All this to say, maybe your kids first birthday isn't a party and it doesn't look a thing like Pinterest, but may it be something sacred. Maybe your birthday isn't filled with friends or family, but find a way to make it special.

Being a Mom has been such an eye opening experience of the way God views us, His children. He created each of us, special. Being a Believer in Christ, means that God dwells in me, how sacred is that? No one and nothing can take that away.

And now the countdown continues, to the Greatest birth of all. The one that Rescues us and Redeems us, bringing Hope and Joy to all who put their faith in Him. The birth of Jesus Christ. The very Son of God.

Monday, August 5, 2013

These Walls

The windows were cracked open in our kitchen, just above the sink where I was elbow deep in bubbles. Our 3 year old disappeared around the corner from where she was supposed to be on the swing set her Daddy spent almost a full day assembling. I ran outside to hear her yelling to our neighbor, swinging away at his fence, ripping down the beyond faded once-white wood. My heart sank when I saw the stack that now made sense to the noise I had heard all morning. Our daughter yelled out a hello to him, followed with a statement to me that he must be angry. No, he wasn't angry, I assured her, just working on his farm.

This is my view from the kitchen window. My slice of heaven. 
It was this view from my kitchen sink that sold me on this house. Moving 25 minutes from our church, friends and family and my husbands job wasn't ideal, having been used to being only several minutes away before. The view from the backyard, exposed post and beam, and neighing of horses captivated us. We made an offer right away. After about 12 viewings in the city, this was our fourth offer on a house and even though we waited 5 months to close on this short sale, it was worth it. Just don't ask me last summer, pregnant, packing to put things in storage, moving in with my parents for longer than planned, advocating for both my daughter and mother as they underwent surgeries, with my sisters wedding in between them. Our travel schedule for Cwtrials didn't slow down and I learned to press into Jesus hard during that anticipated chaotic season.

Original hitching post in front of our house. I know nothing about plants and flowers, but I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the surprises that popped up this spring and summer.
Here we are now, almost 11 months of being first-time home owners, living closer to the seacoast then ever before and even though it's August, I still haven't seen the shoreline since we moved. Our sweet boy was born a little over 2 months after moving in and I am just now starting to feel like we are settling in, gathering my bearings, making it my home with personal taste and style. It's okay to nail that hole in the wall, and we are the ones who mow the grass, fix the toilet and install a new well pump. (Who am I kidding? I do none of those things, Craig gets all the credit!)

The view from my nook in the entryway. My husband made those frames for the pictures he brought back from Uganda several years ago.
I was 25 years old when we bought the house I never imagined I would be blessed with. I pictured my life living overseas, never owning a home, perhaps living in a hut someplace in the jungle learning an unwritten language. What was the point of buying a house that would tie us down, with no option of calling a landlord to come fix my broken dishwasher? (Sometimes I do miss Phil, our landlord of 2+ years)

My Facebook feed runs of people buying homes, selling their first home to upgrade, simplifying to something more convenient, and it all reminds me

this is my temporary home.

When I'm itching for something more predictable (than this awkward season of support raising to go into full-time ministry) I ask my husband "can we just live here forever?" I love the blessing our home has been and the layout of it makes it so convenient to host people for a meal or play date. Both sets of our parents still live in the homes we were born into. Our memories were made there. And while I wouldn't consider myself one for sentiment, I wonder what it will be like for our kids one day. If our hearts are willing to GO where the Lord says to GO and minister to those who need to hear about Jesus and see us LIVE it out, that may mean moving far away, or to another community just down the way in order to have deep, intentional community with our neighbors. 

Here we are, in a beautiful rural setting, and we consider ourselves very blessed. So, we cling to this season because we don't know when the Lord says MOVE, and we will be intentional with our neighbors, sharing our life, our Jesus and our Hope, and being real with them during the joy and the sorrows of all this life brings.  While it isn't scripture- I love the saying, "We are blessed to be a blessing."

We don't have any plans of moving in the future, but we do not consider this our "forever home". Our hope for a "forever home" is only found in the hope we have in our Eternal home- Heaven. All of earth is temporary, we are fixed on what is eternal- relationships and our soul redeeming relationship with Jesus Christ. This "stuff" doesn't matter. From the cars we drive, vacations we won't ever take and fashions we can't keep up with, our treasure is found in the investment of sharing Jesus Christ so that others might know Him, experiencing the comfort of His love from NOW until eternity.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Listeners and Watchers

From time to time it hits me again.
We are being watched. 
People are listening and watching what we do.

It's a bit overwhelming when I'm already feeling maxed out 
and my child is behaving poorly, requiring discipline.

Sometimes it's the last thing I want to think about when sleep has been less and less 
and the anxiety only has been heightened. 
Whatever the season and whatever the trial, it is unavoidable. 

People are watching and listening. 
These kids are watching and listening.

I know my neighbors have heard me through my open window when I've raised my voice and my friends and family aren't deaf to when I have spoken in sin. (Oh, how I wish I could say I have mastered my own tongue!)

We each have influence. From what we post on facebook, to how we portray ourselves in public, the way we dress and how we speak. And while I am learning not to hate on myself during those trying times when I know people are seeing how weary I am, I want to be real too. The trials I face, the hardships our family goes through are real- we aren't super-human and we don't have it all together.

We sure are thankful for Jesus and the hope we have in Him, and for the sacrifice of His life on the cross offering redemption.

So, whether you are a Christ- Follower or not, who do you have influence over in your life and what do you want to instill into them?

Our kids look to us as heroes.

Being in leadership (or the spouse of someone in that position), you bet you have influence. If that is your husband speaking and leading, don't think for one second that the spotlight isn't on you as well.

And for those who aren't under that kind of heat of direct light, how can you offer grace to them? I have been guilty of thinking "so and so does this or that, so it's okay if I do too." Right or wrong, they are human and holding someone in that regard isn't fair.

Maybe you don't have kids and aren't in leadership and feel like you don't have influence. Where could you have influence? Maybe you do and just don't recognize it yet. Maybe you need to look outside of your life and discover where you can have influence. After all, we are ALL created in God's image and we have great meaning and purpose because HE created us, and He created us on purpose, for a purpose.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My little MK

My family has had the amazing opportunity to work with many events and groups as we travel for Cwtrials and my husband performs bike stunts and shares the Gospel. We have learned a ton, grown, been tired and dehydrated, and chased our little dancing daughter who is wild eyed from a missed nap.

Today was different.

We weren't part of the "agenda", our church was hosting a mission team from Louisiana and I just showed up with the kids to be part of the park event they were putting on. No biking, no coordinating, just me and the two kids.

Honestly, sometimes I get insecure about what people 
think about me or my family when we are at these events. 
I don't want my daughter to be "that kid
who doesn't get out of the bounce house, or "that wife..."  

Can I tell you what really blessed my heart today?
Seeing one of the Louisiana team girls take my little one by the hand and bring her to get a snow cone.
I almost had tears while I tried to keep a straight face and keep my conversation going. Just a moment later, a teen handed the Louisianan woman I was speaking with a snow cone, to offer to me. 

I wanted to say something like "y'all don't need to be ministering to me!" I thought maybe they didn't realize "who I was" (not high and lofty but rather, 'hey it's just the cyclists wife and kid') We don't need these treats, they are for the ones you are here to share Jesus with.

Do you get it? Because here I am a few hours later with rubber fingers from washing dishes, both kids in bed and it hits me- 
"They were being Christ to ME!" 
Just because I know Him, just because I have "met" Him doesn't mean we stop loving on and ministering to each other. In the midst of this, I feel sheepish because it is what we (my husband and I) believe and it is what we preach! The Good News that Jesus LOVES me and died for ME is a message just for ME! It isn't something I hear and believe, receive once and I'm done. It's and endless song I need to play over and over because I forget it.

We forget sometimes in all of our "sharing with the non-believers/ unchurched/ unsaved/ lost" that Jesus didn't just die for THEM, but He died for ME (YOU!!!). We forget to love each other.

Shortly after that incident, something came up and I referred to my own kid as a MK (missionary kid) because folks that is what she is. I don't want her to get swept up in the 'Jesus died for them, but secretly not me.' I want her to ministered to (definition- to attend the needs of) I want her to be included because SHE NEEDS JESUS TOO! "Churched" or "Unchurched", frankly, I have met too many missionary kids and pastors kids who didn't turn out any better or any different than the ones who weren't. It comes down to choice and I can't save my kid, I can't make her love Jesus, I can't rescue her heart and soul. Only Jesus can. Just because she grows up hearing it does NOT make her more likely to believe that her one true hope, joy and redemption comes from receiving the love of Jesus Christ that He poured out to her through His life sacrifice.

So to this team who took a 3 day long journey up here in a bus, have been serving their hearts out, spilling love and truth throughout this city, THANK YOU. You have not only been a blessing to the people we have been pouring into- you have been a blessing to OUR hearts.