Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Update on Miss S

Last week I told you about our sweet new friend, Miss S, who has been riding to church with us on Sunday mornings.  I mentioned that she might have cancer.

It has been confirmed.  My heart sunk when she told me.  Esophogeal cancer.  Biopsy this week to find out more.

But she is not afraid.

Her husband tried to stop her from coming to church this week.
"You only have tennis shoes to wear," he criticized.  "You have no business going to a church."

"Well, they haven't said anything about my shoes," she countered.

As she relayed this conversation to me, I looked at her intently.  "Don't you ever let what you are wearing keep you from coming.  We don't care what you have one, we just want you there."

After the service we enjoyed a church-wide luncheon.  Such fun and fellowship and fried chicken!  Sweet sisters in Christ surrounded her with welcome, with love, with the touch of acceptance.  I was choking back tears as I watched this church body embrace her and shower her with smiles and hugs.  Jesus was in our midst in a very tangible way.  She finally admitted to me as she enjoyed her meal that they have no food in their motel room.  In fact, she had a mayonnaise sandwich for dinner last night.

"If you are going to fight this cancer, you need to eat healthy.  We are going to send some food home with you."  I went to one of the precious older women in our church with my concern and she snapped into action.  Four boxes of chicken, ham, beans and potato salad went home with Miss S.  Along with healthy fruit bars, raisins, and fruit cups from the local grocery store on our way back to the motel.    She was overwhelmed by the love and care she has received.  New friends, new family, new church...her smile shone and I told her, "It is no accident that God brought us together.  He knew what you are going to go through and He is making sure you have love and support to get you through this."

"I'm not afraid," she said again.  "I know, no matter what happens, I will be fine.  If I live then that is a gift.  If I die, I will be with God."

And there you go.  Who is blessing who here?  I am in awe of her faith in the face of uncertainty.  I am amazed by her courage to step into the car of a stranger and walk into a church full of strangers, not knowing how people will react to her. I am inspired by her humility...true poverty of spirit that the Lord is blessing, just as He promised He would do.  And above all, I am humbled.   Remember, I was reluctant to say yes.  I had plenty of good excuses as to why someone else should pick her up.  But God, in His mercy, allowed me to stumble through the roadblock and be a part of her life.  

Thank you, Lord, that in the midst of hard you are planting joy.   Thank you that my lack of faith does not cause you to rethink your plans.  You plow forward despite me, and I am so grateful.

Friends, please pray for Miss S.  and her family as she gears up for the fight of her life.  Pray that this will awaken her husband and adult children to their need for Jesus.  And, finally, pray for her healing from all the health problems that plague her.  They are many, but God is big.

Monday, April 29, 2013


The ballet lesson is nearly over and my heart is melting.

Little girls in purple leotards swirl colorful ribbons and not-so-subtly watch themselves in the mirror.
Girlhood is truly beautiful.

Girls with curls dance and smile. Brown skin, white and black...all friends and giggles as the music plays and they dance free.

A little glimpse of Heaven sparkles in their eyes.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dear Mothers of Daughters,

As you shop for your daughters, trying on bathing suits and shorts and tanks and all that is fun, colorful, and cool when the weather is hot, I have something I would like you to consider.

Your daughters, whether approaching the teen years or firmly entrenched in them, are beautiful.  Our sons notice them and appreciate all that is sweet and beautiful about your girls, as they should.  But our boys are also struggling.

You see, these boys are visual.  We are working very hard to shield them from images of women plastered on billboards and blown up 3-times lifesize in the windows of Victorias Secret.  When we are in the check-out line at Kroger, my daughters flip Cosmopolitan Magazine around to protect their brothers eyes and hearts.  Why?  Our boys want purity, and try really hard to pursue it.  When we walk by the above-mentioned images, they actually turn their heads because they feel the stirring inside their bellies and know it is not something to be fed, lest it emerge with teeth and claws.  Thirteen is a hard age on so many levels.  Mothers of girls, I write this as a mother of three girls myself.  I know what it is to see your little girl's athletic body and wish it was yours.  I know they are incredibly cute in those short shorts and string bikinis.  But when your little girl puts it on and walks up to my son, he does not see your little girl.

He sees boobs.

Is that what you want?  Do you want your daughters to be sexualized, to be lumped into the category of women on the billboards or in the centerfolds of magazines?  Do you want them to be appreciated for their bodies or for who they really are?  Because when your daughter does the splits on the beach in her bikini, my son will forget her name.

Modesty is not for wimps.  Modesty takes strength in a world where women are objects and men the devourers of the feast.  We work hard to teach our sons to respect women, to understand that God has called them to be valiant warriors and protectors of the women in their lives.  But every time your daughter's half-naked photo pops up on my computer I cringe, for I cannot put blinders on my sons.

Shopping for girls is hard, I know.  Remember, I have three of them.  But, mamas, we MUST fight for our daughters.  We must not succumb to what the world says is cute and allow our daughters to be sexualized or objectified.  If we want our daughters to believe they are God's precious jewels, princesses in the Kingdom of Heaven, then we must treat them as such.  Dress them cute.  Have fun.  But remember that those beautiful little bodies will someday belong to their husbands, who I pray will be godly young men.  And I would suppose a godly young man would not want a bunch of hormonal teenage boys staring at his wife.  Oh, and those teenage boys who are gawking?  Yeah, they are possibly your future sons-in-law or the husbands of your daughter's friends.

Look at the big picture here.  Take a stand for modesty and let's reverse the tide of immodesty and hyper-sexualization one little girl (and boy) at a time.

Thank you.

A Mom Who Cares

Another blog that beautifully speaks to this subject...From the Nato's

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bitter and Sweet

Today my cousin, Cindy, went Home.  I had not seen her in several years, but still it hit hard.
She was always the "cool" slightly older cousin.  We all thought she was the prettiest among us and loved being around her at family reunions.  She was fun.  She had an easy smile.

But tonight she has finished her fight with cancer.  Four children miss their mama tonight.  Siblings weep for their sister, and a husband prepares to bury his second wife, the second time cancer has robbed him of his love.  It is just so sad, and makes no sense to anyone.

But I know she knew Jesus, and because of that I don't need it to make sense.  She is home, with her earthly and Heavenly Daddy, and she is free from pain and suffering.  I thank God that, one day, distance and death will no longer separate families.  We will all be together, one family, in that beautiful City...for eternity.

Yes, come Lord Jesus.

Along with the bitter comes the sweet.  Tonight held a visit with a precious couple from Uganda, Peter and Phoebe Sozi, who care for and disciple HUNDREDS of children.  (1600 if I remember correctly!)  Jesus literally seeps from their pores, so sweet and tangible is the Spirit of God in them.  To be with them is to be on Holy Ground.

By the way, I really, really want to go, to take my family to Uganda.  You can pray for that.

We sponsor 4 children in their school, but two of them recently left.  Phoebe had a stack of photos...each one representing a life waiting to be blessed.  How in the world do you pick children when there are so many?  But we did, so we are now the proud "parents" of Vanessa and Maurice!  I can hardly wait to write to them!  Sponsorship is such a great way to care for the millions of kids in poverty around the world.  And when you get a letter praising God for YOU, telling you how they are doing in school and how they have their basic needs met because you picked their smile out of a stack of smiles?  Well, it is a beautiful feeling.  I am determined to meet these kids, and I pray God makes it possible very soon.  I just want to hug those sweet necks and tell them with MY VOICE how precious they are, how beautiful they are, and how being their sponsor...their family from afar...enriches my life.  I pray they see their worth, somehow, in the fact that someone cares.  They are important and special and loved because they are children of God.  Now, I can count them among the children of my heart.  Poverty and death have robbed them, but God is in the business of restoration.  He makes all things new and I hold again to His promise that one day distance and death will no longer separate families.

One day the word "orphan" will be obsolete.

Yes, come Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


"Is there someone who would drive me to church?"

The crowd of needy at the motel was smaller that night.  We had served chicken wraps with green beans and handed out bags of salad, sodas, and bread.  There was a girl with a tiny baby, and the lady who was hoping to get out of the motel and into an apartment soon.  There was the old man with two teeth and the overweight girl who told the tall tales every week.  There were addicts practically stumbling through the food line.  But this question came from a white-haired grandma across the parking lot who was looking through the donated clothes, hoping to find something that fit her.

I looked around, waiting for the girl without kids to answer.  I did not expect to say yes.  After all, I have five kids and our SUV is pretty much wall-to-wall bodies...but, in the uncomfortable silence, "Yes."

I can.

I called her on Saturday, figuring she would back out.  But she was still planning on coming, so I told her I would be there at 8:30.

Sunday morning came, and I wondered what was going to become of this.  I drove in my husband's car to that side of town.  You know, the one where the drug addicts and prostitutes live.  I drove to the hotel where the curtains of every single room are always drawn shut, where kids never play outside.  I called her when I arrived to let her know I was there, and slowly she came down the stairs.  She looked so weak, so frail.

She chatted on the way to church, about her life and the hardships she faces.  Health declining, strokes limiting the use of her left hand and leg, grandchildren in foster care, no transportation.  I wonder how old she is.  Probably much younger than she appears.

She sat with me in Sunday School and I wondered how this would go.  You see, I was leading a class on adoption and foster care.  This could be an awkward, difficult subject for her.

But God.

Little did I know that this class, teaching about God's heart of adoption, about being willing to say yes, about loving kids from hard places and the stringent requirements of the state regarding adoptive and foster families would minister to the heart of this sweet grandmother.  She was reassured that her grandchildren are in a good place, receiving good care, by good-hearted people.

After class we went into the sanctuary for the service.  She reeked of cigarette smoke, but her toothless smile shone as the music began.
"I love it already!" she gushed.

Her hands raised in worship and I marveled at what God was doing here.  The body of Christ embraced her and loved her and made her feel welcome...and loved.

"I feel so good," she said with a smile.

She came again this week.  Again I pulled up to that seedy motel, the one filled with darkness and the influence of the evil one, and this sweet grandma emerged into the light and worshipped with joy.
She told me she might have cancer and I realized, with an awe-filled heart, that God might have placed us here in her life for such a time as this.  That in these days of decline she will be encouraged and surrounded and have friends among God's people.
My kids love her, especially Gracie, and she lights up when they give her a hug.  They don't even notice the cigarette smoke.

To be loved is the deepest of human desire.  To be known and seen, to be important to someone, is the longing of every heart.  

Next week she is staying for the church picnic.  Maybe she can talk her husband into coming this time.
Maybe, over time, our church will be filled with the people who have been stuck in these motels.

That sounds like church the way God intended it, don't you think?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Days

Green leaves float joyously on branches above as the breeze carries laughter into the kitchen.  We are having breakfast for dinner.  Pancakes sizzle and bacon crisps while friends meet up for an impromptu play session.  The teenager, he dances to the new music on his I-pod and I laugh out loud at the abandon.  I squeeze him tight around those bony, broadening shoulders and sneak in an "I love you" before he darts outdoors.  Little boys scream adventure from the fort and little girls walk side-by-side as the sunlight dims.  Conversations are quiet but animated and I sigh, happy, at this contentment filling my home.

They trickle in, one-by-one, as their stomachs respond to the smells and soon the plates are empty and dishes clatter into the sink.  It is quiet.

The quiet won't last long, so I make a cup of coffee and sit down with my Bible and thank God for these kids, this life, this joy that sustains me when days are not so easy and hearts are not so content.  
I thank God for these happy days of Spring.

Friday, April 19, 2013


For a couple of years I went through a season where I felt like I was stagnant.  I looked around me, at my life and the people with whom I interact day in and day out, realized I would have a difficult time identifying one person who was not (or at least didn't profess to be) a Christian.

I knew my primary mission field is my home and my children, but I also realized I wanted to model a lifestyle of serving others and reaching out to the needy...and not just the ones who are saved and "safe."  I wasn't exactly sure where to start, much less where to serve.  So I prayed, "Lord, use me."

An opportunity to spend a week in Honduras with my oldest two girls surfaced and I gladly signed up.  But a couple of months later I realized that I cannot leave Mari for a week and go across the world where I risk not being able to communicate with her for days at a time.  If I am gone overnight and somehow don't connect with her by phone then when I get home she has regressed.  She is completely shaken and old behaviors surface.  She is still terrified that I will leave her after two and a half years home.  She has come a long way, but I cannot and will not risk her heart.  Until she is old enough to go with me, mature enough to serve and help with the work that is being done, I must keep my feet planted firmly on my home turf.  

But God knows my longings.  He knows how He gifted me, and during the time that I realized I could not go to Honduras...not yet...He firmly entrenched my heart into a local ministry that serves the homeless, the near-homeless who are stuck in seedy motels, and rescues victims of trafficking.  This ministry came across our radar over and over until we realized God was trying to get our attention.  After serving and loving those that I have passed without notice in the past, I now find myself recognizing faces on the street and scooping their babies up into my arms while I breathe a desperate prayer over their lives.  I have watched the director of this ministry, a mighty woman of God, give of herself and love these people into the arms of Jesus.  She inspires me.  She loves them with a tough-as-nails love.  She holds them to a high and Biblical standard and lives are being changed.  Children are being rescued.  Captives are being set free.

It turns out I didn't need a passport after all.  God had work for me right here.  He had names for me to write in my prayer journal, filling pages and bringing me to my knees on behalf of the broken women who weep when they are told, "You are beautiful.  God loves you so much.  You are a precious jewel to Him.  You are worth it.  You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength."  Every time I go out to serve, to place food in the hands of the hungry and give a hug to the lonely, I go home filled up.  Every time I read the Bible, the stories come alive in a whole new way.  I find legalism to be less of a struggle in my mind when I spend time with someone who has come so very far in their walk, though others may think they are far from the standard of Christian behavior or appearance.  

I am not out there every week.  With kids and sports that is not possible.  But I go as often as I can.  It is addictive, in every good way, and I am so grateful for this mission field that is practically in my backyard.  It feels good to be used.  

I hope to share stories here, to guard identities but give you a glimpse of grace in action.  Because grace is truly amazing.  It is life and hope and rescue.  It is the key to freedom.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In Bloom

It was supposed to be white. The first spring after it was in the ground a handful of buds fattened and burst and I looked in disappointment at pink.

Not that I don't like pink, but I wanted white. I adore white dogwoods.

But this morning the sun lit them just right and I recognized the beauty. Each year there are a few more blooms to enjoy. Deep, pink blooms...a shade of pink I have not seen on any other dogwood tree in town.

It has grown on me. And there is another spot, just outside my laundry room window, where a white dogwood might be just right.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sunshiny Day

"Mom, can we do school outside?"

Music to my ears.

Fresh air, green grass, and sunshine work together to create the perfect classroom.

I love homeschooling.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


A few years ago I ran a half marathon.

I will never forget the feeling, the euphoria of crossing that finish line with adrenaline to spare.  The incredible sense of accomplishment and the glow of a dream realized.

So as I have watched the footage from Boston, my heart has ached.  I cannot imagine the high of joy, the glow of pride and family and friends cheering, ending with amputated legs.

It makes me sick.
And angry.

The more I hear, the angrier I become.  Who did this?  Are they going to get away with it?  What about the families, the mama and daddy of that 8 year old boy who is now with Jesus?  Are they going to just fade into the crowd of sad faces like others who have gone and grieved before them?
Do they know Jesus and the hope of seeing their little boy again?

Because here is the deal, friends.  It all boils down to hope.
Without Jesus, we have none.

Without the victory of the Resurrection, this tragedy is senseless, ugly, unjust.  But God, He turns things on their heads, doesn't He?  He gives us hope.  He promises to work all things for good for them who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  Without Him, though, that promise is invalid.  God makes beauty from ashes, and He will do the same with Boston.  He was there, He was not surprised.  He saw the bombs and knew when they were about to go off.  He allows evil to run for a season, but the victory has already been won.

Jesus crossed the finish line and stands waiting for us, cheering us on, promising that it will all be worth it.

It will all be worth it.

Persevere with hope.  Run the race to the finish.  Grab the hands of everyone you can, bringing them with you as you reach the goal.  Because that is why we are here, to run headlong into that great cloud of witnesses with as many people alongside us as possible.  This world is spiraling downward at a scary pace, but we lift up our eyes to the hills.

Where does our Help come from?

It comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Don't.  Stop.

Finish well!


There is something humbling about losing your voice, especially when you have five kids and two dogs.
There is something frustrating about feeling like poo when Spring is springing all around and you just want to go back to bed.

But then, there is something about waking up after a not-so-restful night yet feeling better.  The voice is still croaky, but I have the energy to engage and laugh again.  I am thankful today.

Monday, April 8, 2013

So much to say...

So little time.

It is crazy how my days are flying by. Getting to a point of stillness, a point where I can sit and focus and write about all that is occurring in life is difficult. By the time I realize I have stopped moving, the stillness has lulled me to sleep with my Kindle falling out of my hand mid-sentence.

But I just need to catch you up and show you what God is doing here at the homestead!

First of all, DJ is thirteen. I have a teenager! (I just freaked out when I typed that.) I was a bit verklempt on his big day but managed to speak through the lump in my throat and (mostly) hide the tumult of emotion that came in waves. He enjoyed his day thoroughly. I just kept trying to figure out when I blinked because my firstborn is now on the verge of manhood, crackling voice and twisted sense of humor being the most obvious signs.
But this morning he let me cuddle him during Bible study. I'll take that any day. How I love that boy, smelly feet and all.

Katie is exploring sports possibilities for next year. She is toying with basketball. Girlfriend is a clean slate, which means coach Andy was thrilled to come show her the basics. He says she can be great if she is willing to work at it. I pray her heart receives that. She is blossoming and becoming a dependable young helper with her siblings, and she is funny.
Truly...her comic timing and use of a well-placed nickname is uncanny. Her name for Mari is Munchkin, which morphs to munch-a-kin, munch, and munchie. She throws these names about freely and we all just crack up. She is so quick and clever. She is also my sweet companion, free with compliments and sincere with her affection. She is honest and wears her heart on her sleeve, which can be risky. But I praise God for her chatter and even the drama because she is an open book. She is so much like me in that way. I love the long talks that we share in these tumultuous tween years.

Gracie is G-free.
After years of tummy issues and months of complaining about stomach pain, we took her off of wheat. Goodbye gluten, hello health. She is now...um...regular for the first time since she was three years old, no longer waking up during the night, and no longer complaining of tummy and headaches. I have had quite the learning curve when it comes to cooking, shopping, and eating out. But I have also lost five pounds as a result of joining her in the diet change.
We have discovered gluten free versions of most of her favorites, and though she sometimes gets bummed about not eating bread, she feels so much better that she will not cheat...not even one bite. And since I am eating clean with her, it makes her feel special that we share those lettuce wrapped burgers and gluten free cereal. Being the middle child makes you grab any kind of special status you can get!

Mari is beginning OT soon. I felt like her finger strength was lacking...could see in her grip that her muscles were not working properly. After a 90 minute evaluation, the therapist concluded that she appears to have sensory issues as well.
I wanted to hug her neck for picking up on it without my having to tell her.
I have suspected it for months, but had no idea how to describe why. It was like a lightbulb went on and I can now see her behaviors in a proper light. I never dreamed I would be relieved to be told that we are looking at quite a few therapy sessions ahead, but this gives me hope for my girl and knowledge as to what is triggering her. That is an answered prayer. There is a cause, and there is help. The healing process of my daughter continues.

And Drew. Sweet Drew with his giant heart of compassion. He is understanding the hurts of others with a depth beyond his years, praying for the orphans, the poor, and the sick. He joined me last week as I served with a ministry to the homeless here in our town. He watched a mother scream in frustration at her child. He shook the hand of an old man who proudly showed Drew his two remaining teeth. He stood as I prayed and wept with a woman who was grasping for hope, and he hugged a filthy man with broken knuckles who had asked for prayer.
He is now begging us to take him to Africa, because "those are some sweet kids."

The Lord, The Lord. The Lord our God is living and active and I SEE Him moving in the lives of my children. He is changing and shaping our lives, aligning us with His will and I am overcome.

Yes, Lord. Have your way with us.