The Two Questions Every 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 pantries 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 U.S. 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.

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.


A Simple Way to Teach Family a Lesson About Complaining Less

I handed everyone at the table a rubber band and told them to put it around their wrists like a bracelet.

We slipped it on as we finished dinner and I read these instructions from our dinner time devotional:  Every time you grumble or complain, snap your rubber band. 

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The day before we memorized John 6:43, “Stop grumbling among yourselves.”

Guess who got the first “pop?”

My kids laughed as the first complaint rolled off my tongue just minutes after reading our assignment. I wasn’t even trying to show them an example of what not to do. I didn’t even know I was going to grumble about cleaning up our dinner mess. Because sometimes complaining is just our second nature.

Ouch.

I rubbed my wrist and watched my words.

We all did. Our 24 hour experiment proved to leave our wrists a little tender and our tongues a little more controlled.

We were listening for the bemoaning and bellyaching. We pointed out when we heard each other complain.

The most important thing this experiment did? It made us think before we spoke. It made us more aware.

Grumbling comes too easy. And when we try not to do it, we see how often we whine or complain–about each other, about our situations, about what we have and what we don’t.

When we really get a good look at what’s underneath all those negative words, we find ingratitude.

Because let’s face it:  we probably all can find something to gripe about. But when we think before we speak, we can always find something to be thankful for.

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Try this simple lesson today (and if rubber bands won’t work for you, keep tally marks on the kitchen calendar or cheerios around a yarn bracelet and break one off with every complaint).

 Here’s what a lesson in complaining less does for all of us:

1. It forces us to admit how often we grumble or whine or speak negatively about ourselves or others

2. It causes us to think before we speak

3. It gives us the opportunity to choose gratitude over grumbling.

And while this lesson won’t necessarily rid our homes of complaining (ask me how I know), it will certainly give us something to (think) and talk about.


What Scares Me More Than Being Inadequate

I used to think my greatest fear was inadequacy.

I believed these words for a very long time.

You could never do that.

You aren’t good enough.

You cannot make a difference.

You will fail.

But the day I said yes to something bigger than my capability, I discovered being inadequate -not having all the answers, not being successful, not being enough–these weren’t my deepest fears.

My deepest fear was rooted in the unleashing of my yes. I realized the unbelievable, unspeakable power of that little word would thrust me into an unknown world of faith-walking and desperation for Jesus.

And that terrified me.

Because I’m still inadequate. No matter what I do, what I learn, there’s always something I don’t know.  We cannot rescue or save or even get our kids to listen half the time. How dare we have the audacity to help another human being?

I live in that place.

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But when we hush that voice and step out anyway, we aren’t depending on ourselves. We are trusting the God of the Universe to act through us.

And that is where our fear lies. What if He asks me to something that is hard? What if I have to give up something I love? What if He uses failure instead of success to reach others and change me?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -by Marianne Williamson

Incredible.

We were created to shine. We were born to make His glory known. We were fashioned to unleash the power of God.

Being inadequate is scary.

But never saying yes is far more terrifying.


Dear Parents, Let it Go

There are problems.

And then THERE ARE FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS.

Like these real comments left this week on Disney’s Facebook page by irate mothers who can’t find Frozen merchandise for their children (source):

I have been staying up late every night checking the site. I didn’t think the site would refresh during the day. SO irritated! My girl has been waiting for a classic Elsa doll since Christmas. She can’t understand why Santa didn’t get her one since it was what she wanted most. Now she is hoping that the Easter Bunny will put one in her basket. She has been so patient. I really think this might be what stops her believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny. I can’t afford to spend over $100 on eBay for a $16 doll. This whole situation makes me so sad and angry. Thank you Disney for killing the magic for my 6 year old.”

And there’s this gem:

WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS THE HOLD UP, DISNEY? ARE YOU STAFFED ENTIRELY BY SOULLESS. DREAM-CRUSHING MONSTERS??[...]UGH. I AM FURIOUS. HENCE ALL THESE CAPITAL LETTERS. [...] UNACCEPTABLE, DISNEY. YOU’RE LITERALLY RUINING LIVES WITH YOUR EVIL WAYS. FOR SHAME.

These are just a couple of the hundreds of complaints against the mouse-magic-makers. And parents are in crazy bidding wars on ebay trying to buy $150 deluxe character dresses for over $1000.00 and $30 plastic dolls for $300.

Not to mention the speculation about how Disney is meeting this demand in some factory in another country…

So, this is what it’s come to, huh? Blaming a huge money-making empire for ruining Jesus’ birthday and His Resurrection because we can’t give our kids more stuff?

Y’all.

This is the culture we live in–we are waisting time and money on nothing. That doll or costume or whatever it is we chase and pursue and spend so much of our attention on won’t last. It’s embarrassing.

In an effort to create a magical childhood, we are forgetting what our kids really need: an intentional one. This isn’t about making our kids happy. That’s not even our job.

This is about the competition to keep up and the guilt that drives us to think that more stuff will make our kids happy. This is about winning some game that’s not worth playing. This is about scoring the latest fad or being the highest bidder that might fill some void in us.

I know most of you are probably like me and would never pay outlandish prices for the latest must-have thing. My 7 year old got some Frozen merchandise for her December birthday.

By the way, they are now for sale.

We can let them go… Kidding.

I get it. I really do—this urge to give our kids what they really want or what we really want for them.  But what price will we pay? How far will we go to create “happy” kids.

Because this isn’t just about stuff. It’s about making disposable things more important than they are.

How often do we freak out over the mess on the kitchen floor or try to control our children (impossible, ask me how I know) or waste hours on trivial things that are temporary.

Seriously, let’s remember what really matters–

And let the other stuff go.


Saying #Yes In My Mess

I’m a mom.

I have a lot of messes.

Currently: there is a science fair project involving 1000 paper clips most of which are scattered under my dining room table and an entire package of broken Girl Scout cookies on my kitchen floor. (One of these is more fun to pick up, by the way).

But there’s always been an internal mess too… struggling with who I am, what I’m supposed to do, wondering if I’m a good enough wife and mom…

After years of wondering if I was enough, I decided to say yes in my mess.

You just never know where your yes might lead.

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In 2010 when I introduced my family to the young African girl who I’d met on a Compassion Blogger Trip in Kenya a couple of months earlier, I didn’t know what God was going to do.

My life was a mess.

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And I’m not just talking about under the beds.

I was a home decor hoarder, I was ruled by mom guilt, my marriage was on the mend and I’d stopped dreaming.

I didn’t know God was going to take the broken pieces of my life– the inadequate and fearful me- my big mess- and ask me to say yes in it.

But He did.

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He didn’t wait for me to have it all together, to clean up my act, to finally arrive before He asked.

He looked at my wreck and asked me to obey anyway.

This is my story.

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And you know what’s crazy? More than two dozen rescued moms and miracle babies later — my life is still a mess.

My kids still misbehave, I still lose my cool. My husband and I still argue over stupid things, I still eat all the Easter candy I “put away for the kids” and there is still junk under my bed.

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I still get it wrong. I still have to apologize and ask forgiveness.

I am still messy me.

But I still keep saying yes.

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Because it not only unleashes other people to join me, but I’ve never felt more alive than when I say yes. We were made for more than just existing in our mess and complaining about it.

You have a purpose. You are destined for more.

You can say yes in your mess, too. Because life is messy. It’s imperfect and if we wait until we have the perfect family (picture) we will wait forever.

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If we wait until we have it all together to say yes to God, we won’t say it.

What is He asking you today? Call that friend, send that email. Visit that neighbor. Start something. Say something. Step out. Take a risk.

Saying yes is the hard part. He does the rest.

Join me in saying yes in your mess today.

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