4 things I learned in April

Things Learned

  1. April Fool’s Day is the best day everrrrr! I learned that I grow to love it more every single year. This year I fooled my entire family at a local restaurant by getting our waiter who looked like an actor to pretend he was indeed that actor. He autographed and took a picture with us and as he signed the date I said, “April Fool’s!”  I thought my family was going to kill me. It was so worth it though.
  2. The “first person to share” principle is beautiful in context of a church setting. Here’s what I’ve seen and maybe you have too. In a group setting where someone has the courage to step up and share something close to their heart knowing there’s risk involved. And then watching others rally around this person and soon are sharing their own struggles with the very same thing in which everyone at one time thought they might be the only ones experiencing the very thing that was shared. I watched this happen recently and it was such a powerful experience for me. It took one person sharing openly. It took our leader to lay aside the rest of the “agenda” and instead invited our group to pray and that’s when others also pray/shared their own heart to God with the same things. May we be willing to be the “first person to share” sometimes and may we sometimes be the one willing to come along after as well.
  3. I now know why my Mom never talked to me about sex. No matter how you cut it it’s just flat out awkward. I’ve read all the books on how to talk to your kids. Watched video clips and even had a great laid out plan of action for a girls weekend Sophie and I had last weekend. It involved casually bringing it up and we’d talk about body changes and then would move into more specific things. I had it all planned out and was so ready. I refused to my like my Mom who never told me anything growing up. I had to learn all I knew in my Sophomore year of Biology class at a Bible college from a 75 year old man. Epic! So, with an American Girl book in hand about body changes, etc. I show Sophie what we’re going to talk about. Ask her to flip through the book and find a section that interests her as a place to start. She actually found the book in my purse while we were driving to the hotel so this was not the time I had expected to do this. But I figured I’d be good with her just flipping through and getting a preview. She suddenly gets this grimace on her face and says, “WHAT in the world?!!! This is so gross!” And she flings the book all the way to the back seat. I kid you not. Gone. The book is no longer with us in the front seat. She says to me, “Please don’t make us read that.” Half of me was so stinkin’ relieved. And the other half was like “uhh, what just happened? and now what?”  I know sex is beautiful in the context of how God intended it and there’s no shame but I’m still just sayin’ it’s weird to talk about this with my kids. Clearly we are not ready for this conversation yet. I thought we were because of some of the questions Sophie has been asking me the last year. I’d answer them and she’d go run away after pretending to throw up but always came back for more answers and I’d give them as she asked. I guess I should keep with that method for now. Ha!!!

Parenting is Hard. It’s hard not to have your identity wrapped up in your kids but Lysa TerKeurst has really helped me with this in some of her writings. If our identity is wrapped up in how our kids behave then we find ourselves taking credit for things we really don’t have a right to take credit for and becoming discouraged over things that aren’t our weights to carry. Of course it stands we need to be training in the Truth and correcting and disciplining but at the end of the day our children make their own choices and we can’t let their choices – not matter how great or stinky – determine our identity.

Well friends – another month is right around the corner – lets take the things we’re learning and dive into another month of life together!

 

Speaking the Gospel to each other

I love the reminder our High School classes gave to us a few weeks ago – that the Gospel is for everyone all the time.

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Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ coming to this earth to die for us and to save us from our sin is the greatest news ever. And we must not get tired of sharing it with others. Even to those who already know.

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The Gospel is for everyone. Everyday. May we be in awe of the Good News even after we’ve been living in light of the Good News for years.

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May we be willing to sit down next to someone on a playground or at the break table and share with them the Good News. The life changing truth of God’s love.

So proud of our students for sharing the Gospel with the younger students at our Christian school. Have they heard the Gospel before? Indeed they have. But they heard it again this day from older students who are training to be disciple makers. And just because you attend a Christian school doesn’t mean you’ve engaged in a relationship with Jesus. And so hearing it in different ways, from different people is a good thing.

When’s the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

I’m asking myself that exact same question today.

May we go and tell.

When children pray

This week our church had Missions Conference and as a part of it our missionaries went into the classes at the Christian School associated with our church talking about their ministries. My in-laws are pastors to missionaries and they travel the world encouraging missionaries. But this week as they went to classes they wanted to send the message to kids that they could be missionaries right where they are. They asked Sophie and Jace (two 3rd students at our Christian school) to come with them and share with each class about a new friend named Emma who has Cystic Fibrosis. Sophie and Jace haven’t met her but have seen pictures and have enlisted a lot of people to pray for her.

So Jace and Sophie went to about 8 classes asking students to pray for Emma. And the timing couldn’t be better as she was having surgery that day.

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It thrilled my soul to see these young kids praying for someone they didn’t know but knew God would hear them.

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And boy did He hear them!

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Tuesday and Wednesday these kids prayed for Emma and then Wednesday night Emma’s Mom gave this update below which sent us all into a major praise induced coma!

**Update on Emma: Please read!!**

“For this Child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made him.” 1 Samuel 1:27

So many of you have committed to pray for my sweet Emma and her battle with Cystic Fibrosis… You have called upon the Lord on her behalf… You have pounded on the doors of Heaven for her healing!!

Less than two months ago, our world was turned upside down when we were told Emma had an extremely difficult to treat bacteria in her lungs. This bacteria is known to cause lung decline, long term IV drug therapy, and could potential remove her chance for a lung transplant in the future.

We began treatment on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day). Three weeks to the day we had to stop treatment due to a horrible reaction to one of the drugs. Things were feeling pretty dim as her team attempted to find a new drug treatment plan.

Yesterday, Emma had her lungs scoped and had samples taken to see if we have made any positive steps forward in treating her Mycobacterium Abscessus before we restart IV meds.

Today, one of her doctors came to talk to me and started with “I don’t know how to tell you this…” My heart sank…she continued to say “her smear came back and it is NEGATIVE for Mycobacterium Abscessus. I can’t explain it, especially since she only had 3 weeks of treatment. Her numbers were very high, now there’s nothing!!”

After overcoming my lack of ability to speak, we discussed the future treatment plan that is now less than half as long as we expect just this morning!!

God is in control of all situations, He is still in the miracle business and today he reminded of that!!!! God is beyond faithful…He has heard our prayers and answered!!! Emma is free from this horrible bacteria for the moment. It can still return, but we will just take it one day at a time, and trust the Lord no matter what comes our way!!!

Our God is amazing! So incredibly amazing. I know he heard the voices and hearts of these students praying on behalf of a fellow friend. And this is a part of missions – praying and sharing the love of Jesus.

Just because you’re 15…..

Just because you turned 15 and are learning to drive doesn’t mean………

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you’re too old for swords……

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or good old fashioned backyard fun……

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or for talks with your Dad at the fence line……

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or for praying over your sister…..

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Mitchell – you are a good kid. We know we’re your parents and all that stuff but you really are kind hearted, funny, smart and compassionate. We love you a lot and we see Jesus working in you. Yeah, we all have stuff to work on. And as your parent’s we’ll keep prayerfully training you in those areas because we want you to be an effective follower of Christ. Our desire is that you glorify God with your life and point others to Him. Keep your heart tender to Jesus, Mitchell. He loves you more than you know. You don’t have to prove yourself to Him or try to impress Him. You’re already approved. No striving necessary. Just love him back with your whole heart. We are proud to be your parents.

Love you, Mitchell!

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Things I learned in March – Looking Back

Bible Journaling really does help me “linger longer” and Illustrated Faith has cool stuff.

These Bible Study Resources have proven to be really awesome the last few weeks at our church:

Brave Girl by Jen Hatmaker. A study for tween/teen girls.

Our teen girls and their Moms are doing this study in two different classes of course because how not cool to have Mom attend Sunday School with you. *eye roll*

And Living Life Together by Shuana Niequest has been a really neat study for one of our small groups.

We access all these studies through Right Now Media at our church – an incredible resource that saves us a lot of money and also provides great teaching. Hundreds of studies are offered by incredibly wise Christian authors, speakers and teachers.

Doodling makes my brain feel good. My church bulletin looks like graffiti at the end of the service but I can tell you all 100 points of the sermons. Just Kidding. That was a lame preacher wife low blow. Get it? Like he preaches so long that there’s 100 points and about 10 sermons packed in one. But that’s not really true. Not completely. And these colored pens are awesome.

The Spirit of God can put love in our hearts for strangers. And you just know it comes from Him. He did this through a girl name Emma who we feel so connected to because she’s been a part of our family and 3rd grade class prayers for the last six weeks. You can read about Emma below:

Love Is: Part 1

I’m pretty sure God bought lemonade yesterday.

I learned that God is both powerfully majestic and nobody can contain Him and at the same time He is incredibly tender and works on behalf of his children because He loves us so much.

I learned that many people really do want to help others and they feel satisfied and happy when they are giving back. You can see it on there faces.

I learned that I am prone to wander and go back to old ways and old habits because it feels safe there and yet it’s what hinders me and breaks me down. Thankful for what I know to be true of my powerful and tender God in these moments of realization.

So when you look back at the month of March – what did you learn? I had to reference my notes – yes, I do keep a lil’ notebook and scratch down things (complete with doodling to make my brain feel good) during throughout the month. I usually only write down 3 things and then I scramble to try and remember the other 29 days of the month. Ha! Hey, at least I’m trying this new discipline of looking back.

When manly doesn’t feel manly

I love it when other people come alongside our kids and speak truth into them. Sometimes it takes hearing things from someone else for it to take deeper root. This week Mitchell was fortunate enough to have a mentor of his pour a small but powerful nugget of truth into his life.

When Mitchell was asked by his little sister and her friend to cover their lemonade stand on our busy road he was reluctant. You know…..15 year old man-child boy sitting behind a lemonade stand just didn’t feel cool. But he did it anyways with some arm twisting from a certain somebody I know – okay, it was me threatening to duct tape him to a tree.

When we got back from buying the supplies Mitchell bolted inside as if taking cover from a zombie apocolypse and in the most dramatic way said, “Mom, Of ALL people to drive by and see me…..Mr. Jackson drove by and saw me there. Mr. Jackson! He waved to me. NOT cool, Mom!”

Let me explain why this was a big deal to him. Roger Jackson is a man in our church who taught Mitchell to shoot, takes him to gun shows and lets him down in the man-cave to see how bullets are made. Think Duck Dynasty sitting on the 7th row of your pew at church. This is who caught Mitchell selling lemonade at the end of his driveway.

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I could kind of see his point. I halfway apologized for making him to do it and went on with helping the kids with the lemonade stand.

About an hour later I get this text from Roger:

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I read it aloud to Mitchell in front of his little sister and her friend and the look on Mitchell’s face…. pure vindication!

And this Mama’s heart? So blessed and encouraged.

Blessed that a man in our church would take the time through a passing voice text to instill a powerful teachable moment to a young man who looks up to him more than he even knows.

And this is what the Body of Christ does – she speaks truth into each other’s lives. It’s the men in our churches training not only their sons but mentoring and speaking powerful words of life into their friends sons as well. It’s the women in the church coming alongside and loving, praying and speaking truth into the lives of other women and children. It’s how God designed the church.

 

 

I’m pretty sure God bought lemonade yesterday.

I’m still in awe at what God did today through two 3rd graders who decided to work a lemonade stand. Together they decided to they wanted to give a portion of what they earned to a girl named Emma who is fighting Cystic Fibrosis. Jace and Sophie’s 3rd grade class are sending Emma a “sunshine basket” next month and they wanted to buy her something really special to put in the basket. So when people asked what they were saving for they told them about Emma. Well that spread around town and more people started coming saying they heard about it from someone else or a spouse or a neighbor. One local business owner came by and said they could set up shop in front of his store if they wanted.

They were selling lemonade so fast that they had to hire Mitchell to cover the stand while I took them to buy more lemonade and cups. Came back and almost ran out again! Jace was asking total strangers to pray for his friend Emma (who he’s never met but has prayed for faithfully the last few weeks). Some people didn’t know what to do with that. Most were so blessed by the sincerity of a courageous boy asking boldly for prayer on behalf of a friend.

So at the end of the day when these kids counted out $102.00 they were in shock. Their .25 lemonade stand brought in $102.00. Over dinner we asked the kids three questions: 1) What did you learn about God today? 2) What did you learn about others today? 3) What did you learn about yourself today? Their replies were priceless…. “God answers prayer. Sometimes it’s a yes, no or wait. Today it was a big YES. Our community gave to something good today. God loves us all and He used these people today to do something good. I learned that I have the faith to trust God to provide. I learned that working with someone else is helpful. I took a step forward today in learning that I need others.”

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The next morning the kids got up and took their money to a local jewelry store and purchased exactly what they wanted for their friend Emma.

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And yes, I did let them take in $15 in change and the guy was super nice about it.

Wow, what an amazing experience God let us be a part of. God did this. This is our God, friends. Be amazed at how tender he is. Tender isn’t an “attribute” we’re used to seeing or hearing. I’m not even sure if I just made that up or not but it’s what I see in our Father many times. And especially when his kids call out to him on behalf of others.

Rest in the tenderness of our Abba Father today.

 

Love Is: Simple & Creative Acts of Kindness

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No need to bleep this “bomb” out because it’s a Love Bomb! A jar filled with encouraging notes, scriptures and positive uplifting words to someone in need of encouraging. I love this idea. Maybe it’s someone in the hospital or homebound. This is a creative simple idea of loving someone well.

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One family made this banner and hung it on their neighbor’s house when they completed their first ever 5K. Imagine the surprise when they came home all tired and sweaty from the run and found this simple form of support and encouragement.

Love comes in all forms – it can be super deep and wide and it can be simple. But in it’s truest form love is honoring and preferring the other person.

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Okay, honestly when I first thought about volunteering at an animal shelter as a form of support and love I dismissed it. But I realize how narrow minded that was. This young girl is learning early to give back to her community by spending some time loving on animals at their local animal shelter. I have a friend who works at an animal shelter and she told me last week they always need people to come and spend time with the animals – to walk them and love on them. A small way to give back to our community and love well – not just the people who help our community but the animals they rescue.

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Love in this case was setting up a nail polish stand to raise money for a Back Yard Bible Club at a trailer park. These young girls painted nails in the heat of the day and gave ALL their proceeds to something else. Do you know how hard this is for adults to do let alone kids? To work and fork over every penny to something greater than yourself. Way to go girls!

I wonder what ways God will prompt us to love well this week. It may be something we’ve never done before. But that’s okay too. Let’s lean into the creative ways he calls us to love well.

Be blessed friends!

 

Love Is: Sharing prayer with others – Part 3

This morning I received a text from a praying friend. She told me 5 specific ways she was praying for me on behalf of my sister who is having some serious health issues. There is no greater gift one can give to a person than sharing the Gospel with them and praying for them.

That’s what Love is.

Love is praying spontaneously with someone….even surprising yourself!

Love is praying in public – even if it feels awkward.

It’s writing out prayers and sending them in a letter not being sure how the person might respond.

Today’s pictures & stories capture people loving well as they pray with others. Be blessed and encouraged to look for opportunities the Holy Spirit puts on your heart to bear hug someone and pray with them.

The scene below will melt your heart as it captures exactly what love is. (Explanations of pictured are under the pictures.)

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Snapped this picture while waiting in line at the Dutch Bros on 138th Avenue today. Turns out the young lady in line ahead of us lost her 37-year-old husband last night. When the DB guys & gals noticed she was falling apart, they stopped everything and prayed with her for several minutes, invited her to come back for prayer and support, as well as anything else that she might need. Prayers for the young family, and you know where to stop for coffee!

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This a nurse at a Children’s Hospital who prayed over her patient’s Mom as they went home after a long round of Cystic Fibrosis treatment. I love this because I’m not even sure she’s supposed to do that and that just makes this even more beautiful.

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Love is crying on someone else’s behalf. It’s grabbing their hand boldly in prayer and squeezing it tight and sharing in their pain. The young woman on the right just shared with our Sunday School class that she has a brain tumor and will need surgery….again. It took us all by surprise. No answers just prayers for this young lady that morning.

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They would kill me if they knew I posted this. It was too precious to me not to capture this moment. Big brother praying over little sister’s ear that is infected from an ear piercing. His idea. After seeing Sophie in tears about it he said, “Well we need to pray.” I remained silent because I wondered how serious he was. He said it again. And then finally he put one hand on his sister’s head and one on her ear and he prayed over her. It was a sweet moment I’ll never forget as long as I live. Now I wish I could just end it right here with the warm and fuzzies but I must share the rest of the story. In typical little sister fashion Sophie says in an irritated whisper, “Mom! he grabbed my ear and it was hurting so bad. I wish I’d told him it was the other ear that was infected!” Oh dear.

I don’t know about you but these pictures and stories encourage me to keep open eyes and a spirit of readiness to pray when the Holy Spirit leads me.

Be blessed friends!

 

Love Is: Making Pillowcases – Part 2

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Today’s story of what “Love is” comes from a dear woman of faith. Joy’s story will bless your soul and make you want to whip out your needle and thread even if you did fail your sewing class as a Home Economics minor (was really close to being true for me). 

Love through a pillowcase! In December 2006, my 23 year old son had brain surgery and was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer-a disease called glioblastoma. He was a year out of college, working with a promising career ahead of him, single, and given the typical 15 months to live. However the Lord saw differently. His dad and I came alongside him as caregivers. John was treated at the Brain Tumor Center at Duke University. He was on continuous chemotherapy for 5 years- and suffered many horrible side effects as a result. We knew the Lord was in control so He knew the plans, but that did not make it easy to watch. We went to every chemo, MRI, dr visit, and trip to Duke and Atlanta with him. John lived much longer than the 15 months. In fact he lived 5 years and 3 months, going to his heavenly home on March 29, 2012.
When John had his surgery there were so many people who came alongside us to hold us up and pray for us. As we watched John go through radiation, various clinical trials, MRI’s, side effects, and the ups and downs of chemo, I felt the Lord showing me that you need to do something to give back to others that may not have had the support you are getting.

It is not easy to lose a child, and still almost 4 years later, I can find myself in a pile of tears just thinking about what might have been. Isaiah 55:8 reads… “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares The Lord, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Wow that is a fantastic verse but can we rely on it when it’s your son with cancer that can’t be cured and he’s only 23? We each have to purposefully trust. There are always things in our lives that don’t go like we think they should go.

I had to make myself put forth the effort to reach out. Would the church really support it? Would people think a little pillowcase was stupid? Through much prayer and talking with lots of encourages, I put my big girl panties on and Sweet Sleep Ministry was born at our church.

Pillowcases signed by prayer warriors and given to the recipient symbolize the prayers that are lifted up on behalf of the individual going through a difficult time. Prayer warriors are given a prayer card to remind them who they are praying for and why. The pillowcase is a visible reminder that someone cares and is lifting them up to the Father. We make pillowcases out of beautiful cotton fabrics for men, women, and children, and sign the solid borders with our names. We have done almost 1,500 of these since 2008. Going to people who are in need of prayer and need a special touch of encouragement. Our desire is that the recipient would feel the prayers of those that have signed the pillowcase as they put their head on the pillow, and that their sleep would be “sweet.” We demonstrate the Father’s love as each pillowcase is sewn and then given to the recipient. What an honor to take the ashes of a heartbreak, and turn it into something beautiful that the Lord can use.
Each time a pillowcase goes out, love goes with it. The recipient has people praying for them that they don’t even know! What a comfort! Sweet Sleep Ministry began in John’s honor and it continues in his memory!

Our verse is Proverbs 3:24…”When you lie down,you will not be afraid; when you lie down your sleep will be sweet.” Sweet Sleep Ministry is love in action!

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Joy has blessed me with one of these pillow cases as I recovered from a broken leg last year. It was such a gift to see names of people I didn’t know but knew they prayed for me by name. Powerful. And the verse was so appropriate for me as I was struggling with anxiety at night. She’s also gifted me with pillowcases for friends of mine who have been hospitalized. I’m struck by how God put on her heart something incredible during such a heartbreaking time for her. She had support from others but she realized not everyone has that. The Holy Spirit birthed in her a ministry while she was being ministered to by others. Beautiful. This is what Love is. 

Have a story of what love is? Please share – in the comments here or on Facebook under this link or through email and I’ll post for you as a featured blog post. We need to hear each other’s stories.