Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

God Has No Prerequisites

I went to college back in the days before online registration.   This was the era when email, the Backstreet Boys, Zima, and body glitter, were the hottest new things on the scene.  And in those days, you had to call in from an actual landline phone in your dorm room to register for classes.

Note: I’d like to give a special nod to anyone reading this who remembers the days before you could even call in to register.  You are warriors.

A week or so before the registration period we would pick up thick course catalogues and spend the next few days highlighting which classes we needed to take, which “sections” (aka dates and times) we preferred, and what our backups would be if our first choices were full.  Then, at a time divinely appointed to each of us (aka assigned alphabetically by the Office of the Registrar), we would call into an automated system and follow the prompts to choose our courses.  I remember waiting with baited breath on the other end of that phone line to hear the blessed words, “ED 211 is available.” And heaven forbid you punched in your numbers wrong, then you had to start all over.

In the days leading up to and following registration, I would pore through the catalogues much more thoroughly than was probably necessary.  I’ve always been curious about what life is like for people who have taken different paths than I have, and the Oregon State University course catalogue gave me a small window into other students’ lives.  A vocal music and elementary education major myself,  I would often flip through the sections for other areas of study, particularly science and math-heavy areas like physics, biology, or engineering.  Since it was all sooooo far out of my comfort zone and what I perceived to be my capabilities, I found it utterly fascinating.  In fact, a decade later I married a guy who had actually been a chemical engineering major at the same college at the same time. I wonder if I ever browsed descriptions of the courses he had to take. How romantic..

What fascinated me the most about these course descriptions were the prerequisites , or “prereqs” (pronounced pre-wrecks) listed below the course descriptions.  These were the  classes that one had to have completed before one would even be allowed to enroll in the course being described.  In order to take some of the 300 and 400-level science classes, you had to have taken a lot of other science classes, and don’t even get me started on the math.  Some of them even had grades associated with it. Not only did you have to have completed differential calculus, you had to have gotten at least an 80% in the course.  Lord, have mercy.

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Do you see that right there? That’s what I’m taking about!!!! Fun fact:  my husband actually took this course as an undergraduate.

I admired the folks who were “smart enough” to hack it in these fields, to have taken all of the advanced calculus and organic chemistry and whatnot, perhaps that’s why I eventually married one of them. But I never got as far as trying it for myself.  I would inevitably drop the dogeared tome in the recycle bin (in Oregon we were already recycling in the 90’s), and blissfully turn my attention to whatever child development or music history courses my “right-brained” self would be partaking in the next term.

It seems like many of us take a similar approach to our faith journeys.  We are curious about God, interested in deepening our faith, perhaps even admiring of others’ relationships with Jesus. We feel a tug on our hearts to get closer to Him- and why wouldn’t we?  Connection with God is what we were created for.  As Martin Laird puts it, “God is our homeland. And the homing beacon of the human being is homed on God.”  Continue reading “God Has No Prerequisites”

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

How to Make it Snow (Psalm 37:4)

Take delight in the lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
-Psalm 37:4

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
-Matthew 6:21

 

Here in Portland, OR, snow is a novelty.  We are a snow-loving family and so when we see even a 10% chance of the white stuff in the forecast, we get excited.  We engage in all sorts of ridiculous shenanigans trying to magically get snow to materialize. Like many other families, we flush ice cubes down the toilet and wear our jammies inside out. My husband swears that not remembering to get the snow tires put on the car is a surefire way to ensure it snows (but of course, he does it anyway because he’s The Daddy and that’s now he rolls). My daughter insists that she can channel Queen Elsa and make snow and ice appear with just a stomp of her foot. My would-be Jedi Padawan believes he can use The Force to choke the snow right out of the clouds.  Personally, I have learned that it’s more likely to snow if I’m not expecting it, so I try not to expect (which is a bit of an oxymoron, but whatever). In any case, we will try everything in our power to make the snow we so hope for materialize.

It’s tempting to take this same approach to Psalm 37, verse 4, which says, “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  At first glance, that scripture can make it seem as if taking delight in the Lord is the spiritual equivalent of flushing ice cubes down the toilet. If we delight ourselves in God, then we can get what we want, as if Godly delight-taking somehow magically moves the heart of God to see things our way.

Now, there is probably a kernel of truth in that approach.  Scripture teaches us that prayer and praise can move the heart of God.  For example, the Old Testament tells about several times when Moses changed God’s mind and kept Him from wiping out tribes upon tribes of Israelites in His Holy fury at their disobedience. God is, after all, a loving father and friend and as in any relationship, our conversations, interactions, and feelings matter to one another and can hold sway on the way things unfold.

However, if we stop there, believing the only thing at play here is the need to say a few flattering words to or about God in order to get on His Most High Holy Good Side, boy we are missing out.  Not only we will end up staring out the window with our jammies on inside out wondering why it’s not snowing, but we will miss out on massive amounts of grace and blessings that are waiting for us. Continue reading “How to Make it Snow (Psalm 37:4)”

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

Shutting Down the “Shouldstorm”

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This post is part of my Foundation 2019 series.  Read why I chose “Foundation” as my word for the year here.

I live much of my life right smack dab in the middle of what I call a “Shouldstorm.”

I sit here as I type this staring at a pile of unfolded laundry, not even showered yet, with a to-do list a mile long and only about 45 minutes before I have to pick up my daughter from preschool and the winds are starting to kick up. “You should be folding that laundry- matter fact, you should have folded it right away, it shouldn’t even be sitting there.  And while you’re at it, you should walk right past those laundry machines and organize the storage area. And you haven’t worked out in awhile, you should be doing a better job of working that into your life because you should be back your pre-babies weight by now…”

It always feels like there are a million things I should be doing at any given moment.  The ones I’m neglecting needle and nag me, I barely have the time and bandwidth for the ones I am doing, and let’s not even discuss the things I probably should be doing that I don’t even know about. It’s a veritable maelstrom of “shoulds,” so I call it a “shouldstorm.” Note: if you  happen to hear in the term “should-storm” a striking auditory similarity to another “stormy” term that features a more colorful sh-word (aka “sh*tstorm”), I assure you that it’s not even a little bit coincidental. 

I’d like to be able to to say that it began when I became a mom, and motherhood has definitely ramped the storm it up to a category 5 hurricane.  But if I’m honest with myself, it’s always been like this for me.  Ever since my teen years, I’ve struggled with the feeling that there’s something else or something more I should be doing, some other way I should be- It’s like FOMO (fear of missing out) and FONBE (fear of not being enough) all rolled into one. Continue reading “Shutting Down the “Shouldstorm””

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

Noah-Level Communication

This post is part of my Foundation 2019 series.  Read why I chose “Foundation” as my word for the year here.

 

In 2019, I’m doing the Bible in One Year reading plan in the YouVersion app.  I think it’s absolutely the greatest thing ever for two reasons:

  1. They’ve got it all planned out for you and locked and loaded with an AUDIO OPTION. All I have to do is plug-in my headphones and press “play” and the daily devotion teaching and the assigned passages of scripture play back to back to back right into my ears and I don’t have to do a thing.
  2. The devotions are done by Nicky Gumbel and his wife, Pippa, and they are absolutely delightful. I first encountered him when I did the Alpha Course years ago at the Episcopal church I was attending in Lakewood, WA and he is quite possibly the Britishest dude ever.  He used to work as a “barrister” before becoming a “vicar” and I just love listening to every gracious word he says.  I’m getting so, so much out of his and Pippa’s insights, possibly more than I’ve ever gotten out of any other plan or study.

One dark, frosty morning in very early January, my husband and I headed out before the sun was even up to drop our car off at the dealership to see if they could finally figure out what is making that infernal squeaking noise in the heating system.  On the drive there, I listened to the daily readings, which included the story of Noah in Genesis.

God seems to dole out Scriptural insights to me incrementally, giving me a little more and a little more each time I listen to or read a passage.  This time, the thing that stuck out to me was the end of Noah’s time on the Ark, when he was trying to figure out when the time was right to get off of the boat.

I don’t know about you, but if I had been trapped on a boat with my entire extended family and a bunch of animals for weeks upon weeks, I would be getting off that boat at the very first sign of land and never looking back.

Not Noah.

First, he sent a raven.  Then he waited. Then he sent a dove. Then he waited. Then, he sent the dove again. Then he waited some more.

And not until the time was very perfectly exactly right, when the water had not only receded but the earth had sufficiently dried out, only then did he finally disembARK (see what I did there?).

What struck me about this was not so much Noah’s patience, although that is some remarkably significant patience being demonstrated right there, but the level of communication Noah has to have had with God- not only during the process of figuring out when to get off the boat, but through the whole entire saga. Continue reading “Noah-Level Communication”

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

Getting Over My Scripture Inferiority Complex (Foundation 2019)

This post is part of my Foundation 2019 series.  Read why I chose “Foundation” as my word for the year here.

For the longest time, I had a serious inferiority complex when it came to my knowledge of Scripture and I felt like I didn’t know how to study it “the right way.”

Even though I’ve been a Christian since I was 8 years old, I didn’t grow up going to youth groups and church camps. I went to a public university and didn’t participate in any campus ministry (unless beer-fueled theology debates with non-believing fraternity guys count, in which case I retract my statement because I totally did that).

I operated with this image that other Christians my age had been through all this indoctrination that I hadn’t (and did not care to, by the way, but that’s a whole ‘nother story),  in the process steeping and marinating in scripture and theology, giving them a knowledge that I wasn’t anywhere near having. I pictured them atop this pedestal of piety high above little old me- and I’m quite certain a few of them had the same image, I might add.

Honestly, I wasn’t entirely wrong. Many other Christians my age were indeed attending Bible colleges, involved in campus ministry, running those same youth groups I had never even attended, and they undoubtedly knew way more about Scripture than I did.  I mean…it wouldn’t even have been hard to know more about Scripture than I did at that point.

What I was very much drop-dead, stone-cold wrong about was the inferiority complex it gave me and how I let it keep me from even beginning to study Scripture.  For years, those insecurities and feelings of “not-enough-ness” stood between me and getting into God’s word.

When I tried to go to a Bible study and saw the woman next to me open a Bible filled with highlighted passages and margin notes, I looked at my own unmarked Bible and saw failure.

When I dove into difficult passages and struggled to connect with and understand what I was reading, my insecurity told me I must be doing it wrong.  Wasn’t I supposed to be finding God-breathed epiphanies on EVERY SINGLE PAGE?  I’m sure *insert person who I thought was better at the Bible than I was here* does every single time. Sigh…

And so, I would quit.  Nobody wants to keep showing up for something that just reminds them how sucky they are every time.  It’s why I avoid spin class.

But, here’s the thing: insecurity and feelings of not being enough come from where, class?  That’s right, the answer is “Satan.”  Say it with me, “The feeling of not being enough always comes from Satan.”  

What an absolutely perfect plan for keeping folks from getting into the Word of God: let’s convince them that it’s too hard, they aren’t smart enough, it’s too late, other people know more than they do, etc., etc.  It’s a double whammy of separating them from GOD and making them feel horrible about themselves. Well played, Devil.  Well played.

And yes, indeed. I let the enemy of my soul successfully stand between me and the Word of God FOR!  YEARS!

BUT, NO MORE! NO MORE, I SAY!!!!

A knowledge and pursuit of Scripture is an inextricable part of the Foundation on which my life needs to be built. It’s a key ingredient in the mixture of concrete that my proverbial house is built on- without it, my life could crumble at the slightest bit of resistance.

So this year, pulling on my proverbial Big Girl Britches, getting over myself, and telling the Enemy that he can absolutely suck it, the truth I will find in the Word of God will shout down his lies once I get into it anyway so I might as well just ignore them.

The truth is that any study and/or reading of Scripture is good. There are tons of different ways to do it and we shouldn’t let this idea of “good enough” vs. “not good enough” stop us.  Yes, there are ways that have proven to be effective for generations. There is new and “cutting edge” stuff that is just now available to us, like listening via apps on our phones and watching YouTube videos unpacking the text. As we get into the process, we will find that some methods work better than others for us based on the way God has each of us wired and what phase of life we find ourselves in.

But any effort we give it, any choice we make to devote our time and attention to the study of God’s Word is the right thing to do.  It’s holy, sacred, and will bear fruit.

Life-changing epiphanies are not necessarily waiting on every page for us, at least not every day, and if we don’t feel moved by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis it doesn’t mean we are failing.  Some days, it’s just the DISCIPLINE of doing the work that matters, it honors God when we power through on the tough days.

We also cannot underestimate the importance of just building our familiarity with Scripture. Every time we read a passage, a chapter, a story, it gets logged our memory bank and helps build a working knowledge of Scripture that God can use.  A friend or pastor may say, “It’s like Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, when he ended up in jail and God redeemed it” and you’re like, “YES!  I READ THAT STORY!” and you can totally get what they’re saying in a way you couldn’t have otherwise.

My word count is quickly mounting, so I think I’ll take my leave here. There is much more to say, much more to share, and there will be time for that in future posts.

But for now, I want to send a huge hug to anyone who has ever felt like I have, like the study of Scripture is intimidating and a little defeating, and encourage you to take a deep breath and take those first brave steps to sending that lie packing.  It is true that Scripture is big and imposing and layered and complex and at times shrouded in all sorts of mystery. But it’s a lie that you can’t study it. It’s a lie that it’s too late to start. It’s a lie that God doesn’t have revelations and truths waiting to reveal to you, just for you, exactly the way He made you.

Amen.

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

FOUNDATION: My Word for 2019

Have you ever done the whole “Word for the Year” thing?  The practice is a variation on the traditional “New Year’s Resolution,’ except rather than choosing a habit or behavior to change, you choose a single word to be your guiding focus for the year.  If you’re really interested in digging into the concept, there’s a woman named Ali Edwards who has turned it into an entire program with courses and resources and whatnot, you can find all that here:

https://aliedwards.com/projects/one-little-word

My people on social media, both the influencers I follow and the folks I know personally, are super into the whole thing.  December and January find my feed thick with posts declaring how folks have made the previous year’s word manifest in their lives and sharing what word they’ve got locked and loaded to change the landscape of their lives in year to come.  Some have even gone so far as to get their word tattooed on their actual bodies.

I’ve regarded the practice with a mixture of admiration and skepticism. I’ve even tried my hand at choosing a word the past couple of year, my efforts yielding decidedly tepid results.

This year, it’s different.  This year, I’ve got a word, I’m all about my word, I’m proud of my word, I’m posting on social media about my word, and while I probably won’t get my word tattooed anywhere on my person (you’re welcome, Mom) by the end of this year, I will probably have at least considered it. It felt like that word chose me this year.  It came bubbling up out of the depths of several different things that our loving and patient God has been working me through over the past months and years.

My word is “Foundation.”

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And by “Foundation,”  I mean what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:24-25:

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

The Son of God did not stutter or waste words, he picked the words he spoke to us with intent.  In His three decades of walking among us humans here in this fallen world, Jesus had both witnessed and experienced what it’s like to be human. Elsewhere in scripture, he promises us that in this life we will have trouble because he had seen it and lived it.  He knew firsthand exactly how much real life can feel like trying to keep the walls up and the roof on our proverbial houses through an onslaught of rain, floods, and wind.

The slow, soaking rains of illness, financial trouble, anxiety and depression…the shifting, influencing winds of the opinions of others and the value system of the fallen world that does not reflect God’s vision for us…the flash floods where a word or a phone call brings us to our knees…

But with those words, with that metaphor, Jesus promises us that if our foundations are secure, the rain and wind and floods cannot take us down.  He promises that through it all, we will remain secure if we will only build our houses upon the Rock, make Father, Son, and Holy Spirit our Foundation.

He also goes on to say that if your Foundations are not secure in him, you can count on the storms of life being a problem.  Whatever this world throws at us is going to batter us about and could level the house altogether.

Our. Foundation. Is. Everything.

So what else could I possibly focus on in 2019 but my Foundation? Everything else, EVERYTHING else, proceeds from and through that.  A year is a long time, I’m sure God has other plans for me, other things He wants to teach me, other ways He wants me to grow. But in order to do those things, I’m going to need to have a solid Foundation, built on the Rock.

As I prayed and pondered this directive from God to GET MY FOUNDATION SECURE, the work has kind of naturally fallen into three categories for me:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of Scripture.
  2. Prayer and communication practices
  3. God-ordered priorities

That is the three-legged stool, so to speak, I’ll be perching myself on to do the work this year.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be digging into those three concepts here on my blog, sharing a baseline for how I’m beginning to work on each of those things this year.I would love for you to join me on this journey.   I’d appreciate your thoughts and suggestions about what has worked for you when it comes to anchoring your foundation in the Lord.  Also, I’m an extrovert, a people person, I do my best work when I’m traveling with others, so if you feel inclined to make 2019 your Foundation year, I’d love to have you along on this path with me.

I leave you to day with the opening verse to one of the hymns I remember singing growing up:

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?”

Posted in Faith, Family

Beating the “October Blues”

In my head, I absolutely love October.  The chaos of school starting has settled into a comfortable routine, football is in full swing (#watchallthesports), fall decor is out, pumpkin spice candles are burning, there are no stress-inducing dates that involve buying presents or calculating taxes, it’s sweats and sweater weather- what’s not to love?

But it seems like every year, the struggle bus picks me up around the start of October and refuses to drop me off until Halloweenish.  Maybe it’s the shortening of the days, maybe the let down from the fervor of September leaves me hollow, maybe it’s the fact that 17 years ago, October was the month my Neeno (grandmother) was sick and getting ready to go home to Jesus.  For whatever reason, the October Blues seem to be a thing for me every year.

I get anxious, lethargic, tired, stressed out, I find it hard to sleep, little things seem larger than life, and I happiness and contentment are nowhere to be found.   And it seems to happen every October.

This year, however. I’m saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH- or at least, I’m hoping I can.  This year, I tell you,  I’m going to try my darndest to head it off at the pass, tackle it head on, and see if I can’t use some intentional self-care skills to keep my head above water as October attempts to roll over me on its way through to November.

What follows is my pep talk and to-do list for myself.  The things on this list may seem obvious, but I’m surprised at how quickly they fall by the wayside and how often I need to be reminded.  I’m sharing them here for accountability and also because, just maybe, someone else needs to be reminded of them as well.

Dear Me and Also You,

  1.  LOOK IT IN THE FACE.  Don’t let it creep up on you. Know it’s coming and recognize it when it shows up.  Don’t let yourself get a week into feeling like someone you love died or like the walls are closing in before you realize something is up. If you have a time of year that gets to you, know when it’s coming and get ready to meet it head on like the BOSS that you are.
  2. TAKE YOUR MEDS.  I don’t care what they are: anti-depressants, seizure meds, diabetes meds, pain meds, supplements or naturopathic remedies- if someone has told you take something to make your body work better and you’ve agreed to do this, then you TAKE!  YOUR! FREAKING! MEDS! We need our bodies working at their full strength and capacity, this is not the time to mess around. I will toast you with my morning thyroid med and at night with the vitamins I too often neglect.
  3. SLEEP AND EAT.  Fatigue and low blood sugar amplify negative feels like a Yamaha subwoofer to a hip-hop beat.  Then, a vicious cycle kicks up in which depression and anxiety keep us up at night and squash our appetite, then everything seems  worse because we haven’t slept or eaten.  Plan your meals, plan your snacks, guard your bedtimes, and take a Unisom if you need it and if your doctor has prescribed you something for sleep, see item 2 above.
  4. MOVE YOUR BODY, even if you don’t feel like it.  When Mister Bummerman comes to visit, it zaps our energy and motivation and often the last thing we feel like doing is getting up and moving our bodies.  But it is ACTUAL SCIENCE that exercise releases endorphins that help us feel better, and there’s also the added feeling of accomplishment one gets from having exercised, ESPECIALLY if we didn’t want to. If you can’t hit the gym, take the stairs or go for a walk or do some jumping jacks or a crazy funny 80’s aerobics video on YouTube.  But whatever it looks like you,  get up, get up, get busy, do it like you’re Technotronic.
  5. CLING TO YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICES.  If I’m not anchored, I’m adrift.  I need Jesus at the center even to get through the good days.  And yet, when I’m struggling, I do not feel like waking up early and lifting my eyes to the hills where my help comes from.  I also do not feel like lifting my heart and voice in praise or even talking to God during the day, I’m usually rather sullen and cranky and would rather sulk in the shadows.  Can you relate?  Don’t let whatever spiritual practices have served you well fall by the wayside. If you don’t have a battery of spiritual practices to draw from, this is a great time to start.  Head over to my friend Julianne’s website and sign up for her newsletter and she will send you three of her favorites. Doing the things that lift us up, even when it’s hard, makes the rest that much easier.
  6. KNOW WHEN TO HOLLER FOR HELP.  Self-care is all well and good, we should all practice it. But there comes a time when our needs go beyond what some good cardio and a good night’s sleep are going to fix. Maybe you feel so overwhelmed by the bad things that tackling any item on this list seems insurmountable. Maybe you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, thinking everyone would be better off without you. Maybe you’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Telling someone- ANYONE- and letting them push you in the right direction is a WARRIOR MOVE. For some of us, we may just need a partner, friend, or family member to step in and alleviate some of our workload to give us space to breathe. For others of us, a professional thoughts-and-feelings-sorter like a counselor or therapist can help start moving toward solutions. Still others may find our bodies need the provision of medication to regain their balance.  In any event, if you have a hunch this is bigger than just the seasonal blues, say something to someone and pat yourself on the back for doing it.

 

So, are you with me or what?  Will you hold me accountable? Will you check in with me to see if I’m doing the things I told myself to do with this list?  Will you do those things as well?  Whether October is your “season,” or another season is your “October,” promise me you will do all of these things, take care of yourself, holler at me if you need an accountability buddy- and real loud if you need help.  We rise by lifting others, we are in this together.

Hugs,

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Posted in Faith

Self-Criticism: It’s Not Humility, It’s Pride

In my whole entire life, I’ve never had anyone be as hard on me as I am on myself.  Not my parents, not my coaches or music teachers, not my gym or math teachers (even though I struggled mightily with both), not my bosses, not my husband or my kids. Even in their most “tough love” moments, nobody in my life has even held a candle to me when it comes to being critical of myself.

It’s usually a surprise to people when I share that because, in general, I’m ooozing sweetness and light — especially when it comes to people’s challenges and struggles.

I’m quick to offer grace to others in their hard moments, to tell them they’re doing better than they think they are, to point out how hard their situation is and tell them that they’re doing an amazing job anyway, to highlight and elevate what they’re doing RIGHT.

For myself, there is exactly none of that. I’m constantly examining myself under a microscope, keeping an up-to-the-minute account of my mistakes and shortcomings (real, perceived, and potentially perceived by others) and doing a fun little matching exercise which involves drawing lines connecting the things that are wrong in my life (or even less-than-ideal) to the flaws in myself that could be causing them.

I’ve been convinced over the years that it’s the responsible and humble thing to do.  It’s my job to keep myself in check, I don’t want the people in my life having to deal with the results of my shortcomings. Also, I would hate to be one of those people who clearly thinks too much of herself even though everyone else can see she’s a hot mess, how embarrassing. The Bible even cautions against thinking too much of ourselves (Romans 12:3). Yes, I’m certainly just being realistic and walking in humility.

But that’s the thing about our sins: they frequently show up as things we think we need, but are actually taking up space in our lives that should belong to God, excluding and eclipsing His love and grace where we need it the very most.

Do you relate to this? Have you struggled with being way too hard on yourself? Head over to the Break the Mold Ministries blog to read what God has been speaking into my heart about this and what He is teaching me about  myself and His grace.

http://breakthemoldministries.org/torirask/

Posted in Faith, Family

Guest Post: A Letter to My Son At Camp

Last week, my friend Leah posted in our online moms’ group that she had written a letter to her son, who was away at camp, and wanted to share it.

I jumped at the chance to bring it here to y’all here because this letter is full of the real stuff of motherhood: the hopes, the dreams, the love, the pride, the heart-cracked-wide-open aches…I mean, if you can get through the last paragraph without crying, puh-LEEZE tell me how. 🙂

Here it is, and if you want to know more about Leah, check out her bio at the end!

Love,
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Dear Son,

Right now, at this very moment — yes, even as you’re reading this — your mom is praying for you. You’re at church camp and “unplugged” for the week. But I need you to know I am praying for you. And not just this week. I am constantly praying for you.

No, I’m not kneeled down by the side of my bed with my hands clasped. It’s not Sunday morning in church. In fact, we haven’t been to church since just after your baby sister was born. But one day we’ll find our way back. I miss the music. Your Step-Dad misses shaking hands. (Lol.)

We don’t talk about it much but ever since you were small, I’ve taught you how to look for God. In a “quiet woods listening walk,” and in your sweet baby kittens’ faces, even in the tears I’ve cried every year on your birthday as you blow out your candles. My point is, God is everywhere and you can pray anytime. When things are going great in your life and you feel like you’re on top of the world…take the time to shut your eyes and whisper “thank you, Lord.” When you’re sad and frustrated and you feel like everything is going wrong, just say “Help me, Jesus.” It’s that simple.

So tonight, as I’m waiting for the macaroni to boil…or maybe just after I’ve refilled sippy cups for your brother and sister and they’re scampering away…just know that I am praying for you. Just as I always do when I get a long enough moment to catch my breath and have a thought without interruption.

I hope this week is everything you want it to be. I hope your trust and faith in our Lord deepens. I hope you make lifelong friends. And I hope you’re praying too.

I pray for you as I see the little boy features leave your thirteen year old face, and I pray for the amazing young man you’re becoming. I pray for you as you throw an arm around me for a hug, and I notice how much taller than me you’ve become in the past year. I pray for you as I fold your laundry after you’ve left this home to spend a week with your dad and I can barely hold back the tears, I miss you so badly. I pray for you when you share your deepest secrets with me, because there will come a time when you will not. And I’m SO thankful for you. And you don’t see me do it, but I always whisper a “thank you, Jesus.”

Life isn’t always easy or fair, Buddy. But I hope no matter where you go or what you do that you will always remember this:

Right now, at this very moment,
Your mom is praying for you.


37677302_10215519629399193_198471800252792832_nLeah Moore resides in Eastern NC with her amazing family: her husband, David, and her three children, Liam (13), Laurel (5), and Sam (2.5). Between juggling SAHM duties, multiple pets, and an at-home bookkeeping business, she occasionally finds the time (late at night) to write a bit. She loves music (especially playing piano and singing), cooking, coffee, wine, and Candy Crush. Check her out on Instagram for WAY too many kid, pet, and food pics.
Posted in Faith, Family

“How Can We Help?” How You Can Help Vulnerable Children and Families, Today and Every Day

 

“…the call to be involved in creating justice for the poor is just as essential and non-negotiable within the spiritual life as is Jesus’s commandment to pray and keep our private lives in order.”
Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing: A Search for Christian Spirituality

“Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours”
Casting Crowns

“‘God, why don’t you do something?’  He said, ‘I did, I created you.'”
Matthew West

“What can we do?  I feel so helpless…”

The text came from my husband as I was sitting in the shade of a green, breezy park, watching our own kids swing and run and jump and play, not a care in the world.

The pictures and video and audio of the cries of immigrant and refugee children being separated from their parents at the US border as part of immigration protocol shook us all to our core.

Regardless of our feelings about immigration and the politics at play in this situation, something about seeing all of this happening IN OUR OWN COUNTRY, ON OUR OWN SOIL, for some of us IN OUR OWN COMMUNITIES, has hit home like nothing we’ve seen before.

The reality is that this is nothing new under the sun.  Children and families face trauma in our own country and around the world every day, having to walk through things in this fallen and broken world for which the children of God were never intended.

But SEEING IT AT HOME, live and in living color, has stirred us- and that, my friends, is SOMETHING.

Make no mistake, my people, God is moving here.  He is ALWAYS moving, if only we know where to look, and right now we need only to look into our own hearts and the hearts of those around us to see His power at work, shaking our foundations and calling us to more.

The reason we feel the ache in our very souls for the vulnerable is because it’s woven into our DNA. We were made in the image of a Father for whom the needs of His children are paramount.  This call to action in our hearts, that “What can we do?” feeling, that represents the very BEST of the nature God created in us.

The fact is that there ARE things we can do- there is SO MUCH we can do for needy children and families, if only we know where to look.

There are organizations all across our country and around the world that are addressing the needs of the most vulnerable among God’s children every single day.  Some are focused on needs like the ones we are currently seeing in the national news, providing for and advocating for immigrants and refugees, both here and abroad.  Others are fighting modern day slavery and human trafficking. Some are working on job creation and food insecurity, others are serving homeless youth, orphans, and foster care.

We can harness the power of this moment, the call to action we feel in our heart, not only to take action in this situation, but to inform ourselves about ways we can KEEP taking action and CONTINUE providing for and advocating and for vulnerable children and families at home and around the world every single day.

I’m beyond blessed to have friends and family who are SHOWER UPPERS, boots-on-the-ground, plugged-in kind of people who are involved in serving every day. So I reached out on Facebook and asked my people to provide me with a list of organizations they know of that are serving vulnerable children and families so that I could pass the info on to others who are feeling the urgency of the moment.

This list is unedited, I didn’t make any decisions about what to include and what to leave out because this isn’t about what I feel is valuable and important.  God knit each of us together uniquely, with a calling on our hearts different from everyone else’s, knowing that TOGETHER we create His vision for wholeness and justice in our world.   His call on your heart to serve is different than mine

This list also isn’t by any means complete or exhaustive, it was compiled on the fly and in response to an urgent need so my crowd-sourcing time was limited. If you know of a resource organization you’d like to share, leave it in the comments.  My only guideline is that this post is focusing on serving vulnerable children and families, so any suggestions should fit under that umbrella somehow.

And my directive for you as you read this list is as follows:

  1. Find one way to give of your time.  Some of these organizations may not be local for you, but I’ll bet you could find one if you Googled.
  2. Find at least one organization to share with others.  Either post about them on social media, text message the link to someone you think might be interested
  3. Find one to donate to- even $5.  If EVERYONE gave $5 to one of these organizations, how  much more POWER would they have to affect change and serve these babies and families?

Also, as always, do your homework.  You can use Charity Navigator or a similar “charity checker” website to find out more about how these organizations use your dollars, ask around, comb the websites, and, of course, pray.


Your Shopping Dollars.  There are hundreds of companies here in the US and abroad who are harnessing the power of commerce to create economic opportunity in vulnerable communities around the world, creating stability and jobs so that families don’t have to make the hard choices.  Here are links to a couple of directories where you can find all sorts of wonderful places to use your dollars to make the lives of families across the world better:

https://www.stillbeingmolly.com/fair-trade-usa-made-ethical-brands-list-directory/

https://therootcollective.com/pages/the-ethical-list

https://shopbeautifuluprising.com/

Adorned in Grace Bridal and Formalwear Shops sell new and gently used wedding gowns, formals, petticoats, veils, and accessories. All proceeds are used to promote awareness and prevention of sex trafficking as well as crisis prevention for trafficked victims.
http://www.adornedingrace.org/



Become a Foster Family OR respite care provider for Foster Families
–  A quick internet search for “YOUR CITY foster care” or “YOUR COUNTY foster care respite”  should point you in the right direction.  It varies by state, city, and county the exact place you’ll need to look, but a search should do the trick

International Justice Mission. IJM’s mission is to protect the poor from violence by rescuing victims, bringing the criminals to justice, restoring survivors to safety and strength, and helping local law enforcement build a safe future that lasts. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems. We combat slavery, sex trafficking, property grabbing, police abuse of power and sexual violence in nearly 20 communities throughout Africa, Latin America and South and Southeast Asia. Our vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible.
https://ijm.org

Preemptive Love Coalition. We’re a coalition stretching across Iraq, Syria, the United States, and beyond, working together to unmake violence and create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. We meet families on the frontlines of conflict, providing them lifesaving food, water, and medical care. We give them what they need to hold on and hold out. We create jobs for those victimized by ISIS. We provide small business grants, tools, and coaching so they can start again and so their families can flourish.
https://preemptivelove.org

Together Rising. Whether it’s pulling children out of the sea outside the refugee camps in Greece, helping abandoned kids on the streets in Indianapolis, establishing the first opioid recovery home for pregnant teens in New Hampshire, building a maternal health wing in Port-au-Prince, providing a single mother access to breast cancer treatment, or keeping a foster family’s heat on in Texas — Together Rising identifies what is breaking the hearts of our givers as they look around their world and their community, and then we connect our givers’ generosity with the people and organizations who are effectively addressing that critical need. Here is how they have been addressing the issue of families separated at the border.
https://togetherrising.org

RAICES. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. RAICES is the largest immigration non-profit in Texas with offices in Austin, Corpus, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.
https://actionnetwork.org/groups/raices-refugee-and-immigrant-center-for-education-and-legal-services

Catholic Charities offers a wide variety of support and assistance for children and families in need around the world,  including advocacy outreach, and provides immigration information and legal translation help. Many refugee/immigrants identify as Catholic so they often reach out to Catholic Charities for help.
https://www.catholiccharitiesoregon.org/offices-programs/

World Concern is a Christian global relief and development agency extending opportunity and hope to people facing extreme poverty.
https://worldconcern.org/

Mennonite Central Committee is a global, nonprofit organization that strives to share God’s love and compassion for all through relief, development and peace.
https://mcc.org/

IRCO: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization.  IRCO’s mission is to promote the integration of refugees, immigrants and the community at large into a self-sufficient, healthy and inclusive multi-ethnic society. Founded in 1976 by refugees for refugees, IRCO has over 40 years of history and experience working with Portland’s refugee and immigrant community.
https://irco.org

Carry the Future. Be a force for action and hope and join our international community of volunteers as we unite to bring humanitarian aid in the form of child carriers, baby beds and survival items to refugee families.
https://carrythefuture.org

Southwest Key. Southwest Key is committed to keeping kids out of institutions and home with their families, in their communities. We do this through three areas of programming: youth justice alternatives, immigrant children’s shelters, and education. Southwest Key also seeks to create opportunities for families to become self-sufficient by offering programming in adult education, community building and workforce development. The inspiring kids and families we work with are seeking the American dream—equality, education, and a healthier quality of life. At Southwest Key, we simply open the doors to opportunity so they can achieve these dreams.
https://swkey.org

The Florence Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit legal service organization providing free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody in Arizona. Although the government assists indigent criminal defendants and civil litigants through public defenders and legal aid attorneys, it does not provide attorneys for people in immigration removal proceedings. As a result, an estimated 86 percent of the detained people go unrepresented due to poverty. The Florence Project strives to address this inequity both locally and nationally through direct service, partnerships with the community, and advocacy and outreach efforts.
https://firrp.org

KIND: Kids in Need of Defense. KIND staff and our pro bono attorney partners at law firms, corporations, and law schools nationwide represent unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in their deportation proceedings. Together, we ensure that no child stands in court alone.
https://supportkind.org

The Women’s Refugee Commission improves the lives and protects the rights of women, children and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. We research their needs, identify solutions and advocate for programs and policies to strengthen their resilience and drive change in humanitarian practice. Since our founding in 1989, we have been a leading expert on the needs of refugee women and children, and the policies that can protect and empower them.
https://womensrefugeecommission.org

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) lives the call of welcome by supporting refugees, immigrants, and the communities that embrace them as they walk together in The Episcopal Church’s movement to create loving, liberating, and life-giving relationships rooted in compassion. EMM’s desire to honor the inherent value of human connection brings communities together to love their neighbors as themselves.
https://episcopalmigrationministries.org

Safe Families for Children hosts vulnerable children and creates extended family–like supports for desperate families through a community of devoted volunteers who are motivated by compassion to keep children safe and families intact.

The three objectives of Safe Families for Children are:

  1. Keep children safe during a family crisis such as homelessness, hospitalization, or domestic violence in an effort to prevent child abuse and/or neglect.
  2. Support, and stabilize families in crisis by surrounding them with caring, compassionate community.
  3. Reunite families and reduce the number of children entering the child welfare system.

https://safe-families.org/

We Belong Together aims to mobilize women in support of common sense immigration policies that will keep families together and empower women. Immigration reform is rarely thought of as a women’s issue, but in fact it is central to the fight for women’s equality. Millions of immigrant women who are part of the fabric of our communities, workplaces, and schools are blocked from achieving their full potential because of a broken immigration system. They perform essential jobs, like taking care of our children and our aging parents, and are central to family and community well-being.
https://webelongtogether.org

Feedmore. Central Virginia’s core hunger relief organization.
https://feedmore.org

Communities in Schools. Working directly in 2,300 schools in 25 states and the District of Columbia, Communities In Schools builds relationships that empower students to stay in school and succeed in life.  Our school-based staff partner with teachers to identify challenges students face in class or at home and coordinate with community partners to bring outside resources inside schools. From immediate needs like food or clothing to more complex ones like counseling or emotional support, we do whatever it takes to help students succeed.
https://communitiesinschools.org

YWCA. YWCA USA is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities. We are one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the nation, serving over 2 million women, girls, and their families.
https://ywca.org

#HashtagLunchbag is a humanity service movement dedicated to empowering and inspiring humanity to reap the benefits of giving through the use of social media. We create and use bagged lunches, complete with love messages, as a vessel to spread this love and share our experiences to inspire others.
https://hashtaglunchbag.org

 

Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities works with schools, businesses, and communities to achieve success by addressing prejudices, in all forms, in order to improve academic achievement, increase workplace productivity, and enhance local trust.
https://inclusiveva.org

CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates.  CASA/GAL volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA/GAL volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.
https://www.casaforchildren.org

No Kid Hungry. When you become part of No Kid Hungry, you’re joining a movement of teachers, chefs, community leaders, parents, lawmakers and CEOs with a shared belief: no kid in America should go hungry.
https://nokidhungry.org

KaBOOM! is the national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.
https://kaboom.org

Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.
https://reachoutandread.org

Faithful Friends is a community-based mentoring program in Portland, OR, that provides children support and stability through relationships that encourage personal growth and inspire hope. The program matches volunteer individuals, couples and families with children ages 6 through 9 for mentoring relationships. The mentor/mentee matches meet 3-4 times each month for at least one year.
https://faithfulfriendspdx.org

Big Brothers Big Sisters.  As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“littles”), ages 6 through young adulthood, in communities across the country.
http://www.bbbs.org

Saving Grace Maternity Home (I am blessed enough to get to serve as a volunteer and on the board here). Saving Grace Maternity Home is a residential home experience in Hillsboro, OR, for single young homeless women in an unplanned or crisis pregnancy, between the ages of 13-25. We welcome women of all cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds who currently live in the state of Oregon. We have the capacity to assist and house up to four women full time and there are two beds for temporary short-term stays.
https://savinggracematernityhome.org

Union Gospel Mission’s LifeChange for Women and Their Children provides a safe, healing home for women and women with children to transform their lives.  If you are struggling with abuse, addiction or homelessness, we can help. LifeChange is a safe environment to heal from past traumas and to learn how to break free of destructive choices. LifeChange is not a clinical treatment “program” or a series of steps. It is an intentional Christian community where people help and support each other to break cycles of addiction, abuse and homelessness and live a transformed and abundant life in Jesus.
https://ugmportland.org/help-for-women/

True Colors Fund. Up to 40% of the 1.6 million youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ.  Communities and youth homelessness service providers want to be safe and welcoming for LGBTQ youth, but often don’t have the knowledge or resources to do so – creating barriers for these youth to get the support they need. The True Colors Fund fills that space by offering free training and resources on how to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. We also advocate in government and media to help ensure critical funding and services for all youth, and create opportunities for youth who have experienced homelessness to be key leaders in the effort to end the problem.
https://truecolorsfund.org

Door to Grace.  At Door to Grace, we are bringing safe and loving family to sexually exploited children in the Portland, OR, area.
https://www.doortograce.org/