Today, I’m Releasing My Story To The World

It’s here!

Today is the day Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly Safe Faith is No Longer Enough releases worldwide. 

I would be lying if I told you this is the book I always wanted to write.

But this is the story I was meant to live.

Saying yes to God has been an act of wild obedience for my family. It hijacked our American Dream and left us with something so much better.

It left us with more.

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But this isn’t just our story. It’s a God-story. It’s undeniable, unbelievable, unquestionable proof that God can do anything when we say yes.

Today, Mercy House is preparing to move into our second home in Kenya, allowing us space to bring in more pregnant girls. This oasis in the heart of a poverty-stricken land has been paid for in full by so many of you. And soon, it will be a refuge for some of the most oppressed people in the world.

It’s also the National Day of Prayer. God’s timing is perfect.

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We cannot underestimate what happens with our every day yes.

It matters.

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Our yes to God will never be perfect. There will never be a “right” time. It will never be easy or even appreciated. But don’t think for a second that it doesn’t matter. It does.

Say it today.

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 What Others Are Saying About Rhinestone Jesus:

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Add my book Rhinestone Jesus AND the (in)Mercy Poster below to your cart at Dayspring along with this code at checkout RhinestoneFree to receive the Poster for FREE! $20 value for free. Open to the first 50 orders. (Shipping charges do apply, unless you purchase 3 additional copies of Rhinestone Jesus or have a subtotal of $50 or more. One poster per order.) This promo has now ended.

 

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And just because: (courtesy of my 1990 year book), Jesus pin, big hair and all:

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WFMW: DIY Inspiring String Art

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[Beginning next week, I will be featuring your yes stories every Wednesday. Please continue to link up helpful links that work for you. I hope it’s a yes or two.]

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Put a yes in your mess.

And create something new and beautiful.

 

#yesinmymess #rhinestoneJesus #releasestomorrow #!!!!!

God Doesn’t Need Us to Say Yes

A magazine for young girls asked me to interview my kids for an article on missions–from their perspective.

My kids wanted to know if it was a paid job.

Oh, writer’s kids.

Their answers were great and enlightening. They talked about the adventures of traveling and trying new foods, about sometimes being scared of the unknown and all the fun that comes with holding babies.

But it was the answer to the last question that made me cry.

Q: Why did your family start a maternity home in Kenya?

[without missing a beat]

A: “Because God asked us to. We don’t always know what we are doing. But He helps us,” said my first grader in a tone that said OBVIOUSLY.

But here’s the truth we must understand: GOD DOESN’T NEED US TO SAY YES.

He’s God. He created oceans and land and the world with a thought. He doesn’t depend on us to say yes. He can accomplish in a second what we labor in for years.

But He invites us to say yes.

He invites us because obedience changes us from the inside out. Saying yes causes us to depend on him because His ask is always bigger than our ability. He wants us to experience the impossible, the miracle in the mess so that He will be glorified.

He invites us in so that He will be glorified through us.

Obedience is the way we communicate our love to God. But obedience is also for us.

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Some days I feel like that little kid in the Bible who had just a bit of fish and a couple of loaves in my rolled-up paper sack.

And God says, “Who will say yes? There’s a need, who can meet it?”

I look at my lunch and I know it’s not enough. And I know God can do it without me. He can speak the Word and meet the need.

But there it is: an invitation.

I can clinch that sack or hide it behind my back. Or I can offer my little lunch. It’s not much, but it’s all I have.

Because here’s the thing: your yes may feel small, but God is big and so size doesn’t matter. And we can turn down the invitation. We can walk away and enjoy our little lunch. And we will never know what we missed.

But we will miss it just the same. Because we were created for more. We were created to say yes to God.

Here’s a deeper look into our yes (and our mess):

4 Things Every Home Needs

“But Mom, I need that. I really nnneeeedd it.”

Do these words sound familiar?

I’ve been trying to help my kids distinguish between needs and wants for a long time. Some days in parenting we take two steps forward and one step back. Just last week, one of my kids stomped off in the store because I wouldn’t buy a new product they’d seen advertised.

I feel so defeated when entitlement rears its ugly head in my family.

I am more disappointed when I see it in myself.

But we live in a society that gets what we want when we want it. And if we can’t afford it, we can put it on a credit card. And if parents don’t let kids have it, research proves that after the 9th time of asking, we end up giving in to our kids. Because whining.

This mentality has not only imprisoned countless families in debt, it’s also trickled down to our kids, creating a spoiled culture.

We have a hard time distinguishing wants from needs. And we often place something that’s wanted in front of something that’s needed due to guilt. In our home, we talk budget and spending and saving. We try to figure out the difference between needs and wants. We don’t always get it right. But the more we expose this way of thinking, we see just how entitled we are.

We need food, we don’t need fruit smoothies from Smoothie King. We may want one and get one occasionally, but this isn’t a need. Deciphering the difference is important. And our kids are watching how we juggle the two.

I love giving my kids what they want. It’s one of the joys of parenting. But it’s not healthy for them to receive everything they want.

Because it only causes them to want more.

When we see a shift and our kids began to feel like we owe them more, we are on unstable ground.

4 things every home needs

Do you know what our homes really need besides obvious love and nurturing? It’s not necessarily more square footage or a newer car or certain brands and it really has nothing at all to do with stuff or money.

Here are 4 things we can add to our home for intentional living:

1. Homes Need Purpose: Of course,we all have the main purpose of loving one another and growing together to be better people. But when we dig deeper, I believe God has a specific purpose for every single family. He created a family in the beginning of time to bring Himself glory and He used a family to usher His Son into the world. Your family of freckled redheaded daughters or blonde-headed sons or lovely ebony-skin tones has a unique purpose that is as special as you are. He has placed you on your street, in your town, for a specific purpose. Who will your family touch that my family will never meet? We were made for more than just getting by. We were made for more than just the American Dream. We were made to leave an impact and we can only do this if we live intentionally with purpose. (Read more about parenting with purpose and writing a family mission statement in Rhinestone Jesus).

2. Families Need Time Together: I think this is why I’m such a fan of consistent dinners together. Everything is pulling your family away from each other and the older kids get, the harder it is to find time together. Dinner pulls us back to the table, to laughter and conversation and yes, spilled milk and a fair share of tears over it. Think back to your best most favorite childhood memories…they probably don’t center around toys or stuff. They are probably long road trips or camping in a tent or crazy family moments. Families were made to live and do life together. Because it’s in those moments where we laugh and talk and really love, that we grow. We argue and learn how to really get along with others. We hurt each other’s feelings and we learn how to empathize with others. We clean up each other’s messes and learn how to help others. We drive each other crazy because that’s what families do and we learn that life is messy. Don’t let busyness get in the way of time together.

3. Kids Need a Work Ethic: One of the best things we can offer our kids is the chance to work hard. Sounds fun, eh? A couple of weeks ago we planted a garden and then had a truck load of mulch dumped in our driveway. I’m not going to lie, I was more than tempted to ask the yard guys at my neighbor’s house how much it would cost for them to spread the 400 wheelbarrows so we didn’t have to. (I’m typing with a huge blister right now). But my husband and I wanted our kids to sweat a little, we wanted them to see the before and after of hard work. We wanted to spend the day unplugged, together, working hard, laughing some, chasing each other with manure and then having a loud meltdown in the yard because of it (that really wasn’t a part of my original vision, just a bonus). It’s part of God’s plan for us to work hard and in our culture of “I will pay to have it all done for me” what are we teaching our kids?

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4. We All Need Perspective: In order to get true perspective, we have to look up from our own busy lives and look out into the world–down the street or across the ocean. It’s so easy to stay in our safe, comfortable bubble, even when it’s not easy. But something really powerful and transforming happens when we focus as a family on other people: we get a new perspective. Sometimes we discover we aren’t alone in our struggles. Sometimes we realize we can help other people in their struggles.  But when we open our eyes to others, we always feel gratitude. Thankfulness is the gift that perspective gives us. And every family needs that.

So, while a whole host of wants may fill our Pinterest screens and our To Do Lists and our hearts, let’s shift our focus to some things we need that money can’t buy.

The Two Questions Every Christian Must Ask Themselves

A friend of mine told me about a group of women, mothers with children, who were living in absolute poverty.

Their babies didn’t have diapers. Their kids didn’t have shoes. Their homes didn’t have furniture. Their pantries didn’t have food.

I’ve met women just like them, stood on their dirt floors and been offered the last plate of food in their house.

But these mothers in this story didn’t live across the ocean, on the other side of the globe.

They live 49 miles from my front door.

They are refugees—removed from Bhutan, their country of birth, because of genocide against their race and placed in a refugee camp in Nepal, where they survived for 15 years, until more recently, when the United Nations relocated thousands of people again, to their new home in America.

They are my neighbors.

But many of these refugees have never been more than a mile away from the apartment complex that is now home. Once aid from the U.S. ended after 90 days, they found themselves in a foreign country, unable to communicate, trying to navigate a much different culture, living a minimum-wage existence where diapers and toilet paper, shampoo and soap, are a luxury they cannot afford. They didn’t know there was a food bank within walking distance. But how would they manage toddlers and babies without a stroller or cart for food and who would help them fill out the paperwork to take what was needed?

As I listened to the story, I felt moved with compassion. Because this is my heart, my calling: To empower mothers with opportunity—for some it’s an opportunity to give, for others it’s opportunity to receive. I don’t have all the answers, but I know we can help each other.

I couldn’t help but wonder, How could I help? I immediately told myself, I’m doing enough. What could I possibly do? How much more could I add to my already full plate? We give a lot, how much more can we give?

But then I realized I was asking the wrong questions.

 2 Questions Every Christian in America Needs to Ask Themselves

 

Go ahead. Ask yourself. It’s not an accident. It’s not luck of draw. There is a purpose. You have a purpose for living here and not there. What do you think it is?

I don’t think it’s a mathematical mistake that one-third of the world is rich enough to ease the burden of the other two-thirds who are desperately poor, living on less than $1 a day. It’s not a curious coincidence that we are already sitting on the answer.

It’s something we teach our children from the cradle. It’s called sharing. We have more than enough, enough to share. It sounds like a match made in Heaven, huh? Like maybe it was God’s plan all along to love others, and instead of accumulating the American Dream, there’s the chance to give some of it away.

And I believe when God asks us what we did with our talents, our resources, our land-of-the-free, home-of-the-brave opportunity, we will be accountable for our answer.

Yes, we give already. But we have been given so much. We can give more, share more, do more. Not to prove we are good people or need a bigger list of good works. We do it because it’s our purpose to glorify God. We do it because He first loved us and we love others. We do it because we have it to give. We do it because if we were reusing disposable diapers, we would want someone to share with us.

We do it because our houses and cars and pins on Pinterest are temporary.

Our stuff will not last, but people will.

When I asked myself these hard questions, I knew immediately what my answer had to be.

I started sharing this story with my friends and church community, many had the same answer. And with a pile of yeses, answers starting coming in. Moms started pulling out clothes and shoes, their excess to share. Dads moved furniture into garages to give away. Women began stockpiling diapers. Volunteers are offering ESL classes, a website is being built and a group of moms have started teaching knitting.

Once a week, for as long as I’m able, I’ll be spending the day 49 miles from home,with my neighbors. 

Is there a right answer to those hard questions? I don’t know.

But my family is starting by looking at what we have, thanking God for it and then sharing it with someone else.

I hope you will too.

Neighbors are a great place to start.

When We Face the Battle of Comforts

The best thing about saying yes? We don’t say it alone. I’m happy to introduce you to Katy and share her words with you today. Katy joins me and several other ladies every week to serve the refugees relocated to our city. She is my friend and she’s a part of my yes community. Her yes is beautiful and although she may think it’s small some days, she’s saying it right where she is and she’s changing the world around her with it.

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by Katy

As our class sings, “Head, shoulders, knees and toes!” my eyes go to the tiny toes poking through threadbare socks. My little friend isn’t without shoes because she is a stubborn three year old; she just doesn’t have any.

I mistakenly call a boy “she” for over an hour because his tattered, mislead by his pink floral clothing. But the lack of boyish clothes is the least of his mother’s concerns when they’ve spent years fleeing genocide and persecution.

It was his mom, in fact, who communicated in broken English that they had lived “like pigs” in the refugee camps, herded around in deplorable conditions. That was her reality for nearly 20 years.

I see bleak hints from their past everywhere: the young legless mother sitting in a wheelchair with a baby on her lap, the men with missing limbs and eyes.

I’m not on a trip to a third-world country. It’s just another day at our preschool.

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It all started a few months ago. Word began to spread of refugee families in desperate need in our city.

Though safely distanced from the genocide of their homeland and the squalor of the camps, these people faced a new onslaught of severe obstacles. Groups were rallying to help, searching for ways to provide comfort. Recognizing a few acute needs, a couple of ladies formed ESL and business classes.

My season of life doesn’t afford free mornings alone to go teach classes and minister to women. My little ones are with me full time – my primary “ministry” – so if we are going to serve outside the home during the week, we’re going to do it together. That’s not everyone’s story or season, but it happens to be mine currently, and I’m grateful for that.

The aching need in front of me called out with a haunting question: “How will you respond?”

The answer rested in the children. The student-refugees attending the classes were also mothers, and they had children running around a bit chaotically while they tried to absorb lessons on acquiring a new language and starting a small business. That circumstance understandably complicated their already herculean task.

To take the little ones aside for their own class could be an immense gift to their mothers.

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For a moment I was daunted by the thought of taking on childcare. I didn’t necessarily feel qualified and it would require organization and commitment. But then this came… My strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Ah, yes. Of course. But is it safe for my children? What about sickness, or lice? And we’ll miss naptime and it’s a long drive and a lot of gas money and I don’t know how all these details will fall into place.

But then… Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Was my scripture study on “Trust” last year without reason? Doesn’t every great story in the Bible begin when God urges his people to step into the daunting, the seemingly impossible, and lean into his comfort – the true kind of comfort that’s not man made?

Don’t we often face the Battle of Comforts? We forfeit the profound life-changing experience of witnessing God’s provision through us, and to us, when we are focused on pursuing our own worldly comfort.

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So what began with a long, nervous drive to our first visit, which felt a little crazy, has transformed into a natural rhythm of our days and weeks. It’s now just “preschool,” and of course my boys simply see the children in our class as friends, as it should be.

We sing and dance around the room with instruments. We read books aloud, color, write our alphabet, and paint. Snack time is always a highlight. And there are lots of hugs.

Our family is learning more with each visit. I’m floored with gratitude for the opportunity to meet some small but immediate needs in the hurting world, while at the same time nurturing and teaching my own sons in the process.

God is using these refugees to display his breathtaking love to me. I don’t know why I’m so taken by joy on the cold floor singing silly song with kids.  I can’t explain why I tear up almost every time I talk about them. I’m desperate for more ways to help, because when it’s our friends who are “the poor,” we don’t mind getting our hands dirty, do we?

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Meeting needs will look different for all of us. For some it must be done within the walls of the home, where often the most sacrificial living takes place. For others it will be at the office. For a friend of mine, it’s the hospital where her daughter is undergoing chemo and she interacts with anxious parents daily.  And another friend and her family have devoted years to troubled youth in the inner city.

But the common chord we can all cling to is this: The Comforter is on the move, for our joy, and for the good of others.

The Father of mercies comforts us, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.

But to receive that life-changing comfort often means stepping into the uncomfortable. And that’s where I’m prone to pull up short.

When we respond to Jesus’ call act mercifully, it brings with it a beautiful symbiosis. The Spirit, our comforter, allows us to exchange our fleeting, self-made comforts of safety and savings for the profoundly life-changing comfort of resting in the sovereign care of our God. And in so doing, we actually get the privilege of sharing that same comfort with those we serve.

May God give us the vision and courage to make that trade when presented with the opportunity.

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WFMW: #IDHTBPTBB

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Or It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful.

I’ve been reading The Nester’s blog and using her design hacks for years. She even helped me float my couch once. She was one of the first people to read my new book and she carried it all the way to Africa.

For years, she has said #yesinhermess.

Although, let’s be real–her mess looks so much prettier than mine–all pastel ish and color-cooridanted. But she’s the real deal and her brand new book is as beautiful as she is.

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It’s sitting on my coffee table right now. Bookmarked with a feather because I’m learning ALL THE THINGS. It’s a gorgeous book that tells the story of saying yes right where you live.

It comes out next week and if you preorder it, you can get this lovely printable free: (click here for details on The Nester’s blog)

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I’m already updating my gallery wall. And I’ve moved a chair. Okay, two.

It works for me!

A Simple Way to Teach Family a Lesson About Complaining Less

I handed everyone at the table a rubber band and told them to put it around their wrists like a bracelet.

We slipped it on as we finished dinner and I read these instructions from our dinner time devotional:  Every time you grumble or complain, snap your rubber band. 

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The day before we memorized John 6:43, “Stop grumbling among yourselves.”

Guess who got the first “pop?”

My kids laughed as the first complaint rolled off my tongue just minutes after reading our assignment. I wasn’t even trying to show them an example of what not to do. I didn’t even know I was going to grumble about cleaning up our dinner mess. Because sometimes complaining is just our second nature.

Ouch.

I rubbed my wrist and watched my words.

We all did. Our 24 hour experiment proved to leave our wrists a little tender and our tongues a little more controlled.

We were listening for the bemoaning and bellyaching. We pointed out when we heard each other complain.

The most important thing this experiment did? It made us think before we spoke. It made us more aware.

Grumbling comes too easy. And when we try not to do it, we see how often we whine or complain–about each other, about our situations, about what we have and what we don’t.

When we really get a good look at what’s underneath all those negative words, we find ingratitude.

Because let’s face it:  we probably all can find something to gripe about. But when we think before we speak, we can always find something to be thankful for.

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Try this simple lesson today (and if rubber bands won’t work for you, keep tally marks on the kitchen calendar or cheerios around a yarn bracelet and break one off with every complaint).

 Here’s what a lesson in complaining less does for all of us:

1. It forces us to admit how often we grumble or whine or speak negatively about ourselves or others

2. It causes us to think before we speak

3. It gives us the opportunity to choose gratitude over grumbling.

And while this lesson won’t necessarily rid our homes of complaining (ask me how I know), it will certainly give us something to (think) and talk about.