WFMW: Your Yes Is Enough

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I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Michelle for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

I remember gazing at the check on my dining room table, my cursive signature tidy in the lower right corner. The night before, my husband Brad and I had decided to sponsor the education of two teenaged Tanzanian girls. I’d dutifully written out the check the next morning, but I stopped just short of sliding the blue slip into an envelope.

I didn’t want to mail the money.

Brad and I had supported local charities sporadically for years – ten dollars for hunger, twenty dollars for new sneakers, an unwrapped Christmas gift, a few checks here and there – but we’d never contributed to an initiative that entailed such a significant monetary commitment.

But as I sat at the dining room table with the pen in my hand, I realized the money itself wasn’t the problem. The hard truth was that I simply didn’t want to spend it on something that seemed so fruitless.  What was the point? I reasoned. Who were these girls, and how would our help make any difference at all? It felt futile, like the tiniest drop

That was five years ago. Today photographs of Jackline and Neema hang on our stainless steel fridge. They are women now, wise eyes and huge smiles replacing gawky school-girlishness.

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Last week I received an exuberant email from Jackline. She’s enrolled at the university, studying to become a professor. In her note she included a list of final grades from her first semester at college, and I smiled big like a beaming mother when I saw all the As and Bs.

Neema is finishing her last year of high school and hoping she’ll do well enough on the national examinations to gain entrance into the university. She always begins her letters, “Dear my lovely parents…” neatly scripted on stationary she’s illustrated by hand.

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I admit, even after five years, I still struggle to write letters to Neema and Jackline. Sometimes the gulf between Nebraska and Africa seems to yawn so wide, I can barely string together a single paragraph. What to write to those who have so little?

Should I mention we recently returned from palm-lined beaches?

Should I say we are taking our young son and his five friends bowling for his birthday party?

I can’t possibly admit we repainted our older son’s bedroom, bought him new curtains and a new comforter to replace the ones that were not very worn.

I feel guilty. We have so much and they so little. It seems wrong, backwards and upside-down, that the ones who have virtually nothing pray for the ones who have so much. And truthfully, our handful of letters and once-a-year check seem not nearly enough.

“It’s common to have the desire to do something but end up doing nothing because we don’t know where to start,” writes Kristen Welch in Rhinestone Jesus. “We often don’t do anything because we think our contribution won’t be enough.”

She’s right. Most days it doesn’t feel like nearly enough. Two young women in a country of more than 40 million people, 60 percent of whom live on less than $2 a day? How does that make a difference at all? How can our checks, our letters, possibly matter?

Except they do. Even when I don’t quite know what to say, those letters and those checks matter for two women with wise eyes and broad smiles. Two women who live 8,750 miles away, in a country stricken with poverty. Two women named Jackline and Neema.

Our efforts are small, as are our contributions. They barely register a blip. But those smiles beaming at me from our fridge tell me something important: our yes is enough.

Bio:

bioA Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. She is the author of Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith and 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith (releasing September 16, 2014).  Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at MichelleDeRusha.com. She’s mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun.

WFMW: Yes Starts With Blind Faith

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I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Kelli for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

He toddled up to me, babbling in a language that was equal parts baffling and poetic. Scooting backward into my lap, the small boy with a mop of blonde hair spoke as though we were lifelong friends, his animated story inducing hearty laughter from the caretakers in our presence.

I was fifteen, on my first foreign mission trip to Minsk, Belarus, and I was enamored with this foreign land. I left that trip with the little boy from the orphanage seared permanently on my heart.

Twelve months later, I landed in Kiev, Ukraine on a second mission trip, and I felt like I was coming home. I would return a third time to Kiev before leaving for college where I minored in the Russian language, eventually spending four months in Kiev exploring, learning, and further cultivating a love for the country and culture.

That’s where my “Yes” began.

When my husband and I married, my past experiences were so engrained in my very being that it seemed natural to assume our story would include that place. I decided early on that the obvious connection between my life as a married woman in America, and my deep love for Slavic culture would intersect in a Russian adoption.

In May, 2012, my husband finally felt ready to say “Yes”, if for no other reason, he said, than the Lord had not given him the freedom to say no. Sometimes, the next steps are obvious. And sometimes, we just have to say yes in blind faith.

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Fourteen years after I first felt this twinge of hope, the dream became a reality, and it never, ever occurred to me that we wouldn’t succeed. Though I knew Russian adoptions to be tenuous, there was never a part of me that thought ours wouldn’t be successful. It seemed the Lord was preparing us for this the whole time.

Until the Russian government shut down adoptions in the middle of our process, leaving me doubtful of God’s goodness and devastated at the loss of a dream. It took me more than a year to piece back together my fragile faith. We looked into adopting from every other country available, but the Lord would not give my heart the freedom to leave Russia and Ukraine.

That’s when my “Yes” changed.

I abandoned the “Yes” that made sense to me, and I began praying that the Lord would lead us to what He had planned. In so doing, our “Yes” has become much larger than we anticipated. We’ve learned more about the orphan crisis in Ukraine, and our hearts have been broken for the children aging out of orphanages at 16, and forced to live on the streets.

60% of the girls turn to prostitution. 70% of young boys turn to drugs and alcohol. And now that we know, how can we not respond?

The thing about saying “Yes” is that the outcome is never a guarantee. So much of Kristen’s story in Rhinestone Jesus resonated with me, but this quote in particular has rolled through my heart with a steady beat:

Kristen writes, “If I have learned anything in this journey, it’s this: the good makes the hard worth it. But getting to the good part requires making it through the valley of the hard.”

We never would have headed down our current path of ministering to aged out Ukrainian orphans if we hadn’t experienced the devastation of our terminated adoption. We had to say “Yes” to the first path to find the second.

It seemed the Lord was preparing us for this the whole time.

Kelli Stuart is a wife, a mother, a writer, and the driver of a smokin’ hot minivan. Kelli can be found numerous places online including Compassion International, The MOB Society, Extraordinary Mommy, and Mercy Found Ministries. Kelli shares her heart, her humor, and her quest for inspiration at Kelli Stuart.com.

WFMW: Lessons I Learned from My Daughter

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I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Kristin for my new Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

My only daughter is a bit of a hoarder.

She is three and fiercely independent, and apparently has a problem sharing her things. She will makes piles with all of her favorite toys in the middle of her room, add a bag of chips and her new beach towel and she is set and her room is off limits!

I will “encourage” her to go and clean her room. And since we are all friends here and I am sharing a bit of my reality…she doesn’t listen to a word that I say. She instead will “encourage” me to clean it for her. Ahem - it is a time of training for both of us.

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She is holding tightly to those things that she thinks she can control, testing boundaries and seeking to find her place in our family.

And I realize that I am no different in my Father/Daughter relationship with God.

I did the whole “accepted Jesus in my heart” prayer when I was a pre-teen. I heard a woman’s story of redemption, and her call to pray a simple prayer. I said the prayer with expectation but didn’t feel a change.

I figured I must have done it wrong. So each time I had the opportunity to say that prayer, I did…I assumed that at some point it would “take.”

My teenage and early adult years weren’t easy – whose are really?! But I didn’t have a relationship with God because I didn’t feel worthy. My life was always such a mess.

God wants us right in the middle of our mess because it’s the perfect place for Him to shine through our imperfections.

I walked through life knowing I was a hypocrite.

So I worked really hard at trying to “get it together”. Instead of embracing the failures as opportunities for growth and thanking God for the grace He gives me, I tried to just be better, do better, act better…because maybe then I would earn the right to be one of His.

That merry-go-round is exhausting isn’t it?!

I had to come to a place of brokenness, where I knew that I wasn’t capable and I had a just the littlest bit of hope that maybe God was.

The most breathtaking moments often come when we discover we have nothing left, but everything we need. This deep brokenness feels like the end, but it’s actually a new beginning

Discovering a relationship with God has been life changing.

Saying Yes to Him even when I still make mistakes, even when life doesn’t look like I think it should, has given me such a deep understanding of grace.

I too am learning and growing and testing the boundaries of my faith. I have found that as I honestly seek God that He takes my broken, my mess, and He makes it beautiful. And that my friends, has been worth the journey!

Saying yes isn’t really about doing it all. It’s about saying yes right where you are.

picKristin Anne Smith is a wife and mother, but most importantly, a daughter of the King. Redeemed by His Grace and so very grateful for it. Through the past 16 years she has walked some hard roads. But despite her choices and at times lack of faith – God loved her anyways. Kristin blogs at The Riches of His Love  and is the Managing Editor / Contributing Writer at God-sized Dreams.

WFMW: Say Yes to Rest

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I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Kris for my new Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

It’s my surroundings that do it to me.
When God asks you to be quiet, is there any other answer than to say “yes”?

It’s been a month since I hosted Refine {the Retreat}. I knew the week before I left for it, that upon my return home, I would be entering a quieter season.  Exhausted, I looked forward to the promise of rest.

For the last 3 years I have been hard at work. Between writing and publishing 2 books, and planning a retreat, all while homeschooling my 4 children and serving in my role as wife, mom, chauffer, chef, and laundress, there has been little quality down time. I have poured out in every capacity and the reality is, I am crazy-tired, and spiritually thirsty.

As inviting as it sounds, as writer, quiet seasons can be a bit scary. Writers write, that’s how they can call themselves writers.  In this fast-paced, never sleeping world of social media and lightning speed technology, there is great pressure to produce. Now. And often.  But God has clearly spoken to me on this, and asked me to take several steps back, to lay my pen down–to listen for His words, rather than spouting my own.

All I can say is “yes”. My saying yes to God’s invitation to rest is scary because I fear being forgotten in the circles I’ve worked so hard to be a part of. When one disappears from the frantic clamor of the online world, it can sometimes seem as if they were never there in the first place. It’s like a hole that just closes over and leaves little trace of their previous presence.

I’ve spent 3 years connecting with people, building and investing in relationships, trying to find a community to call “home”. Saying “yes” to being quiet feels like walking away from all of that.

A friend reminded me the other night that God’s call to rest is a gift. She said this isn’t punishment, but reward for my labors.  The serpent tells me that if I’m not out there laying planks in a platform, that I’ll never amount to anything as a writer. The enemy would have me burn up and puff flat out of breath, while striving to achieve by my own strength.

But God has another plan.

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God asks us to say yes to the things that ultimately are for our best interest–no matter how counter intuitive they may seem.  God’s plans are for kingdom glory, not personal gain. God’s invitations are for prosperity and proclamation of the gospel, however unconventional His methods. His ways are not our ways.

I’m saying yes to obscurity and silence, because whatever God has to teach me is more important than whatever I think I need to say.

I’m saying “yes” to listening, to resting, to a new kind of quiet. I don’t imagine it will be easy, especially for a do-er like myself.

But I want God more than anything.

So, yes, Jesus. I’m listening.

 

Author Bio:

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As a sequin-wearing, homeschooling mother of four, Kris is passionate about Jesus, people and words.   Her heart beats to share the hard, but glorious truth about  life in Christ. She’s been known to take gratuitous pictures of her culinary creations, causing mouths to water all across Instagram. Once upon a time, she ran 10 miles for Compassion International, a ministry for which she serves as an advocate. Kris is the author of, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, and the follow up, Companion Workbook. You can read more from Kris at kriscamealy.com

WFMW: Saying Yes to the Messiness of Motherhood

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I’m happy to welcome my first guest post for my new Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

It’s my surroundings that do it to me.

Every. Single. Time.

After a long day spent in the trenches, and a quick glance in any direction, it’s easy to understand how overwhelmed I feel. Whether it’s the laundry piles stacked high or the massive amounts of toys strewn across the floor of my home, the disorder that encircles me? It’s becoming too much. And it’s in these said moments I speak of where my spirit deflates, my whole mood darkens, and the last place I want to be is home. It’s in these instances where I’m so focused on the clutter before me, I can’t see past it. I can’t see anything except my mess.

So, I shut my eyes and tune it out. I attempt to disregard its presence. I close the doors within my home in order to block it from sight.

Because it’s easier to say “no” instead of “yes.”

It’s easier to grow discouraged by the clutter rather than embrace it–the hoards of crayons that were never put away, the dirty dishes that keep piling up, the beds that remain unkempt. It’s frustrating, friends. It’s completely overwhelming. It’s constant.

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It has this worn-out mama ready to run for the front door, and retreat to the hills. It finds me desiring to be anywhere else but here…anywhere else but stuck in my mess.

However, maybe it’s time to take a different approach–to take that ever-present and oh-so-consistent chaos and alter our way of thinking towards it. Maybe it’s time we start accepting it instead.

Yes, you heard me right.

If we just took a few deep breaths and prayed through the frustration–past the commotion…if we asked God to meet us right in the middle of all that confusion and chaos. That’s right–in the midst of the laundry, the dishes, and the half-eaten candy wrappers left on the floor. In the minivan that’s corroded with spilled sodas and Happy Meal toys—and in the yard where chewed-up pool toys and deflated balls reside, sprawled across the lawn. What if we invited God into each one of these instances—if we asked for His help in managing such trials?

As for those visions we have of running from the mayhem, what if they found us running to Him instead…for all of it? The good, the not-so-good, and even the downright messy?

What if the rolling of our eyes ceased, the furrowing of our brow halted, and the frown that seems like a permanent fixture upon our faces, slanted upward instead?

What if you and I figured out how to say “yes” to our mess?

With His help, I believe we can, sisters. I believe we can trade in the chaos for contentment, the problems for peace, and the discouragement for delight. I believe we can change our way of thinking by seeking the blessings to be found.

And I believe it’s time.

Remember, mamas:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

-Phillipians 4:6-7

Tell me about your mess. Tell me the hardest part in dealing with it? And then tell me the areas in your life where you can say “yes” more…

Author Bio: Jenny Lee Sulpizio is a wife and mother of three who enjoys writing about anything and everything under the sun, but especially loves to instruct, motivate, and guide other moms with practical advice and tips. Jenny is a contributing writer for The MOB Society, and The MOM Initiative, and is the author of the recently released guide for all mamas titled, “Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe: On a Mission to Save Sanity, One Mom at a Time.” To find out more about Jenny or to follow her blog, visit www.jennyleesulpizio.com.

Yes, works for me!