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.


What To Say to Your Kids When Their Friends Get Everything They Want

I tucked her in bed and pulled up the cozy pink comforter to her chin. “Mommy?” she whispered after prayers were said.

“Yes, honey?” I waited.

“I am sad.”

“Really, why?” trying to remember what would cause this statement.

“I’m sad I don’t have my own iTouch like my friends.”

SAY WHAT?

“A lot of my friends have them and iPhones, too,” she said as she rattled off half her first grade class.

“Why do you want one?” I asked, even though I could have guessed her answer.

Because my friends have one.

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And then I went on to tell her this wasn’t right for her at seven years old. But this wasn’t about technology (although- really?)–she could have asked for a purple pony named Lucy or a giant stuffed marshmallow that all the kids must have now. The point is, we cannot give our kids stuff just because their friends have it.

And we cannot give in to giving our kids stuff because our friends are giving it to their kids.

It’s a dangerous cycle that is hard to break.

These over-the-top two year old birthday parties are more about the moms competing with their friends than the cake-covered baby having a meltdown due to exhaustion. I watched a mom at my daughter’s tumbling class tap on the glass and give her little girl a stern look and whispered through gritted teeth to “stop having fun” and then I overheard her comparing her daughter’s skills with another mother.

That little girl flipping on the mat just wanted to have fun. Her mother was the real competitor.

We cannot make our parenting choices based on what others are doing. We have to purpose our lives with intention or we will just end up being like everyone else, caught in a trap in our culture that demands we fit in.

What do we say to our kids when their friends get everything they want?

1. We don’t do what everyone else does. We will not try and keep up. Sometimes we just need to say no.

We must choose what is best for our own family today, so that when the latest fad or must-have is hot on the market, we have a plan that isn’t tossed around by the gimmes or the pressure to give in because everyone else is.

2. We remind them about perspective: Not everyone has this or (fill in the blank). It may seem like you’re the only one in your class or in your grade or on this planet who isn’t fitting in or keeping up. But if we are going to compare ourselves to others, let’s also compare ourselves to kids who live in poverty. That way we will live in the middle of those who have everything and those who have nothing.

3. We have to plan for what we say yes to. We are intentional. Saying it too often only fans the flame of entitlement.

4. We are more concerned about who you are than what you have. I love seeing my kids happy. But keeping them happy all the time isn’t my number one priority. Parenting is a marathon and we have to remember our longterm goal of raising beautiful people who love God and others.

Sure, your kid might end up with the latest technology that you require them to save their money for and you may throw that one over-the-top 13th birthday party you’ve been planning all year. There isn’t anything wrong with these things when they are a part of your plan.

Because here’s the thing: When we parent with intention and moderation and our kids end up getting something they really want or have worked for–That gift will be intentional and not just another thing to add their pile of stuff. It will be appreciated.

Because we have to balance the natural desire to give our kids the world without giving them over to it.

Motherhood is messy.

But we can say yes in the mess and live a life that is making a difference in our world and most importantly, in our home. Because families who choose to live different do.

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Read more about the twelve things we are doing to try and raise our kids different from our culture in my new book:

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How a Dying Man Changed the Way I Live on A Good Friday

He has Stage IV cancer.

Our strong, healthy friend is dying.

This killer invaded his body quietly. It’s wild to think of the silent battle we don’t even know we could be fighting. How close we walk to death in life…

We can’t answer the when’s and how’s, we can only hold onto the truth that God can do anything.

Because we are people of the Resurrection. We believe in the impossible. We hope for the improbable.

I have watched our friend give even more of his time and energy to others in his sickness.  He is kind and generous. His actions are life-giving.

He makes me want to say all the things that are left unspoken. He makes me want to cherish others every day. He makes me want to love freely and live in wild obedience. He reminds me he might not have a tomorrow.

He reminds me that I might not either.

A dying man is changing the way I live.

Because he understands the power of Resurrection, too. He knows his life–a vapor–is not the end. Instead it is the beginning.

The way he chooses to live points to another dying man on another Friday so long ago.

It looked bad. The sky was dark, the deed was done. The enemy gloated.

It was time to wait.

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And we wait. It’s the hardest part of Good Friday-the waiting.

The hours ticked by. The buzzards circled. The blood dried.

But then.

This was no ordinary man who would be held by death or the grave.

The earth shook and we see that the moment God died, He gave us life.

He is alive. Death cannot win.

We are people of the Resurrection. We believe in the impossible. The improbable.

No matter what may come in this life–hardships, dark days, a diagnosis or even death.

Jesus’ death changes the way we live.

His Resurrection changes our eternity.

 

Happy Easter, dear friends. 

He is risen.

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