The Best Way to Discover Which Way to Go

When my kids were young, we moved from the lush green hills of Arkansas to the brown rocky landscape of New Mexico.

I didn’t recognize the beauty in either place, until I left them.

The Sandia Mountains  in the desert of New Mexico

It was the season when I did nothing for anyone.

Including myself.

I felt like I lived in circles. Doing the same thing I did the day before. And just thankful to get through it.

I was tired and life was hard.  I was stuck in a job I hated. Struggling in a broken marriage and the monotony of motherhood. I was always looking for the next “big thing” in my life to give me a temporary high. Sometimes it was shopping, sometimes it was eating.

Sometimes nothing worked.

Now when I look back, I don’t see wasted time. I see fertile ground.

Because sometimes you have to get so sick of your life, your mess, your view that you begin seeing those around you.

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God’s Mission for the Family is Expanding God’s Family

I wasn’t even home yet when I heard words that made me cringe.

“I love what your family is doing, but we could never do that. We are just too _______ [insert one of 1000 reasons].

The statement makes me uncomfortable, but I also understand it.

I feel the same way about 365 days a year. “I can’t do this mission. Our family is too human. We don’t know what we’re doing, I can’t even keep up with laundry. I yell at my kids. We are argue and live this grace thing out in ugly ways some days…”

My list of “I can’t and I shouldn’t” is endless.

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But living on mission doesn’t start with doing something for God. It begins with what He has done for us.

The question isn’t Is my family called to a mission?

That question has already been answered.

It’s simple really. God has called all of us-families included-to welcome others into His family.

God’s mission for the family is expanding God’s family.” -Ann Dunagan

We are called to GO.

Click to read in its entirety at (in)courage….

Be Brave Today

Sometimes my family sits around the TV with a big bowl of popcorn and we watch movies.

Home movies. The kind we made years ago with a video recorder when my now teens were toddlers.

This stroll down memory lane makes my kids laugh. They point at our big hair and wild clothes and their childish antics. It makes me realize how fast time has flown, how old I’ve gotten and how many times I used to say “be careful” to my adventurous children.

No, seriously. In every video, I say it over and over. Don’t get too close to the edge. Watch the waves. Don’t get in over your head.

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I am not brave.

I like safety. I like control. I like comfort.

When I said yes to God, I didn’t know where it would take me, but I knew I couldn’t live another day for myself, in my safe “be careful” world. I didn’t know leaving behind my known comfortable life and the American Dream would take me on a journey of wild obedience.

But it has.

There has never been a wild thing about me–not my hair, my clothes, my lifestyle, my past. Nothing. I have always lived a calculated, well-planned, safe life.

But now, with a God-sized yes tucked under my belt, people assume I am courageous.

(Click to continue reading over at (in)courage)

Four Things We Can Do in Our Pain to Help Ourselves and Our Neighbors

My husband reached for his phone and his finger paused mid-dial. I turned to ask him who he was calling, but I stopped as a shadow of grief clouded his face and I knew . . . for just a split second, he forgot she was gone.

I put my hand over his and reminded him forgetting was also part of healing.

Losing Rhonda, my husband’s sister and my dear friend, left a void in our family two years ago. Life has moved on, like it tends to do, but it’s different without her amazing laugh and fun personality. Grief is the kind of pain that constantly changes but never completely goes away. It’s the kind of pain you have to live with.

Pain is often the norm in our lives, not the exception. Think about all the seasons of life and how each brings beauty and happiness and often pain along with it. I once heard we wouldn’t recognize joy if we didn’t first know pain. We experience it in so many ways — through physical suffering, depression, financial struggles, betrayal, new seasons, and grief.

Pain feels helpless. And sometimes hopeless.

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Recently, our family took the challenge of memorizing Psalm 23 together. My husband and I learned it as children, but it was fun to relearn the passage with our kids as we quoted it verse-by-verse around the dinner table. As I listened to my 8 year old say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” she stopped and asked, “What does that mean?”

“It means that every life will have valleys of pain, but Jesus is with us, so we’ll be okay,” I answered.

Continue reading over at (in)courage…

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.

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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.

there is only one love language

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

Continue reading at (in)courage….

 

How Are You? Really.

My thoughts were a million miles away and I didn’t even hear her call my name the first time.

When she said it the second time, I realized I’d been lost in thought.

“Hey, Kristen! How are you?” We were new friends.

On the outside, I had it together. But there was a swirling storm inside. I looked better than I felt.

I was living out my yes to God. But I was having a hard day. I was tired and overwhelmed. I had more questions than answers and mostly, I felt so alone. I was facing impossibilities and I just wanted to quit.

“How are you?” People ask that question all the time. It’s a greeting, something to fill an awkward pause. But few wait for an answer.

This day, my friend did. She asked and then she waited.

Maybe I was desperate for the waiting. Maybe it was the kind of day where tears just brim. Maybe she really cared.

I believed the last and I decided to tell her exactly how I was doing.

I shared my burden, the struggle, the unknowns. The dark clouds began to clear.

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Sometimes healing starts with a question.

I let her in. And she tasted my brokenness. As I wiped my tears and apologized for my awkward answer slash confession, she asked me what I wanted to happen. How did I want God to answer this big question mark in my life?

And so I told her. I confessed a dream I had told few people–a big, impossible dream, a best case scenario answer. I felt silly saying it out loud.

But I also felt bold. Like speaking it meant something.

She listened and then she did something so powerful. She didn’t say, “I’ll pray for you.” She prayed for me. Right there, in a hallway, with people passing by. She grabbed my hands and asked God for the impossible on my behalf.

Nothing changed. But everything was different. I felt like I had let someone in and more importantly, laid the weight of burden down.

That was nearly a year ago.

Last weekend, I saw my friend again for the first time since my hallway blubberfest.

And I got to share the most profound news with her….

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You Are Where You Are For a Reason

We sat on the lush green lawn next to the sprawling manor and let the sun warm us.

July in Kenya is cold.

The Mercy House babies toddled and giggled offering us flowers from the nearby bushes, while their teen moms finished lunch.

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It looked like just another Thursday in Africa. But it was more. It was miraculous.

The wind whipped through the willow trees and blew petals from the flowering plants and it was as if nature itself bowed down at the holiness of what God had done.

A houseful of transformed residents. Six new pregnant girls. New babies coming in the fall. Two beautiful homes paid for by a bunch of mothers. Glorious. For His Glory.

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The task still seems more daunting than ever–our first HIV case, 12, 13 and 14 year old pregnant girls, reaching beyond our walls into the neighboring slum to help a dozen more teen mothers. But God can do anything, even the impossible. And He is.

I looked up from the baby in my lap and saw my own teen daughter talking intently to one of the older Mercy House residents.

The wind carried words and I caught bits and pieces of their conversation.

“Why do you think I was born here in Kenya and you were born in America?” Violet, 17, mother to 2 year old Maureen asked my daughter.

“I don’t know,” my daughter said after a long pause. I could tell she was thinking.

It’s a hard question.

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These Kenyan girls only know of America from the news and movies. We are mostly the only Americans they interact with once or twice a year. And while they’ve never visited and probably never will, they long to. Because they understand how much we have. They know how much we’ve been given.

And then I heard my 14 year old daughter whisper to her African-born friend, “Maybe we were born in America so we could help you in Kenya.”

They grabbed each other’s hands and held on. I swallowed the lump in my throat.

Because yes, this is it. The honesty and purity of one child’s words to another, were holy.

Because maybe this is why we have so much. Maybe this is why we were born where we were born.

Maybe this is why we are where we are today.

I don’t know where you are right now. You might be in any country in the the world. You might be in the middle of your house, in the middle of suburbia folding laundry. You might be reading this on your shift break at your job in the hospital on floor 2. You might be standing in line at the pharmacy, waiting on medicine for your mother who is very sick. You might be in the lowest season of your life or the best. I don’t know. But it matters.

Because you are where you are for a reason.

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