How to See God in a New Year

I have been mulling over my word for this New Year, waiting for an epiphany. Last year it was Faith, the year before Mercy. Those words chose me.

And so I’ve waited and pondered. Do I choose what I hope to see or do or what I am or was? Or maybe I just skip it this year… Can my word be Tired? 

But then in a dark, unlikely place, my word for 2013 found me.

I sat in the movie theater, my sister on one side, my husband on the other. I held my breath at the beauty of Les Miserables on the screen. I’ve heard about this musical my entire life, whispers from Broadway and floating notes from memorable music, but I wasn’t expecting to feel this remarkable story of redemption, grace, adoption so deeply.

I’m not the typical fan of musicals. I prefer talking to singing any day. I also rarely recommend movies.

But.

This epic love story is my redemption story, It’s for every broken person. And whether you read it, see it, or sing it, it’s a story for you.

As I watched a criminal find healing and hope by loving an orphaned child, and as he gave selflessly to her his entire life, I gripped my seat. And then these words found me:

“To Love Another Person is to See the Face of God” – Les Miserables

The truth pierced my heart and in that dark theater with buttered popcorn abounding, I cried.

Because I realized this: The greatest moments in my life have come from loving others. It’s tenderly caring my sick child, selflessly giving to my husband, sponsoring one more child, giving one more dollar to help, making one more meal for another, befriending one more lonely person…

This is when I have seen God.

But I don’t always choose love. Some days I ignore the prodding and I push away the appeal to love. I am selfish and lazy and more human than I want to admit.

I long to see Him, to know Him and loving others is the pathway to God.

My word for 2013 is love.

It’s perhaps the most common word, confused with lust, tangled with like. But to love , to sell your hair or a tooth to feed your hungry child, to take a dying mother’s baby as your own, to offer grace to someone who deserves condemning, to hold your tongue with your spouse, offer grace to your wayward child, to give away money to support someone in need, to love another more than you love yourself, this will lead you to God every time.

I often ignore opportunities to love, to speak softly to my kids, listen closer to my husband, reach out to a hurting friend.

But I’m choosing Love more often.

It’s how we will find God in this New Year.


Never Once Has He Left Me Alone or On My Own

We drove in traffic across town to meet my twin sister and parents for the best Mexican food in Texas. You can only turn 40 years old with fajitas and a mariachi band.

I clutched a tattered Kleenex and felt the tears well up again. Just an hour before, while standing in my kitchen, handing out after-school snacks to my kids, an email came and with it a gift from God and I am still reeling from it.

He is continuing to bless Mercy House, the crazy dream we said yes to two years ago. The blessings keep coming in waves. And 2013 is going to be amazing. We will be able to help more pregnant girls and continue to work towards a permanent home in Kenya for our present girls and babies and many others.

This past week has been hard for our world. We feel the kind of sadness that we can’t shake with Christmas shopping or birthdays. My soul yearns for His Kingdom.

I have scars from this struggle.

There are wounded, dark places in my heart where I’m tempted to believe I’m alone.

But standing there in my kitchen, I felt His presence. Emmanuel, God with me, us-in joy and sorrow. The gift He gave wasn’t so much about a tangible present (although it was), it was His Presence. He reminded me (again) that He is with me.

I closed the door to my bedroom and knelt beside my bed and I sobbed. On my birthday.  Happy, hard tears. I wept for good news in an email and bad news in our world, joy and sorrow mixed and mostly, I cried because He was right there with me in both.

And I’m learning more the true meaning of Christmas: He is God on the mountaintop and God in the valley. The heartbeat of Christmas is God with us. All the time.

My husband held my hand as he navigated traffic, kids in the backseat, all hungry for refried beans and celebration and he played this song on the radio:

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

-10,000 Reasons

The road blurred and tears dripped off my chin, overwhelmed with His abounding faithfulness, even when I don’t understand, carry unanswered questions, He is here. Never once has He left me alone or on my own.

I don’t know if you’re on the mountaintop this holy season or struggling on the battlefield, I waffle between both. But wherever you are, He is there. That is the essence of Christmas, unwrapping Jesus, God with us.


What Christmas is Really About

I try to see it thru her eyes: the wonder of Christmas.

I try to shield her from the darkness in our world. The evil that would dare destroy innocent children during Advent.

She only knows what I’ve told her, her viewfinder is so narrow.

Time and space are still abstract in her 6 year old thoughts. She thinks hard and asks if I remember my first Christmas with her Daddy because 18 years ago is like 100 in her mind.

Yes! I say. And then she wonders aloud, “Was that the year Jesus was born?”

I smile and realize I look really good for my age, she is embarrassed at her question, but it gives me a greater glimpse into her understanding.  And I can’t tell her everything because I want to protect her as long as possible.

But we’ve made our lives about this Jesus. And momma? What is Christmas really about?

We tell stories, sing songs, read Scripture, light candles, we limit gifts, talk about His birthday, but what is Christmas really about? Her question pierces thru the annual visit to Santa, the stockings hung with care. It dims the twinkly lights and it begs me to answer.

Her question makes me question my own answers. Because I don’t have them for the horrifying events our world saw unfold in an elementary school last week.

I ask the same question.

What is Christmas really about?

I can’t shake the sadness that comes with the death of innocent children, the empty arms of parents, the evil of our world. The joy of the season has dimmed and my heart cries one phrase.

O Come Emmanuel

I try to describe the stable, the smells, the sacred moment when Heaven kissed earth. I try to shield my children from the darkness that makes no place safe. Our Pastor tells of the 400 years between prophecy and fulfillment.

The quiet.

The long waiting.

The expectancy.

The desperate world.

The longing for a Savior.

The evil men who threatened the unborn Messiah

The need for Him to come.

He was born into poverty, he was unwanted by this world, evidenced in his lowly stinking surroundings. His coming foreshadowed what was to come.

Jesus came 2000 years ago–just when the world needed Him. The earth held her breath in expectancy. Waiting, hoping.

We live in a world that has pushed him away, banned him. But He is still exactly what we need.

Our world cries out for justice, peace, for Him.

O Come Emmanuel.

And that’s what Christmas is about.

It’s a foreshadowing for us today. Because we desperately need Jesus to come again.

I pull her close and I whisper, praying it’s imparted in her soul. I try to protect my children from the darkness that seeks to destroy. I try not to be afraid of it myself. Jesus comes when we need Him most. He arrives when we can’t hang on another moment. He delivers us from the enemy, He rescues us from ourselves.

Christmas is about Him coming.

And it brings with it the great foreshadowing that He will come again.

O Come Emmanuel.

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As our world grieves the Connecticut massacre, we hold fast to Jesus. I join millions of others, lifting up these precious families during this Holy season.


Why Every Family Needs a Mission Statement {Project}

I’m terrible at directions.

Getting lost is a way of life for me.

Before I drive to a new place, I print out clear instructions and program my hubby’s GPS to yell in my ear, TURN HERE.

Recomputing.

I have to know where I’m going or I wander and turn around often, take long roads out of the way and end up lost.

If you don’t know where you are going, you might have a difficult time getting there.

I firmly believe it’s the same with our families.

Our family sat down and wrote out a family mission statement towards the end of 2009. (I shared a simple formula here, but if you don’t know where to start, Simple Mom wrote a great post about putting one together with your family.) We didn’t really have profound reasons for doing so, we just wanted to verbalize our goals as family. We decided to try and make our activities, time spent and ultimately, our lives flow from this statement.

To make a difference in the world, a single light, shining brightly in such a way that we keep Jesus our focus, listen closely to His voice & enjoy life. So that we can say at the end of the day, we’ve touched others & thrived.

Three months after we typed this up and framed it, I traveled to Kenya. I truly believe this simple exercise helped direct our family in saying yes to God. It gave us direction when big decisions were in front of us.

For months, I’ve been wanting to move our family missions statement from paper to hanging on the wall, loud and large. I thought about putting it on a canvas (which I discovered is quite expensive).  But instead, this felt right (and was nearly free!):

This project took about two hours and very few supplies. I had a lot of fun being creative with the help and input from my family.

Supplies:

pallet (you can usually find old pallets behind stores. We just asked if we could have one and got it for free).

paint, sponge brush

stencil letters

I thought about hanging ours on a big open wall, but once we set it on the mantle, it turned out to be the perfect home.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” -Ernest Hemingway

So, whatever you do, be aware that you’re leading your family to a destination. Having clear instructions helps you find your way!


Don’t Spend Your Life On What Doesn’t Matter

There has never been a time like we live in now.

In my daughter’s public junior high, they don’t use textbooks, students can access the information online and they communicate homework and reminders thru texts. Small children maneuver (and own) Apple products instead of toys. Pinterest has changed the lives of women (who don’t like what their husband is watching on TV) everywhere. It’s becoming rare not to see someone attached to a phone or a device of some kind.

In this technology age, there are more distractions bombarding us then ever before.

I’m not against these advances and enjoy many of them, but the risk of wasting our time and our life on what doesn’t matter grows with every distraction.

We live distracted lives and we allow it because it’s become the norm. And it’s not like it’s sinful, right?

“Sin isn’t only doing bad things. It’s turning good things, into ultimate things.” -Jason Johnson

The risk is turning something good into our main focus, which in the end is bad.

And when our focus becomes stuff or devices that help us organize, acquire, manipulate, our stuff, we make them our idol. Idolatry is spending your life on what doesn’t matter.

God shows us mercy by allowing things to disappoint us, it’s there in the letdown where we discover the power our stuff has over us.

Focusing on things that don’t matter will always lead to disappointment. Whether it’s obsessively decorating our house (I’ve been there) or shopping and shopping and shopping for more, more, more (been there too), in the end, when the buzz is gone, we still want more and the temptation to “redecorate” or “restyle” magnifies.

“Remember you have one life. That’s all. You were made for God. Don’t waste it.” -John Piper

We were made for another world and this one will never truly satisfy. It only brings temporary satisfaction and we hunger for something more sustainable.

It’s when we find the passion of our lives, the passion that exalts Jesus, that’s where we are satisfied.

Free 8×10 Printable: Do Not Waste Your Life
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Together for Adoption in Atlanta next weekend!

I’ll be there. Will you?