Mission-heart lag

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When people hear that we’re coming home from a mission trip to Guyana, their response is always the same, “So there’s no time change. That’s great! No jet lag!”

I wish that were true.

It would be far easier to feel the physical effects of jet lag versus the emotional, mental and spiritual effects of mission-heart lag.

This year in particular, I packed my bags with a quivering lip. My hands loaded luggage ready to go. My feet refused to move, longing to stay.

Three airplane rides home were heavy, weighted with quiet moments staring at the floor, out the window at the clouds, or lost in the darkness of my eye mask, trying to block out the world.

Logic says that it should get easier to go on mission trips. I’ve been blessed to be a part of several all over the world. But my heart disagrees. Sure, I’m much more able to handle the sights and smells from a traveler’s perspective, but the stories and circumstances behind those sights and smells haunt me long after the last load of laundry has been washed and put away.

The long-term effects of corrupt politics, poverty, a lack of resources and all forms of abuse grip my heart and won’t let go. Over the years and across continents, I’ve served the perpetrator and the victim; the ill and disabled; those voiceless and powerless; the hard-hearted; the tender and a kaleidoscope of backgrounds, ethnicities, colors, personalities and religions.  So why don’t I just tick the “do good” summer box and move on?

Because these are real people and our real God loves them. They are valuable and matter as much as anyone else in the world and it makes my heart ache to know that there is so much still to do in places where the world has turned a blind eye.  The hurt continues. Abuse continues. Poverty continues. Helpless and hopelessness continue long after luggage has been claimed and the pause button on our lives lifts as we re-enter what we know as normal.

Time change or not, there is definitely a mission-heart lag, as so there should be. If not, the trip was merely an adventure.

Coming home, there are things about here I can’t stand. But there are things about there I can’t stomach.  When I’m here, I want to be there. When I’m there, I know I need to here. With every mission, my heart splits farther in two.

Air-conditioning is wonderful. A hot shower is marvelous. My own pillow and puppy, they’re the best. But so is listening to exotic tree frogs serenade us in the evening on the porch of a home in the middle of a foreign country. Nothing compares to looking into the eyes of a soul who is amazed we went all the way there for them, and then to realize that this God we speak of did so much more by sending His Son for them.

Kr2Our home this evening is still as jazz plays faintly in the background. Everywhere I look there is travel clutter. The exhaustion from a twenty-two hour venture home has numbed the urgency to make all of the mess go away. So to forget it all I schlepped to the grocery store to fill an empty fridge. I found myself drawn to the aisle with some of the ethnic foods we just enjoyed there. I will look for guava in everything for a long time. I’ll make roti bread and cook-up rice with chicken to remember the flavors of mission. But it’s not the same as being there.

I think about those who denied accepting Christ when asked; precious babies sleeping on mamas’ shoulders; the reluctant, mischievous teens in the back row; the mothers (of a different religion) who looked on with both gratefulness that we came, and skepticism toward our motives; and those who were just passing by and stopped in to see what all the hullabaloo was about as we sang with the kids, washed their feet and gave them new shoes.

I can tell you countless awesome stories of those who asked Jesus to be their Savior; men and women, boys and girls who asked for prayer for their families and themselves; and those who traveled a long way just to be a part of the celebration. I thank God and rejoice over each one. But, for those whose story doesn’t include Christ, they are why I continue to go.

Leaving the grocery store this afternoon, the bagger began chatting with me. She asked how my day was going. I responded with a soft, “Fine, thanks,” hoping she’d leave it at that. Then she asked, “So what are your plans for the rest of the day?” Her question was like a tiny hole punctured in a balloon as I felt the last bit of energy deflate. I mustered up a smile and response, “I don’t have any plans. We just got back in town and I’m really tired.”

(Could that be the end of conversation for now, please?)

“Oh yeah, from where?”

(sigh) “Guyana.”

“Cool. Were you there for vacation?”

Wait for it….

“No, it was a mission trip.”

Any other day I’d be ecstatic to talk about all things mission. Today, I just needed milk, dinner and tissues to wipe the tears from my eyes. My response was the Pandora’s box for a delightful, but draining conversation. She was so sweet. It was me who crawled to the car playing all the social cards in my hand.

There’s a lot to unpack and put away strewn about the house, but there is much more to unpack in my heart. The problem is I don’t know where to put it all. The demands of daily life and international mission life have little overlap in this season, sans the insane, and very thankful, amount of fundraising we have to do to afford going. A few pictures on the wall and some local, handmade trinkets on a shelf help to be something my heart can focus on as I move through the day. All of our personal effects still smell like Guyana, just like they smelled of burnt wood when we returned from Africa. The same is true for smells unique to the other countries which now have pieces of our hearts.

At the end of the day, this mission was just a shift, if you will. Helping and encouraging those working in the mission field full-time. We took a shift to go and be salt and light to them and those they serve.

I gave it my all, but feel like it fell far short of what is needed. Jet lag is something that can be slept off. Mission-heart lag can’t be shaken off, nor should it be. I hope and pray the pains of mission never go away, lest I forget the needs and fall into a pleasure coma of the society in which I live.

I am haunted and humbled by what I’ve experienced. Come quickly, Lord. Until then, I’ll keep going wherever You lead.

The path of a new year

New Year’s day seemed like the perfect time to take a hike. You know, fitness resolutions, take-more-time-to-experience life resolutions, all that jazz.

My husband and I went to a familiar park, but we decided to take a trail we’ve never blazed. This was an impromptu date, but we weren’t alone.

Just a short ways in, step-by-step, God began speaking encouragement over this new year. Receive it, friend.

Sometimes the path is uncomplicated and clearly marked.

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Sometimes it’s not.

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If I brought you to it, I’ll get you through it, under it or over it.

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I never promised the path would be easy. Keep walking even if you get dirty, really dirty.

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When the journey is effortless, remember me. It is my gift to you.

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Ask me when you don’t know which way to go. I will tell you.

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It’s possible I will bless either decision. I can do that. Include me.

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When you don’t know what’s around the corner, trust me and keep walking. I am with you.

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When life goes sideways, I’m still right here, walking with you. I haven’t left you.

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If the path seems exhaustively uphill, ask for my strength. I will give it to you. Just keep climbing.

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Sometimes I have a different plan than yours. Trust me. I know the best path for you.

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I am with you. Sojourners are also on the path. You are not alone.

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Leave your mark on the path…for my glory.

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I put people in your path for a reason. Some go before you to help blaze the trail…

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…others come behind you to follow it.

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Don’t be too proud to accept help. 

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You don’t always have to forge your own way.

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Follow my narrow path regardless of how narrow it gets.

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Sometimes you have to take a running leap of faith to stay on the path.

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When you’re between a rock and a hard place, my path will lead you through it.

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Look for my beauty along the path. It’s there to encourage you.

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In every season, follow me.

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Follow my path, but be smart about it. You don’t have to be the hero. I already am.

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A friend to walk with is a blessing from me.

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My children are rooted in me.

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The wind cannot blow over they who are grounded in me.

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 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

 

Making a local, global and eternal difference

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Twenty-five years ago, God told my husband, Bruce, and me His vision for our marriage in the most unexpected, nearly unbelievable, way. To skip to the spoiler, His message was that our marriage is to be an extension of His open hand.

Huh? Not sure what that meant.

In the last two and a half decades, we both graduated from college, celebrated weddings, retirements, births & baby dedications, buried loved ones, moved, changed jobs, honored anniversaries, graduated our firstborn from high school and sent him off to college (with two more teens right behind him), endured surgeries and illness, learned a lot of lessons and made a million memories along the way.

We did not understand what God meant all those years ago about being an extension of His open hand as we just did our best at living life.

We were cruising along to the rhythm of the American dream of the house with a picket fence, kids running barefoot on the lawn with the family dog, and saving for retirement while planning the next annual vacation.

Then, five summers ago God rocked our world through several very significant moments placing us at life-changing crossroads.

He was totally setting us up for a one-way ticket from a life and future we worked hard for to a life He had planned for us since before the beginning of time.

Cut to the chase again, and we found ourselves on our first mission trip (and first trip out of the country sans the Bahamas for our honeymoon) with our 10, 12, and 14 year old children in tow.

Are you kidding me? Bring our children? This mama bear was hyper-vigilant, anxiety-ridden, and fear-filled about doing this at all, much less as a family, much less to Africa. I felt utterly unequipped to handle being a chaperon with school to the local museum (stressful!) to taking my kids so far out of our comfort zone I can’t even describe the angst that churned inside me. Our trip leader stills says that he really didn’t think I’d actually get on the plane.

But I did! We did! And, our family has never been the same.

God blew our hearts away with a bursting love for this world in a way we could never conceive. He took us to four more countries around the world over the past four summers on mission, and we have never been so in love with a world He so loves.

This love continues to multiple in our hearts every single day as we laugh with, cry over and pray for those from every walk of life around the world who we now consider family.

Fast forward to this past December 29th. Bruce went in for simple shoulder surgery, which proved to be anything but.

After a full tear was reattached and repaired, he had some serious, and extremely painful, recovery waiting for him.

Four months into recovery, after not having been able to return to work due to the pain, he was unexpectedly laid off. We felt like we were kicked when we were down.

However, God reminded us of a conversation Bruce and I had a year ago. Bruce said to me, “I’ll be honest. I’m never going to have the courage to leave this job. It’s too stable.” To which I replied, “Since we’re being candid, I’ll never have the courage to tell you to jump. It’s too stable of a job. The most stable company you’ve ever worked for.”

Bruce then said, “If God ever wants us to make a change, He’s going to have to take this job from me.”

So when he came to me on a regular ol’ Tuesday morning, after almost nine years with the company, and sat down at our son’s desk and looked at me, I should not have been surprised when he said, “Well, God took it.”

We both knew exactly what he meant.

Ever since then, Bruce has looked for work.

Nothing.

He told me in the beginning of his job search there is nothing for him in this city.

Then came an interest in him, but it involved relocating. I’ll save that story for a blog post, but here we are. No relocating. No more job prospects.

All the while, he was meeting weekly with a dear friend in albeit a different kind of work situation, the end result was the same – unemployed.

They began meeting as encouragement to each other over coffee.

Like a good pot of coffee, their hearts began to percolate an idea that brought both of their long-term visions into one plan.

NEED POINT, Inc. was born.

Nothing quite like this exists in America, much less the world. As God has brought people across their path over the past few months, something beautiful began to take shape. Something neither of them could have ever imagined.

NEED POINT combines our team’s passions for both global and local missions in new and innovative ways that meets individual needs on a community level.

NEED POINT is a non-profit that connects people in need with people in local churches and faith-based businesses to help meet their needs. From needing lawns mowed, to helping with medical bills, to befriending the lonely and beyond, NEED POINT is the liaison to match the person in need with someone who can help meet it.

The vision is to expand this blueprint to local communities all over the world!

Curious as to how this all works? CLICK HERE to visit the website.

This grassroots movement is swelling as folks get excited about how they can be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Our team is stoked about this opportunity and trusting God for every step of the way.

Between global missions and NEED POINT, Bruce and I are beginning to understand what God meant by our marriage being an extension of His open hand. We only wish I didn’t take twenty years to get there. But, better late than never, right?! 🙂

We would LOVE to have you join us in the journey. Check out NeedPoint.org and like us on Facebook at facebook.com/needpoint. Let’s get going!

Private thoughts of a short-term missionary

Monday morning greets me with mixed emotions. I woke up today feeling very frustrated. I have been consistently diligent in putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) and working with all the logic that’s in my crazy brain to get things ready for an upcoming mission trip. On paper everything looks good. But, read in between the lines and there are struggles and doubts and frustrations that eat away at my thoughts.

I am grateful for the Proverbs 31 Ministry’s devotions that appear in my inbox every day. Today, it’s like Lysa Terkeurst read my heart. Her words speak more clearly than mine as I sit here tired and sick. Here is an excerpt from her devotion, “When God’s Assignments Feel Almost Impossible”

* * * * * * * * * *

I pulled into my driveway and stared at this gathering place my people call “home.” And my heart whispered …

Lord, am I doing all of this right?

This life You’ve entrusted to me, these people You’ve entrusted to me, this calling You’ve entrusted to me … I desperately want to get it right. To live without painful regret gnawing deep within. To know that I gave it my very best. To please You. Love them. Smile more than frowning. Laugh more than I complain. See the beauty tucked within all these sacred moments of just being together and remember to whisper, Thank You.

Thank You for all of it. The whole package deal of good and bad and highs and lows. For all that mixed together sets about a process of making me. The me that needs the tough stuff to mature me. The sad moments to soften me. The thrilling moments to invigorate me. The poignant moments to endear me. The complicated moments to challenge me. The quiet moments to unrush me.

I need it all.

But sometimes, in the midst of all the moments that are making me into the woman You created me to be, I get awfully tired and discouraged.

And I find myself sitting in my driveway wondering. Staring at the culmination of thousands of decisions I’ve made that have brought me here. To this home. This family. This life. I made my decisions and then my decisions made me.

I’m thankful, yes. So very thankful. But I need You to whisper reassurance into my heart that You’re with me. That You see me. And that You are pleased with me. I just need to know, Lord, am I doing this right?

Jesus instructed us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” (Mark 16:15). That seems an impossible task for someone who sits in her driveway and feels fragile and wonders all the things I sometimes wonder.

* * * * * * * * * *

Fragile indeed. I told Bruce the other day that I wrestle with opposite dichotomies warring within:

* Continue to pursue short-term global and local missions as long as God allows and I am physically able.

* Sell it all and move to a distant land to serve full-time.

* Move to a tropical island and forget everything (just kidding, sort of!).

I feel like a nomad. When I am home doing the suburban housewife and mom thing, my heart is restless even though serving my family sometimes takes everything in me! When I am serving abroad, I reach a tipping point where I need normalcy and a sense of home. When I serve locally, I feel I am not doing enough. It makes my heart spin.

Yesterday I had a conversation with one of my favorite people. She is the mother-in-law of one of my dearest friends and she turns 80 this month. I just love talking with her! Her mind is sharp as a tack and conversations with her are thought-provoking and always entertaining.

She’s been through some major unexpected illnesses lately that have left her fragile, frail and in spinal therapy. Her already tiny frame of less than 5 feet is now curled over and even thinner than she was before. She asked me all kinds of questions about our mission trip as she has always had a keen interest in them. Once we talked through the logistics of the trip, she turned the conversation to why we go.

She asked questions that she really wanted sincere answers to. Questions like – You feel this is right for your family? And you enjoy this? Do the kids enjoy it? What do they get out of if? How long do you think you will continue to do these mission trips?

I answered each question with a thoughtful answer: For now, this is what God has called our family to. Everyone has a purpose, and we believe this is ours. Yes, we enjoy it very much. It’s the hardest, most demanding thing we’ve ever done (besides parenting) and it’s worth every drop of blood, sweat and tear. The kids love it! Mission trips are great to strip away the entitlement and materialism that our society imposes and encourages. Although our children don’t have overt problems with these anyway, still if we live in a society long enough its way of thinking creeps into our thoughts as being normal. These missions remind them that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that’s a good and necessary truth to know. More importantly, it’s training them to share the Gospel whenever, wherever God leads. We will go as long as the Lord allows and we are physically able.

To every answer she smiled, nodded her head and replied, Okay. Alright. However, she paused at my last answer about being physically able. As we stood in the kitchen, she asked if I wanted a piece of cake and I said yes. She carefully, slowly, struggled to cut and serve it to me, but I knew I needed to let her do it. It was a beautiful moment. I felt God whisper, She needs to do this. Let her. As she worked on the slice of cake, she said, You know, one day you have your health and then the next day you don’t. It’s taken away without warning. I never thought I would go through what I’ve been through, and getting back to where I was is a great struggle. Do what you can while you can do it. Enjoy life. Go on these mission trips. Do it all before you no longer can. Wise words which brought a tear to my eye as I bent over to hear her talk above the white noise in the crowded room of her grandson’s graduation party.

I’ve told Bruce this before. We were walking through Wal-Mart one day and I said, You know, it would only take one car accident. One illness. One life change that could keep one of us from ever being able to go on mission again. Life is fragile. Health is fragile although no one wants to admit it out loud. It’s partially this thought that makes me second guess if I really am doing what God purposed for me in Psalm 139:16 –

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

This is where Lysa Terkeurst and I share the same wonderings and ponderings. Are we getting it right?

Do I feel restless here because we are supposed to be there? Do I miss home there because we are supposed to be here? It’s maddening, really.

Life is so so short. As proactive and intentional as I have been about preserving my body specifically for ministry with all of the surgeries, procedures and physical therapy I’ve had since 2008, I can’t figure out how to stop time. It marches on and takes no prisoners. At the end of my life, whether that be in a year or 40+, I yearn for no regrets – not that I checked off everything on my bucket list, but that I checked off everything on God’s bucket for me. I desperately want to please Him even when human nature screams otherwise. I am starving for Isaiah 30:21 to be read over my life –

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.

My job is to reject my idols and images and run with passion in the direction He leads (v 22). This is much easier said than done. But, when I think about my dear friend who is struggling just to once again stand erect after her physical struggles, I hear a clock ticking in my head and heart. So I write openly on a blog what I’ve been praying in my heart, in a thousand different ways for a long time, that which Psalm 139:23-24 sums up best –

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Lead on, God. I will follow You all the way home no matter where the journey takes me to get there.

 

The secret to an awesome family vacation

 

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As teachers, students and parents breathe a collective exhale at the end of another school year, families begin planning, packing and preparing for vacation.

It took me years to learn the secret to an awesome family vacation, but I’m going to share it in two short words.

Transition Day.

Each year as we packed up the van with suitcases, the dog, a hedgehog, pillows (and for the beach – every known piece of beach paraphernalia) a few extra items got packed as well as got left home.

What got left behind:

* patience

* joy

* laughter

* camaraderie

* perseverance

What snuck into our luggage:

* a bad attitude

* everything that goes along with a bad attitude

I just couldn’t figure it out. All of us were so excited to take a break, spend family time together and have an adventure. Why oh why were we fighting before we crossed the city limit? I was all over my kids nagging them for “plugging in” too fast to their technology and how we weren’t bonding as a family (at least not in positive ways).

Like summer thunderstorms in Florida where I grew up that we could set our watch by, bickering and arguing were predicable accomplices in ruining our first day of vacation.

To be honest, I could feel the fight swelling up in me.  Why?

One vacation, we were truckin’ down the road and I was biting my tongue. Why was my husband so annoying to me? Why could no one do anything right around me? This quiet moment became surreal as I stared out the window on a lonely stretch of highway. Without warning, it seemed that the mystery completely unfolded before my very eyes.

It was grace. Grace invited itself along for the ride. I stopped what was on the tip of my tongue, and grace spoke into my heart. I saw that my anger towards my husband was not at him at all. It wasn’t even anger. It was frustration. Exhaustion. Missing him.

He can say the same about me.

What happened in the car at the start of every trip was a lot of pent up stuff. Months or weeks of topics we had not had any time to discuss typically flew out of my mouth like bullets. Frustration over not having any time to discuss them was the trigger. A lack of communication during our exhaustive days led to feeling distant (a woman does not like to feel distant from her man). Hurt feelings ensued and so on. It’s a giant house of cards that is built one busy day after the next, blurry month after blurry month, and by the time vacation comes I’ve got my panties in a wad, he’s tired, and neither one of us wants to deal with the kids.

On this particular vacation I blurted out with wide eyes and a smile, Hey! Let’s try something new. Let’s have a transition day!

<cricket>

We’re all tired. We’re spent. With the energy left in our pinky toes we set off for an adventure. But, let’s be realistic –

Families need to time to adapt. We all need time and energy to mentally and emotionally leave our routines behind as much as we do physically. We need to have flexibility to do that in ways that are right for us. As much as it is uncomfortable for me, I need to let my kids unwind with their technology for the first leg of the trip if that’s what works. For my husband, it may be listening to tunes or simply not talking. For me, I adapt by catching up on all of the things I’ve wanted to share with my man that our routines rob us from communicating.

So, how does his not wanting to talk jive with my need to talk?  After 24 years of marriage, I found out that what I am really looking for is for him to listen. I decompress by exhaling my words, feelings, emotions, etc. I don’t regenerate by him wanting to solve or fix every issue I bring up. I just need to get it out. It’s beautiful, really. I talk and talk and talk. He listens. We both win because I am not asking for him to share equal words in the conversation. I’m not asking anything of him. Sometimes I am just venting or processing things out loud and would rather him not say a word. In order for me to embrace the vacation and be in the moment, there needs to be room in my heart and mind to hold the new memories we will make. I can’t do that if I’ve drug all of the muck from home with me. He feels no pressure to respond except for the occasional smile, glance, or head nod. It’s perfect for us! Meanwhile, the kids have tuned into their music and miss all of my introspective downloading.

Also, we’ve learned that the first day of vacation isn’t our best, so we need to extend intentional grace to each other. It’s likely my husband has just finished a conference call as we’re packing the van. Being it’s a time for a break, the kids have most often just come off of hard tests and papers and presentations. We all need grace to fill in the blanks when we are not enough for each other.

The vacation I mentioned above was a turning point in our family. We declared Transition Day (out loud) and all of the stress of regular life, the stress of travel, the stress of wanting to have a good time, and all of the other stress that keeps my shoulders and neck muscles rock hard began to melt away.

Now, we actually laugh about it. When someone’s attitude tanks on that first day, we just smile and say “Transition Day!” and give grace. This has helped to cut down how long the transition takes, because the pressure of performance is gone. We can show our weaknesses. We are not “on” like we have to be in so many venues of our lives. We don’t have to begin making scrapbooking memories the moment our tires leave the driveway.

Giving each other freedom to have a transition day has been very healing. I can stop being wife and mother and just be Kristi – whether Kristi is tired, emotional, happy or mad. Likewise, each member of our family can simply be who we are. The van is peaceful even if someone is bent out of shape. Odd, huh?

By the second day (or even that evening) we are all ready for fun! We have switched gears and truly let it all go – without unnecessary friction that is draining and spoils the fun.

I’ve now started doing a mini version of Transition Day on the weekends. It’s not a formula. It’s simply putting ourselves in each others’ shoes and remembering we are humans who are imperfect but are trying to be the best we can anyway.

Grace is now not only at the top of my packing list for vacations and weekends, but it’s becoming part of my daily to-do list. And as often as I need to give it, I realize I need to receive it.

Vacation Transition Day has become part of our family’s everyday moments and is a game-changer because in giving grace – love wins – and that’s the main goal no matter where we are.

 

 

 

No sooner did I…

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.   Isaiah 43:18-19

In 2010, our lives were unexpectedly flipped upside down and inside out.  Unbeknownst to us, a series of events, divinely timed, methodically unfolded.  However, we were completely unaware of what God was up to.  What began as a normal Sunday at church turned into an eternal change in the direction of our family.  The words of guest speaker, David Stevens, uprooted my entire way of thinking of what faith looks like in a person’s life.  Challenging, penetrating words from a woman advocating for African orphans rocked my world one night as we watched them joyfully sing and dance and give their testimony to God’s faithfulness.  Then, through God’s providence, He brought Dr. David Platt’s book, Radical, into our lives.  Like birth pains, our lives were quickly becoming uncomfortable to say the least.  We were compelled to examine our lives and ask God if there was anything He’d like to change about them.  Do NOT ask that question if you’re not ready for the answer!

The next thing we know, we’re on a plane with our children 10-14 yrs old, headed to Africa on our first international mission trip (and our first trip out of the country).  The next summer, we found ourselves in Ukraine on a different mission trip.  This past summer, we were speechless as our passports were stamped in Asia on yet another different mission project.

Everything we knew normal to look like was so far in the rear view mirror we couldn’t even see it anymore.  In between those times, we continued with local work in our community.  I thought what God had planned to change in our lives had happened, and even though I certainly felt out of my comfort zone, I had no idea that was only the first phase of the transformation.

I really believed the “change” had happened.  And it did.  But, God never said anything to us about that being the only change.

Once again, I find myself being shaken. I am currently taking the Bible study, Interrupted, by Jen Hatmaker.  What began as a desire to take this study from an alumni stance of, Oh I know what she is talking about!  Been there.  Done that! quickly became something different.

One day of homework shook me to my core.  I admitted to my small group that God had radically shown me a peek into phase 2 of the transformation and it deals directly with me.  I have a thing.  Everyone has a thing, and we are quick to judge others’ things because either they makes us feel better about our thing, or their thing is just plain weird in our own eyes.

My thing has to do with my hands.  It is a sensory issue mostly.  My hands must be clean.  I don’t wash them 18 times a day, but they must stay generally clean or the epicenter of my sanity is rocked off its axis and I cannot focus on anything until I wash them.  Okay, so that’s my thing.  I said it.

What does this have to do with the transformation of our family’s and my faith?  A lot.

This oddity about me with my hands has held me back from experiences in life.  I love nature, animals, and all of that.  Love it!  But, as much as I love to get up close and personal with insects, please do not ask me to touch them.  I will look at them, photograph them and appreciate their place in our ecosystem, but their legs and exoskeletons make my skin crawl to imagine them touching my hands.

I love sharks.  Okay, so I am a little obsessed with them!  Have been my whole life.  I’ve read books about them and watched nearly every documentary on them.  A few years ago, I had the opportunity to touch one.  I was allowed to stroke its back and dorsal fin.  A moment I had waited for my entire life!  As I reached into the salty water, I felt a swell of adrenaline and nausea roll over me.  As much as I wanted to enjoy the moment, the slick, leathery skin that I had waited forever to touch also made me weak in the knees.

The other day, I was trying to catch a large lizard that found its way into our home.  However, it wasn’t the lizard’s size, speed or agility that made me shriek like a little girl every time I missed, it was knowing it would be in my hands and I would feel every toenail, its chest heaving in distress (scared of me!) and its lose, cool skin.  I think lizards are so neat!  But handling them is something different.

When pumping gas, or in the salad bar line, I use my less dominant hand so the hand I use for everything else is still clean.  It’s a right-handed world, and that’s fine with me!  Shaking people’s hands with my right hand keeps my dominant left hand clean for everything else I need to do.  A couple of times for my children’s birthday parties, I made mystery boxes that everyone stuck their hands into and had to feel their way to the items on the list. I made the box.  I knew what was in it.  I knew it was only spaghetti noodles hiding things like pencils, plastic dinosaurs, and bouncy balls. But, for the life of me, I could not stick my own hand in the box!  Yeah, that’s me.

When we were in Africa, I really struggled.  For 2 weeks, I couldn’t practice the hand-washing methods, etc. that I do here in America.  However, I did embrace bucket showers and thought that if America could do this one change we’d have no more worries of clean water shortages. As much as I loved Kenya and its friendly, hospitable and warm people, being there was a huge mental obstacle for me because of my stupid hand thing.  I carried so much guilt and shame around with me as I wrestled to assure myself this wasn’t a case of me thinking too highly of myself.  Like, I would never touch something or someone less than me.  Oh my word no!  That’s not it at all.

It’s a sensory thing.  Like I have 10 little brains attached to my hands.  Weird, I know.

When I hold my husband or my children’s hands, I feel an emotional electricity connecting us through touch.  When I knead dough, there is a feeling of workmanship and family (it’s a very old family recipe) that affects me on a deeper level.  But, don’t even get me started on public door handles and bathrooms.  It isn’t pretty.

So in Africa, as well as the other two countries we served in, because of this secret, odd thing, I found my place comfortably behind the camera.  As a freelance photographer, I was more than happy to be the team historian for these trips.  I was also very happy to load and lug equipment; produce and carry-out VBS with the team; harvest corn; help with soccer clinics, help start-up community playgroups, etc.  I was very happy to serve in ways that made me comfortable.  I even told myself that according to 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, we all have different gifts and talents God uses as a collective body to serve in His name.  That is true, but hiding behind those talents is not the same as using them for His glory.

Enter the Interrupted study I am taking.

On this particular day of study, God showed me that what I have known my whole life as “good enough” service to Him was no longer good enough.  He wants to move me from from a place of comfort to a place where I will serve Him even if – and especially if – it is uncomfortable.  It’s about living in His strength and not my own.  It’s about overcoming our fears with power and victory believers have in Christ.

Sure, it’s okay to continue to use the stuff God hard-wired in me for His work, but He is now gently pushing me toward new work that requires more than I have to give.

He lovingly told me that I have been hiding behind my camera; hiding behind the title of organizer in different service projects both local and worldwide; and hiding behind my writing.  Why?  Because in all of those cases I get to appease my hand issue.  I don’t have to necessarily be hands-on in the uncomfortable work.

I remember watching my daughter, then just 12 years old, swing, hold and play with precious children on the African mountainside completely uninhibited.  I was envious of her.  She sat on the ground while they braided her hair and rested in her lap.  I stood on the sidelines watching through the lens of my camera – wishing I could be like her.  Watching my sons hold hands with children who had an enormous amount of mucus and drainage running out of their noses, wiping it with their hands, then again taking the hands of my sons again – never to be denied and always welcomed with a smile, tears filled my eyes as I hoped those same mucus-filled hands wouldn’t find mine.  If they did, I would certainly not turn them away, but it would push me right to the edge of my personal cliff.

In Asia, we worked with children who couldn’t care for themselves, and I repeatedly had to silently stop and breathe because again, as I adjusted my normal to meet theirs.  I guess it turned up the fact I have the same issue with my feet.  Removing my shoes, as is custom, meant I had to sometimes walk barefoot on strange floors that had many bare feet on them.  The crunch of unknown substances I stepped on, or someone else’s hair getting stuck to the bottoms of my feet made me want to run outside and rub my feet in the grass.  Oh the shame to feel such things on mission trips!  But, I would just as quickly feel them at home, too. My oddity shows no discrimination of people, place or circumstance.

This is real. Raw. Sobering.  Embarrassing.  So why write about it?  Why risk being judged by the big world we live in?  Why set myself up for possible critique or criticism?

God is doing a new work, and I guess I want to give a very clear “before” picture, so He can get the glory for the “after” picture I trust is coming.

In our study’s small group, I confessed these things with bated breath not knowing how I’d be received. To my pleasant surprise, my humbling words were met with beautiful grace.  Every single woman was so gracious!  It is their response that gave me the courage to write this on a public blog.  I left that morning with hope that God can change even the strangest things about people.  We are, in fact, a work in progress.

We openly discussed the topic of helping the homeless and the poor and all that surrounds these desperate circumstances. Yet, as I confessed my shortcoming of the hand thing, even the nurse and occupational therapist in our group were merciful to me – and never made me feel like I was less of a believer or a person due to this obstacle that they obviously don’t share given their lines of work.

I told the group, God revealed to me with fresh eyes that I have been hiding in ministry because of this.  With sincere motives, giving money, donating clothes, and serving in a food line is comfortable.  Joining my kids and their friends in nursing homes to sing Christmas carols, making and donating gift baskets for women’s shelters and organizing bake sales to benefit world relief efforts is comfortable.  Doing yard work and attending luncheons for widows is comfortable.  Soliciting contributions from businesses for the different charities we work with is comfortable.

God is clearly telling me that while those things are good, if I am doing them to partly hide behind what isn’t comfortable, then that needs to change.  I accepted His loving discipline and offered Him an open heart as best I could.

I left our small group to run a few errands at my familiar stomping ground.  No sooner did I pull up at the same old three-way stop, than I immediately saw a woman standing at the stop sign holding a sign asking for help.  At her feet sat two children.  It was chilly, windy and drizzling.

In one motion of heart and head, I instantly knew this was God placing me there to practice this new lesson of serving in the discomfort.  We keep gift bags in our car with bottled water, cans of soup and Scripture for such an occasion, but this mom and her kids needed more than that.

I cannot describe how 100% confidently sure I was that God called me to this intersection for such a time as this.  Normally, we would hand them the gift bag, ask their name and tell them we would pray for them all before the light turned green and off we’d go.  For years that has sufficed.  Not so this day.

It was a well-trafficked intersection, in the middle of the day, in a familiar part of town, and it was a mom and two young children.  I felt very safe (an important aspect). I drove right by her without a word, but pulled into the first open parking space at Wal-Mart.  God clearly told me to get them a gift card.  I found a pretty gift card with pink flowers on it, checked out and walked with haste back to the van.

Looking back to see if they were still there, I circled the van to the closest parking space to them.  I sat in the van and prayed.  Of all the times I’ve tried to help people standing on the street corner, I’ve never gotten out of my car to do it.

That instant, the bondage of fear left me and I knew I was walking in God’s strength and power – not mine.  I walked up to the mom and her kids and asked them if I could take them to lunch.  I offered that the kids could play on the play set while we could just relax and eat.  As soon as I offered, she broke down and cried and thanked me.  However, someone before me had already given them lunch.

Okay.  So what now? I prayed.

I remembered Jen Hatmaker’s words in the study, Ask them their name and their story, because they never get to tell their story.  

So I did.  And, with all glory to God, I held out my hand to shake each of theirs.  (Not a big deal to 99% of the population, but it’s a big deal to me.)

Suddenly, we were just two women smiling and talking with no regard to the many cars passing by.  Her daughter had a beautiful, captivating smile and her son was incredibly polite.  I offered her the gift card and she began to cry again.  I gave her the name of our church to see if they could help in any way.  Then I did something I’ve never done.  I gave her my cell phone number.

Physical touch and sharing personal information were on my list of no’s.  And, I would never blankly say it’s okay to do this in any situation, but it was okay in this one.  God had given me an indescribable a peace about it.

I listened to her story and offered to pray for her family.  She gladly accepted.  In our home, we always hold hands when we pray no matter where we are.  I reached out my hand and asked if she would hold mine for the prayer.  She held out her hand, and in the moment we touched I felt a 1,000 pounds of guilt and shame I have carried my whole life over this hand thing drop like a rock.

I was a new person before we said Amen.

This mom was so sweet.  Her children were precious.  I could have stayed with them all day. Before leaving, I shook both of her children’s hands and gave the mom my number. I didn’t have much to write on, so she offered me the back of her poster she was holding asking for help.

I mentioned earlier that physical touch is a big deal for me, and as we both held the large poster board, and my left hand drug across it as I wrote my number on it in ink, it changed me.  In a  way, I had become connected to her board – her situation – her.  It became very personal in that moment.  It’s difficult to put into words.  It wasn’t a typical drive-by/drop-off of goods and well wishes between strangers.  It was two women helping each other.  I hope I was a blessing to her.  For certain she was to me.

When she accepted the gift card, the first words she spoke were, My children have almost nothing to wear.  Now I can buy them some clothes. It pierced my heart that her first response was to take care of her children.

Driving away, it dawned on me that she never asked me for anything.  Strange!  I asked her name and her story; offered them lunch; gave her a gift card; gave them our church’s number and my cell phone number; and asked if there was anything else I could do.  She never asked for anything, but was so appreciative and teary.

However, truly I also received something I needed.  God broke the stronghold of the hand thing. His love superseded my hangup and His mercy and compassion won out.

I pray He continues to meet the needs of this family, as I look for them now every time I pass that intersection.  I know He will.  This experience was also a blessing to me because it showed me that God hasn’t given up on me and my hangups.  He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and will finish the work He started in us (Philippians 1:6) even if some of us take a little longer.

Because of this experience, God has given me a new hope and fresh excitement for what phase 2 may hold.  Before, I had some sticky reservations, but I am reminded that God can do the impossible – He can change us – creatures of habit that we are.

Serving where He has me, in the roles He has me in, is great.  But, now I look forward with curiosity at what in the world He may have in store.

He is good.  Patient.  Kind.  Perfect.  Forgiving.  We are made in His image.  Fragile.  Sinful.  Beautiful.  Only He can put Humpty Dumpty together to create a new work with the same broken chards of the past.  We are new.  Whole.  Lovely.  Even though it is the same ol’ us.

What is He nudging you toward today?  What comfort zone is He moving you away from?  As we live and breathe there is a plan for our lives. The Potter continues to sculpt us into the image of His Son for plans no eye has seen nor ear has heard (1 Corinthians 2:9).  Do I wish I could redo all of the times my shortcomings sabotaged a moment of ministry?  Absolutely.  But I will not stay in the guilt of the past because God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3;22-23).  If He can forgive and forget, so can I (Psalm 103:11-12; Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

However, I don’t want to completely forget so I will remember to let God keep pushing me out of my comfort zone and draw me toward wherever His heart is at work.  I don’t want to miss a moment.

The lunchbox

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The account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is renown.  From preschool to the pulpit, this historical event has been told and retold for the glory of God.  However, there is someone in this true story that remains a mystery. Someone who has always captivated my curiosity.  Since God has chosen this season for our family to travel on global mission to Kenya, Ukraine and now this year’s mission, the mystery of the unnamed person takes on a new light to me.

I don’t want to take away one ounce of awe and wonder at what Jesus did that day in this post.  In fact, the goal is to continue to make much of Him – albeit differently than I’ve heard before about this passage of Scripture.

Read with me John 6:1-13

6 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias),and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

We read of several people involved in this awesome account – except one.  The person who made the little boy’s lunch – presumably his mother, but even if it were his father or grandparent or sibling, the message is still the same.

Someone took the time to do two things for this little boy.  One, they made time to let him go hear Jesus.  We don’t know his age, but perhaps there were chores he could have been doing or he simply could’ve played with his friends. Someone let him go hear Jesus teach.

Two, they were forward-thinking and packed him a lunch so he would be equipped to stay for as long as Jesus was teaching.

There are so many unanswered questions like…

* When Andrew brought the boy and his lunch into the solution, was his mother standing right there, too, so close to Jesus and the disciples?  Probably not.  The 5,000 headcount refers to men.  Women and children not withstanding.  I would guess they sat on the fringe of where the men sat.

* Who prepared the fish for him?  That seems like a task an adult would have done.

* Who taught him to share?  Notice the boy didn’t put a fight about turning over his lunch.  I have two boys, and let me tell you when they are hungry – they are hungry and looking for food to consume.  So, if everyone else was already hungry, wasn’t he, too?

* Was he alone, or did he have siblings or friends with him?  If he had siblings with him, would not they have had a lunch, too?

Hmm.  My mind wanders to endless curiosities (it drives my family crazy sometimes. :))  Back to the point.

Someone, let’s assume it was his mother by what we know of family dynamics back in that time period, prepared that little boy for the long haul.  She packed him a lunch and gave him permission to go.

Traveling on mission with our children, I can relate a lot to this mom.

* Jesus is irresistible.  If He were coming to town, you’d better believe I’d have my kids there quicker than any music concert or midnight movie premier.  But, these days He works differently.  He isn’t seen on a grassy mountainside, but He is very much still teaching and performing miracles.  I don’t want my kids to miss a single moment they were destined to be a part of.

* Our children’s “lunchboxes” are crafted from the times we’ve poured Christ into their lives via prayer, conversation, Bible study, attending church, serving for Him, buying them devotionals, dedicating them as babies, and encouraging their faith in both subtle and direct ways in their 24/7/365.  We try hard not to take any minute for granted, and do what we can to spur them on in their faith – even when that means we show our weaknesses and frailties.

* We let them go.  For now, they go on mission with us (and sometimes without us, though well chaperoned). We allow experiences that are uncomfortable – even undesirable – if it means they meet Jesus in that moment. Our culture is dangerously soft in all ways.  We are consumed with the idolatry of comfort.  We want to play, eat and do whatever we want to.  Hard work is nearly obsolete in the generation behind us.  Example, (and this isn’t even for hard work – just plain work) I was in the grocery store recently when I walked up to the checkout clerk an asked him to page my husband since we didn’t have our phones with us and I needed his help.  There wasn’t a soul around and this teenage guy had nothing to do but stand there and wait for someone to check out.  He looked at me, without blinking, and said, “I could, but I just don’t want to.  If you could go up to customer service that’d be great.”  Infuriating, right?

One of the biggest disservices parents of my generation are doing is trying to get their kids to believe life is easy, they should be rewarded for nothing, and they should have their way every time.  When the real world slaps them silly whether it be in college, at their first job interview, or when they are evicted for not paying rent because they don’t have a job, they will feel not only defeated, but betrayed – by their parents.  Why didn’t you tell me.  Teach me.  Warn me.  Show me, are thoughts rolling around in their heads as our teens are setting new records of stress, drug addition, suicide, drinking, nervous breakdowns, burnout and prescription drug dependency.  I dread becoming old and depending on this generation to take care of me by way of voting on sketchy laws, working in nursing homes and other places I may need their help, and respecting the elderly in general.

No, I am not afraid to let my children have appropriately uncomfortable experiences like when our youngest couldn’t sleep on the long flight to Kenya.  It was hard to watch him not be able to settle down, but he survived.  Or when we were served food in Kenya that we had no idea what it was, and I looked at our daughter across the table with my mother’s eyes staring and silently said, “Smile.  Eat it.  Be thankful.”  We Americans have no idea how rude it would have been to say to the people who sacrificed their own food and poverty-level earnings to cook for us, Oh, my child won’t eat this, or doesn’t like this.  Do you have something else?  Not only does that give Christ a black eye as His ambassador, but it deeply harms cultural relations as Americans are viewed in a selfish, rude light.  I teach my children to be thankful for what they are given, because I know how it feels to work hard on a meal to which a young guest casually replies, I don’t eat that.  

I wanted to shout Amen! when our pastor said he doesn’t understand why parents are afraid to ask their 13 year-old to take out the garbage.  On mission, our kids must carry their weight even more than when we’re home.  Why?  It’s not because we are mean parents, it’s because we’re all asked to carry our own weight, and it’s hard work.  We’re all tired.  We’re all hungry.  We do help them out, but that is different from saving them every time they’re asked to do a job they don’t want to do or are tired of doing.  Teamwork – yes!  Enabling – no.

Why go through all of this anyway?  Bruce and I have a few thoughts on this for our children:

(1) More than anything, we want our children to follow God wherever He leads.  Toughening them now helps equip them for the future God has for them.  It also helps them erase limits and believe the impossible with God.  If anyone had told me even 3 years ago we’d being going  on global missions, I would have laughed!  I never want our kids to live within self-imposed boundaries that have held me captive my entire life.

(2) We want them to position themselves for God’s work.  That little boy with the 2 fish and 5 barley loaves made his way through the crowd directly to the inner circle of Jesus and the disciples.  We want our children to have a front-row seat to what Jesus is doing.

(3) We want them to be a part of whatever Jesus is doing – more than an onlooker, we want them to be in the middle of it.  Taking them on mission now equips them for mission trips they may take when they are grown or any ministry He has for them.  We want them to be comfortable jumping in with both feet.

(4) We want them to recognize the needs of others and want to be a part of the solution.  The little boy knew everyone was hungry because mostly likely he was hungry, too.  He surrendered his lunch for the good of the cause.  We want our kids, in the same way, to surrender their time, energy and resources to the cause of Christ without hesitation or reservation.

(5)  The days are evil and will become more so as the clock of history winds down.  Take a look at the snapshot Paul gives Timothy of what humanity will look like in the last days:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (NIV)

(The Message) Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.

(King James Version) This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

No matter how we slice and dice the translation, did your eyes glaze over this list like mine did simply because it doesn’t phase us?  This is our normal.  This is what we know.  Imagine how shocking it must have been for Timothy to read it.  How his eyes must have widened and a gasp heard under his breath while a cold chill ran down the back of neck as he read these “terrible” things.  Yet, I read it and say with a sarcastic tone, “…And…so what?” because I am desensitized by its commonness.

No one knows when the sun will rise for the last time, but we want our children to be fully aware of the times, making the most of every opportunity. (Ephesians 5:15 – 16, Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.)

Jesus said it best in Matthew 10:16, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.  Missions certainly gives a lot of practice with this!

(6) We want to teach our children to look for Christ in the crowd, to follow where He leads, to be part of the solution, and believe His miracles as all of this helps strengthen their foundation of faith.

When on mission, God’s presence is real in a very different way than in our normal grind.  He’s still there in the every day, but too often either we forget to look for Him because we are busy spinning on our hamster wheels, or we fail to see Him because we are positioned toward the back of the fighting line.  Yes, God gives our kids opportunities in their every day to take a stand for Him, serve Him and seek Him (they have AMAZING witnessing stories they share with us at school and other places of how God sets divine appointments), but ask anyone on mission and they will say the same…spiritual battles are very in your face on mission.  The more we teach our children while they are growing about what spiritual battles look like, and how to fight them in Jesus’ Name, the more they will be ready to fight them as an adult when they have left the nest.

There is a whole lot to learn packed in this one account of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  Today, we looked at one of the people whose name is omitted.  The anonymous lunch packer working for the benefit of their child.

This reminds me of God’s promise to David regarding Solomon in 1 Chronicles 17:11,

When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.

He was referring to all that Solomon would do after David.

Relating this to our children, we seek not that they build their own kingdom, but that they are part of building the Kingdom of God by way of going into all nations as commissioners for Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).  If you ask Bruce, his mantra is this – I want our kids to do more for Christ than we’ll ever do in our lifetime!  

Our lives were half over before we caught the vision of global missions.  Our kids already have such a huge head start on us!  Yeah!  When we asked them to pen their thoughts on what missions means to them, something our youngest wrote sums this point up best…

“Now that I have both experiences in more rural countries and more westernized countries, I feel better equipped to be able to evangelize in most cultures.”

He is merely a tween.  I get teary every time I think about how God is equipping them both for today and for their futures.  It’s so exciting to be a part of it!

I am grateful for the person who packed that boy’s lunch and let him go, and in doing so has greatly encourage me to do the same.  To meet this Man, Jesus Christ, that is crazy in love with the world – even those who have never heard His name…yet.

We will continue to pack their lunchboxes and let them go meet Jesus for as long as God allows.  This may be across the street, across town, or across the globe.

I want to do everything I can as a parent to position them for miracles that still happen today.  I want them to see Jesus up close and personal – within arm’s reach.  To hear His voice, know His smell, and catch His passion for helping others.  I want our kids to be so close to Jesus that they see His smile as He watches onlookers be amazed at His power.  I want them to be so close to Him that they hear Him laugh under His breath as people see Jesus with fresh eyes that He loves them, cares for them, and wants to help them.

Any of us would agree that if we had been the parent on duty that day, we would have wanted our child exactly where this little guy was – not at home or with friends or in the back of the crowd.  We have to believe this moment changed this little boy’s life.  It’s still changing lives today.  He carried this moment for the rest of his life saying, It was my lunch.  Mine.  Jesus used my lunch to feed 5,000 people!  Changed indeed.

Changed is what Bruce and I desire for our kids.  We want them to shoot far beyond the American dream, overcome their obstacles, and seek God with a passion that keeps them pursuing Him for the long haul. Through taking them on mission, we provide the lunchbox and let them go.  God packs the miracles.  What an honor it is to watch it unfold.

When reading our son’s words again above, I think I share the same smile as the mom who packed the boy’s lunch that day.  As a mom, she was busy.  She could’ve played this out a hundred different ways, but she chose to pack a lunch and send him to go to Jesus where He was – on a mountainside.

God’s given each of us parents a lunchbox to pack for our children. How will we use it?