Thursday, November 30, 2017

There's This House

There's this house.

Over the Thanksgiving break I was reminded about the day our church bought a house. It sits in the back of the property and as the church was growing, they wanted to purchase it.

The pastor led us to prepare for a Sunday that we would bring an offering to the church to buy the house. He called it "The Chest of Joash Day" believing that God would do a work.  The day came and as the entire church, row by row, walked down the aisle to the chest to place their offering in, we watched God at work.  My mother happened to be with us that morning and as I turned around to see her behind us in line, I asked, "Why are you in line..with a check?"  She replied, "I'm investing in my grandchildren's future." And she did with a $200 check.

That day the church sacrificially gave over $50,000 and then bought the house.

The house housed some staff members for a while and after they moved, the questions began to circle of what was it to be used for now.

The answer was not long in coming.

It became, what we lovingly referred to it as "the youth house" and it became a house of solace. Our house of faith.

This wasn't a fancy house with modern amenities. This was a wood framed house that had additions built into it. It was old. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. The windows did not shut well and the doors didn't fit the frame. But our hearts fit there and  it was well loved.

It is hard to put into words the feelings about this house. Not only did the youth have their own place, it became a place that when we gathered, we expected God to move. And so many times, He did.

Because, there's this house:

I could talk about the music...and there was lots of music. Students began to bring their talent and use it to honor God. There were jam sessions and worship sessions. We had several adults who gave of their own personal time to work with these students and help them learn how to lead worship and play as a group. Many of these students went on to offer their talents in churches after they graduated. The worship sessions in the place were Spirit-filled.

Because, there's this house:

I could tell you about the Friday night's and  lock-in's that happened there. Food, candy, a fire-pit to roast marshmallows and so much more. Shaving cream, food games, manhunt, mafia and Sardines. Bible study and girl talk. It all happened and we fell in love with each while it was all going on. Extended family does not begin to explain the relationships that were deepened during this time.

Because, there's this house:

I could speak for hours of the Bible study and lessons that happened in there, week after week. Students with Bibles, papers and pen gathered together to learn. We discussed and studied so many topics and verses. After a while, there were some that asked if they could lead the study and so the baton was passed. We stood or sat in a circle many times and prayed, wiped away tears, comforted and just leaned into God.  He was and is always faithful.

Because, there's this house:

Let me tell you about all the adults that wandered in and out of this house. They gave of themselves to help out students. They gave time, money, effort, patience and so much more. They traveled with us, slept on church floors, cooked meals, cleaned up, endured the elements in a hot and cold bus, and prayed with students, loved them, advised them and guided them in the ways of the Lord.

And because there was a house, and because God chose to work, we have had the immense privilege to watch God work in their lives then, and even now as they have become adults in an adult world.  Somewhere along the way we bought into the idea that the next generation counted. They mattered. They were and are loved by God and loved by us.

One of the songs we used to sing was "House of Faith" by Geoff Moore and the Distance. It was, for want of a better word, our theme song:

"Let the doors swing open to the house of faith
Every tribe and nation, every tongue and race
Under Jesus' banner, let us all embrace
There can be no labels, in the house of faith

I pray that all churches, no matter the size, realize that the next generation matters. They matter to God and they matter to the local church.

When my mother walked the aisle and placed her check in the chest, she said she was investing in her grandchildren. She did exactly that. But what she could not have known is that her great grandchildren, years later would also benefit from ministry at times from that house.

Who can fathom what God has in mind when He presents an opportunity? No one.

Who can ever know the impact you have on a life that is searching? Only God.

Let the doors swing open to the house of faith......there can be no labels in the house of faith.

A good remembrance for us all.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Force of Four

The first days of summer.

The heat, the humidity, the feeling of endless nights of stars and lightening bugs takes me back to 1976 and a summer spent in Dallas.

My sister and I had been driven across the south to stay with our Uncle and Aunt for the summer. They had two daughters, and that is where this tale begins.

After being dropped off, we began the summer of lightheartedness, entertainment and laughter...lots of it.

We stayed up late and slept the morning away. We played board games and watched a great deal of game shows and "Father Knows Best".  On a side note: this is also the summer I read "Gone With the Wind" for the first time.  I hope you know how long that book is.

The best part of these days, or so we thought, was that we spent the daylight hours on our own.
The cousins and us together were a force of four.

Our uncle, whom we called The Professor, was an endless wealth of trivia and informative facts we would later recall as actually true.  He was full of conspiracy theories that have since come to light.  We loved him then, and still love him. He resides in Glory today.  Later in life he described himself as our children's "avuncular grandfather".  And he was.

Our aunt could then, and now, light up the room. I remember thinking she must be the person in the world who has fun everywhere she goes.  She introduced us that summer to sopaipilla's and honey, and bean dip.  We learned about Hollywood gossip and lives of the rich and famous, and we loved every minute of it.  She is as beautiful today as she was then, and still having fun. She is also the aunt that took us to see Jaws for the first time...that makes her a rock star in my book.

We sank into the easy rhythm of summer that did not require much effort.  The four of us were 13 yrs old and under.  We played outside, we laid around inside.  We rode bikes and walked all around the neighborhood. We swam at the local pool and bought candy from a dime store.  It was the days of freedom and fun and we were living it up.

We didn't think about strangers or hidden danger, we simply had fun.

 Throughout the summer we attended church with our family and the week of Vacation Bible School came up. The big discussion was how we were going to get to church every day for a week while the adults were working.  Their church was in downtown Dallas. Nowhere near their house.

The decision was made that we were old enough to ride the city bus downtown, get off and walk to the church building, attend Bible school, and then repeat the route back home.  Then, it was a 30 minute ride to the destination.

We were ecstatic, to say the least. So, every morning for five days, we were given change for the bus, and money to buy lunch at the church cafeteria.  Our feet probably did not touch the sidewalks of downtown Dallas we were riding so high on the endless possibilities of a free hand and flexibility to choose our daily activities.

Please keep in mind:  we were 13 and under.  And we loved every second of it.

There is something to be said for responsibility. When it is given and you are expected to pull it off,  you find it within yourself to fulfill the expectation.  Or at least we tried.

We rode the bus. We paid attention to the stops. We gathered our belongings and each other.  We returned home as expected every day.

Maybe today this would be abhorrent for parents to even consider. Maybe their heart stops at the mere thought of their children getting on a city bus and taking a ride by themselves. But that summer we all grew a little taller, inside and out.  We felt good about ourselves and our adventures.  We felt confidence in ourselves begin to take root and sprout.  Funny thing about responsibility placed on your start to believe that you can actually attain the goals that are placed in front of you.

Parents, please give your children some sort of responsibility.  They need it. They probably want it. Don't do everything for them and allow them a way out.  It stifles them as they get older and we don't need any more irresponsible adults.

Our cousins and us forged a bond that summer.  It made us more than cousins. It made us sisters. After all, when you eat, sleep, listen to Barry Manilow and adventure your way through the summer, there is a bond.

Summer is the time for fun.  Have some fun and make those memories.  It is your responsibility.

And to  my sister and the cousins--may we never grow too old to have fun and ride the bus by ourselves.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mark It Up

I am a reader.

I recently reread  "Her Mothers Hope" by Francine Rivers.  In this book, the author shows a mothers struggles and triumphs and how these situations impacted her daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters.

I was reminded of my own grandmother. We called her Nonna, and even to this day if I hear that name I am instantly reminded of the sweet fragrance of love.

I am a Bible-marker.  My pages are marked, underlined, folded, and tabbed throughout the Book. Some of my  first recollections are of  Nonna  sitting with her Bible in her lap, reading and praying first thing every morning I was with her.  And underlining.  I have the sweet privilege of having one of her devotionals, and you guessed's marked up.  Her life was "marked" by her devotion to the Holy Scripts and her Savior.  And my life was deeply impacted by hers.

My mother was the single parent of two girls. God had to help her.  There was no choice.  Countless meals, refereeing  battles, keeping us safe, baskets full of books, listening to our endless chatter, and loving us unconditionally...I cannot help but be amazed by the goodness of God in our lives.  She told me once that her relationship with God was more important to her than I was. I believed it.  Her life was also marked by her journey with the Savior.

Of course, for myself, I did not really understand the gravity of mothering until one hot summer day in August.  That was when everything came full circle for me.  It was made abundantly clear  what this mothering idea was all about.  I was reminded at that exact moment that my life needed to be marked by the love of Jesus.

When I think of my grandmother and my mother, I am amazed at the two women God place in my life. What gifts of grace they were.  They profoundly impacted  the way I think and reason about everything.

When I look at my sister and myself, I am amazed that we had two Godly women in our lives that instructed us in so many ways. Sometimes with words and sometimes by not using words at all.

When I look at my daughter, I see a precious gift of grace, who has her own gift of grace.

This quote from "Her Mothers Hope" has become endearing to me as the years go  by:

"Someday when I pass from this life to the next, my mom and grandmother will be standing with Jesus welcoming me home.  Just as I will be waiting when my beloved daughter arrives, ....and her daughter after her...and all the generations yet to come."  

How is your life marked? Is Jesus tattooed on your life?

Underline it. Highlight it. Circle it. Color it. Fill in all the lines.

Mark it up. It matters to someone.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Too Fast

Not long ago the Treasures and I were taking a trip to the local shopping area. It was cold and windy so we were walking briskly to get to where we were going.  Even though we were bundled up, we were moving like jets because of the cold wind. The young one and I were walking and the big three were walking a few feet ahead.

After a few minutes the he said "Hey, tell them to wait. They are walking too fast."

We soon arrived at our destination---which happened to be a donut shop---ordered and sat down. We quickly consumed said donuts. With a vengeance.

As I sat there listening to the banter of the siblings, I began to think about the phrase, "Walking too fast".

If someone is walking too fast, it generally means they are up ahead, or in front of you moving hurriedly. We tend to say:

Life moves too fast.

Your children grow too fast.

The disease is spreading fast.

I was, at that moment watching donuts disappear too fast.

So with coffee and crumbs cleaned up off the table we began to gather our belongings to leave.

Again, as we were walking, the older ones walked ahead.

And as I looked at them walking away ahead of us I thought of how often we walk away from others, from family, from the body of Christ we have been placed in by God.

We walk away from responsibility of caring for others; from the privilege to serve and not just be served.

We walk away emotionally from relationships that are hard to maintain and cause upheaval in our lives and yet they have a place in our lives.

We walk away from the very circumstance that God places in our lives that will begin the process of making us more like Jesus.

WE walk away.

The Bible is very clear in how we should walk through this life on planet earth.

*Walk in newness of life
*Walk according to love
*Walk by faith
*Walk by the Spirit
*Walk in a manner worthy of the calling
*Walk as children of Light
*Walk in the same manner as He walked
*Walk in truth

......Just to name a few....

If we are walking through life too fast, are we running away from something or running towards something?

Are we walking away from problems and situations that God is allowing for our good and His glory?

Are we walking away emotionally because life is hard and it's too much to deal with?

Are we walking away from the very mission God has us here for?  To tell others about Him.

Where are you walking? To what or Whom are you walking?

I pray it's with Jesus. He's so worth the hard walk.

As for the Treasures---I am praying every day that they not just walk, but RUN towards Jesus.  I pray they walk in His kindness and goodness and also His unwavering love.

And when I am with them and we are walking, I am keeping my eyes fixed on them. I don't want to miss a second of their walk.

Because, as all grandparents know....they are growing too fast.

Monday, January 23, 2017

There's this girl.........


Tomorrow is a birthday.  It is the birthday of someone I have been praying for all of her life, though we only met two years ago.  I always knew that she was somewhere in the world. I just didn't know where. 

Through the years I would pray that she was growing up holding onto Jesus. And she was.  

 I would pray that her family loved her tenderly. They did.

My prayer was that she would love and serve the Lord with her whole heart. She does. 

I prayed for all of this because I knew that somewhere in the life of my son, she would appear. And in the perfect timing of a perfect Father, she did. 

Happy Birthday, Katie. I have recently said that you are everything I prayed for and so much more. God says He gives us more than we could ask or think.  He did exactly that when you came on the scene.  

We count you as an added blessing to our family. You fit perfectly in this tribe of people that love fiercely and protect at all costs.  

So, again, with much love and all kinds of Hawaiian  memories between us,  Happy Birthday! 

P.S.---in 186 days I will watch you come down that aisle towards my son, and as my entire family will be present, I will look and listen closely as the Lord fulfills His promise to this mother.....the day you change your name. 

Cannot wait. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fresh Feathers

The old song says, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future”. 

Where does the time go? 

We wish we had more time. We want to be unhurried. We look around and try to fit every thing we can into our daily schedules and then wonder why at the end of the day we are exhausted.  We like to be busy. Down time seems to be such a waste in the never ending call of our responsibility.  

We are so busy maximizing the minutes that we miss what God has for us in the seconds. 

Children grow up and we wonder where the time went. They used to be in diapers and now they are in prom dresses.

Parents pass away and we wish we could call them….one more time.

We get older ourselves and a glance in the mirror will tell us exactly how much time has passed. 

:Everything is measured in time. 

The Bible speaks of time, also:   Ecclesiastes 3:1 says,  “ For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

John 4:23 says, “ Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for 
      they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

  Acts 1:7 says,  “ He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”

Time IS slippin’ into the future. It’s moving right along exactly the way God planned it. The thing is, we don’t know how God really measures time, but we do know that He says to “redeem the time”.  We are instructed to be careful how we walk…not as unwise, but wise.  In other words, we are to make the most of our time, because we live in evil days.  We are to take advantage of every opportunity to show our sphere of influence Who God is.  He doesn’t give us time to waste.  He gives us time to extend to others the marvelous grace that was given to us at salvation.  That, my friends, is where we are to spend our time.  

Now…….I can waste time. Truth is, I can be the master of procrastination. And maybe that’s not a bad thing every once in a while. I believe God wants us to rest and get quiet enough to hear Him.  It’s just that sometimes I can take it a bit further than it was intended.  

People mark time passing by events in their lives. We wait 9+ months for a baby to be born. We wait to turn 16 so we can drive. We wait to graduate from high school. We wait to graduate from college or get married , We wait for those test results we don’t really want to hear.  We wait to see if that child we love will really make the right decision….. or whatever other type of milestone you have.  We wait for time to pass for something to happen.  We wait in hopes that something good will happen. That God really does “work all things together for our good”.  

Sometimes the waiting room of life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  

But God is always Who He says He is.  Count on it. 

And this is what He says, 

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

If we WAIT for Him, we will get our strength renewed.  That means the strength is already there…we just want more. We have been tired from filling in every second of the day and night…..and we don’t have to be. 

If we WAIT for Him, we are setting our hearts on minds on heavenly matters. 

If we Wait for Him, no matter what life throws at us, we can trust that God is soaring right along side of us and guiding us all the way.  

In Gills Exposition of the Bible, it says,  “ The Jews have a notion, that for ten years the eagle ascends very high in the firmament of heaven, and approaching near to the heat of the sun, it falls into the sea, through the vehemence of the heat; and then it casts its feathers, and is renewed again, and its feathers grow, and it returns to the days of its youth.”

Fresh feathers.  Renewing their strength.  

That’s what we get when we WAIT on the Lord.  Waiting is hard. Waiting tries our patience.  Waiting is not comfortable.  Waiting grinds our very last nerve.  Yet, it is what God asks us to do. And there are spiritual benefits to waiting.  

Time isn’t just slippin’ and passing away.  Time is coming.  All time is being marked to the exact moment when Jesus will return. And on that day, we will see all that we haven’t been able to make sense of, all of the times when we scratched our heads and asked why, all the moments in time we thought were important….and we will realize they were not.  

Need some fresh feathers?  Wait on the Lord. 

Need time to slow down?  Wait on the Lord. 

Need to run this race of life and not be weary?  Wait on the Lord.  

Waiting Child of God——Be strong in the Lord. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

It Ain't Easy

I see them every day.  Younger, older and in-between. They all have that same steel glint that comes out of the corner of their eyes. Their focused gaze that means business.  They don’t mess around. They don’t give an inch.

They are mothers.

These mothers are the unsung heroes of homework helpers, boo-boo fixers, untangling of hair, fixing of toys and various other jobs that if I were to write them all down, the list would resonate with your soul.   

Because you who are mothers, have been there.

You know what it takes to get those kids out the door every morning. It may all start out sweet and nice and then in a flash, the tables can turn and all bets are off. Just to get them out the door….where is the cooperation?

When it’s time to eat and you have prepared that one healthy meal a day…that’s all we ask…just a little bit of health at the table…and no one wants to recognize what it takes to put together…where is the thankfulness? 

The all day task of not only washing the clothes, but folding AND putting them in the correct rooms, on the correct bed, only to find them that evening on the floor or worse….back in the dirty clothes basket….where is the gratefulness? 

Where is the “Thank you, Mother for the multitude of tasks you perform for me very day.  Thank you for selflessly giving of yourself and all your worldly goods to make my day easier. I appreciate the endless deeds you work together for my good.”

More than likely, it will be a while before you hear that. Maybe not exactly that. But it will be good. Trust me.

I’m looking at motherhood…the raising years…from the backwards glance. It was good. It was fun. It was tiring and it was heart-wrenching at times.

And worth every, single, solitary second.

When you feel like all you do is clean up, wipe up, dress up and get up…it’s true. That’s what you do.  Many times this goes without anyone even noticing that you are tired, not feeling well, and generally DONE.

But, look, it doesn't last forever.  The numberless practices, the never-ending lessons, the friends coming over, the “Can we have a party?”….it all comes to a crashing stop one day and you will look back and wonder where the time went.

God is merciful towards mothers.  He gives us moments that will resonate in our hearts forever. He knits our souls with those pint-sized beings that He gives us and we are forever lost to their magnetism. 

Mothering is hard. Mothering is work. Mothering is more than you can imagine and less than you fear it will be. 

I watch these young mothers and their children and my heart tenderly goes out to them.  I want to say:

It’s ok…go ahead and cry when you need it.  
Don’t worry about the house. Be with those children.
Take adventures.
Snuggle and cuddle….a lot.
Read them books and watch their imagination soar.
Do the unexpected. That’s the fun they will not forget.
Pray over them. Quote Scripture over them.
Tell them your story. It’s part of theirs, as well.
If they get a bad grade, it’s fine. Help them see that failure is not their permanent identity.
Create expectations for them and help them reach them.
Listen to their stories. Their dreams are wrapped up in those.
Look in their eyes. You will look into their adult eyes one day soon enough.
Tell them they are loved, no matter what happens.
Don’t let them associate everything you do with work. They just want you. Not your job.

I sent my daughter this shirt…
It is as true a statement as I know.  I have watched her in the throes of motherhood for 14 ½ years now.  She is the mother of four, hopefully soon to be six.  Anyone can guess that life is busy.  She is the Engineer of their home, keeping everyone organized, color coordinated, shoes on and getting to places they need to go with everything they need. It is a thing of beauty to watch the process. 

I have kept The Treasures at times while their parents are away. I know the rigorous schedule that has to be kept. It is constant. There is no down time until all are in bed. Then, there is still work to do.  The van was our home on wheels as we went from one assignment to another.  She runs such a tight ship that the children know exactly what to do and when it has to be done. 

It’s mothering at its best. You see, she “bossed” her dolls around as a child, and her brothers when they came along. She has been in training for Mommin’ her whole life.  It is now all coming to fulfillment. She’s good at what she does. I’m not saying perfect. None of us are and certainly no mother ever feels she is. I’m saying, she is good at mothering.  She makes mothering look good.  Not easy….just good. And that is a reflection of our Heavenly Father. 

These young mothers have a rough road trying to school, keep the home, tend to children and still be a wife all at the same time.  We should be encouraging them and cheering them on every chance we get. After all, wouldn't some of us want to go back to the “little ones” time of our lives, even for a minute?  Maybe just a minute J.

 With Mothers Day coming soon, thank a mom.  Thank your mom. Thank a mother of any age, because being a mother is hard work.  It is time consuming and heart wrenching. It is also the best job in the world.  And it goes by very quickly. 

To my sweet girl---You are a better mother than I could have ever hoped to be.  It is my great joy to watch you do what you were made to do by God, Himself.  Happy Mothers Day! Today and every day.