The Question God Wants Us To Ask

“Aren’t you tired?” She asked over pizza while our kids giggled around us in the booth. “I mean, you’re a mom and you have a busy life, you write and have Mercy House and now you’ve added Fair Trade Friday to your plate.”

Good friends ask hard questions.

I think about her question and stifle a yawn before I answer.

“Yes. I am. Tired.”

Good friends give honest answers.

I thought about my hectic day of carlines and deadlines…. I remembered the early morning wardrobe drama and the tears over a lost library book and then the very full day across town serving refugee women in my city.

After a long pause, I answered, “I spent the first 30 –something years of my life wavering between the pain of the past and chasing the American Dream and I was always asking God the same kinds of questions–to help me, to heal me, to give me more of something.

But when I changed the question to  “What can I do for you, God? Instead of what can you do for me? He answered.

When I stopped trying to fix my problems and tried to help others fix theirs, God helped me. He healed me. He gave me something deeper and more fulfilling than I could have dreamed. I’m overwhelmed and tired, but I don’t want to live any other way.”

If I had to name a regret in my life—it would be this: That I didn’t discover the breathtaking beauty of serving others sooner.

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It’s not only helped other people; it’s helped me.

Continue reading at (in)courage….

 

WFMW: The Two Words That Changed My Life {Giveaway}

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Today, we are taking a break from our Yes Works For Me stories, so I can share with you two words that have changed my life and give away a beautiful word to one of you. Make sure you leave a comment as your entry!

[Updated with Winner: Congrats to Hannah, random commenter #311]

We had just finished speaking, Maureen and I, tag-teaming, sharing the Mercy House story over and over the past few weeks. We not only wanted to bring awareness to the countless impoverished women in the world, we also wanted to inspire people hearing our words to join the story.

The lady waited her turn and pulled me aside afterwards, “What really changed your life? What woke you up? What was it?”

It’s a hard question. But the answer came easily.

Two words, I whisper.

I love words.  I love reading them. I love writing them.

But mostly, I love living them.

They are powerful. They speak death or give life.

Words guide us.

For nearly 5 years, two words have led my feet on a hard, beautiful journey. I’ve gone deeper than I ever wanted, stretched further than I thought possible and been more fulfilled than I ever dreamed.

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Love. Mercy.

I love these two words… I understand love. I long for mercy. I can give both to others.

These two words have changed my life.

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And the lives of others.

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Don’t think for a moment that your words aren’t important.

Your words matters.

What you say with your lips, write on a screen, scribble in a book, jot in a thank you note, they are powerful.

When we start with The Word. Our words can change the world.

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Dayspring’s new (in)Courage Words Matter Letterpress Blocks are stunning. They chose the two words for me that are now hanging over my bed for me. I cried when I opened the mail.

Today, they are giving away $50 to one of you because your words matter. 

Click below to look at the awesome variety of letters:

Leave a comment with “your word” as your entry.

Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor

I was getting ready to leave for a trip to Kenya a couple of years ago, when a church emailed and asked if Mercy House had any specific needs. I quickly responded and told them I wanted to give Maureen, our Kenyan Director, an iPhone, so we could communicate during (almost weekly) power outages. I told them if they would buy one instead, we could use the money for other needed items.

On the church’s Facebook feed a few days later, I saw an appeal that said something like, “We want to support a ministry with a used iPhone. If you have an old one you can donate, please let us know.”

I was given an older iPhone a week later. On the ground in Kenya, I realized it wouldn’t hold a charge for more than 10 minutes. The phone was junk.

So, when I left Kenya, I gave Maureen my used one that worked.

The church contacted me after the trip and asked how Maureen liked her new phone? I told them it was useless and said, “Don’t worry about it. I gave her mine.”

“Oh, we feel badly, please let us replace your phone! We want to buy you a brand new one, an upgrade. You deserve it,” I told them I used my husband’s upgrade and already had a replacement phone. “Ok. Instead we would like to write you a $500 check for the inconvenience.”

Give it to Maureen, I said.

And they did.

Dear World Lets Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor

While the church tried to make it right, I was bothered by the fact they were more than willing to buy me a new phone I didn’t need. I have noticed this mentality permeates the Church as a whole: The poor will be happy with our leftovers. They don’t know any better. They live in Africa or Honduras, they don’t need the latest technology or the best brands like we do.  They will appreciate anything we give because something is more than nothing.

Why do we give others-often those in service to the poor or the poor themselves-something we wouldn’t keep or give ourselves?

Somehow collecting clothes for immigrants has become the perfect opportunity to get rid of stuff we don’t want and gathering baby items for new moms is the perfect excuse to toss out stained and worn clothing we wouldn’t dare use again. I’ve packed suitcases with beautiful donations, but mostly I’ve pilfered through piles of junk donated in the name of Jesus.

It’s time to stop giving our crap to the poor.

There’s nothing wrong with used or second-hand. It’s often my first and favorite choice. Many organizations and ministries depend on used gifts. But if we give used, it should be our best.  I’m not saying when we clean out older clothes or toys or things we don’t use any longer and donate them–that this is wrong. I am saying if we give it away, it should be something we would use ourselves.

The poor may not have wealth, but they have dignity. I’ve met people without electricity or running water who swept their dirt floors daily, pressed their clothes neatly, walked miles to work on muddy roads, dodging sewage and never had a speck of dirt on them. They value their own worth, we should too.

I’ll never forget meeting a woman in Africa who supported her large family by reselling used clothes from America. But when she held up clothes to show me what was for sale– clothes Americans had donated in clothing drives–they were tattered and stained. I was embarrassed.

Her best depended on our worst.

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Just because our donation feels like we are helping, in reality, we could be hurting. Bales of used clothes are sold to African countries for resell and they end up flooding the market and often put local textile businesses and seamstresses out of business.

It’s time to think about not only what we give and how we give it, but also why we give it. Just because it makes us feel better (and cleans out our garage at the same time), doesn’t mean it’s the best for those in need. Perhaps we should look a little deeper into our hearts and wallets when we can say, I don’t have money to give to the poor, but I have a lot of stuff. Maybe we need to buy less stuff, so we have more to give?

“We’re not giving what we’re called to give, unless that giving affects how we live — affects what we put on our plate and where we make our home and hang our hat and what kind of threads we’ve got to have on our back. Surplus Giving is the leftover you can afford to give; Sacrificial Giving is the love gift that changes how you live — because the love of Christ has changed you. God doesn’t want your leftovers. God wants your love overtures, your first-overs, because He is your first love.” -Ann Voskamp

There have been times over the years, I’ve gasped and grinned at the beautiful items I’ve sorted and packed  for the impoverished. When we give our best, we are living our best. We are saying with our donation, you are valuable. We are whispering with our gift, you are worthy of the best. We have the opportunity to speak self worth when we give generously.

It’s a promise for them.

It’s a promise for us.

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”- Proverbs 19:17

The next time we have the opportunity to share what we have with someone who is in need. let’s give from the pile we want to keep, not from the one we want to throw out.

photo credit

A Love Story: 3 Things Every Father Needs to Tell His Daughter

Everything’s bigger in Texas.

Including giving and wearing mums at high school homecoming football games. Have y’all heard of this crazy, often over-the-top southern tradition?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mums, it can just be excessive like so many other things in our culture. You could say I’m not a big mum fan. Pun intended.

But I’m not a freshman in high school either. And my daughter is. She casually mentioned her friends were wearing them to the upcoming Homecoming football game, some had boyfriends, others were making their own, and I couldn’t help but note the longing in her voice. When she asked me what I thought, I said, “I think it’s silly to wear one just because everyone else is. You’re going to have fun with your girlfriends and the band. Why not wait to get one until it’s special?” She agreed and we didn’t talk about it again.

I never mentioned the conversation to my husband.

So, I was surprised two days before the game when Terrell whispered in the middle of the night how he was thinking about our daughter, “You know homecoming is this weekend. Our girl is nearly 15 and even though she won’t be dating for awhile, I want to be the one to give her a first mum. I want to be her first date and show her how she should be treated.”

Early the next morning before a long work day getting ready for the Mercy House Gala, my handsome cowboy went and shopped and brought home his first mum for his first daughter.

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And when he walked into the house with the big maroon and white floral ribboned thing, I cried.

Because what I dismissed as a silly tradition, he saw as an opportunity to teach our daughter about love.

When he showed her and explained, she gasped and hugged him. And I’ll never forget the look between those two. He said, “I want to be your first.”

And she said, “You already are.”

She ran off to text her friends and tell them about her dad’s gift and she proudly wore it to school on Homecoming day. It’s hanging in the closet because she wants to wear it again next year.

I fell in love with Terrell again that day. In the scope of our busy lives, this is a small thing. Unnecessary. Even extravagant.

Which is exactly why it was such a big deal to her.

A father’s relationship with his daughter is one of the most crucial in her life. And while it may change from toddler to tween to teen, she needs him in every phase and stage.

3 things every father needs to tell his daughter

3 Things Every Daughter Needs to Hear From Her Father:

  1. You can trust me| Daughters need to know that no matter how high their highs are or how low their lows are, Dad will be there. She is learning who she is and she’s constantly changing. But knowing she can count on her father to listen and love no matter her mood, will help her confidence.
  2. You’re beautiful| The correlation between a girl’s self esteem and her relationship with her father can’t be denied. Even on her worst hair day, she needs to know her dad thinks she is beautiful. It’s part of her discovery that true beauty really doesn’t depend on fashion or a clear complexion. It starts with what is inside.
  3. You’re valuable | Value is not a message our culture will teach our daughters. Girls are treated like either owned objects or sex symbols in just about every corner of the world. She begins to understand her value at her father’s knee. She needs her dad to tell her.

He made her day.

And that made mine.

The Mercy Marathon #Milesformercy

This summer I met Chrystal Evans Hurst at the Declare Conference. She had an idea- a creative way to say yes in her mess. I loved her story and thought you might enjoy it too. She started #milesformercy and it isn’t just for runners, it’s for anyone who has a yes in them. After chatting and falling in love with this lady, I discovered she was Tony Evans daughter! I’m excited about her yes to God. 

by Chrystal Evans Hurst

It all started the morning I went for a run and met Linnette.

Well… technically I guess it started before that. I guess it started when I decided to run a marathon.
I have no idea what got into me and why on earth I’d attempt such a thing. I don’t consider myself a runner.

I’m too slow. SUPER S-L-O-W.

But I go out there and put one foot in front of the other.
On one of the days I was out there doing my “so-called-running,” training for a marathon, and preparing my body for the torture of running for 26.2 miles, I connected with a local running group and met Linnette.
She was running easily and we struck up a conversation.I let her do most of the talking.

In fact, I asked her questions so that she would indeed do most of the talking. One of those questions was to ask her about her motivation for running. Was she training for a marathon? Was she trying to lose weight? Was she seeking to check something off her bucket list?

While Linnette was running because it was good for her body, that wasn’t the only reason she was running.
She told me that for every mile she ran, she went home and put $1 in a jar.
I quickly did the math.

Six miles a run. Three runs a week. Twenty bucks every seven days. Eighty dollars a month.

I started getting excited about the idea of saving eighty dollars to regularly reward myself for putting in the work.
My brain immediately started calculating how I could easily earn a massage, treat myself to a pedicure, or indulge in more runner’s paraphernalia.
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But Linnette quickly brought me down off of cloud nine when she proceeded to inform me that she didn’t spend that money on herself. She explained that, every few months, after the jar was filled to overflowing, she emptied the jar, collected the cash, and delivered it to her local pregnancy center.
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Linnette wasn’t just running for herself.

Linnette was also running for others.

She was putting in the miles so that the blessing of her healthy heart and her healthy life might overflow to the hearts and lives of others.

As I ran, ever-so-slowly, I processed the reality of what this woman shared with me. And honestly, at that moment, I felt like a cold-hard criminal. There I was… running next to an angel basically and realizing how far my thoughts had been from blessing another person with my efforts.
Now… that conversation didn’t change everything.

Yes. I’m still running for me. I like the race. Running is a part of my journey to steal my life back.

But in running to encourage myself, stretch my own limits, and move beyond my comfort zones… I’ve found myself wanting to encourage others too… just like Linnette.

So I contemplated running for a variety of different organizations. I asked around. I googled. I researched. I found a lot of potential groups to partner with but nothing seemed to fit. Nothing felt right.

And then I found out about the Mercy House…And it was my story… half a world away.

Something deep stirred within me.
Why?

Because I was an unwed teen mom. And even though I live on this side of the globe, it wasn’t easy. The hurt in my heart was overwhelming and the realities of living that life seemed insurmountable at times. But I did have help. I did have support. I did have a family and community of people who were willing to encourage me and love me as I tried to get on my feet.

These girls, almost 9000 miles away on the other side of the world, are in my same predicament…
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Except they are unwed teen mom’s not living in America with a teen pregnancy center available to them or a 1-800 number to call. Many of them do not have the support of their family and are instead encouraged by their loved ones and communities to abort their babies. They are encouraged to choose their next meal over motherhood.
There is no one to give them encouragement and love as they seek to get on their feet. Until Mercy House. Every girl who steps through the door of the Mercy House is offered hope in Jesus Christ.

When I watched the Mercy House video, then later met Kristen personally, I knew this was the organization I wanted to support. I figured that in my running for me, I could also help others by raising money and awareness for an organization that was doing what I would love to do many miles away on the other side of the globe.

I had found my cause… #MilesforMercy
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In the weeks to come, I’ll run and contribute $1 for every mile from now until my marathon on December 14th, 2014.
I’m running… but my upcoming marathon is not gonna be just about me. I’m running a marathon and the miles I run will be #MilesforMercy.

I figure if I can buy the shoes, buy the water belts, and pay the marathon entry fee, I can spend some money changing the life of another girl that I will probably never meet.
Maybe, like me, you might donate a dollar a dime or a penny for every mile you run, walk, or bike. Maybe you don’t want hit the pavement but are willing to donate in conjunction with my runs as I chronicle my marathon journey via social media.

Either way, I’d love for you to join me on my #MilesforMercy journey so that we can touch the life of young girls who needs our support. I’m stealing my life back and I’m overjoyed at helping girls on the other side of the globe, steal their lives back too.
Act Justly. Walk Humbly. Love Mercy.
#MilesforMercy
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Do you want to run for Mercy House too?
Enter #MilesforMercy in the “instructions for sellers” box so we can keep track of how much we raise!)

photo source