Friday, February 28, 2014

and the greatest of these is LOVE ...

{nine devotions on love}

february 1: {walk in love}
welcome to february!
last month's series focused mainly on "the new." but this first day of february i want to offer up something old. something that john tells us is not a new command, but something which has been around for quite some time -- it's old news, but it's good news!
(also, i am slightly tickled that it is specifically addressed to a woman --"dear lady")!
"and now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. AND THIS IS LOVE: that we walk in obedience to His commands. as you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you WALK IN LOVE."
john's pretty clear on two things:
1. it's not a "new" command.
2. it is about obedience.
we are to love one another.
plain and simple, right?
but if we're being honest with ourselves, we'd probably agree, loving others isn't always easy. it just isn't.
if we truly want to love others though, it's not about how we feel, it's about how we obey.
no where in this verse does john mention our feelings or our mood or our circumstances.
no, he writes that we are to be obedient to God's commands ... specifically the one that says, "walk in love."

that's the direction of this month's weekend posts. i'll be posting a little bit of what love is and what love isn't ...

today. love is obedience to God's word.

friends, happy february 1st ... let's walk in love!

february 2 {put on love}
“put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. and above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” ~ 1 peter 4:8

we spend a lot of time shifting clothing around in our home. clothes in and out of the laundry machines. clothes in and out of closets, dressers, armoires, the back seat of my car! (yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, even there)!
there are clothes on and off bodies, on and off the floor, on and off beds and desks and couches. piles here and there. clean clothes, dirty clothes, clothes we aren’t sure whether are clean or dirty or what!
we have clothes in need of a stain stick, an iron, a needle and thread or even in need of a new home.
we have clothes to put away, clothes to give away and clothes so beaten up by my boys they could be thrown away.
you know, a family of seven --laundry issues.
yes mam, we’ve got em!
and so maybe that’s my connection to the way this verse reads. “put on.” i get the whole, “put on” thing. it reminds me of clothes!
yesterday’s post talked about “walking in love” and today’s verse suggests we should “put on love.” both phrases emphasize action. just like the dirty clothes on my daughter’s floor aren’t going to magically become clean ... no. it requires an action, some effort, attention.
and loving others requires the same -- action!
we aren’t to sit by and let love just magically happen. we are to walk in it, pursue it, put it on. because we are God’s holy and beloved, we are to dress ourselves each day in our compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience ... and above all, we are to put on love.
it's an action! -- we get up in the morning and we get dressed. and if we take care in our clothing, if we pay attention to putting on love, we will bind ourselves to others in perfect harmony.

february 8 {love covers}
“above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” ~ 1 peter 4:8

when i read this verse, i think of paint. i have always been a big believer in what a fresh coat of paint can do. i am the woman who has woken up on a summer morning and spontaneously run to home depot for a gallon of paint -- no plan. no idea. just a burning desire to paint the dining room grey-blue or buttercream or something! there was a time when my spontaneity might have bordered on obsession. my husband would come home from work , walk in the door and wonder out loud, “so, what has the woman painted today?”
and though i’ve gotten a hold on this paint thing lately, i'd be lying if i didn't admit i, on occasion, still feel that same urge.
dirty smudges and fingerprints and who-knows-what on the walls and i just want to go running for a brush and bucket of color. i want to wipe away all the grime and the grit with a few swift strokes.

love does this, too.

it does. it can come in and cover a multitude of messes. when it looks like nothing else is going to clean up our situation or fix this problem or solve that issue -- love can come pouring in and pour out a blanket of forgiveness and hope.
i’ve seen it happen. i’ve seen how the words, “i love you” can diffuse anger and destroy walls. i’ve seen it with children and parents and friends and spouses. i’ve seen love cover the ugliest of messes and a multitude of my very own mistakes.
if you're like me, you probably have an ugly place or a relationship which needs a few brush strokes of God’s covering kind of love.

go pick up some paint.

when we remember how God’s love has covered and cleaned up us... we just might be prompted to love one another earnestly and pull out a little fresh paint.

february 9 {for those who LOVE Him}
i know sometimes in the middle of our now, it’s hard to think about what God has for us next.
it's hard to imagine what's behind the next door.
and often, it's really hard to believe that this burden will get better or that this brokenness can ever become beautiful.
i know the words “this too shall pass” sometime feel almost impossible.
we get so caught up in right-where-we-are -- in the need of our “right now."
and where embracing the present is important, it is just as important to keep our eyes on the hope to which God calls us.
for those who LOVE Him ...
He has more. He has much. He even has the miraculous.
i’m not sure i always live like i believe that.
i’m not sure i always live like i have a God who loves me like that.
where sometimes we find ourselves not prepared for the future, God is prepared. He has a plan -- it’s perfect. and because of His plan and His power we can have hope -- the promise of a perfect hope in Him.
yes, by all means, live in the moment; be fully alive in the present, embrace today, but don’t forget the hope to come for those who LOVE Him.

“what no eye has seen,
nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared
for those who love him."
~ 1 corinthians 2:9

february 14 {at all times}
valentine’s day comes around once a year and we go hog-wild with the love stuff, right? --- candy, hearts and flowers galore! and it’s big fun. i mean, seriously, what’s not to love about celebrating love? in fact, right this very minute there is a goodie bag for each kid at the breakfast table and a giant pink puppy for the littlest one!
that’s all good stuff, but love isn’t about a holiday or a hearts&flowers day. if we only remember to really celebrate it one day out of the year, than, seems to me, there can’t be too much to celebrate.
no, love is about what happens every day. each day. --- at all times.
whether we’re talking about our family or our friends, we need to remember real love is what happens in between the special occasions. it happens on the tuesday when we’re tired and on the wednesday when we’re worn out. it happens on the friday when we’re frustrated and on the saturday when we’re snippy.
a friend loves at all times. a friend loves even when it isn’t easy or convenient or necessarily comfortable.
that’s how Jesus loved us. that’s how He loves us -- unconditionally and unreservedly.

His love isn't a holiday love, it's a holy love.

when the toddler is whining at your feet.
when the teenager is sassing across the counter.
when the sister disappointed or the brother dropped the ball.
when the mother forgot and the father failed.
when the friend over-reacted or wounded or rejected ...

remember, His love -- a love for all times.


february 15 {walk in the way of love}
yesterday’s (valentines) post talked about how God’s love isn’t a holiday love, but a holy love. and it’s a love which happens each day -- every day.
so, that’s nice and all, but how do we make love a part of our day to day?

--- we walk in it.

love is an action. it’s an attitude. it’s an acceptance to live and move and meander in the way Christ demonstrated.
walking in love is truly following Him, letting Him lead, and looking to Him for the right way. because, let’s face it, love isn’t always easy and sometimes we just want to turn right around and run the other direction.
{at least in MY world that happens}!
love isn’t always comfortable and it isn’t always a clear path --- but when we decide to follow Jesus and His direction --- He promises to determine our steps. one foot in front of the other. step by step.
on the good days it can feel like we're leaping in our love ... like we’re running with wild abandon -- and oh, how i love those days!
but truly, most of us have more days which just seem to creep along, consisting of baby steps and even backward steps.
yeah, i know. that happens here too.
but regardless of our erratic walk, God’s love doesn’t change direction. it doesn’t slow in pace. it never falters or quits or forgets its way --- no, His love is a running love, a waltzing love, a redeeming love.
so whether we waltz or we wobble, let’s walk with Him today. this day. every day.

february 16 {Christ’s love compels}
"if we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. for Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 corinthians 5:14-15

my honey brought home these gorgeous roses for me on friday - valentine’s day. so sweet, right? but truly, i have to tell you that’s just the way he operates. often. he is a man who brings flowers for no occasion. {hooray for that!}
he brings flowers, “just because.” 
i guess you could say, his love for me “compels” him.
not that i’m all that compelling, mind you. 
no, not compelling or especially deserving or even all that worthy. but he does it anyway. he has, i kid you not, even brought me flowers just because i was in a bad mood. 
now, people, THAT’S love!

sounds a little bit crazy, huh? like paul is writing about in this verse above. “if we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say, it is for God ... for Christ’s love compels us.” we do things and say things and believe things which seem absolutely crazy to the world. they don’t make sense. they look a little cuckoo. but we do them anyway, because CHRIST'S LOVE COMPELS US. 
when we get even a little glimpse of His great love, we begin to let go and look a little “out of our mind.” 
there was a time when then bothered me. there was a time when i wanted to fit in and look like everyone else ... i spent a whole lot of time and energy and money trying to fit the world’s mold. but that’s not who we are to be as Christ-followers. 
we are to look a little different, be a little different, act a little different. 
the world should know we are Christians by our love -- our compelling, crazy kind of love. 
the kind of love God has for us. 

we’re different, because He made a difference. 
we worship, because He is worthy. 
we love, because He first loved us.

{so i was in the middle of writing this piece yesterday when my oldest daughter returned home from her breakfast with friends ... what happened at the pancake house is exactly what this post is about -- here's the link!}

february 22 {my strength}
so, i have this thing for barns ...
last weekend, while i was out roaming minnesota farm country, this one caught my eye.
the weathered wood and roof.
colors and textures vibrant against blue sky, white snow, and wide open space.
it made me stop ---
stop and shoot a few pictures.
stop and think a few thoughts.
it made me wonder about this barn and the strength its shelter has provided, the stories it’s held for how many years. perched on top is the year: “1906.” clearly, we’re in well over a century of protection.
when the minnesota winters rage, it’s where the cattle head.

there’s comfort in knowing we have a place to find shelter.
God provides that haven for us --- whether hot sun or bitter wind or blowing snow ... He envelopes us in His arms of love and offers us the place and protection of Him -- shelter. safety. sanctuary.

i've experienced that place of provision, that shield of God's strength and it makes me wonder how my response can be anything other than that of david's, “i love you, o Lord!”

“he who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
i will say to the Lord, “my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom i trust.” ~ psalm 91:1-2

february 23 {love is patient}
it’s the big passage on love isn’t it? 
read at weddings, recited for all types of occasions. it hangs on walls and graces greeting cards. once, i even cross stitched it for a friend's wedding gift. it’s the first one which comes to mind when asked to find a bible verse on love.

and so i was planning on writing a post on the whole passage -- the whole thing.

"love is patient, love is kind. it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. love never fails..." ~ 1 corinthians 13

but i couldn’t get past the first three words.
the very first phrase of this great “love” chapter stopped me dead in my tracks --- love is patient.

love is.
and i am not.

not this week at least. how can i even type out that phrase and share it with y’all after the week where i’ve been snippy and snappy and plain old irritated over dumb stuff.
how can i pretend to encourage you with the entire love passage when i can’t seem to get past the first short sentence.

nope. i can’t.

so, i’m stopping right there today. and that’s as far as i’m going down this love path. i need to work on patience in my home, in my life, in MYSELF ... before i can address all those other wonderful aspects of love. and, i assure you, it will take everything this weak woman has at the moment.

love is patient.

if i want to show love to my husband and my kids and my friends and yes, even strangers, than i’m going to have to step up my patience game. i’m going to have to remind myself daily (hourly) that God is nothing but patient with me.
when i feel frustrated, irritated, on edge or short ... i need to remember the soft grace of God.

oh friends, this sunday, let's take the time to soak ourselves in His patience and His peace. only He who is Perfect Love, can provide the unhurried, unhassled, unselfish love we desire.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

a study in black and white

decisions --- don't you wish they were as black and white as these woods?

the other night, i drove up my driveway which is flanked with this small, stark, winter forest and i wished for exactly that.
i wished for everything we have on our plates right now to be as clear as this colorless landscape -- black and white and easy to read.

i don't know what's wrong with me, but i've never been especially good at decisions. as a child, my mom would have told you that's because i wanted it all. i didn't know which slice of cake to choose because there was this little part of me which just basically wanted the entire cake -- the whole kit and caboodle!

i guess the problem is,  i'm still a whole cake kind of gal.

we don't exactly have cake, but we do have some pretty big decisions on the table right now ... and those big decisions break down into lots and lots of little decisions. and there are these little people (and not so little people) in our house staring at us and wondering what we're doing. wondering what we're going to do.

the options are good, but in need of some shape, structure, some direction. a clear design. a plan to read. a path to follow. a purpose to embrace.

"and your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “this is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." ~ isaiah 30:21

i want that isaiah kind of clarity. i want that clear word behind me. i want that audible voice which says WALK THIS WAY.

turn here.
take a left.
go right.
u turn ahead.
-- whatever!

is it so wrong to ask for road signs or an audible voice?

last summer, on a walk with the dog, i was heading out into these same woods when i actually did hear a voice behind me. but it was only my 10 year old calling out after me, "what's for dinner, mom?"

well, that's not exactly what i was looking for.
and, by the way, that question in our house is often a mystery, too!

but i look at this white snow and these dark trees and i wonder, why it has to be so hard ... so confusing ... so, NOT black and white. why can't God just send me a text or an email or even leave me a comment here on my blog and let me know what He wants. i guess what i really want is God to show up with his snow plow (like this wonderful, wonderful guy who takes care of our driveway) and plow me right through my deep confusion ... our deep decisions.

maybe you've been there?

maybe you are there?

maybe today you're looking out your window or looking at some woods with the same longing as me. maybe you, too, are asking God to not only show you His perfect plan, but to also make it really, really perfectly clear.

if that's your prayer today, then know, you have a friend who lives back a bit in some minnesota woods and is praying that same prayer with you today.

and take a walk with me not just in praying, but also in knowing and trusting that we have a God who isn't going to leave us lost in the woods or alone in our confusion.

He does have a design.
He does have a decision.
He does have a direction.

i believe in a God who works with a plan. He isn't haphazard or random. He isn't trying to string us along or confuse us in our conundrums.

He is a designer. a director. a creator. a conductor. an architect. an arranger. 

He is God.

and what's more ...
He is not surprised by any move we make. 
He is not surprised by any path we take.

and though i believe that with everything in me, i know He is allowing us to wrestle with some things which cause us to draw closer to Him. some things which make me not want to rely on the process of myself, but to rest on the plan of my Maker.

if this resonates with you in something small or something big, then join me today in trusting Him for the answers of tomorrow.

have a big decision ahead? a little bit in fear of the future? worried you might make a wrong move? 
meditate on the black and white truth of His word.

"trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths." ~ proverbs 3:5-6

"for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." ~ jeremiah 29:11

"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." ~ philippians 4:6-7

"and this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us." ~ 1 john 5:14

"and your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “this is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." ~ isaiah 30:21

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

the snowy tea party... and then some

subtitled: the driveway, the dog and the deck. 
{a three part story -- because life is what happens outside the picture frame}.

it was the perfect day ---
no school.
new snow.
and warmer temps!

we had been waiting for EXACTLY THIS. and monday, it arrived.

diana and i, mama-partners in photography crime, made our plan.

today was the day.

we would re-create the vision diana had shared with me a month or so ago. we would set up and shoot a "snowy tea party" scene with our youngest girls, bella and emme.  yes, yes we would!

over the weekend i had painted the table and chairs ... taking them from plain, old oak to something a little shabbier and chicer ... we had assembled the outfits and "props" and by late monday morning ... we were ready.

game on!

the girls were giddy (though not as giddy as their mamas) because what 5 or 6 year old doesn't want a tea party in the snow?

our picture-plan was perfectly on course -- or so it seemed.

after "checking lighting" (high-tech photographer's term) all over the yard, diana finally settled on the low part of our driveway -- the part we "share" with our neighbors. and that's where the fun began.

scene #1 -- the driveway.

we had no sooner set up this magical scene (smack dab in the middle of the "shared" space) when my neighbor came up the long drive in his snowblowing tractor. (darn! wish we had thought to photograph him). he had plans to continue on toward his house ... except for the roadblock of two chinese girls wearing flowers in their hair and fur wraps, holding tea cups ...

the tractor came to a halt.

i began to think about what i could say ...

offer him a cup of "snow" tea?

a chance to pose in the picture?

a glossy 8 x 10?

it's not every day a man just trying to clear snow from his driveway stumbles upon a scene such as this.

i've had an inkling our sweet next door neighbors think us a bit "out there" ... and i was pretty sure this wasn't going to help convince him otherwise.

leaving the tea party scene, i approached him and his tractor and did my best to explain our "vision." i'm not 100% he was following, but he kind of nodded slowly trying to take in my words. regardless of what he thought, we struck a deal. he kindly agreed to wait a few extra minutes before continuing up the drive.

we hurried. diana snapped as many pictures as she could ... the girls giggled and pretended and played along. they filled their cups with snow and rolled their eyes at their mothers. it was all so delightful for them ... for us... (not so sure about the neighbor).

finally, diana declared she had taken enough.

and scene one came to a close.

we packed up our belongings and trudged back toward the house. with tea cups and table and two little girls out of the way, my neighbor started his tractor and happily continued to plow waving and smiling at us as he passed.

scene #2 -- the dog.

we knew this was going to take a little more work.
and, i assure you, it did.

a pocket full of dog treats, a slice of turkey and a whole lot of: "sit minne, stay minne, no minne, yes minne, come minne!"

what this picture doesn't show is the crazy woman (me) off to the side hopping up and down and yelling wild encouragement at my big beast and tiny daughter.

diana, the ultimate professional, just kept snapping picture after picture after picture.

we were both determined.

{i could only hope the neighbor was too busy plowing to pay us much attention}.

finally diana stood up and declared she was sure she had "something."

it only took 17 dog treats, a broken tea cup, one bruised knee and a gazillion clicks of the camera --- but it was worth it!

as funny as all that was -- or at least as funny as it was to us (i suppose it was one of those classic "you-had-to-be-there" kind of moments) -- the best part was what my other older kids (the ones NOT in the tea party photo shoot) showed me later in the day.

scene #3 -- the deck

while we were out in the front yard recreating a piece of narnia ... my other kids and alex (emily's boyfriend and tyler's friend) were doing snow stunts off the deck ... and, of course, filming themselves.

(click below)
kids' youtube video "jump!"

immediately i knew i'd have to share this. i couldn't very well post all those darling pictures of the surreal "snowy tea party" and not show you the "other part" of the life we lead. i'd hate to mislead you in thinking our life is only about dreamy pink flowers, tea cups and magical photos. oh, people, no, no, no. not the case at all!

remember, there's always more to the story than the pretty picture.

just like in life, there's usually a story of something a little more gritty or raw or real (or COMPLETELY DANGEROUS) taking place in what isn't captured. we might catch a pristine moment in perfect snow and perfect light ... but chances are we also have a kid or two diving off the deck and filming snow stunts.

let the pretty pictures inspire or encourage or bless you ... but don't let them mislead you. we all know, real life is lived way beyond the lens ... and it typically doesn't include pink flowers and china tea cups.

but, by all means, keep taking lots of pictures! you'll never, ever regret it.  xoxo

love my minne!

photo credits: diana rouse
video credit: alex reimer

Saturday, February 15, 2014

when the love of Jesus showed up at the pancake house

i was in the middle of writing my february "love post" for tomorrow morning, when my oldest daughter, emily, came bounding into the house all breathless and excited.

"mom, you're never going to believe what happened at breakfast just now!"

putting down the laptop, i came into the kitchen to hear her story.

she went on to tell me how she and a few of her friends were just at OPH (original pancake house) celebrating a couple of their birthdays. they were having a great time and before eating, the girls bowed their heads together at the table to pray. they didn't make a scene or cause a spectacle or do anything to draw any attention to themselves, they just confidently and comfortably prayed out loud together.

when they were finished, a middle aged couple approached them. the woman bent low at the table and said to the 8 teens. "that's awesome girls. that's so cool that you would pray together like that and not be all hushed up about it." she went on to say that so many times when people pray in public they get all quiet and quick and awkward about it -- like they might offend someone listening.

she and her husband just wanted to stop and let the girls know how wonderful it was to see them praying confidently together -- these eight, nice, normal teenage girls about to partake of a pancake feast.

such a neat thing for this lady and her husband to take the time to stop and tell them, right?

but the story isn't over.

when the girls finished breakfast and asked for their check, the waitress, with a big smile, informed them that it had already been taken care of. yep, that couple who stopped to encourage the girls also blessed them by paying their bill before leaving. she said the people who had paid for their breakfast wanted her to pass along the message, "God bless you."

the waitress then went on to tell the girls she had started to cry when this couple explained to her what they wanted to do.

emily and her friends were just blown away. all of them teared up and couldn't believe these people would do such a nice thing. as emily relayed the precious event to me, i, too, teared up.

i bet some of you are doing the same right now as you read this!


why is that such a big deal?

in a culture that is every day growing more and more offended by Christians, this is a story of pure sweetness. this is even a little taste of the victory to come with Christ. we are living in a world where Christians are beginning to look crazier and crazier. people watch us and don't get it. they don't get us. and, what's more, they don't even like us for our beliefs.

the last shall be first?
the weak will be made strong?
the foolish will become wise?


but wait a minute, that doesn't make a lick of sense.

aren't we supposed to take pride in being first and strong and wise? aren't we supposed to take care of numero uno?

why did this couple choose to sacrifice their money and make the effort to pay for a bunch of teenage girls? (and emily informed me they had by no means ordered lightly).

though Christ was sent for the world, the world certainly isn't able to always make sense of Him. even the love of Jesus sometimes looks a bit like lunacy.

but it's not like we should be surprised, right?

"for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." ~ 1 corinthians 1:18

plain and simple, the things of Jesus just don't always make sense.

strangely enough, the post i was writing about for tomorrow is also using a verse where paul talks about us crazy Christians:

"if we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. for Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." ~ 2 corinthians 5:13-15

so as Christ-followers why do we do what we do? why do we look a little different or crazy or even downright cuckoo to the world? paul cuts right to the chase in this passage when he writes, "Christ's love compels us." 
it compels us to be bold.
it compels us to look a little different.
it even compels us to look a little "out of our mind."

no, it doesn't make sense to the world and its ways. it shouldn't.
we are in the world, but not of the world.

please hear me, i'm not in any way advocating lunacy. (though you might question that from the state of our home some most days). but we certainly should stand out for Christ. we should have the sweet aroma of Jesus around us everywhere we go and in everything we do.

people should know we are Christians by our love.

i'll touch more on that in tomorrow's devotional post (on my sparrow facebook page ) ... but i just had to pound out this story and share it tonight.

be blessed.
be bold.
Christian, don't ever be afraid to claim Christ ...
you might not get your bill paid at a pancake house, but that's okay, your debt was paid by Christ when He died for our sins -- in love.

and when we remember that, how can it not compel us in our love for Him?

Monday, February 10, 2014

love and prayers: meet lu

we had decided to wait a little bit.
we weren't going to share this news quite so soon.
but i never do things all smart and prudent and practical like that. i just don't.
and tonight i went to rick and i said, "i think it's a good day to share." and he agreed.

because what we want is not your attention or your applause or your approval.

what we want is your prayers.

see, there's this little girl again. she's on the other side of the world without a family.

and today she turned five. five.

i think back last year to bella's 5th birthday party -- the ballerinas and the beauty and the pink mulit-layered birthday cake -- and my heart just breaks for a little girl on the other side of the world who doesn't have a mama to make her a tutu or tell her she's too-too cute. that's she's precious. loved. wanted. a little girl who has a birthday today, but no family to share it with.

yep. that breaks me a little. a lot, really.

her name is lu.
and she's beautiful.

and, oh boy, how she is wanted!

today we mailed off the paperwork to an agency to begin our home study and start the process of adopting this little lu.

but here's the deal: we need your prayers. oh my do we need your prayers.

lu is pretty healthy and that's good -- that's great! but, because i have a not so healthy medical history involving cancer, china might turn us away. they could very well say no. and we can't know that right now.
we can only wait ... and pray.
wait and pray.
we know how to do that. and that is exactly what we will do.
but all of us -- rick, jody, emily, tyler, sarah, connor and bella -- we want to ask you to pray with us. pray for us.

... to pray for lu.

tonight. today. tomorrow.

we need to ask God for big things. huge things. we know that if this little lu is meant to be in our home, God can do it. He can move mountains, He can make miracles and He can, very well, change some things around in china. He can bring this little lu smack dab in the middle of our crazy family.

so it might be kind of early to share this news.
but today is her birthday.
and, somehow, it seemed the perfect time to share a slice of celebration.

will you pray for little lu? whatever God has planned for her life.
the mcnatt family wants her ... but we trust and believe God has her.

will you join us in praying for little lu?

we can't give her a pretty birthday present wrapped up with a bow tonight --- but perhaps asking our friends to pray is a pretty good present after all.

 this is the confidence we have in approaching God: 
that if we ask anything according to His will, 
He hears us.  and if we know that He hears us—
whatever we ask—we know 
that we have what we asked of Him.    
~ 1 john 5: 14-15

Sunday, February 9, 2014

a mess

it's sunday evening and i'm on a plane.
heading west while staring out at the setting sun through a tiny oval opening.

just like with praise music in church, i get teary eyed on planes. almost always. i don't know why exactly. something about being completely out of control and held up and helpless and vulnerable. that stuff. i'm not scared, i'm just in awe. i'm a little more than overwhelmed by something i don't get and can't understand, but still want to trust.

aerodynamics make no sense to me. none.

like that sun setting off the wing of this aircraft -- not sure why it is so incredibly beautiful. and not exactly sure how it happens to be suspended out there. dangling in the almost dark. i don't get it. except i trust ... God holds it. i trust God has it.

you're getting the picture, aren't you?
weepy woman on a plane heading home.

a mess.

you see, you can't spend a weekend with 450 mamas who have adopted from every country possible and have encountered every story imaginable and walk away untouched. unmoved. unmessed.

it just doesn't happen.

God's power and His very presence resides in rooms with women-warriors like these. these ladies know what it means to be flat out on their faces, surrendered and vulnerable; torn open to the tenderness God has placed in their hearts.
they know the meaning of out-of-control.
they know the meaning of  dependence.
just like this airplane -- when it doesn't always make sense.
they know what it means to wonder and to want and to wish ...

most of all, they know what it means to wait on God.

and, friends, y'all know -- that's not always exactly easy for women -- warriors or otherwise!

it's not easy to wait on God and wonder what He has planned or how He's going to hold it all together. it's hard sometimes to see what He has in store and what in the world He is doing with us ... with our families ... with that precious child a million miles away.

so, spending a couple of days with ladies like this leaves a girl a little bit messy. it stirs up all kinds of stuff. it encourages and energizes. it prompts and it pierces.

i had the chance to speak at this weekend's conference and share a little bit of our journey: adoption and cancer. we talked about how Jesus walks on water even in the midst of life's messiest, most frightening, most out of control storms. we talked about how Jesus holds out His hand and holds the boat and holds the child in the storm. sharing that message with these women opened up opportunities for me to hear their stories.

and -- what a privilege to listen to the journey Jesus has many of them on! women told me stories of joyful homecomings and tearful endings. i heard about miracles occurring and mountains moving. i heard amazing story after amazing story. i also heard about heartbreak -- about disrupted adoptions and hurting children and unexpected illness. i heard about great love and i heard about great loss. and what i heard most, was women who gave God great glory and praise in all of it. all of it.

i had a chance to talk with these women, to pray with a few, to cry with a couple.

that's messy, broken and incredibly beautiful stuff.

you see, these are women who want to be stirred. these are women willing to sit at the feet of Jesus, hold onto the hem of His garment and listen for the whispers of their Lord. they didn't ask for easy. they aren't signing up for smooth. they don't pretend to hold it all together makng it all look picture perfect. no, these women are ready to let go and let God do what He wants to do with them, with their families, with their futures ... even with their frailty. 

i applaud the talented and passionate team of girls who put on this created for care conference. they came with hands to serve and hearts to minister.

i showed up early on friday for a speaker's meeting. the director, andrea, wanted to meet with those of us who would spend the weekend speaking. i knew i was in the right place when almost the very first thing out of andrea's mouth went something like this: "thank you for coming to speak, but ladies i want to remind you, you are here to serve. i want you to be in the hallways and between the breakout sessions connecting with these women. i want you to be searching for that woman in need, that gal who seems lost or overwhelmed. look into her eyes, take the time to stop and hear her story, get her name and, if it's not you, connect her with someone who can help."

isn't that awesome?
i mean doesn't that just rock your socks off?

that's real ministry, people!

andrea didn't want her speakers to show up and stand on a pedestal and preach ... she wanted us to come and wash the feet of the women who came to listen. she wanted our own hands and feet to be louder and lovelier than any of our voices ever could be.

she wanted us to get messy and messed up.

she wanted us to be part of the plane ride -- the out of control, vulnerable place of i-can't-do-this-on-my-own-oh-Lord-Jesus-help-me!

the place where God shows up.

because this gal, andrea, is directing this ministry under the direction of her Jesus and here's the deal --- that's how Jesus does it. that's how He did it when He walked the earth and it's how His church is to do it now. He came not just to preach, but to pursue. He came not just to save, but to serve. Jesus who didn't discriminate between the very religious and the most rotten. Jesus who saw worth and value and victory in all of it -- in all of us.

Jesus who always made time for the least and the lost and the little.

Jesus who had a heart for the hurting, for the helpless, for the orphan.

Jesus who said, "let the little children come to me." ~ matthew 19:14

these women this weekend represented almost 600 adopted kids with over 1200 children total. these 450 women will walk back into homes tonight refreshed and filled up because they experienced real ministry -- they experienced love. they will take it back to their homes and love even better the little children of the world ... all the children of the world ... red and yellow, black and white.

and sitting on this plane, heading home tonight, i love that.

i love that i could get away for weekend and get messy in some real ministry and refueled for what God has in store.

i even love sitting on my airplane ride home with a few tears trickling down my cheeks. (the guy next to me is probably not loving that part so much). i'm pretty sure i'm making him a little nervous, but i don't care. i think i'm going to stop writing now and try to tell him about how much Jesus loves him too!

Friday, February 7, 2014

on her last day of childhood: a letter

to my oldest girl ~

tomorrow you turn 18.
nothing really changes, except everything.

you won't 100% begin paying your bills or buying your groceries or balancing a budget -at least not yet. (though i would really like you to take care of that library fine sometime soon).

no, you'll wake up in our home and be the same girl you were at at 7 and 13 and 17.

except tomorrow you'll be 18.
tomorrow you'll be called an adult.

it's a line or a mark. it's a specific moment in time where we can say things like:
she's arrived.
she's become.
she's crossed over.

but i've been watching you cross into to this thing called adulthood for quite some time.
it didn't come on a birthday.

it came when we weren't looking.
it came when we were in the middle of other things.
it came when you faced challenges, hard days, disappointments.

it came on the day when you jumped into the pool without us.
it came on the day when you graduated kindergarten.
it came on the day you baked your daddy a  birthday cake.
it came on the day when you learned to ride your bike.
it came on the day when you left for a week of summer camp.
it came on the day when you sauntered bravely into your high school
it came on the day when you passed your driver's license exam.

it came in bits and pieces in the highlights and in the heartbreaks.

it came on the day when you were told your mom had cancer and in the year when our family moved cross country and when you walked out on the volleyball court and when you had to prepare that presentation or lead that group of students on a mission's project in a rough part of town.

it came on those days.

it came when you had to take that crazy-hard test or have that difficult talk or confront a dear friend.

it came when you were asked to bathe your little sister or babysit your brother or make the family dinner.

we grow up in the in between moments of our days ... not on our birthdays.

birthdays mark and measure time ... but it is the in between which makes us who we are.

and on this night before you turn 18 ...
on this night before you become a "real"adult i just want you to know  -- in my book, you already are.

you have proven yourself to be a girl who desires to grow closer to God.
you have shown yourself to be a young lady who is learning to lean on Jesus.
you have taught yourself to be a woman who is waiting on the Lord.

of course, a part of me feels a last ditch effort to push that impotent pause button. i felt it when you turned 5 and 13 ... and most days in between. but tonight, i know with everything in me, there's no pausing, there's no stopping, there's no going back.

you are ready and this is God's timing.

and, as your mom, instead of trying to hold on to what was, i am going to embrace what is and what will be.

i can't wait to watch what God is going to do with you, for you, through you.

when you entered our arms 18 years ago, i remember looking into your big brown eyes and wondering what God might have in store. and daughter, it is better and more beautiful than i could have imagined as that young mama way back then.

be patient with me. you are my first adult child. just like in these 18 years we've already had, i'll make mistakes, continue to mess up ... somedays get it all wrong. but i am so thankful that God has blessed us with a relationship of love and grace. my prayer is that you'll continue to grow in both -- love and grace. love and grace.

my prayer is that you'll continue to grow closer to Jesus and walk all of your days in His light.

i love you and i welcome you into this next chapter of YOU with God's blessing:

"the Lord bless you
and keep you; 
 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”  ~ numbers 6:24-26

happy 18th birthday!
i love you ~ mom