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Living the Christ Life

Set your mind on things above

 

 

 

I wanted to reflect something amazing.

I wanted to live something noble.

I wanted the Divine to invade in such a way that we all stood in awe of His glory.

But then the kids got up whining.

They fought through breakfast and one wiped his snotty nose on the couch and we stumbled out the door late and I had to take Little Bit to the doctor.

It was rush hour and we literally squished ourselves onto a subway that was packed like sardines with people who had bad breath and B.O.

And when we got to the hospital to have blood drawn, we entered this open air hall crowded with nearly 1,000 people… all of them there to have blood drawn.

It was hot and stuffy and there were no chairs and the wait was long. And that ache for glory, for something noble and worthy, it seemed to slip away, further and further beyond reach.

I could feel the slipping, the slow death, the faith and hope being wrung right out of me by a thief I couldn’t even see.

And I wondered what a person is to do when life has starved her of what really matters. How does she regain faith when it’s been lost? How does a hope-deprived heart regain its health? How does a perishing woman apprehend her life line, that glimpse of Glory, before it’s too late?

 

Set your mind on things above

 

And I’m standing in that huge outdoor hall, waiting our turn for the needle, when the woman beside me asks about my Little Bit. “Her parents didn’t want her?” she asks. “Was she abandoned?”

I wince at such a cruel question, like I’d been elbowed in the gut. Because I am her mother. We are her parents. But it was asked in ignorance, so I overlook the words and speak to the heart of this woman. “My Little Bit was left in a cardboard box the day she was born. But we are her family now.”

We chat a few minutes more. I want it to be enough. I want to go back to just waiting, go back to being numb. I want to retreat into my shell of no- risk living. Hoping for Glory is just too painful. It makes the heart ache.

And yet.

I know this is an opportunity for me to share the good news of Jesus. On the one hand, I want to hope for Glory. I want to live the Christ- life. On the other, I just feel so tired. I’ve done this so many times before, it all seems canned, mechanical, so… futile.

But the prompting inside, that  internal force, the tidal wave of hope… it’s like He’s laid His hand on me and I cannot help but speak up.

So I do.

I can’t say that my heart is totally in it. I’m not full of faith that something miraculous will happen as I open my mouth. I just… simply… begin.

“I’m a Christian,” I tell her. “We adopted because adoption is what God does for us. He brings us who are without hope into His family.”

And no sooner do the words leave my mouth than the lady beside me flails her arms and reaches for her purse. She’s a crazy woman, digging deep in the bowels of her bag. She comes up with a pack of tissues just in time. She bursts into tears.

“I’m a Christian too,” she sputters, dabbing madly at her eyes. “Just haven’t been to church in a very long time.”

And I’m shocked. You don’t meet Christians like this here. Not in this country, not in a hot, crowded, smelly hallway where you are just one anonymous person. I voice a few more words, awkward and tentative. I don’t know where to go with this. I’m listening for His prompting to direct my words, guide my speech.

The life of Christ fills me then and I do know. I know why we’re here, why years ago we left father and mother on the other side of the world. I know why we squeezed into a subway that morning and stood lost in a crowd of a thousand. I know. It’s so we could stand next to this one woman and be the Father’s voice- her Father’s voice- to her. “You are very special,” I tell her. And I’m really just relaying a message from our Daddy.

“There is something He wants you to do, some way you can serve, and no one else can do it. He’s prepared you for it and He’s given you this ministry. He has tailor made you for this job.”

Tears are dripping down her cheeks and her heart is soaking up words that are not mine. We are two crazy ladies crying in public. Everyone around us stares and I’ve a mind to let them in on the joyous secret:

God draws lambs into His fold. He restores hope to His people.

We all like big shindigs. We want church planting movements, big followings, best sellers, and we don’t want to settle for anything less than A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

I get that.

But God whispers to our child-like hearts, “Don’t ever despise the day of small things.”

The Lord rejoices in the small beginnings… and He is a God who leaves the ninety and nine for the one.

And sometimes you can know it at the strangest of times, like in the midst of a very ordinary day when your kid smears snot on the sofa and you feel your inadequacies and you are standing next to someone with body odor. You can know that in spite of everything that’s wrong with you, God has given you the ministry of reconciliation.

You can know He’s made you alive in Christ.

 

 

“I come as one who desires, who seeks, to be prepared to live out the life of Christ today on earth, to translate His hidden heavenly glory into the language of daily life, with its dispositions and His duties.

As I think of all my failures in fulfilling God’s will, as I look forward to all the temptations and dangers that await me, as I feel my entire insufficiency and yet say to God- ”I come to claim the life hid in Christ, that I may live the life for Christ;” I feel urged and drawn not to be content without the quiet assurance that God will go with me and bless me.

May I indeed expect to live the life hid with Christ in God, so as to make it manifest in my mortal body? I may. For it is God Himself will work it in me by the Holy Spirit dwelling in me. The same God who raised Christ from the dead, and then set Him at His right hand, has raised me with Him and given me the Spirit of the glory of His Son in my heart.

Believe what God says about you. Accept what God has bestowed upon you in Christ. Take time before God to know it and say it. The life of every day depends on it.”

Andrew Murray, The Master’s Indwelling

 

Join something new we are doing here?  A 4 week eCourse on Abiding in Christ and living out our new identity? The course begins February 4. Get all the details here. 

When you need some perspective { A Tradition for Difficult Times}

The Teacup Tradition {Helping Children cope with Difficulties}

A Tea Tradition and story for facing hard times

 

 

Dear Daughter,

When they told me what we had to do, the world stopped and I just needed to pull you close and sit down. They said for you to grow, I must give you injections every night before bed; but that isn’t the worst part. “They’ll need to be given in the stomach,” the doctors said. “These will continue until she has reached adult height, in about ten years.

And I don’t know what the next ten years will bring us, but I know hard things and painful nights will certainly be part of our lives.

I wish there were some other way, a way to avoid pain and discomfort. In this life, there is no such way.

 

That’s why it is important for me to give you something greater than a pain-free life, my daughter. I want to impart to you perspective.

 

I want to train you how to stop and see the unseen.

So daughter, I’m shopping for a teacup. Yes, you and I are going to sit down to tea.

Before the injections start in a few days and our evenings shift and change, you and I are going to have tea. And I’m going to tell you a story…

 

 

The Teacup Story

Once upon a time there was a quiet little shop tucked away amongst the busy streets of London. This shop was magic because from time to time, items in the shop ~ like wooden horses and over-stuffed elephants ~ would briefly come to life. One day a little girl and her mother were visiting London and got lost. They stumbled into the quiet little shop and began looking at the varied items found there.

The mom noticed high on a shelf sat a beautiful teacup. It was lovely! The mother reached for the cup to show her daughter. As they touched the delicate flowers and ran fingers across the cup’s rim, something surprising happened. The cup began to speak!

“I have not always been a teacup. You see, there was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, patted and pounded me over and over and I yelled out, ‘Don’t do that. I don’t like it! Let me alone.’ But he only smiled, and gently said, ‘Not yet!’”

“Then WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting so dizzy! I’m going to be sick,’ I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, quietly, ‘Not yet.’”

“He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then… then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. ‘Help! Get me out of here!’ I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, ‘Not yet.’”

“When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! Ah, this is much better, I thought. But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. ‘Oh, please, Stop it, Stop it!’ I cried. He only shook his head and said. ‘Not yet!’”

“Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited ——- and waited, wondering “What’s he going to do to me next?”

An hour later he handed me a mirror and said ‘Look at yourself.’ “And I did. I said, ‘That’s not me, that couldn’t be me. It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful!’”

Quietly he spoke: ‘I want you to remember. I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you’d have dried up.

I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled.

I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn’t put you there, you would have cracked.

I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn’t done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn’t put you back in that second oven, you wouldn’t have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.”

 

 

Daughter, you are like that teacup. God is the Potter of your life. His plan and delight is to make something stunningly beautiful of you. But beauty doesn’t just happen. Beauty is shaped with intentionality. Beauty and purpose sometimes come only with force, fire, and discomfort.

If our teacups could talk to us right now, they would tell us it was all worth it. The shaping and the fumes, the fire and the heat. One day, you will be able to say the same thing.

For now, we must get to know our Potter. He is good, always… and always faithful. He knows what He’s doing.

In wisdom, He knows just what to bring into our lives to shape the beauty, color, and flavor He aims for us to have. He never takes His eyes off of you or forgets what you are going through. He never gets tired of His project or decides to quit. He promises to finish what He started in you. He even wrote you a letter so you can know for sure and never forget:

 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

 

Oh daughter! I can see the beauty taking shape in you! I can see determination starting to shine through. I can see gentleness being formed. I even catch glimpses of compassion and service. Daughter, you are a masterpiece.

Whenever you are tempted to despair, whenever you are tossed about with doubt, this will be our tradition … we’ll pull out the teacups and reflect on our Potter.

Much love,

Mama

 

 

**Repost from the archives. Author of the original Teacup Story unknown.

Encouraged here? I invite you to subscribe for updates. As a subscriber, you’ll receive the link to download my brand new eBook, “The Family Table.” Thanks for being a reader and friend!

The Teacup Tradition {Helping Children cope with Difficulties}

 

Hope when you want to quit

how not to quit

how not to quit

 

 

 

It all started when I asked her to pick up.

Company is coming and an entire evening is planned and I really don’t have time to work through some issue that no one really understands in the first place.

Little Bit starts to meltdown.

When she goes rigid, refuses to answer questions, just sits there sour when I’ve asked her to pick up, I want to give up.

Throw in the towel.

I’m sick to death of the whole mess. Wounded children and exasperated mamas and adoption and being like Jesus… it’s all just one big pulsing heartache.

No, I’m not going to walk out on anybody. I’ll smile at the guests and talk about how great God is. I’ll be a decent mom and wife. But there’s more than one way to be a quitter.

Inside is where the quittin’ starts.

There’s the quiet, insidious choice to just stop believing.

Here’s the thing: when we stop believing God, we start believing something else. And on day 1,897 of the battle, I  just want to call it quits, stop believing for something greater. Inside, I want to stop trying. Stop acting like anything is ever going to change. Stop pretending there is something glorious about it all.

Truth is, there’s nothing glorious about the wretched mess.

And truth is, sometimes it’s just too much to believe for anything better. It’s too hard to keep believing when everything tells you to get real already.

When day after day you go at it like a bull rider, out to master the beast, holding on with every tenacious strand of your being…and every day you’re thrown in the mud while your confidence… your hope… gets slung and trampled, well there’s only so long you can keep doing that.

The vision can be smeared by the mud. The laying face down in the muck can rob you sheer blind. Your faith can be eroded by the maddening mundane.

I sit there on her window seat, defeated. We talk the same talk as always. They are just words now; My heart’s not in it.  I hear the company at the door. She starts bawling and sniffling and one really can wonder how in the world a mom is supposed to do this jig. Day after lousy day.

And then it comes to me: our family crest. 

We agonized for a year or more over which four family traits we wanted to capitalize on, which four values did we want etched into stone, which ones would make the cut and go on the family crest?

One of the four we decided on? Diligence.

And how many times have I told the kids when they wanted to quit at something too hard for them, “Remember our family values? Part of being diligent means we keep going. We keep trying. We don’t ever give up.”

Never Give Up.

It strikes me then. It’s a Family Value. Straight from the Father Himself. It’s a highly prized character trait and all God’s children are instructed in it.

He taught us to pray and never give up, to know that the testing of our faith works patience, to persevere through trials and not let go of our confidence.

He told us that no matter what, we must build ourselves up in our “most holy faith.”

Never. Give. Up.

And I hear the Father instructing this child’s heart: “You can’t quit, my girl. Because perseverance is a family value and you’re in the family.”

And through my gritted teeth I say it out loud before my mind has time to negotiate it: “I’m not giving up. I am not giving up.”

The tears are coming down her face and now they’re coming down mine too, the blood streaks of battle. There’s company waiting to be greeted, but I’ve got unfinished business to take care of.

“I’m not giving up!” I say it loud and crazy. I’m pacing the room and waving fists in the air and I’m doing warfare that can’t wait, the inner battle in unseen places where whole lives are negotiated for.

The course of an entire family can be traced back to the map of one person’s unwavering faith.

“Do you hear me?” I say it stronger now.  ”When the Son of Man comes, He’s gonna find persistent faith in this corner of the earth! I am not. giving. up!”

“Because I’ve got the promise of my righteous Daddy to defend and protect and avenge me speedily. He’s able to keep what I’ve entrusted to Him. He’s going to take this sorry mess and He’s going to do abundantly above and beyond all I ask or think and He’s going to keep us from stumbling and make us stand faultless before His glorious throne with great joy one day. And boy howdy, I’m not’a givin’ up.”

And in the midst of my faltering heart, I know it sure: a wounded child doesn’t need her mama to be perfect; she just needs her to be persistent. Persistent in faith.

And a faltering daughter doesn’t need her mama to have all the answers; she just needs her to have all faith.

And a wayward child doesn’t need her mama to keep pining over regrets; she just needs her to keep beseeching the Father.

And a daughter finding her way doesn’t need a mama who frets and controls; she just needs a mama who takes it all to the throne time and again.

The world needs mamas who won’t quit believing.

Who never give up. 

And just for today, I am one.

 

“I tell you, as for God, He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find persistence in faith on the earth?”

Luke 18:8

The Grace Feast

 

 

 

very shallow depth of field and very low perspective

 

When that Little Bit joined our family, she had to learn an entire different way of living.

I had to discover a truth too, that when one leaves slavery for freedom, it takes some adjusting. You need to learn the ways of grace … When all you’ve known is the whip of Egypt.

And one day early on in her learning, I find her crawling under the table eating crumbs off the floor. Her lunch plate still sits on the table, food untouched.

It’s a vivid real life example: She prefers the safety of crumbs, the self- foraging, to receiving something un-proven and risky from someone she doesn’t know very well.

Learning grace can be scary. The Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt with its garlic and leeks rather than rely on God to provide something amazing out there in the middle of that desert.

For us earth bound sojourners, learning to feast on grace can seem like sure death… and it is. It is the death of self reliance and independence. It is death to all other provisions but grace.

To eat grace, we must refrain from filling up on crumbs. Maybe that’s why the writer of Hebrews says it clear and reliable for us:

 

“It is better to be strengthened by grace than by foods.”  Hebrews 13:9

 

We are masters of crumb eating. We eat the crumbs of social media and TV and entertainment and we consume information and textiles and fashion and fast food. We self forage for power and control and we use anger and self pity and self-righteousness and letting it all go can be frightening. Opening our hands to just grace seems risky.

What if grace, just simple grace for the moment, isn’t enough?

Eating grace is always a matter of trust. It is trusting that God really is better, that He really is enough, that He really will come through for me. In this moment.

And then we eat grace by acting on our trust. Even if it means treading deeper into the wilderness.

It’s the invitation of grace: come to the table and eat. But we need to know that means leaving the crumbs where they belong, on the floor and under the foot.

Over time, Little Bit started to eat that grace. She started to trust the woman who put her plate on the table. It took her mama getting real creative and even pureeing her food for awhile. It took her drinking grace like a babe, from a cup. But slowly, very slowly, she began to learn the ways of grace.

She is still learning {and so is her mama.} But one thing we both know: crumbs are best left for the dustpan.

How are you doing at eating grace?

 

This week, I’m evaluating how well I’m doing, how healthy I am. Because what really matters each day is whether or not I eat at the altar of grace and oh, I want to! I’m prayerfully asking these questions and you are invited to join in. Comments are off because I’m trying to give voice to the Lord alone this week.

 

~How strong am I? Am I being strengthened by grace?

~Am I looking to other things to fill me? If so, what are those things?

~How can I be intentional about turning away from those things and choosing grace?

~How will I step out in trust and go forward in grace?

 

More in this series next week…

All posts in the “Grace” Series:

The One Must Have for Spiritual Growth

For Those Not Good Enough

Eating Grace

The Grace Feast

 

Where Identity begins

 

 

Here. Just here:

“Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.

This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.”

Ephesians 1:4-6

 

 

Need to know who you really are? Take a moment to read Ephesians 1

When you are looking for the resurrected life

april wrap bracelet

 

 

When my arms opened and I pressed that Little Bit of a girl against my chest for the very first time, I’d no idea how my life would change. I’d no idea how a heart could bleed ragged after it had learned to protect itself so thoroughly.

There are some discoveries in life you’d rather not make.

I’d no idea that learning to trust God for the resurrected life… that Easter hope… would mean entering the darkness of the broken one first, that the two run side by side.

I had no idea that when we found the marks of abuse on our daughter it meant our stories would be written far different than I had hoped. And you are invited to read part of our broken story over at Not Consumed today… and more in the days ahead.

There are some days I just can’t do it any more. Even so, His story tells me death does not have the final say.

His Book tells me all authority resides not in cancer or abuse or statistics or predictions. All authority rests safely with the One is faithful to complete what He started in me. In us.

There are days when my choices add to the shattering. I fail miserably and struggle to find my footing once again. Yet once again He speaks. He says He is faithful not only to forgive, but to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

He intends to raise the dead to life.

There are times I slip in the darkness and falter blind and wish our stories had been written differently. But then I remember to focus the gaze on this: He is able to keep me from stumbling and will present us, the  broken ones, faultless before the throne… with great joy.

And this month, our memory verses remind us that He is faithful to take the small and grow it; faithful to strengthen us when we turn to Him; faithful to provide seed for sowing;  faithful to give us a way of escape in the midst of temptation.

Always, always, it comes back to Him. HE REMAINS FAITHFUL.  O ye of little faith!

This month, Amy has crafted this beautiful bracelet to wrap us in. For the moments during the day when our faith falters, we have a reminder that in all these things, He is faithFUL.

 

faithful2

 

 

If you are looking for a special gift for a mother, daughter, sister, friend, Amy’s scripture bracelets are perfect! She hand crafts each one to size and thoughtfully gift wraps before sending. Use code Love316 at checkout today and get the “God is Faithful” bracelet for $17. Wow!

 

Resources for your Monday:

April’s Scripture Memory Cards {printable, thanks to Stephanie!}

Entire Collection of Scripture Bracelets

Our Story at Not Consumed

 

Rest in His faithfulness today!

 

 

 

 

Two Lambs

lostlamb

 

 

 

 

She toddles out of her room carrying a brown elephant by its trunk. “Good morning, Sunshine,” I greet her. We exchange hugs and slobbery kisses and tickled laughs.

Then I ask where her sister is.

“She won’t come out.”

I sigh. Here we go again. In the providence of God, I have two daughters the same age. One is healthy and attached. The other is not. The one climbs in my lap un-hindered and calls me in the night without hesitation. She knows what it is like to feel safe, to trust. To laugh free and share deep. To belong.

The other? Not so much. She is scarred. Unattached. She came to us after a very long and hard first year of life. She carries memories deep and is afraid to really trust. She is afraid to let go.

To her, safety is in controlling, not in running to us and throwing herself headlong upon us.

My two daughters have brought a richness to my understanding of God. Both daughters are fully mine. They both eat the same things, have the same resources, share the same last name. They share clothes, toys, and the same citizenship, despite their different genetic makeup and backgrounds and pasts. They both have all of me and my resources at their disposal.

The only difference is that one fully knows it and doesn’t doubt while the other isn’t so sure. She is plagued with doubt.

And I’ve asked it many times: Which daughter am I? One daughter has laid hold of all that has been freely given her and the other has not.

It does strike me then, after all the times I have done this. After all the mornings Little Bit has resisted and withdrawn and out-right refused. After all the times her doubt and distrust has put her in a bad spot and it’s upon me to coach her out, it finally dawns on me and I’m struck to my knees with the revelation: I am like the Shepherd.

For the Shepherd leaves the 99 healthy sheep in the fold to go after the single, solitary one who is lost.

I’m on my knees with the revelation and this ground is sacred because I see. I’ve been invited to enter into His very heart, to reach out the finger and touch His wounded side and BELIEVE.

Because I’ve truly been the wounded daughter, the lost sheep, the doubting Thomas.

I’m the black sheep on the outside looking in.

And He has appeared to me and given me two little lambs and has invited me to reach out and touch His side, feel His heart. To Experience. See. And Believe. Both daughters are fully His and this is how He shepherds His own.

Our Shepherd is One who goes after the wounded and sick, the needy one stuck in some pit on the backside of nowhere.

His intent is nothing short of “bringing in.” He will keep pursuing, keep reaching, keep leading…until each of His sheep are all safely brought in: healthy, attached, and full in His fold.

My sigh turns to a smile. As much as I’d love to cuddle with my healthy little lamb, I leave her sitting on the couch in order to bring in my lost one. “Little Bit,” I call to her from the foot of her bed. “Are you ready to get up?”

She doesn’t respond. She is rigid and her eyes glint at me hard. She isn’t budging.

“We are going to have breakfast in a little while and you are invited to join us.”

She starts to cry. She has placed herself in a predicament, you see. She wants breakfast. But she doesn’t want to reach out. She has decided she doesn’t too much care for the offer we’ve made her, to be part of the family, to belong. She doesn’t want that part. She wants to stay stuck, remain the victim.

The truth is sordid sometimes: being a victim is easier than embracing grace.

And I see it all over my own life. Moments dotting my day, impurities pocking a life, times where I don’t want to stretch into the grace offered me. I want something easier. I want to live close fisted, demanding change from others, from life itself, instead of embracing the change God gently prompts within.

The ugly truth is that I don’t want the challenge of grace. So I stay stuck.

But hunger for that breakfast table has a way of doing it’s work. And the Shepherd has a way of making us desperate hungry for Grace.

I lean against the bunk beds shared by my lambs. I look at Little Bit. She wants control; I give it. “Alright, just come on out when you are ready.”

I leave the room and wait. One of two things will happen. I know because we have done this little routine hundreds of times. She will either start screaming, hoping to elicit a response from me… another of her attempts at controlling me; or she will slowly inch her way out of bed, take baby steps towards the door, and finally make a very reserved, staunch, proud appearance.

She does neither.

This time, I hear her voice amidst the cries, the tears. Momma, I need help!

I run. I reach her side and lift her up and tell her I am right there and that is what I’m here for, to help her and that I will always help her when she asks.

And in my own words, I hear the Shepherd’s voice. He speaks to me the very words I speak to her.

“That’s the promise I’ve made you,” I whisper into her tear soaked hair. “And I will always keep it. Always.”

I think of the Shepherd who made a covenant with us with His very own blood and how He promises to never leave us or forsake us and to always be faithful to us because He cannot deny His nature. Even when we can’t help ourselves, when we can’t reach out and when we flounder in doubt, when we want grace but don’t have the strength to embrace it, all we need do is call out and He is there. He will bring us in.

I lift up my Little Bit and soothe her tears and carry her on the hip. I bring her in to the fold.

We join the rest of the family at the breakfast table.

Little Bit takes a shuddering breath as I lower her into her chair. I trumpet like a victor: “Let’s eat!”

And all hands reach out, a circle of fists grabbing grace… lavish grace broken and poured out.

The family is complete and we’ve all come in and in the quiet pastures of the soul, I feel the Shepherd smiling. Grace has won. 

 

 

lostlamb

Linking this post up with a blog I’ve just discovered: Grace Laced; And another I look forward to perusing this weekend, A Royal Daughter. {You can thank Pinterest for these new finds :)  }

 

Are you encouraged here? I invite you to subscribe to Arabah Joy for free updates.

Pineapples, Pride, and the Path of Life

pineapple story

 

 

 

pineapple story

 

 

She stands in front of the toy bin, both arms full with an overflowing red tub of tinker toys and cars.

She tries to slide the tub into the bin slots but the tub is too big to fit. She’s going to need help.

But I know my Little Bit: she doesn’t like admitting her need for others. I can see it on her face, the pride pressing her to go it alone, to avoid being vulnerable, to be independent.

I offer her a path out of her predicament, the way of escape before she digs herself into an unsavory situation. “Little Bit, do you think that tub is going to fit?”

“No,” she replies with a tinge of whine to her voice.

“What do you think you should do?” I prompt her, offering a magic feather. It helped Dumbo fly and I want my girl to soar. All she has to do is ask for help.

She doesn’t take the way offered. She decides to go it alone. “I need to get a stool,” she tells me.

Even with a stool, she can’t reach the top slot. She knows just as much as I do that sliding the tub into the top bin is a flat-out impossibility.

But there she is, looking a fool trying to balance on her tiptoes on top of a stool, arms filled and aching, back arching. Listening to the voice of pride always puts one in a precarious, foolish position.

“Little Bit,” I try again. “Do you think you can slide that tub in?”

“No,” she says, still hard and independent.

“Well… what do you think you should do?”

She starts crying. Admitting her dependence, her need, is just about to kill her. It is painful. It is threatening.

That’s how it is when you’ve been lied to. When you’ve depended on somebody and they left you in a cardboard box on the day you were born… when you needed someone to care for you and they took the liberty to take a cigarette lighter to your genitals… darkness is there. But it isn’t the darkness that damages so much as it is the lies that accompany.

Because you can leave behind cardboard boxes and cigarette lighters. You can leave behind past identities and bad choices and the good news is that you really can be rescued out of darkness.

But the lies aren’t so quick to leave behind.

The lies move in. They tell you you’re better off alone. “You can’t trust anyone,” the serpent whispers. “You’re safer this way.”

And we believe and we act on our beliefs and we establish an entire way of life around…a lie.

“What do you think you should do?” I ask her again. Crying, Little Bit asks for help. I reach out and take the tub from her. We finish picking up and afterwards, we talk about pride. I sit on the stool with her in my lap. “Pride is not your friend,” I tell her. “Pride will isolate you and steal from you. When you hear pride telling you not to ask for help, don’t listen to it. It is not your friend!”

I wipe away her tears and she shudders relief in my arms.

After lunch, we all go for a walk. Hawkers and street vendors are out selling their goods and we buy fresh sugar cane sticks for the kids. Jackson spots peeled, whole pineapples and we approach the vendor to ask how much.

He eyeballs us and says, “Eight dollars.”

I’m put off. No doubt the man is giving us the jacked up foreigner price.

“That’s ridiculous,” I tell Jackson. ”Let’s go.”

We leave and meander and finally stop in a small grocery store for some bananas. Jackson picks out a pineapple to boot. When we get to the cash register, the pineapple price rings up:  $23.60

I gulp. And fork out the money. Three times the money we would have paid the street vendor.

When we get outside I call Little Bit. “Little Bit, momma just listened to her pride.”

“You did?!?” She looks up at me, face beaming. She is excited to hear it. I laugh. 

“Yes. I did.” I tell her about how I rushed off from the vendor without asking for a discount, without giving him any further ado. I snubbed the man because he gave me the slightest injustice.

“That was pride talking and I listened. Because of it, I ended up paying three times more for my pineapple.”

By this time all the kids had huddled around me on the sidewalk in front of the grocery and were listening to my story. “Did you cry?” Little Bit asks. The question seems peculiar. Yet I remember it comes from one who has known the isolation and pain of pride firsthand. How many times has her pride held her back from joining in, from engaging, from being vulnerable, from attaching, from belonging?

Oh my, I do believe she has just realized pride hurts.

“I did not cry,” I tell her, “but my heart hurts in here.”

I tap my chest and inwardly I get low. “Oh Jesus, forgive me!”

Little Bit takes my hand. We begin to walk again. The other kids skip ahead, chewing sugar cane. Little Bit and I lag behind. She looks up at me. “Momma, I love you.”

God does give grace to the humble. 

Grace to renounce the lies and the self-sufficiency. The self-righteousness. Grace to trust.

I look down into my Little Bit’s upturned face and smile. Right there on a dirty sidewalk at the backside of nowhere, two girls broken by pride are joined by humility.

We squeeze hands and smile and walk on.

Together.

 

Newtown, Orphans, and Where is God?

 

 

The bus swerved on the mountain road and I looked straight down from my window seat to see sheer drop. Nothing but mist lay beneath us. We were mere centimeters from death.

Mountain climbers call this exposure, the condition of “being on high vertical rock with full consciousness that nothing exists between you and the distant ground but thin air.”

And there are times in one’s life when you come into full consciousness, when you know nothing exists between you and death but the invisible sustaining of God….

 

The orphanage jutted from the side of the mountain and as we climbed the steps to enter, I saw faces of the children peeking out from behind doors.

We spread food out on tables. Children ran up to snake packages of cookies, crackers, and candy into their pockets. Some sat down to eat the fried chicken we brought, others just horded, waiting for their own private feast.

All the children but one had special needs. The healthy children get adopted out to homes around the world. The rest stay behind.

“If you have any language ability,” the director of the trip tells us, “please spend time talking with the children.”

That’s me. I’ve worked hard to learn this difficult language. The thought crosses my mind:

“What if I’ve learned this language for a time such as this? To communicate the love of Christ to children abandoned up the side of some mountain in the middle of nowhere?”

So I approach child after child, see mouths of rotten teeth and clothes with holes in them. I offer warm arms and warm words and I pray Christ takes broken pieces and nourishes the hungry soul anyway.

Then…

I’m standing by the director of the trip when she says to the group, “There is one child that hasn’t come out. The child is tied up in the room next door.”

A child tied up? Mercy. My heart starts to pound.

“They told me the child can come out if someone takes the child and does not leave their side,” The director informs us and I see raw panic in the eyes of our group. So does the director. She turns to me. “Arabah, will you take this child?”

I stammer out a “Yes, of course,” and follow the house parent to the room where the child is tied.

It’s a girl standing at the window. Her hair is chopped short and it’s hard to tell if she’s a girl or boy with her clothing, but I look in her face and I see the spirit of a girl, the feminine beauty.

I want to cry.

The window is open, even in this cold, and she is tied to a security bar at the window. Her eyes are bright and I take her hands into mine. They are freezing.

I look in her eyes and speak softly, asking if she wants to go outside for awhile. The rule is that I must keep her on the “leash,” a thick strip of fabric tied around her torso, and that I can’t feed her.

I soon find out why.

She rushes the food tables and grabs trash off the floor to eat it. She smacks food out of other children’s hands and tries to stuff food and debris down her throat.

I adjust to this child. A child with food issues. I think of my Little Bit.

I steer her away from the food tables, but not before grabbing a wrapped bun. The house parent told me not to give her any food, that this little girl who lives tied up had already eaten.

I don’t listen. I’m sorry, I can’t.

I give her the wrapped bun and she tries to eat it, only to realize it is secured by packaging that she can’t open.

“Wo bang ni,” I tell her. “Let me help you.”

I want her to receive food from a stranger, to know generosity, to realize there is kindness. After a life of abandonment and abuse and pain and isolation, I want to move her one step closer to trust. She needs to know there is hope, there is a good future. There is a Maker who is also a Father.

Is this not why we go in His name?

It seems preposterous for me to try to communicate to her that she doesn’t have to self-protect and look out for her own interests. She’s lived in a dog-eat-dog world. This is a stretch for sure that seems better left undone.

But I try anyway. I get down on her level, face to face, and repeat the words to her again and again, “I can help you. I will open it for you. You are so special and so beautiful. Slow down, everything is okay.”

She glances up at me quickly. Finally, she hands me the bun.

I rejoice at the victory. I open the package and give her the bread.

She devours it.

We repeat this over and over until she’s had chicken, buns, cookies, crackers, juice.

I spend an hour with my little friend, oblivious to everything else going on. At the end, she finds a shiny gold ornament that fell off the Christmas tree. She picks it up and for the first time, she smiles. She speaks. She holds the ornament and rolls it around and around in her cold hands.

“It’s yours,” I tell her. “You can have it.”

I speak words of love over her and when it is time to go, I ask the house parent to take her. “No,” she tells me, “You must go tie her back up.”

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life… tying a child up.

And then leaving.

The words are even hard to write.

But as I get ready to leave the room, I notice I’m the only adult there and many of the other children have returned. They are lined up in wheelchairs and every single one of them is staring at me, with hopeless eyes. I touch each one and try to speak words they can understand.

They don’t. Their eyes tell me the words are meaningless. They stare at me dark and hopeless and so I speak just one word. Just one word again and again and again. It’s the only one they need know, really.

 

Jesus.

 

“Don’t forget,” I tell them. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

It seems a pitiful attempt in the face of such pain and hopelessness. It seems so meaningless, so impractical. Why bother? Why pretend that it matters, that it is somehow significant?

When I return home, I cry with Jackson and Jackson tells me the news: Newtown and 20 children and a devastated community and a nation that grapples with the Why?

Hearts wrenched and wounded and devastated and this is why we self-protect and just look out for ourselves and quit believing in Good. This is why our hearts grow numb and we die that way and why we don’t bother with the small attempts because what is the point, really?

But there’s that one word, that Name, that God-man who left heaven and came down for the express purpose of entering into our pain.

He’s called the “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

And He didn’t have to be. He could have stayed far removed. He didn’t have to climb the mountain and untie the sash and speak the good news to a broken world and make Himself bread and become the Lamb who took stripes for us and now promises to never, ever leave us … He didn’t have to do all that but He did.

He wept and He didn’t run from the hopeless, evil, and dark pain of our lives but entered into it so that He could overcome it and give us our heart back.

We really can believe there is Good. There really is a future and a hope. Life really is worth living. 

Where is God?, we wonder.

And I have no answers but a word: Jesus. Emmanuel. Bread of Life. Freely Given. Shepherd and Savior and Close to the brokenhearted. Binder of wounds. Healer. Sustainer. Weeper and Empathizer. Comfort. Light in our darkness. The Way, Truth, and Life. Redeemer. Overcomer. Victorious One. The Pearl of Great Price. Lamb of God.

He’s everything and He’s right here with us.

And I realize: In our moments of exposure, when all the safety nets and securities are removed,  in that place where we understand how close we really are to thin air, we can see Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Mothering

 

 

Every day this week Little Bit’s come home from school with an attitude.

We walk out of school, cross the street, pass the gate guard, turn down the side alley, approach our building. Up the stairs is when she starts. First the crying, then the all out bawling and by the time we get halfway up to our 3rd floor apartment, everyone around is wondering why this little thing of a girl is carrying on so in the stairwell.

And I’m always self-conscious about it, when all my *white* children are happy and smiling and my *dark* child is not.

Especially living in the country we adopted her from.

So the first day I soothed.

The second day I reminded her of all the reasons why she didn’t need to break down.

The third day I walked her back outside to “re-do,” to try to over-ride whatever was triggering the melt down.

On the fourth day, I was tired of it.

I took her into the bedroom and sat down with her on the bed. “Baby, you’ve got to stop this.” I told her.

“I can’t keep doing this with you every afternoon when we get home. There is homework to do and snacks to prepare and the other kids need help with things and we just can’t be doing this every. single. day.”

And I try to talk to her about why this is all happening and she doesn’t know and how can someone who hurts so deeply explain what is going on inside?

So I tell her she just needs to stop.

A momma gets so tired. And a momma has only so much time, energy, and know-how. And for surely the umpteenth time I ask God how exactly I am supposed to know what to do? I’m not smart enough for all this, nor is there enough of me to go around.

And that night, after the kids are down, a worn out momma picks up the book and starts reading where she left off.

 

“Jesus leaves the healthy ninety-nine safe in their pen while he goes out into the night looking for the one who’s lost, sick, depressed, disappointed, wounded, enslaved. And when He has found it, He lays it across His shoulders.

Can you imagine what His message to us would be otherwise? “I’ll come after you and save you- if I’m not too busy saving others, and if my attention isn’t needed keeping the ninety-nine others safe. After all, you probably got into this mess yourself, and it wouldn’t be fair to deprive the others, who are being good, of my time and attention just to keep coming after you.”

Never in Scripture does Jesus give a message anything like this. Instead, He promises to come after the one…”

~Undaunted, by Christine Caine

 

And I’m cut to the quick and whispers across my soul tell me why He’s placed these children in my home, why my life has been turned upside down by adoption. He’s picking me up by my weary arms and setting me on my feet and calling me to a Glory I can’t wrap my petty mind around.

The glory of the gospel.

My heart stirs and I fall in love with Jesus all over again and I commit to shepherding these hearts, even little hearts that don’t know why they do what they do ~  especially those ~ with a pursuing love that reflects the Savior.

How will I do it? I don’t know except this: by Him and through Him and to Him… and with Him.

How many times will this be asked of me? Countless. How many soft words, gentle touches, kind guidances, second chances? As many as the sands of the seashore.

And each time I’ll experience afresh His mercy, be awed by His humility, become perfected in His love… I’ll know the gentle ways of the Shepherd.

 

 

For the next few weeks, Simply Trusting Thursdays will focus on Jesus-like mothering. Jesus-mothering is based on trusting the gentle ways of Jesus to guide us, teach us, and show us how to shepherd our children.

As a mom who does not have mothering all figured out, I’ve been turning to the scriptures…yes, in desperation…and He’s been challenging my heart to trust. Trust enough to follow in His footsteps, lose my life, scatter the seed, cast bread on water…let go of my mothering hopes, dreams, and expectations. Take it one moment at a time, surrendered and listening.

I’ve been meditating on these principles now for several months as they relate to mothering, and although I’m shaking in my boots to even attempt to put them into words here on the blog where others can read them, I need to for me. I need to process what He is kneading into my heart. It seems He’s shaping in me a brand new philosophy of mothering…

 

 

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