In Jesus’ Name

Yesterday, I saw this post in my Facebook news feed from an expat who lives in my city in Turkey:

“Just read an update from a friend that said that they offered a blanket to a refugee in the name of Jesus. The man said, ‘Who is this Jesus? Since I left home he has given me food, a place to stay and now a blanket. I want to know him.’ “

I came back several times to read the post and each time tears flooded my eyes.

As refugees began filling our city this year, I was burdened for their IMG_0805desperate conditions and never knew what I could really do to help. Often when I saw a refugee mom and her children on the street, I would duck into a market and fill a bag with milk boxes, bottles of water, apples, and crackers or cookies and then hand them over with a simple blessing in the name of Jesus. I began keeping food bags in the van, so I could hand them out the window whenever we encountered a refugee family at a stoplight. It never felt like much. It felt like a drop in a bathtub– how could I ever make a real difference when all I had was a few apples and boxes of milk to offer?

IMG_0751The post on my news feed yesterday reminded me that I never know the whole story. I am just a small part of the story God is weaving into the fabric of someone else’s life. My crackers and bottled water don’t feel like much, but when I offer them in obedience in Jesus’ name, He multiplies and provides. (See John 6:1-14 where Jesus uses a little boy’s offering of five barley loaves and two fish to feed five thousand people!)

We buy into the lie that we have to do big, awesome, life-changing things for God for it to “count”. It’s true, He wants our big yeses. He desires our obedience when He calls us to big steps– changing jobs, starting a new church, becoming foster parents, sharing the good news with a co-worker, moving to a new city, joining full-time ministry. But God wants more than our big flashy yeses.

He wants our tiny daily yeses. He wants us to pull over and help change that flat tire. He wants us to give food bags in Jesus’ name. He wants us to offer to host dinner even though our furniture is threadbare and our curtains are hand-me-downs. He wants us to pick up the tab. He wants us to smile at the tired barista at Starbucks. He wants us to deliver dinner to the sick family and greet the unfamiliar face in our pew. He wants us to cry with the hurting soul. All our little yeses are different because we are different. Your gifts and location and abilities and relationships are different than mine. But when we each put our YES on Jesus’ table each day, He gathers them all together and builds a beautiful Kingdom for His glory.

And what a magical Kingdom He builds with those yeses! It’s small IMG_0748enough to fit in the palm of a child’s hand. (Matthew 19:13-14) It’s as unruly as a garden plant that grows wherever it is. (Mark 4:30-32) It belongs to the poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3) It’s as lavish as a wedding banquet. (Matthew 22:2) It’s as easy as loving God and people. (Mark 12:29-34) It’s as valuable as buried treasure. (Matthew 13:44) It’s not of this world (John 18:36) and yet, it’s in our midst. (Luke 17:21)

His Kingdom is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)

 

 

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When Your Thankful is Broken

DSC_0792Almost three years ago I glimpsed this little sign in a bookstore while my husband and I were visiting our college town (without kids, hallelujah!!!!!!). We had returned to the States from Turkey mere days earlier, so I was jet-lagging and reverse culture shocking (it’s real, folks), and I ran my fingers absentmindedly across its textured surface. It was only $10, but I was feeling overwhelmed with all of the STUFF in America, and refrained from buying it.

Days later, I found myself thinking of the little sign and wishing I had forked over the ten bucks. I remembered my brother-in-law’s mom worked at the bookstore, and asked my sister to ask if she would get the sign for me.

Months later, we were back in Turkey and I unpacked the sweet little reminder to Be Thankful, and sat it on top of our monstrosity of a television (it was bulky and took up tons of space, but I loved I could set stuff on top of it!).  I thought that way we could see it constantly, and be reminded to approach life’s circumstances with thankfulness.

Weeks after returning home, some heating pipes needed to be redone in our apartment and it turned into a stressful day for me since I was kicked out of my house with very little warning while the workmen tore apart each room in our apartment systematically to redo the piping. While the workers were moving the television stand, my Be Thankful sign toppled and broke. My husband knew I would be upset about my precious sign, so he hid away the pieces and tried to glue them back together, hoping I wouldn’t even be able to tell. He was able to recover most of the parts, but although he searched all over, he never found the top of the ‘n’.

I found a new home for my little reminder, and it has stayed constant through life’s ups and downs these past two years. When we faced grief over failed adoption attempts and hard culture stress, it faithfully perched on top of a bookshelf in the living room. When we played rounds of UNO and laughed ourselves silly over dance parties, Be Thankful twinkled over those moments. When we had puking kids, and raised voices, and homesick hearts, our reminder prevailed. When we hosted guests, served meals and tea, when we just held each other in sadness on the couch. When friends moved away, and kids learned to read, and blanket forts covered the whole room. When we giggled, and snuggled, and rested, and watched, and enjoyed, and talked, and argued, and sang. When we hid and waited to be sought out in play, when we had pizza and movie nights, when we first saw the photos and videos of our little girl– Be Thankful was the anthem over all these moments and more.

Recently, my beloved sign found a new home. (I have this crazy nest-maker tendency to tweak and move and rearrange our home which absolutely endears me to my sweet husband, as I’m sure you can imagine.) Less than a week in its new home, my Be Thankful reminder had another collision with the floor. Bits of letters were again broken off.

I wanted to be sad because I love this little sign that has been a part of our home for years now. Hubby worked his glue magic and restored broken pieces again. But you can see the cracks. Which kind of bothered me, and I thought about how I could maybe find another sign when we are in the States this fall. But then I really looked. And really thought about what it means to Be Thankful. As believers, we aren’t thankful only when life is going our way. Our joy is not dictated by circumstances dipping in our favor every time. In fact, the Bible is full of examples of exactly the opposite– Paul exhorting us to rejoice from a prison, David singing about sacrifices of thanksgiving, Habakkuk determining to be joyful in the Lord no matter what. If we’re honest, it’s the tragedies, hard things, and the sufferings that pull us closer to the Father and make us more like Jesus.

Our thankful is more beautiful when it’s broken. When we bear the scars of trials and grief and yet our hearts are joyful in the Lord, we bring glory to Him.

It’s not easy to Be Thankful when life is cracked and hard. But a broken Thankful is precious in the eyes of Jesus, who is our greatest example of giving thanks for hard things,

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

My Be Thankful will be missing a piece of a letter forever. And it has some cracks where glue is holding the broken parts together. But I don’t think I’m gonna replace it. It’s an even better reminder now, that a beat-up, stressed out, fallen down, and aching Thankful is the way we are supposed to live out our time here on earth.

12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90)

Watercolors

Sometimes I wish life were a little neater– that the colors would all stay neatly inside the lines on this grand backdrop. But the life-giving water splashes the page almost continuously and the colors swirl before my eyes, achingly beautiful.Painted in Waterlogue

So hard have I fought against the soaked brush swooping down onto the page to spread the rainbow. I long for the order of the lines and the way they contain each color– purples in the flowers, greens of the earth, yellows from the sun… No mixing. No mess. No heartache.Painted in Waterlogue

The wet falls. The colors swirl immediately as the water breathes life into them. They dance across the water, intertwining. I cringe, anticipating the mess. Struggling against the inevitable. The purple seeps into the yellow and I fear that all is ruined.Painted in Waterlogue

The blue and green tug-o-war against each other– a competing horizon. I hold my breath. This can never be corrected.Painted in Waterlogue

The painter knows the beauty that comes from the mixing. He knows the colors are most beautiful when he masterfully moves them around in the dance of the sacred messy. He knows it looks like all is lost– all is beyond repair– for the briefest of moments. But he isn’t concerned. Painted in Waterlogue

He pauses.

In the pause I wonder. Does he really know what he’s doing?

He flourishes the water to the page once more and when the last bristle leaves the canvas my heart stops. The majesty! The perfection! The lines are blurred. The evidence of grappling between the colors remains, now blossoming into brilliant shades of grace in every corner.

And the masterpiece?

Worth everything.

 

 

 

(Paintings from Waterlogue app for iPhone/iPod.)

Today at the Park

The boys fell asleep during rest time today for the first time in weeks, and I rushed them awake at 4:30 knowing we were running out of sunlight and they needed to stretch their legs at the park.

I was slightly annoyed already. Husband is gone for the week, so I’m playing the single parent gig. And PMSing.

Doodlebug got out of bed at the mention of the park, pottied, and got shoes on like it was no big deal. (This is totally a big deal as parenting him lately has been total torture difficult.)

Stinkbug whined, complained, cried, and protested. He didn’t want the shirt I picked. He didn’t want to change out of his shorts. He didn’t want socks. He wanted his new shoes. He didn’t have to go potty right then. FOR. THE. LOVE.

I kept it together (for the most part), and warned him he was going to miss out on playtime. Then I ticked off the minutes he would sit out each time he complained or argued. Six minutes of time-out promised. More crying and complaining.

Finally. Out the door. To the park. I started a timer for Stink’s timeout and at first he watched the seconds tick down. Then he settled back on the bench. By the time the buzzer sounded, he crawled in my lap and announced he didn’t want to play. I tried to convince him to run, slide, chase, swing but he stuck to his guns. No playing today. Whatever, dude.

A few moments later an older lady was walking through the park and staring at Stinkbug. Like a little awkwardly. I worried that I knew her, but I could not for the life of me remember where I would know her from. When she was standing directly in front of me (still staring straight at Stink) she said, “I can’t stop looking at him. He looks just like my son did. My son had blond hair like this. He looked just like this.” She reached out and stroked Stinkbug’s hair and I swear she was somewhere else behind her clear eyes.

“He’s thirty eight now.” She shook her head as if to shake herself from the dream she was re-living. “The time passes so fast.” She said it more to herself than to me and gave Stinkbug one last pat before heading off into the fading daylight.

I felt my eyes filling with tears as I imagined my son as a thirty eight year old man with his own life, his own problems, his own family. I squeezed Stinkbug a little closer and breathed in little boy scent radiating off his sweet blond head.

The days can be hard (especially when my husband is out of town!), but I don’t ever want to wish this away. I don’t want to hold regrets in my heart when I see children playing on the playground near my house thirty years from now. I want to smile at the beautiful memories, laugh with fondness over the messiness of this find-your-shoes, i-need-to-go-potty, we-forgot-the-book-bag, can-i-have-a-snack season of life.

I’m thankful for a little perspective today. These kids? A gift without comparison. These days? Messy, but precious beyond description. These few years? Fleeting. Flying. Never waiting. Never slowing.

I AM your servant

Sometimes I feel worn down by the monotony of motherhood. Of the requests, the needs of my children. Some days it feels like the demands will never end and I’m too tired to tie the shoes, make the beds, wipe the counters, play the games, clear the dishes, sweep the floors, kiss the heads, read the books, give the snacks, admire the artworks, teach the subjects, fix the broken toys, wash the clothes…

Sometimes that ugliness of sin that is ever-lurking just beneath the surface in the soul creeps up and I feel like I might choke on the loveliness of all the blessings around me. They don’t look like blessings anymore. And the narcissistic voice inside screams what about me? what I want and what I need? 

With shame I admit that I have uttered to my children, “Why are you asking me to do that for you? I am not your servant!”

Sometimes it’s their tone– demanding and demeaning. Sometimes it’s just the 856th request and I feel so spent on this whole thing. Reasons aside, I have justified this response to them feeling proud and unwilling to bend to their wishes if they have asked wrongly or if I just don’t want to give anymore.

Two mornings ago I heard one of my children ask their sibling to do something. Something easy and simple– a task of less than a minute. And the response?

I am NOT your servant!

And it broke inside me. The words echoed all around in a hauntingly familiar voice reminding me where they learned this mantra. Where they have seen the example– not of self-sacrificing service in love, but of demanding one’s own way/rights/time/wish/desire/convenience.

And then the Word came flooding in, washing over me with its truth…

“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, [love] is not self-seeking…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

“…serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

How will my children ever learn that true loves serves and gives continually, sacrificing its own wants and needs for the good of another if I am setting this awful example of only serving them begrudgingly and at my own convenience?

How can I tell my children to love and serve one another and then turn around and tell them I can’t serve them because mommy’s busy/mommy has work to do/mommy has better things to do with her time/mommy is too tired/their request is beneath me/their request inconveniences me?

How can I give empty words to teach something that I don’t live out daily?

This is the motherhood I am called to– to lay down my life. Not just once, but over and over and over again. With each new day, with each new breath. With God’s help, I am teaching my children to love and serve others by loving and serving others myself.

By the Lord’s grace, I am changing my response to the requests of my children from I am not your servant.

I am your servant. I love you and I want to serve you.

::2013::

I realize it’s not a novel idea to choose a word as a theme for the new year, but I never claimed to be novel anyway.

As we move forward in our adoption process (please, Lord, let our daughter come home this year!), as we live between our two homes (January through June in America and June through December in Turkey), and as I continue to seek the Lord in my roles as wife, mother, and cross-cultural worker, I have chosen FAITH to be my word for 2013.

The verse that keeps coming to mind and heart on the topic of faith is Hebrews 11:6, ” And without faith, it is impossible to please God…”

I feel so lost in my own life sometimes:

  • Adoption is slow and each step brings up 1,000 more questions. We don’t know where the money will come from and can’t fund raise like others do.
  • Living between two continents is hard. We know this is what God has called us to, but we’re always saying goodbye to someone and we’re always missing one home while we enjoy the other.
  • I am still so unsure about day-to-day parenting as new issues and conflicts arise every day, and I constantly feel like I could be doing more to keep our home and serve my family.
  • Pssssst… I could go on, but I’ll stop here since these are the “biggies”.

From the beginning of 2013, looking ahead, I need faith because I want to please God in all these areas. So I’m asking God to work in my heart and grow my faith this year. And I don’t want it to be quiet, unmeasurable faith. I want to have the kind of active faith James writes about in his second chapter:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Do you have a word for 2013? Where do you hope to grow and learn this year?

Humbled

The longer I do this mom thing the more humbling it is for me.

Take for example, yesterday, SEPTEMBER 29 (check your calendars– it’s supposed to be fall, y’all!) and  it had to be 100* outside. It was hot. Stifling, actually.

(OK, I just checked weather.com and the high was 93*… still not my preferable fall weather.)

Anyway, I was enjoying our local outdoor mall with the kids, I hadn’t planned well, and the trip ended in a toy store with Doodlebug screaming, “I waaann waaak” from the stroller, the older two hanging on the sides of the stroller (making it ever so difficult to make forward progress), we were on the opposite end of the mall from where the car was parked (of course) and it was nap time. As we were walking I started talking about how hot it was and wondering why it didn’t feel more like fall. I thought I was just chatting to help the kids not think about the long, hot trek to the car when Ladybug said so matter-of-factly, “Mommy, it sounds like you’re complaining and arguing.”

BOOM ROASTED.

Seriously when I taught the kids Philippians 2:14 so I could bust it out when they are complaining, I had no forethought to the fact that it might come back to bite me in the butt.

I was speechless for a second and then I had to confess that I was complaining about the heat and ask for forgiveness.

Humbled. Again.

And thankful. How many jobs out there come with an extra cute mini “holy spirit” to keep you in check?