Nothing Is Wasted

My little one brought me a photo album she found in the bottom of the closet. She curled up beside me and opened it. We snuggled on the couch while we slowly flipped the pages.

She stopped at an old picture of me, standing against a car, looking forlorn. “What’s wrong with you, Mom? You look so sad.”

I looked at the picture and wondered how it ended up in a recent photo album. A flood of memories hit me hard. “I was sad. I wanted to be a mom so bad. I lived in sadness because it took so long. Those were my wasted years,” I said, surprised at how bitter my words sounded.

“What does that mean? Wasted?” she asked.

I wished I could take back the words. “Honey, I just couldn’t see very far in front of me. I sort of lived out of focus.”

perspective is the best looking glass - incourage.me

She thought about my answer and flipped the page to a more recent picture of the two of us, laughing.

“Well, maybe there’s no such thing as wasted years.”

Her words hit me hard. There are no wasted years.

(click to continue reading at (in)courage….)

Dear Men of the World: You Won’t Regret Giving This To Your Family

I’ll never forget the day my husband handed me a wooden box with a letter in it.

It was the same year he gave one to each of our children.

The book, Letters from Dad, made a profound impact on him many years ago. It begs the answer to this question: “If you were to die today, what would your (wife and) children hold in their hands tomorrow that would let them know they were the treasures of your life?”

My husband has been answering that question by filling up our letterboxes and our hearts ever since.

He’s written dozens of letters-some funny, some serious, all memorable. On our youngest’s 8th birthday last month, she read the letter before she opened her gifts, giggling at his own second-grade memories.

Because we all understand the letters are the gift. Letters are free, they don’t take much time, but they are absolutely priceless.

A few weeks ago as we celebrated our anniversary in NYC,  Terrell pulled me aside and read the following words to me.

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Less than halfway through, as tears dripped from my chin, I thanked God for this imperfect man who leads us and loves us so well.

He is giving us a beautiful legacy and today, I want to share it with the men of the world in hopes that you will give your wife and children the same gift.

Kristen,                                                                                               

I find myself overwhelmed. I can never do justice to the past twenty years in a letter to you. If I wrote a novel over the next twelve months, I would only be scratching the surface. The beautiful part is that I am not really the one writing this story. This is God’s story and our story. You are my coauthor. One day, I can only hope that our kids drag these letters out of a dusty box and they understand that their dad loved their mom.

I do love you. You are beautiful! For more than twenty years you have been my best friend and confidant. We have traveled many miles and many roads together. When I married you, I married well. You are the one thing I have never quit or given up on. And God knows that you have never given up on me. It probably would have been easier for you if you did quit. But you didn’t. Did I mention I love you? You’re tenacious, bold, strong, tender, kind, humble, sexy, vulnerable, gentle, courageous, caring, loving, patient, brilliant, innovative, creative and on and on.

We have been to hell and heaven together. Actually we’ve probably made the round trip a couple of times.   I am humbled that you love me. Could a man ever ask for anything more than a good woman? Could a man dare hope to have a great woman? Well, I declare with my whole heart that you are an amazing woman and so much more.

In 1994, you said, “I do.”

In 1995, you said, “I will,” and we moved to Arkansas

In 1997, you said, “Let’s take a risk,” and we headed to Albuquerque

In 1999, you said, “I want to be a mother,” and God gave us a daughter in 2000

In 2001, you said, “I believe in you,” and we left the ministry

In 2002, you said, “Florida has got to be better than this,” and we moved and it was worse, but God redeemed our time and gave us a son

In 2003, you said, “You’re not a failure,” and we moved to Texas

In 2004, you said, “God will provide,” and I got a job in the Pharmaceutical industry

In 2005, you said, “I forgive you,” and I saw the face of the Jesus

In 2006, you said, “God has given us grace,” and our miracle was born

In 2008, you said, “I want to write,” and the world met “THAT” family

In 2010, you said, “Yes,” and God wrecked us both and we started Mercy House

In 2012, you said, “Now is the right time,” and we moved and started over

In 2013, you said, “We have to tell our story,” and the “Rhinestone Jesus” manuscript was turned in to Tyndale

In 2014, you said, “I believe in you,” (Or maybe you said, “Help!”) and I quit my job to run Mercy House

TWENTY YEARS.

It sounds unbelievable to even say it. Sometimes I wish I could smith words the way you do. I would smith until I couldn’t smith anymore telling you how I love you. I would tell you in a thousand ways that you are a gift from God. I would write a hundred poems declaring your beauty. I would pen a million songs so that the world would know that I need you.

I still need you! I still want you. No one knows me the way you do. No one loves me when I’m not that loveable…but you do! For that and so much more, I love you.

Kristen Welch, I love you. I want you. I need you.

T.

Maybe We’re Missing Something Very Important in This Parenting Thing

It was a hot February day in Texas. We only had a handful of volunteers and hundreds of needy refugees had already formed a line, so everybody had a job. Even our kids. Especially our kids.

From across the parking lot, I watched my 14 year old give directions to the handful of kids barely taller than her waist. This small army of children were  in charge of the mound of toiletry and hygiene items we were sharing with refugees in our city.

I blinked back tears as they divided the supplies into over 100 paper sacks.

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They sorted donations, led refugee families around the free garage sale, and collected their vouchers for needed items.

They worked for hours and never complained.

Earlier in the weekend, I felt guilty for roping my family into all this extra work. What started out as a simple yes, ended up being a time-consuming-several-day event that is now an on-going service project.

Volunteers helped us organize and sort a truckload of donations, spread out on our driveway. When my 6th and 8th grade kids got off the bus, their friends asked if we were hoarders.

I think that might be called Junior High persecution.

sorting donations

As I watched my kids work hard in preparation for that day, jump in and serve refugees and navigate a language barrier, I quickly realized they didn’t need an apology for not making the weekend fun! filled with more stuff! just for them! all about them!

It reminded me how healthy a bit of hard work is for all of us and how rewarding it is to serve other people. 

As parents I think we’ve missed something very important in our culture. In an effort to make family a priority and give our kids what we didn’t have, we’ve become a child-focused culture. In many ways, we’ve lost our purpose. The sense of entitlement our kids exhibit is fueled by a parenting model that is obsessed with giving our children what they want and by making our kids the center of our lives.

In a way, we are just too into this parenting thing. We used to have birthday parties where A CAKE made it special and now it’s an EVENT. We used to pass out store bought Valentine cards, now we have them professionally printed with photographs and candy and goodie bags and mylar balloon bouquets. We used to play outside with sticks and get dirty; now kids have a variety of expensive game systems and a lot of technology at their disposal.

This quote by Jerry Seinfeld made me laugh because it’s so true. But then it really made me think.

The bedtime routine for my kids is a royal coronation jubilee centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and the stuffed animal semi circle of emotional support. I have to read 8 different moron books to my kids. Do you know what my bedtime story was when I was a kid? DARKNESS. My parents would yell “Go to bed!”

We’ve all probably done the bedtime dance. I remember one of my kids had to have a certain color of pacifier to HOLD in her hand before she’d sleep. So, clearly, I’m no expert here. I’m learning from my parenting mistakes, too.

But in centering our world around our children and giving into their demands, we foster entitlement.

Most entitlement begins because we lack the courage to tell our children no or because we don’t exhibit the strength to keep our no a no

We continue to enable entitlement by rewarding our kids for everything they do.

We may be taking away the sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from genuine achievement.” Jason Walsh, a special education teacher in Washington, D.C., witnessed this firsthand during his school’s fifth-grade graduation ceremonies. Some students received as many as 14 different awards. “The majority of the students didn’t know what their awards really meant,” says Walsh. The honors “didn’t reinforce a specific achievement—but a sense of entitlement and of being great.”

Kids don’t need more stars and stickers.

They need more hard work.

Kids don’t need more activities.

They need more unstructured time.

Kids don’t need more stuff.

They need more opportunities to give their stuff away.

Kids don’t need more store-bought or manufactured fun.

They need freedom to create their own.

Teaching our kids about serving

I looked at my exhausted, dirty children who gobbled down sandwiches in the car on the way home after our full day of serving, grinning silly and full and I didn’t feel bad at all. 

Because I realized I had given them something money couldn’t buy. I had offered them something more valuable than the latest technology or hottest brand. I had given them perspective. And opportunity.

A few days later, I wanted to reward my kids. I’m definitely not against a pat on the back. But as I offered a small token for their great attitudes and hard work, it occurred to me they didn’t need a sticker or star or reward from me for serving others. It was time for me to change the way I parent.

Because working hard and serving others was their reward. Just ask them.

 

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

4 Ways to Radically Impact Your Home in the New Year

We let the stack of breakfast dishes sit sticky and we stayed around the table… for three hours. What started out as conversation evolved into an epic board game battle while my daughter and I knitted scarves and I’m pretty sure my son refined his noise-making skills. Oh, junior high boys, you are a mystery.

It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t entirely peaceful.

There were arguments with winners and losers and tangled yarn battles and annoyances.

So, basically, you know, family life.

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But there was laughter and love and the one word that has impacted our home more than any other the past few years. Togetherness. There was intentional purpose to make time to be together.

I think in a perfect world, we equate togetherness with peace. But if your world is anything like mine, reality is often chaos. There are tears and fears and giggles and grumbling. It’s a hodgepodge of emotions. But through it all, we choose to be together and that has strengthened us.

We visited House Church (think midweek Bible Study for families) and we ended up at a house without children. The leader offered a TV to my kids, but I asked if we might stay together, study together. My children sat still as church mice on the leather couch in a stranger’s house, quietly listening and I could only think how bored they must be. But as soon as our van door closed, they all talked at once how much they enjoyed the Bible Study and declared being together was the best part and could we please do that again? I smiled wide in the dark car on the way home because I couldn’t agree more.

The world will pull our families apart if we let it. It will divide and separate us and interrupt dinner and encourage us to live for yourselves and forget others. It will tell you to buy into the American Dream for your family and move out of that starter home and build your own little Kingdom of worldly possessions.

But our culture won’t tell your family breaking bread and breaking your life and giving it away is the way to really keep it together.

If you want to change your family, the world, do it side-by-side. It doesn’t have to cost a dime or even that much time. It’s about getting back to the basics and getting back together.

Go to church together. Ride bikes together. Play games together. Clean the kitchen together. Look for opportunities to bond as a family in your every day life and a new year is the perfect time to start.

My kids are getting older and I feel a pull to draw them back in.

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Start with one or two of these four goals that can radically impact your home:

  1. Eat Together – This is as simple as it sounds, but it’s not always easy. And it’s definitely not a priority in many families (especially as kids get older). When I had toddlers around the table, I just got through many nights. But I did it because it set precedence and one day, your meal will last longer than 9 minutes. As children grow, the demand to move away from the table is strong with practices and rehearsals and games. Fight against it.
  2. Read Together –I don’t have to tell you that reading to your children will change their life. But so will reading with your kids. Several years ago, we moved from reading to our kids to reading books with them. You can check out some recommendations here (I’ve updated the list). Pick a book and read one-page-at-a-time until you’re done. You won’t regret this kind of togetherness. A perfect time to do so is at the dinner table (and a chalkboard table helps busy hands).
  3. Serve Together –By far, this has changed our family the most and kids are never too young or too old to give to others in some way. (I have a huge list of ideas here). After making this a priority in our lives, I’m beginning to see that my children are becoming servants. Start with one or two opportunities a year; it doesn’t have to be about quantity to give quality to your family and others.
  4. Gratitude Together – Get in the habit of sharing the highs and lows of your day together, write down your thanks. Keep a record. Thankfulness and giving our children opportunities to work hard are great ways to defeat entitlement in our home and stir up grateful reflection. I love this one for kids: My First Gratitude Journal: A Write-in, Draw-in Gratitude Journal for Kids.

Goals are just that –goals. We don’t eat together seven nights a week, four weeks a month, twelve months a year. But we try to. We don’t schedule things during dinner. We look for opportunities to serve; we practice gratitude. We don’t always hit the mark, but we aim for it and hit much higher than we would if we led life lead us instead of the other way around.

Together.

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

WFMW: Saying Yes In Your Weakness

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster, Rachel, for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

Sometimes the life to which God calls us is not at all what we expected. It may not be what we would have chosen, and it may not even make sense to us. However, we can trust that it is what is best for us and that God will use it for His glory.

I have been chronically ill for many years. There isn’t much that I can physically do, and some days I am tempted to wonder… “Wouldn’t it be better if I were able to serve the Lord by cooking meals for my family? Wouldn’t it be better if I were able to serve the Lord by teaching a women’s Bible study or a children’s Sunday school class? Wouldn’t it be better if….?” But God has not called me to a life filled with energy and “doing.” He has called me to a life of weakness.

Though there is much that I cannot do, I can serve the Lord in small ways that do not take a lot of energy. I can serve God through writing on my blog, through praying for others, and through encouraging my family. I can humbly submit to His plan for me, embracing this life and living a faithful testimony before a watching world. I can say “yes” to God in the midst of my chronic illness.

“Sometimes God’s plans don’t make sense to us. God never promises us that He won’t give us more than we can handle; He promises we won’t be alone.” – Kristen Welch

Shine Quote

Saying “yes” to God in the midst of chronic illness is not always easy. There are many days when it feels like more than I can handle. And maybe that is the point. I cannot handle this life on my own. My weakness is a constant reminder of my need for God. My life, lived in weakness, is the perfect place for God’s power to be displayed. Any spiritual strength or wisdom that others see in me is not from me; it is from the Lord.

“God wants us right in the middle of our mess because it is the perfect place for Him to shine through our imperfections.” – Rhinestone Jesus, page 133

I am encouraged by 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (ESV).

I am learning to embrace this life with all of its challenges. This is the life God has called me to, and He has a plan and a purpose for my chronic illness. I pray that I will be faithful to serve Him well so that He may be glorified in my weakness.
Rachel Lundy bio pictureRachel Lundy is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom. She lives with dysautonomia, a condition that leaves her mostly homebound. She writes at Cranberry Tea Time about life with a chronic illness and the hope and joy she has in Christ.