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]


Quiet Faithfulness and Its Reward

He gets up at 4:30 a.m. most mornings, gets dressed in the dark, returns from pushing his body to its limits with Crossfit in his fight against diabetes. I start my day nearly 2 hours later, often to the bath water he runs for me or the sound of him making school lunches.

I am married to a good man.

We met in Bible College more than 20 years ago. I married a Pastor, we served The Church together the first nine years of our marriage.

When we left full time ministry nearly a decade ago, we were desperate for a break and a breakthrough. We ended up discovering a whole lot of brokenness. While we loved working together (offices next door and some killer youth illustrated sermons and vacation bible schools), our glass house needed some attention.

So we quit the only thing we knew how to do.

And spent the next five years finding Jesus in the broken places.

faithful

What started out temporary ended up being transforming and more permanent than we could have imagined.

Those first 5 months out of ministry were like a breath of fresh air. They were also terrifying. We were jobless and homeless (staying in a family member’s rent house). On the sixth month, my husband got a job offer.

He took it and has had the same job for 9 years and 4 months. That’s sort of a long break. And I’m pretty sure we can’t call it a break any longer.

So, this pastor-turned-sales-rep reinvented himself. He is smart and hard-working. And his daily faithfulness to the mundane takes my breath away.

My husband’s dedication to his secular job is the only reason we were able to start Mercy House three years ago. His hard work and consistency provides for our family, and has offered me the freedom to serve without being paid.

I’m still married to a pastor. He shepherds our family. He prays with co-workers and shines Jesus in his work. He is a light in our dark world. He spends evenings and many weekends quietly serving in the work of Mercy House.

It has been a hard road. One with turns and obstacles we didn’t expect.

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” -John Piper

But Jesus has been with us down every path. And as we dream of the future and ask God for direction, His invisible hand guides us. For His glory.

Hindsight is enlightening. God rewards faithfulness. Here’s what I’m learning:

  • God uses our brokenness for His purpose
  • What He puts back together, heals stronger.
  • Loving people is a full time ministry (title, position, pay, not necessary)
  • God plots our course for His glory.
  • There are setbacks and tragedies in our journey.
  • But there are also rewards (and sometimes they look like Hawaii!)

[P.S. We just found out that after nearly 10 years on the job, my husband earned a once-in-a-lifetime trip for two to Hawaii in August for being one of the top 10 sales reps in his company.. We are going to Hawaii!]