A Letter To My Non-Mom Friends On Mother’s Day

It’s almost here, this day that carries so much weight.

For all that is celebrated and beautiful about motherhood, today I wish I could spend the day celebrating the beautiful women in my life who are not, technically, mothers, but who would love to be.

For you, precious women without children, but who desire them…lovely, Godly ladies who want to add the title of mom to their many others…my heart breaks a little for you as I think about what you might be facing this day, again.  I don’t know the why in your story.  I only know that the plans of God far outweigh my comprehension and yours, and some glorious day we’ll know it was all and only and always for good and out of love.

I want you to know that your life is filled with purpose, even if your home is not filled with children.  That you are not less His daughter, or less His delight, or less His masterpiece because you don’t have babies.

I really just want you to know…carrying a child in your womb is only one of the ways to cradle life.

I see you pregnant with grace, filled with life and radiant. I see you, pouring yourself out in countless acts of mercy to children you may never see again.  Loving the little ones who look into your eyes and see Jesus.

I see you birthing joy out of suffering. I see your trembling smile as you rejoice over another pregnancy announcement and your heart breaks again for what you don’t have.  I see you brave, and I see you smiling even through the tears, and I see Jesus, again.

I see you open your home to cradle lost souls and rock the hurts of ungrateful people. I see you giving without end from whatever you have, and even, sometimes, what you don’t have.  I see you cheerful through the poverty of disappointment and broken dreams.  I see Jesus in you.

I see you living unselfish, living out the truth, living obedient in the hard, and it shames me.

I’m ashamed of my own complaining, my own whining, my own selfishness, when you would give your right arm for my life.  When you deserve, so much more than I ever could, this life of motherhood.  Who am I?  I can’t go down that road, because there’s no answers.  You’re not unworthy, and I’m not worthy, and we’re just going to have to trust God’s Father-hands that made and love us both. The Father-heart that pens our stories with equal tenderness.

I am humbled by you.  I am awed by you.  By the beauty of grace in you.  By your gentleness.  I am a better woman, a better wife, a better mother, for knowing you.  Oh, I learn so much about mothering from you, so much about loving well.  So much about resilience and joy and patience through suffering.

I want to be like you.  I want to step over the barrier (who put it there anyway?) that separates the married from the unmarried, the mother from the childless, and just be your sister in Christ.  I want my children to look up to you and learn from you, because there are so many things that you can teach them that I cannot.

If you only knew how much I want to learn from you.

A bountiful harvest of grace is what I see in your life.  It comes in so many ways, and slips in, humble and unnoticed.  Yes, this day is about motherhood, but it’s God’s grace…to each of us…that defines a life.

It’s easy sometimes, to make life about the haves and the don’t haves – what you have, or they don’t have, or I have and you don’t – but as believers in Jesus, we are marked by something completely different. His grace. I remind you as I remind myself that we none of us deserve any of it, but He gives anyway. He gives grace to the humble, and it’s gorgeous on you.

I see it all over you, pouring from your heart, the unmerited favor of grace, spilling life all around you.  Nurturing.  Tirelessly, unselfishly, endlessly, quietly, serving.

I see you, and I see Jesus in you, and it’s stunningly, awesomely beautiful.

A mother gives life in the delivery room, but you…you give it over and over and over and over.  Laying down your life for His way.  Laying down your dreams, your plans, your wants, for His best.  None of it is wasted.  John 12:24 reminds us that the death of what’s precious gives life to more than we can imagine, and I hope you know that your impact is not crippled by this “not yet” or “not ever.”

Jesus uses you to give life to others.

You’ve given it to me.  You’ve given it to countless others.  One day in glory, your eyes will fill with tears of joy when you see that Isaiah 54:1-2 was about you, and you’re going to be shocked by the number of people who look at you as a spiritual mother.  Only heaven knows the reach of your impact.

If that’s not the essence of motherhood, I don’t know what is.

Let’s celebrate…together…the life-giving grace of Jesus.

Welcome to the mama club…mama of many.

Grace, peace, and you-are-deeply-appreciated,

 

This post first appeared on iBelieve on May 2, 2016

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When You Don’t Know How To Be Enough

There’s a special kind of loneliness that comes with being a woman in this culture that can deceive us into thinking that no one else struggles as hard or as ugly as we do.

In a world of instant updates and photo filtering and everyone being prettier and more put together than we are…it’s hard to ever feel enough.  Isn’t it?  You would think that reality TV and constant connectivity would promote authenticity, but no.  It’s easy to crop around the messy edges, to edit the struggle, the sin, the handicaps and varnish over the not-so-pretty sides we all have.

Maybe it’s steeped in the culture of the church-people, or maybe it’s just something that Type A’s and people-pleasers feel, but it seems like anything less than shiny sweetness is a scarlet letter of shame.  That it’s immaturity to struggle with grief, depression, unbelief, generational sin patterns, fear, backbiting and backstabbing, you name it.  Supposedly, (who came up with this, anyway?) there’s this unwritten script that says Christians are only ever tempted, but never succumb to sin.

That we never fall.

That we don’t struggle, mightily, all the time.

We preach the Gospel, but are we even listening?

Christ came to set free the chained, captive, hopelessly snarled up, ugly people – and He saves them every day.  When you make Him your Savior, it is only the first of many times that He’ll save you.  It’s been years in the making, this coming to realize that Christians – the real, authentic disciples, all of them – have jagged, scarred places.  We are not the second coming of perfect, and that is really okay.

Oh, I am up to here with pretending that I don’t have flaws inside and out, and cellulite, and a mile wide judgmental streak.  It’s unbelief that batters me, and the constant struggle to find any self worth, and shame and I have a go around about every 3 hours.  Is that TMI for you?  Life is a struggle, always.  Maybe you’ve felt a bit of the same?

Being “not enough” is enough to hush the sparkle in even the bravest among us.

It can feel hopelessly complicated, holding the pieces together and patchworking  out a ragged semblance of “good enough.”  It’s honestly exhausting, and in light of Calvary – completely unnecessary.

John 1:14 says this about Jesus: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (NIV)  Following Jesus means that we will grow to be more and more like Him.  If we could just stop tiptoeing around grace and simply take it as ours, what a difference it would make.  If we could speak the truth about our struggles and blemishes, and receive some grace and truth in return from others…wouldn’t that change everything?  If we could extend some grace to the not-perfect ones that surround us, maybe we’d all breathe a little deeper and relax just a bit.

There are precious few people who have had the rare and questionable privilege to see me ugly cry, and even fewer who make me feel okay about it.  Maybe, could we be a bit less perfect and a whole lot more authentic?  Gentleness and flaws – they can go together.  Rough edges and mistakes need a soft place to land, and who better than us to offer it?  What if being the hands and feet of Jesus was less of a competition to dispense John Piper-isms and more of a coming alongside broken people as one of them? (Don’t get me wrong – I love a good dose of John Piper wisdom, too.)  But no theologian saves us – only Jesus.  Simply, only, always Jesus.

How well do we take the medicine we offer to the world?

This gospel we preach of a perfect Man crucified doesn’t mean we swelter under the unbearable weight of past mistakes or spend ourselves breathless chasing perfectionism.  It means we crucify the need to prove ourselves, every day.

It means we preach the grace of God to our own souls daily, as well as to everyone we encounter.

It means we speak the truth  – the truth of our own struggles, and also the truth that God is bigger than any sin pattern, any wrong done to us, any issue that we can face.  Preach the gospel to yourself first, every day, and then live it.

Maybe there’s a way out, and it’s as simple as finding those few people who will hold your real self with gentleness, and then becoming one of those people to anyone and everyone around us.  But first – go to Jesus.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29, NIV)

The struggle for balance, for peace, for freedom in Christ – it’s real.

We have to fight, every day, to live out this glorious salvation with authenticity, and grace, and obedience.  It comes with real life issues, in the broken places we all want to hide and the hushing voices of everyone who has ever not believed that we’re enough.

I have news, friends.  We don’t have to be enough anymore, because Jesus is.  He’s enough, and He willingly steps in to fill the gaping holes within us.  Really, it’s okay to be vulnerable with Him and each other, because we have the righteousness of Christ to define us.  He is enough – enough for you, and me, and all the broken places and mistakes in this world of ours.  Dear tired ones, it’s okay to be real, because Jesus is.  If He wasn’t, it would be too terrifying to admit that we struggle with sin in every form, every day.

But because He lives to intercede for us, the pressure to be “enough” (whatever that is), can slide off our To Do list as done.

Grace, peace, and lots of love,

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Flipping Fear

Have you ever gone to bed with the light on?

It’s what happens when you’re a 21-year-old me, having stayed up till 2 a.m. to finish a suspense novel.  And when it so happens that the main character (a single young woman) wakes up to find some psychopath leering over her bed even though the deadbolt was fastened and the windows were locked. Shiver.

Fear can drive us to the brink of the ridiculous.  (As above.)

But sometimes, fear isn’t silly in the light of day.  It’s toxic.  And it’s a toxin we don’t even know we’re ingesting.

It can keep us from sending that letter, having that conversation, making that new friend, letting go of the familiar.  It’s scary to leave the kiddie end and head for deep water.  You know, the 9 foot end where the diving board is.  That end.  Oh, yes, we’re going there.  To the not safe, the less-than-sure bet, the downright scary.

Fear is a thief.  It steals peace of mind, wholeness in relationships, and breaches (or exposes a breach in) your connection with God.

  • If fear of losing someone keeps you from fully engaging emotionally…you are making them lose you.
  • If fear of failing keeps you from living out your full potential…you are living self-handicapped.  The world is not as bright, not as beautiful as it could be, because it is missing what you could bring to the table.
  • If fear of the unknown keeps you from daring to be you…your personality is shrinking and withering as we speak.
  • If fear of ridicule is keeping you inside your shell, unable to connect authentically…you are missing out on community and all the benefits of being fully known, and fully accepted as you are.  There really ARE those kind of people in the world…you know, the kind that will genuinely and truly like you.

Is there a way to flip fear on it’s ugly head?  If we pick up our towels and head for the deep end, will we thrash and drown?

Sometimes, it takes just one person being brave even when they’re scared.

Could we do that?  Who knows what kind of chain reaction we might trigger?

I bet you’ve thought it through a thousand times, what it would feel like to fail, to fall powerless into the arms of the scary, to have the oxygen squeezed out slowly and mercilessly.  Did it ever cross your mind that you might not fail?  You might get the job, or you might find the love of your life, or that the kids might make it home safely from school, or that really, he’s not cheating on you.  And those people who might laugh?  They might.  Or, they might not.  Maybe they are as paralyzed by fear of failure as you are.  Maybe even if they laughed, they would secretly wish they had the guts to put themselves out there.

Haven’t you gotten sick and tired of living leashed to what if?  I am so done with it.  Maybe we could start to ask, what if not?  What if I don’t step out?  What will I be giving up by staying paralyzed by fear?  What will I squeeze to death by gripping it so tightly? Maybe, if we were honest, we’d realize that we’re already living half-dead and gasping because of the death-grip fear’s got on us.

And even if…will it kill you?  So it is the worst.  It happened.  What now?  Are you abandoned and alone? Never.  Hebrews 13:5-8 reminds us that God is not one to walk out on His promises.  And He promises never to leave you, never to forsake you.  As bad as this life is, for the Christ-follower, that’s the worst it will ever be.  To those who are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, THIS is as bad as it gets.  As my Dad always said, “This is the only hell I will ever know.”

Surely, there is an antidote to this poison.  A life preserver for the scary end.

Turns out, there is.  When I read that “perfect love casts out fear,” I feel rejected and riddled with the imperfections of my loving.  Because, surely, if only I loved better, I would not live so fearful.  But that, it turns out, is not the case.  It’s not our imperfect loving, but our imperfect comprehension of God’s love for us that lets fear get a stranglehold.

Perfect love – His, not ours – casts out fear.  When we know we are perfectly loved, the fear has no answer.  Love is your life preserver.  It keeps your soul afloat when there is nothing left to hold on to.

Stepping off the diving board is still scary.  We might fail.  We might flail.  Or maybe… we will find a buoyancy we never knew was possible.  Because perfect love cuts the dead weight of fear that pulls our head under water, and there is nothing, nothing that can mess with His perfect love for us.  When we understand that, we can stop the frantic thrashing and float.

Flipping fear on its head is not just for us.  Others are watching.  Maybe, when our fears start falling like dominoes, someone else could find their way out of prison.

There’s a lot at stake.  What if not, remember?  Love is contagious, and perfect love is downright irresistible.  It is only the unfailing love of Jesus that can lift the crushing weight of fear off of anyone’s chest.  We can point them there.  We can lead the way from the kiddie end to the diving board, and all the gradations in between.  But we have to be willing to jump in ourselves, to accept His perfect love that covers over all our deficiencies, and do the hard work of trusting instead of fearing.

We can do this.

How do I know?  Well, I’ve grown a little since my leave-the-light-on days.  When I’m tempted to fear, I try to catch myself and buckle on the life preserver of His love right away.  (Because, for me, when fear gains any kind of momentum, it takes exponentially longer to stop it.)  Some practical ways I “buckle up”:

  • Say the name of Jesus.  It really does help!
  • Repeat Scriptures that have to do with fear and God’s perfect love.  A few favorites are 2 Timothy 1:7, John 14:27, Joshua 1:9, Matthew 6:34, and Isaiah 43:1.  You can find more here.
  • Pray for God to fill me with peace.  Affirm my trust for Him, and ask Him for freedom from fear.

Flipping fear is the best thing we can do for ourselves, for our families and loved ones.

We were never meant to live helpless and scared, cowering under the covers waiting for the worst to happen.

The worst already happened on a hill just outside Jerusalem, and all the powers of darkness partied for three long days.  But then…

Love struck a mortal blow to evil, and we don’t ever have to go back.

Jesus is the difference.  He always is.  You can turn the light off and go to sleep, because this Jesus light lives in you, and the real darkness runs whimpering and defeated from Him.

Don’t let anything, not even fear, tell you different.

Grace, peace, and here’s to night lights,

This post first appeared on iBelieve.com July 5, 2016

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How To Change The World (When You Don’t Know Where To Start)

 

She’s just a little girl with big eyes and bigger dreams.

“Mama,” she says, sliding under my arms for a snuggle.  “I want to be a firefighter.”  Yesterday, it was a Conservation Officer, the day before that, a swimming instructor.  She’s a future ballerina, songwriter, singer, nurse, doctor, missionary, mother, artist, author, research scientist, kindergarten teacher.  She wants to do it all, be it all, save the world in one grand and glorious life.

Part of me wonders…what happened to me and all those big dreams I used to have?  You had them too, right?  When we were young and starry eyed and a little naïve…and the world was going to get rocked by all our good intentions.  Africa was going to get clean water, and AIDS was going to get cured, and cancer was going to be eradicated, and sex trafficking was going to get shut down for good, and…we were going to change the world.

What happened to those girls who wanted to risk it all for the love of those who have nothing?

Life happened.  Somewhere in all the busy, we lost those dreams, or gave up on them, or filed them away for later.  It’s just too much right now – ten years down the road, maybe.  And anyway – what can just one woman really do?  Amidst work and ministry and family obligations and grocery shopping and playdates…No, we can’t do everything.  I get it – I really do.  Deep in the middle of loving my husband and a bunch of little ones, I want to care for the orphans and the oppressed, but I’m struggling to simply get the floor swept, launch a guerrilla war against the laundry, and fight the unceasing stream of diapers, sippy cups, and excuses against math homework.  Add world changing to my list, and I just might scream.

It’s just kind of easier to push it aside as too big, too ambitious, too Pollyanna for this season of life.

Maybe in the process of getting scarred up a bit by life we’ve lost something sweet and precious.  Isn’t it okay to let go of the naïve dreams, but swap them out for God-sized ones?  Wide-eyed idealism doesn’t need to die – it just needs to turn into something more sturdy and practical and maybe even trimmed down.  We don’t need to give up on changing the world, but maybe we could be a bit more practical about it all.  We’re not all orphanage starters or Bible translators, but we have something.

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

God doesn’t take the perfect ones, the bored ones, the ones with nothing to do anyway, and make them world changers.  The Bible is full of horrifically flawed people who were used by God mid-stream in the fullness of busy lives and less-than-awesome track records.  You don’t get off the hook for being human, and busy, and just trying to pay the bills –  and neither do I.  Recently, I posted on Facebook that I’m switching to Fair Trade coffee.  Oh, it’s tiny in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a bit of a sacrifice for a single income family.  Baby steps, right?  It’s something.  (At the bottom of the post, I have a tip sheet with 25 ideas on how to start changing the world today.  All of them doable.)

We don’t get the excuse that we’re too messed up, too busy, or too poor to do any world changing.

A couple of decades of hard charging crusading has done more to change me than anyone else.  It’s deflated more than my ego – it’s kind of leaked the optimism I used to have.  Change the world?  Yep, it needs it, but I need it, too. Change me first, Lord.  Isn’t that where it all starts – the REAL world changing – with us?

There has to come something in us that gets sick of just going through the motions and living our small lives.

Let’s face it: for all the injustices of this world, no one really wants to get first in line to grow out of selfishness and insecurity and pride.  Good intentions feel better and easier than actual repenting.  We can’t keep putting it off for next year.  We’re not even promised tomorrow.  Today, although I just want to binge watch cooking shows and stay cozy on my couch, I can’t afford it.  So, sign me up for changing, repenting, forgiving, and loving…today.  I’m not alone in this tug-of-war, am I?

The thing is, the world needs clean water and healthcare and social reform desperately – but not nearly so much as it needs Jesus.  We need Jesus.  It all begins and ends here – with the crux of the matter, who is Jesus.  The One who suffered for us is the real change that is accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time.  And it is because of Him that we can effect other changes – ones that really matter in the face of eternity.

Because of Jesus, we can arise, phoenix-like from the ashes that dust our sooty wings and dare to be brave and imperfect and change history anyway.

Oh no, it’s not too late to become world changers, ladies.  Not because we’re worthy or especially gifted, but because we’re loved and forgiven.  The rough corners on us and the wear and tear of all the life that’s happened since we were naive and out to make a difference – it doesn’t disqualify us from substantial ministry.  If anything, it broadens our scope.  There’s more grit and substance and compassion to us than 5, 10, or 15 years ago.  God can use this – and He wants to.

No, it’s not my season for smuggling Bibles or charging off as a medical missionary.  But I can teach my children, faithfully, the word of God.  I can bind up their hurts with gentleness.  You, you can use that job of yours to faithfully, quietly, serve.  You can leverage your influence on social media to advocate for social justice.  It’s all around us, these opportunities to change the world. (Download my free list to get 25 ideas for how you can start changing the world today.  Scroll to the bottom of the post!)

  • We can speak life and truth instead of swallowing down lies and defeat.
  • We can make a meal for a family that’s going through a health crisis.
  • We can be a soft place to land in a harsh and critical world – to our families, to our friends, to anyone and everyone in our path.
  • We can turn our homes into peaceful, restful places that inspire and refresh and encourage.
  • We can value others with our words – the ones we say with kindness and gentleness and truth, and the ones we don’t say that would rip and tear and discourage.
  • We can work in the church nursery, write words that inspire others, smile with our eyes at that tired looking mama in the grocery store.
  • We can raise the next generation – the ones with big eyes and bigger dreams – to have God-sized hearts, to love with courage and passion and realism and to do it all for the love of Jesus.

There’s a million ways to change the world, and just because we can’t do all million of them, let’s not get tripped up on discouragement.  Let’s do what we can, the things in front of us and the things God puts in our hearts to do – just the little things if need be – and then when it’s time, we’ll be ready to do the big things, too.

So, sweet girl with the big dreams: don’t ever stop trying to change the world.  Just make sure that Jesus changes you first.

Grace and peace and lots of cups of Fair Trade Coffee,

 

Want To Change The World

(But you don’t know where to start?)

Download a sheet of 25 ideas that can help anyone, anywhere make a difference.



 

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Why I Believe Christians Should Love Lent

I wrote this post a year ago.  This year, I’m giving up desserts and all carbs after dinner.  It’s going to be a stretch – I do love my potato chips!  But drawing closer to Jesus?  Totally worth it!

Evangelicals Should Love Lent - www.searchingformyeden.com

I almost fell out of my pew that Sunday.

It was mid-February, and I was in the thick of college exams, papers, and clinicals.  Easter was definitely not on my mind, and I grew up thinking that observing Lent was “what Catholics do.”  In my mind there was some nebulous idea that “they” ate fish on Fridays, and it made “them” feel more holy, and that was that.  (My naivete is a topic for another day, ‘kay?)

But the year my Evangelical Pastor explained the significance of Lent as a season of preparation for Easter…it changed my perspective.  It’s a gift for believers everywhere, regardless of denomination.

When he announced that he was giving up coffee for Lent?

That was my almost-falling-out-of-the-pew moment.  (I’m a Starbucks dark roast kind of a gal.)

Why would a God-fearing man give up the elixir of life for 6 weeks?

To focus, he explained.  To remember.  To really think about Jesus.

Every time he craved a cup of coffee, it was a reminder, a little push, a wooing of sorts that drew his heart fractionally closer to the Messiah.

I was in.  I’ve observed Lent for a decade, giving up various things over the years.  A couple of years, it was coffee.  (In my pre-kid days. For my husband and children’s safety, I don’t do that anymore!)  I’ve also done zero personal spending, given up fiction, and banned myself from candy.

This year it’s candy.

Did you know that Hot Tamales and Jelly Beans can beg to be eaten?  I don’t even particularly LIKE Jelly Beans.  (Hot Tamales…that’s a different story.)  But those silly Jelly Beans kept staring at me suggestively in the grocery store, and I had a sudden impulse to buy a bag of the jewel-like candies, find a book, and start devouring them by the handful.

And that is why Lent, to me, is a gift.

I can get too caught up in dividing my life into little time slots, little packages that don’t jostle each other.  Oh yes, I read my Bible and have my memory verse of the week on the kitchen windowsill, and I try so hard to remember the Who in the midst of establishing no-throw zones and teaching arithmetic.  But Lent is like a scarlet cord, winding around the hours of my day, reminding, always reminding me:

  • That Easter is coming.  That it’s so important to slow down and dig in and drink deep of all that Easter means.  To really enter into the anticipation of it.  To make it a big deal with the kids.  To pull out the messy Easter grass, and the Resurrection eggs, and the special books, and the pastel bunnies, and get on the floor and read the stories, and dip the eggs in vinegar-scented colors, and experience it all.
  • That Jesus is coming.  We celebrate His first coming and anticipate His second coming.  This beautiful, messy, daily life has a way of grabbing my attention and stealing my focus.  In Lent, I find myself brought up short and deeply thankful for the cross multiple times a day.  I want Him to come back.  I want to be living wisely when He does!

It’s like a paper cut, needling my mind all. day. long:  Don’t forget!  Don’t ever forget what He gave up for you!  He gave His SON to give you heaven.

So, yes, every Lent, I give up something.

But the perspective I gain is not just a blessing…

It’s a gift.

I would love to hear from you – IF you celebrate Lent (or if you don’t – and your thoughts on it!), what you do during Lent, and anything meaningful that you’ve received as a result of Lent.

Grace, peace, and (no) jellybeans,

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