For the Fatherless this Christmas Season

It was lunchtime in Kenya.

And if the clanging of pots and pans and fragrant smells from the kitchen didn’t make that clear, the hungry toddlers did.

Huge spoonfuls of rice and beans in colorful bowls were on the menu and we laughed and talked and babies ate.

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These young mamas love seeing pictures from America and they pile around and ask questions and giggle any time we show them.

I was holding a bubbly baby Jennifer (actually, fighting my daughter to hold her), 5 months old and precious while my husband was showing the girls a picture of his family from his phone.

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“Wait,” Edith stopped him. “You have a father still?” Lucy sat next to her feeding Duncan and added, “How can you have a father?”

Terrell showed them a picture of his father and his mother and they girls shook their heads.

“We don’t have fathers,” they said. Babies begged for another mouthful and the conversation skipped on. There wasn’t a dramatic pause or a heavy spirit in the room. But I stopped bouncing baby Jennifer on my hip and I realized again how much I take for granted.

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All of our young mommas are fatherless. And so are their babies.

Men our missing from Mercy House and it’s a tangible absence.

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Being fatherless is common in this country.

Having a father is the uncommon.

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Four of the girls graduated from Phase 1 and are moving on to Phase 2 as a part of their transformation and journey to reintegration. Every girl has a unique background and story. And so every momma has a unique plan and future. It’s not an exact science and we lean heavily on God for wisdom. It’s a two-step forward, one-step back kind of life.

A local pastor at the ceremony stood up to encourage the girls and shared how he grew up fatherless. And this vacant spot around the table? It’s not just a poverty problem. Because poverty isn’t really about what you have or what you don’t have.

Poverty is about an empty space in your soul that you’re trying to fill up with holiday spirit and more stuff. It’s about a missing Presence in your life.

Poverty is about brokenness.

And how many people in our own culture have present fathers who are absent?

A present father provides five things in our lives:

  • A father is present, a physical, important role in the home
  • A father is a provider, the one who supplies our needs
  • A father is our protector, one who watches over us
  • A father is a priest of the home teaching values, faith Jesus
  • A father is a prophet, or encourager, warning us to make right choices

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing….  Psalm 68:5-6″

Maybe you have an absent dad or you are a dad who is absent or one who has failed you, leaving you wounded. You are not alone. Because this–THIS- is the answer. He is the answer. God is our Father.

So, sweet Lucy and beautiful Edith and dear reader, you are not common.

The Father sent a baby to save the world and He will fill the empty place. You are not fatherless.


Growing in Mercy

The funny thing about a house full of babies is they don’t stay babies long.

It’s a universal thing, huh?

Healthy babies grow. And it’s a poignant journey for all mommas across the globe.

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It’s a lifetime of firsts. It’s what God created all of us to do–grow up.

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Every time I visit Mercy House, it’s the first thing I notice. Chubby thighs, double chins, heavy babies who were bundled the last time I held them and are now peekaboo-playing toddlers running through the house.

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I’ve also noticed with each visit, there’s less for me to oversee and advise on, less dependence. It’s more of me watching like a proud parent.  The maternity home is growing and maturing and developing far past anything I could have hoped or dreamed.

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It’s a beautiful thing for a mother to witness, these first steps.

When my family said yes, nearly four years ago, to this baby of an idea, we had no idea what God would do. We simply offered our meager offering.  And I am the first to tell you, what I’m witnessing this week is Divine. Watching traumatized girls powerfully healed, holding babies who were botched abortions, watching God make something from nothing–this is holy ground. Listening to the girls worship this morning, brought such deep gratitude and reflection for the countless miracles.

I look at this big baby that’s a growing, changing ministry and I stand back–half excited, half terrified–of what’s coming next, more of the unknown, bigger dreams and scarier yes’.

And I sort of feel like just a little girl. And so, I look up to my Father. My big Daddy in Heaven who says, “I’m going to keep growing you, too, daughter. Hold my hand. I’ll lead you.”

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And He says it to each of us. You sitting there with a babe growing in your body or a grand baby growing in your grown baby. . .We all keep growing. Keep giving all you’ve got to those children in your life, those without, those who don’t have what you do.

It’s the best way to live Thanksgiving.

It’s the best way to grow.

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We keep adding to our family here in Kenya. It’s growing in size and grace and we want you to be a part of it. Help us help more girls, more babies, turn this heartbreakingly beautiful country upside down for Jesus? We are asking God for 100 new families to join this growing family in 2014.

2014 Family Picture

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Sweet [Exhausted] Mercy

We made it.

And I’m almost too tired to type another word.

30 hours and mostly still smiling (not one meltdown, so clearly miracles happen).

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We landed at 7am and hit the ground running. We arrived at the home and got reacquainted. Everyone is shy at first, babies tentative to white strangers.

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Well. Most.

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We shared gifts with all the residents and staff and took a tour of our new home and the recent additions.

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It’s surreal being in Kenya again. Loving mercy, being eyewitnesses to all God has done.

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Also: What happens in Kenya stays in Kenya

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One of my kids got stuck in a bathroom for half an hour and we had to break the door down. That was fun. You can take that family out of the USA, but you can take THAT family out of us. Apparently.

I’m so glad you’re here with us!

P.S. Don’t you love my Team Mercy shirt? Our new Team Mercy Advocacy Program starts in 2014. It’s the perfect way for families to join our team and help reach more girls in Kenya for Christ.


Last Minute

Our bags are packed, weighed, rearranged, unpacked, repacked ready for Africa. (And I have a large supply of chocolate and Xanax for my travel anxiety. And all the other passengers said AMEN).

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We leave on a big plane tomorrow and layover in Amsterdam. Since our kids are traveling with us this trip, I was on the hunt for cheap plane tickets a few months ago, which should explain the 12 hour layover in Holland and the 9 hour red eye to Kenya. And also the cranky exhausted kids I’m expecting.

Remind me of that okay?

I’m always excited SLASH nervous when I travel to Kenya. It’s like stepping into a completely different world where you lose control and expectations. I’ve gone half a dozen times now, but this trip, this trip will be like no other. 

12 babies, y’all. 

I want you to come with me. I want you to taste, smell , hear and see. I can’t wait to show you what you’ve helped create. I can’t wait to show you joy only God can bring.

I can’t wait to show you miracles.

Would you pray for us? (Specifically for peace and wisdom, endurance and grace over the next 12 days)

I’m praying for you, too. 


When All You Have is a Half Empty Basket

I don’t have much to give.

But I have a lot to do.

Do you know that place? The one where you have a list a mile long, pressure that is suffocating, responsibility that is frightening and a host of people asking for more?

Sure you do. If you’re a mom, this is what you call life.

Yesterday someone asked me to email them a link and I burst into tears.  Apparently I found my breaking point and it all came crashing down with a recipe. A RECIPE, people.

My house is a pile of suitcases and lists and stressed out people. There have been ugly words this week, tears over lost things and grief over things we need to lose. We are the most unlikely crew to get on a plane at the end of the week and fly across the globe again to Kenya and spend our time serving these girls and their babies.

We don’t always know where our yes will lead us. And we don’t always feel qualified to follow.

But we go.

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I can’t help but think of a little boy in a Bible story from a long time ago. The one who said yes, I have a lunch to share in a mass of hungry people.

His basket was half empty or half full, depending on how you see baskets.

He didn’t have much.

His small offering wasn’t enough to meet the need. Sounds familiar.

But Jesus didn’t need the contents of his basket. He just need the little boy to offer it.

And today, with stacks of laundry teetering dangerously, arguing children, a sink full of dishes and loads of packing and decisions before me, I’m holding up my basket too.

It isn’t much, y’all.

My offering looks a lot like a couple of stale pieces of bread and left over fish.

Hardly worth giving.

But I’m holding up my half-empty basket to God. It’s filled with a desire to tell a story and a lot of fear and it’s all I’ve got. The world says it’s not enough to feed the mass, they say I’m not enough. And they are right.

But God is enough. He is strong where I am weak.

When God breaks my offering, He breaks me. I want to give my life away. Piece by piece. He blesses it. Multiplies my insignificant gift and makes it enough.

And maybe today you need a cup of coffee and a long break. A break from your half empty life, your not-good-enough offering. Your smallness. Your list that is too long, your messy house, your marriage that is half of what you want it to be, your bills that are too big, your calling that is too hard.

Listen, close. This is God’s truth whispered in your ear: God doesn’t want you to be a perfect mother or wife. He isn’t waiting for you to get your act together. He isn’t shaking His head at your pathetic basket offering. He simply wants you to offer what you have.

Because He will make it enough.