The Two Questions Every North American 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 pantry 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 US 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.

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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.


What Our Yes Really Means

I opened the door and two friends looked up from tagging jewelry in the Mercy House building that sits in my backyard.  Both pregnant with eight month swollen bellies touching the table in front of them, both serving on a Thursday night, both due within a couple of days of each other.

I handed them a list and paused when one of my friends asked, “Do you ever get tired of saying yes?”

It’s one of those heavy questions.

It’s hard to answer.

It changes every day.

It doesn’t change at all.

My yes to God isn’t what I thought it would be.

Joy in a Kenyan Slum

Joy in a Kenyan Slum

But is it ever? Our any of the yes’ we say in this life safe and fun and everything we’d hoped they would be? God has a way or shielding us from seeing and knowing too much.

My yes to marriage isn’t what I thought it would be. It has been harder and better than I ever dreamed.

My yes to motherhood has been filled with my most challenging moments and also my proudest. How can we know what that tiny baby will do to us?

When we say yes to marriage, to parenthood, to God, what we are really saying is, I am committed.

Because we don’t know how long the nights will be,

Or how far love will take us or how quickly the feelings will flee,

We aren’t promised our babies will be born healthy or stay that way,

We don’t know unemployment is around the bend, with grouchy teens and sleepless nights.

We can’t imagine our yes will take us back to the slum that broke our hearts again and again.

Yes is our choice to live.

Sometimes there’s a long pause between the question and answer.

It might be heartache.

Doubt and disbelief.

It could be weariness.

Overwhelming work.

Or fear.

“I do. I get tired of my yes,” I answered my friend after a long pause. “But my yes in the good times, the bad times, the ups and downs, the beauty and the ashes, still means yes.”

No matter what.

Because where my yes ends, He begins.


It’s All in Who You Know

It happened twice this month.

The people doing it didn’t know their choice not to include me, hurt.

I was left out as a general oversight or a purposeful decision.

Both cut the same.

It’s not the sort of grief that comes with loss or sorrow, it’s the quiet pain we women know so well. Exclusion.

It’s an old war wound in me that resurfaces when I least expect it. Usually when I think I’m a victor over the battle.

But, then there it is. Again.

It starts in the pit of my stomach and grows to become A Thing in my mind. After I’ve thought of every possible angle and excuse, it settles in my heart, like a big brick. And I lug that heavy burden around and see my life thru it’s lens. The feelings that come with being left out (of a group, event, party, initiative, community, you name it) have way more to do with me than anyone else.

I know this.

As I started digging around in my heart, I discovered something ugly. I saw beneath the layers –pride. I recognized it as a desire for my name to be KNOWN.

to be known

I don’t long to see my name in lights, I’m way too introverted for that, but I want people to read my blog, to buy my book coming out next year, to support Mercy House—all good things.  But it’s a slippery slope when you start out wanting to MAKE HIS NAME KNOWN and discover a longing for yours to be known, too.

When you write a blog, run a non-profit, or say yes to anything big, you often hear these four words: Who do you know?

They seem harmless enough, but when those 4 little words are said to me, this is what I hear: You are not enough.

I don’t have a list of power players or big names. I am small with a quiet voice in this noisy world. I am unknown and I remind myself I wasn’t even on The List or invited to The Event and the wound festers.

I confessed some of this to my husband one night. I told him how I should have been a part and asked why wouldn’t they include me? He said, “You don’t love speaking or crowds or traveling. Would you really have gone?”

I found my answer in my answer, “Well, probably not. But I just wanted to be invited. I wanted to be recognized.”

And there it is uncovered, ugly, staring me in the face: PRIDE.

I found my knees. I asked God to root out this desire to be known that only left me feeling unknown. I prayed, “search me and know me God. Forgive me.”

Because really, I don’t want to be known by the world. I don’t want them to see that I can use my words to hurt others. I don’t want them to know I tend to hold a grudge or lose my cool. I don’t really want my insecurity to define me. My husband and children know the real me. They’ve smelled my morning breath and seen my funky bed head.

And God whispers, “I know you.”

He sees when I sit, when I rise, when I make my bed in Hell, when I serve or give without telling the other hand what I’m doing. He knows me whether I want Him to or not.

He’s beckoning me out of the spotlight and into His light.

So, ask me who I know. The list is short. It’s not very impressive. It won’t land me on a panel of big names or a bestseller list.

But I know Him.

And even better He knows me.


When God Gives Us More Than We Can Handle

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

I’ve heard the words my entire life.

I may have even said them a time or two.

And I’ve believed a lie.

I can’t say the words any longer to a mom who has buried her child or a teen girl who has traded sex for food so her siblings wouldn’t starve and I can’t look into the face of Maureen and tell her she’s strong enough to handle tragically losing half her family, and continues to suffer beyond understanding.

Because that’s more than anyone can handle.

The words aren’t even Biblical. Actually, the Bible promises us hardship in this life and tells story after story of suffering.

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:8,9)

If that doesn’t speak of despair and being thrown more than can be handled, I don’t know what does. We are promised tribulation and persecution in this life. We might even die (or feel like it). But He is made strong in our weakness. John 16:33 “…In Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

And He has endured every sorrow we may carry.

The purpose of our pain is to make us rely on God, so that His great power is made evident in our weakness–when we can’t handle another thing.

When we are able to continue and survive with peace in the midst of tribulation, others won’t see us. They will see Him.

“Not once have I danced around our house shouting, “Yeah suffering!”  Instead, in the midst of pain and hurt, I am actively expecting God to do something.  I don’t know what.  I don’t know when.  But I am expecting the God of resurrection to heal us.  I am expecting God to restore us.  I am expecting him to redeem this situation.  I am expecting him to do this and so I will be actively looking and waiting for him to do something.  I believe expectant waiting can only happen when we exchange our feeble platitudes for an authentic faith that engages God with the full brunt of our emotion and pain.  Only then can salvation been seen.” -Nate Pyle

So, Maureen, today as you look in the face of fear and need more Jesus, instead of saying “you can bare this,” I’m going to say, “as you bare this, you aren’t alone.” And somehow, someway He makes things good.

Because that’s the truth we are promised.


Why We Always Keep an Empty Bed

We keep an empty bed at Mercy House.

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Even when we are overwhelmed and understaffed.

Even when Rotovirus runs through the house and lands three babies in the hospital for three days and the unexpected bills add up.

Even when we don’t think we can handle one more thing.

It’s our tangible step of faith. We openly declare that God is building this house and we will depend on Him to meet our needs.

And He has every time.

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Violet’s Story

Twice now, the empty beds have been filled with girls we didn’t expect.

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Edith’s Story

I don’t consider myself brave.

I still marvel at how we built something from nothing.

But I’ve learned even scared people can say yes.

And I’m reminded who’s really in charge.

Our scaredy-cat yes encourages other frightened people to do the same.

brave

I look at young girls who came to us more desperate than you can imagine, alone and terrified. I’ve watched them transform, one brave, shaky step at a time. They have worked through their inner turmoil, fallen in love with a child they didn’t want, learned skills that will provide for their futures.

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They are courageous and they make me want to say yes again and again.

Even when I’m scared of the unknown, overwhelmed with mothering and just life.

Our empty bed is actually a mattress on the floor right now. We have 20 full beds and cribs.

It looks like God is sending us another scared mom-to-be this weekend.

So, we are having 2 iron beds made. One for the mattress on the floor.

And one to keep empty.

I think when we leave room for God to show up, He does.

[Our 9th baby was born this week! He's a miracle]