Seventeen

Our oldest turned 17 yesterday and that number still has not settled in my head, much less my heart. Were you not just 17 minutes old and being shown off to waiting grandparents? Now I send pictures and texts to show you off. However, these snapshots and short words just cannot capture who you are becoming. I will try here with a bit more space to describe this child.

IMG_6587I learned the most interesting news yesterday about this 17 year old. She always leaves for school pretty early. I just assumed it was to grab coffee and then met up with friends. Sometimes a coffee stop happens too, but the main reason is so she can sit with her Bible open in her car before walking into school. She fills her mind with truth and reads words written by her Creator. Her eyes are fixed on Jesus before she walks the halls and faces distraction. Her security of who she is and to whom she belongs is firmly in place as she hears other voices saying “try this”, “why not be this” and “perhaps truth is whatever you want it to be”.

How did this happen? How does a girl, going to a public high school, walk day in and day out in love with Jesus? Would she not have a better chance at a Christian school? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. The primary location this love starts is in her heart. As her parents, we have taken her to church, talked about Jesus, read the Bible together and we pray continually for her. But the decision to follow Him is ultimately up to her. Just because we have surrendered and fallen in love with God, does not mean our children will do the same. I fight for their hearts to be aimed towards Him each and everyday. How I do that is by reading God’s word, praying and talking about Him.

You know, you cannot give what you do not have. If you do not have a deep belief and love for the LORD, you cannot pour that belief, which looks an awful lot like trust, and love out onto your children. Your life does not bear the fruit the Bible talks about. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”. (Galatians 5:22-23). Simply put, our efforts fail when we try and parent on our own. I know this because I tried to parent this way with just enough Jesus and my own common sense. This worked okay until we had our sixth child and none of my go to, I’ve got this stuff was working. I could not be more thankful!

The mom I was 17 years ago is not the mom I am today. In God’s love and mercy, He uses each of my children to pull me close. Sometimes I wonder why it took me so long to get over myself, but even in that I see grace. He has been so patient, loving, kind, faithful and good to me. Evidence of that was on display yesterday with this 17 year old child. You know how she spent her birthday? Her and her brother went to a night of worship with high schoolers from our church. They packed the place out and sang songs of adoration to God. The glow of love they came home wearing on their faces is indescribable.

I will never claim to have all the answers or to have this parenting thing figured out, but I do know and love the One who does. I will claim to be one sinner, coming alongside 8 other sinners in our home. We respectively point out sin to each other, not always perfectly. We repent of our sin and ask forgiveness. We love each other and show grace often. We laugh and actually like spending time together. We love celebrating and count it a privilege to celebrate this 17 year old.

Happy Birthday Maggie! Your love for Jesus is absolutely stunning!

Why Keep Walking

Because we live in Texas and a caravan of people are walking towards our southern border, I feel the need to type out a few words. I would love a few hours with moms from this group. What are they leaving behind? What has them leaving their homes? What do they think awaits them here? What is it like traveling on foot, thousands of miles with kids? How did you pack for this journey? Back home, what did you cook for dinner? These are just a few things I would ask them. I wonder what their responses would be? I wonder how this is all going to play out?

IMG_9844There is so much opinion flying over social media and the news in regards to these people, these people made by God. Some of these travelers might have evil in mind and some might just want a different life. What will they find here? Will life look that much different for them or for us? Do we stop them or do we say welcome? So many questions and not a lot of answers.

There is so many great things about our country, but it is very divided right now. Do they want to enter into more conflict here? Do they want to come to a land where they are seen as people, but if they happen to be an unborn baby, well that is a different story. Killing them is a mere procedure. Hate is blasted here, but so is love. However, sometimes it is misinterpreted and is actually sin. I will let the Lord lead you on that one. Do they want to come to a nation that is so mixed up on the simplest thing, like gender? You were either created by God to be a boy or a girl. Period. Yes, we are a mixed up land.

Could another option be to help them make their countries better? Maybe we could actually place value on human life and help them earn a decent amount of money for their daily work. Perhaps all countries could benefit when greed is cast aside and a person becomes valuable at all stages. I wonder what talents the people walking have? I bet there are some creative, smart and hard working people coming this way. Will their countries suffer because they are not there?

Will they find basic needs met here? We cannot feed all the people that already live here, how do we add more? Will their helplessness and out of desperation, make them easy targets for human trafficking? Any amount of provision, regardless of the cost to themselves, is better than none right? What if they get hurt or sick? Who will treat and cover the cost? Do we just keep flooding our emergency rooms and government programs? Is going into even more debt the answer?

Another thought, maybe we could learn to respect those placed in authority over us and work together to actually make changes. I wonder how we would feel if we were hated and made fun of publicly day in and day out? I wonder if our sin was broadcasted? Should leaders be held accountable? Of course they should. Should people be able to make up lies and ruin others reputations?  I do not think so. Have you ever once put yourself in our governments shoes or are we comfortable sitting on the sidelines screaming half truths, hate and opinions?

For me, I have voted, but I am not sure what else I can do besides pray. We can talk to the Creator of the universe anytime, no need to make an appointment. We can pour out our heart concerns, ask for help and direction. We can repent of our sin and ask for forgiveness. We can turn and actually follow His way. We can uproot bitterness, pride, anger, shame and fear. We can have the words we speak be ones of truth. If it does not line up with scripture, it is not truth. Maybe if we start with ourselves, change would come in our homes, communities, churches, schools and government. Then I could understand a bit more why people would be walking our way. The way were are now, not so much.

So, lets be people who pray for our country and not continue the divide. Search the scripture for yourself and see what God actually says and not someone with an agenda in mind. Hate, pride and anger need to die within our hearts. Maybe, just maybe we will see  change. After all, the Bible tells us that, “…glory be to God, who by His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes.” (Ephesians 3:20). This is the only God and to the One I am asking to move mightily in this situation. Join me?

Create

A sweet friend told me she would be selling her beautifully handmade earrings at a local holiday market today. I have heard about this market for years, but have never gone. This was the perfect opportunity! Our oldest and I set out this morning. I was shocked at the number of people set up selling all kinds of items and those shopping. People are so creative and talented! The Lord uniquely makes each of us and it is fun seeing what others do with what they have been given. Do you ever stop to think that it is the Lord who gave you ability to sing, paint, draw, capture stunning photographs or gracefully dance across a stage? We do our part by practicing, but it is Him that placed these talents inside of you.

IMG_9679My dad is an exceptional artist and draws furniture as a career. My grandmother has a way with a paint brush. My mom could write in the most beautiful calligraphy script. One of my aunts can sew anything beautifully. A cousin can decorate cakes that can transform into any object. One of my aunts shines in the medical field. My other grandmother could bake the best desserts and was the ultimate homemaker. A great uncle could talk about God and you would want to know Him for yourself. One uncle is a phenomenal chef. And all my aunts and uncles have the best sense of humor. They are a party waiting to happen. The list of talent could go on and on. Each unique, each related to me and each created by God. I like seeing how God dispenses talent into families.

Growing up, I wanted to do gymnastics or ballet. Maybe play the piano, anything that would get me noticed. However, I never found the thing I was made to do. Nothing seemed to put me in the spotlight and I was left feeling untalented. And then I became a mom and the need for the spotlight ended. There is not much I do day in and day out that is seen, except by my family. Their hearts reflect the words I say and the seeds I plant. Each day I am helping to shape who the Lord has created them to be. He chose me to be their mom and uniquely shaped me for this role. Some of the shaping has been hard and painful and some has just come easy. All are necessary.

Once walking out of a luncheon, someone mentioned to another lady that I had a lot of kids. She started saying all these negative comments and to each I responded back with something positive. Finally, I could stand it no longer. I turned to her and said, “You know what? I was made for this.”. Not another word was spoken.

I do not know what you were made to do, but I do know the One who made you. Get in His Word and read about the things He promises those He created and that love Him. Read about His making of the world and humans. Read about His incomprehensible love for us and how He wants us to live. You will meet the God that created creativity, singing, food, words, shapes, dancing and the list is endless. The next time you start to do that thing you are good at, think of the One who has given you that ability. Stop and thank Him for how He made you. Then use it to bring Him glory. You were made for this!

Looking Back

On Tuesday,  my husband and I celebrated 19 years of marriage. To some that may seem like so few years and to others a lifetime. To me it is a picture of pure grace, I do not deserve what I have been given. When I look at the photographs from that day, I am transported right back. It was the perfect fall day and our family and friends were seated in the pews. It was a big day and I wanted a big entrance. The aisle seemed a mile long, but I knew who waited at the end. Truth be told, I knew you were suppose to feel beautiful on your wedding day, but I did not. Nothing seemed right with my appearance, but that was a normal feeling. Never quite right, but close. However, that faded away when I saw how he looked at me. Jesus has had the same affect on my heart too.

IMG_9757When I finally made my way to the platform, everyone else disappeared. We exchanged vows, promises to each other and to God. When we said the “richer or poorer” part, I actually laughed. We were on Young Life staff and I thought we would always be financially lacking. Sometimes this was true and sometimes it was not. Either way, I am loved and have seen the Lord be faithful.

We celebrated with a great meal and the best cake I have ever eaten. We danced and I tried to keep the look of shock from my face with the DJ’s song choices. Why was “Strawberry Wine” played when I danced with my dad??? I was thankful when the last song played, which the DJ dedicated to his daughter. We left in a golf cart and checked into the hotel. People thought we were dressed up for Halloween. It made us laugh and added another fun memory to our day.

We spent a week in Hawaii, in a suite that was huge! It was actually bigger than the house we would share on our return. The honeymoon ended and years have come and gone. Real life sets in and for that I am thankful. I do better with real.

Neither one of us could have known what all these years would hold and how we would change. I started off as a girl who was insecure and selfish, full of pride and lacking in humility. He, well, he has remained steady, humble, a servant and kind. He has no need to boast and lives planted in the knowledge that he is loved by God. It took me quite awhile to catch up. The biggest change I have seen in him is the color of his hair. Me and kids can have a greying effect.

Looking back through these years, we have known joy and loss. My mom, some grandparents and two babies have died. However, we trust that the Lord is faithful and loves us even when loss does not feel loving. The Lord has also given us more than we could have imagined. When I look around our table, I am astonished and full of gratitude. What we have been entrusted with is much and I will spend my days not taking this lightly.

I pray that I do not waste time on the things that do not matter.  I pray my words are rooted in love and encourage, not tear down as they often have. I pray our children know we as parents love each other and them, from hearts that believe they are loved and forgiven by God. Knowing this in my heart and head makes all the difference. If you do not yet know this, your family and everyone around you suffers. I know this to be true. Just think, you could be the most loving person around the Thanksgiving table or the Christmas tree this year if you will only believe and accept the gift of Jesus! Why not today?

May the Lord continue to draw us close and equip us to point our children straight to Him.

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. Be he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47