April 26, 2016

This one's for you, Mama.

This one's for you, Mama.

For you when weariness wakes up with you - when sleep is fleeting, eyes are heavy, no coffee strong enough.

For you when tantrums rage and you cry hidden tears of frustration and exhaustion.

For you when you read the news headlines and look at your precious ones and fear lurks at the edges.

For you when children stretch tall and hormones rage and doors slam and every emotion possible somehow shares the same ten minutes.

For you when no one can find their shoes.
Matthew 19:13-15 
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. 
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there.
Familiar verses... but linger a moment with me, Mama.

Some days our work feels small, unimportant, unworthy of notice. That's how the disciples saw these mothers with their little ones in tow - easily passed over, not worth the time of their busy, important Rabbi. Just some moms and their crying, coughing, wiggling kids.

That's not how Jesus sees them - that's not how He sees you.

Today as you wipe up spilled milk, find the lost permission slip, drop off a forgotten lunch, do yet another load of laundry... He sees you. He welcomes you, and He welcomes the little ones you love (even if they aren't so little any more).

The very best work you will do today in the lives of your children? Carry them to the Savior. You are seen, you are welcomed, you are loved. He knows the weariness in your eyes. He knows the fears and concerns that haunt your heart. You might feel small and unworthy of notice - but not to Him.

So come in your frustration, in your fatigue, in your anger, in your confusion. Come in your mess. What better balm to a mama's soul than to know the Savior sees her and intercedes for her children.

What a friend we have in Jesus.

April 13, 2016

A morning prayer for less

I mentioned before that I started "quickly" reading through Matthew in September. Yep, still in Matthew. Still marvelling at Jesus. At His Kingship. At His kingdom. His kingdom is so opposite of our natural inclinations.

You want to save your life? You'll lose it.
Lose your life for My sake - and you'll find it.
You want to be great? Humble yourself; come like a child.

The more we deny and empty ourselves of self, the more we experience the reality of His kingdom, His Kingship, in our lives.

So today as I begin my morning - looking out at the frosty grass touched by the Creator's ice-tipped paintbrush, at birds fluttering here and there, each one seen and known by its Maker - I ponder. What if today I became less? What if this day, and everyday, this was my prayer:
More of You
Less of me
In all I do
All I see
I sink low
To lift You high
Because You live
Today I die.
Be great in my life today, Lord. Be lifted higher. I'm at your feet, King Jesus - forgive me for sneaking back up there on the throne of my life.

April 1, 2016

Growing up in Babylon

Reading news headlines brings back memories. Thoughts of water park trips, the feeling of dropping at dizzying speeds through twists and turns of slides with names like The Toilet Bowl. The thrill, the moments of breathless panic, the utter exhaustion.

It makes me want to hold my breath - this downward, ever faster, desperate pull of our world. Huddle the kids close. Strap lifejackets on tight. I don't want them caught in the undertow and pulled to the deep.

As culture degrades, politics divide, social media dishes depravity and broken identity, how do we help them find their footing? How do we prepare them to stay afloat in the deep, not try to isolate them on the shore?

Today we finished the last page in Long Story Short. As we have journeyed through the lives of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah - men growing up and living for God through exile in pagan Babylon - the truths they held close, truths that inspired faithful lives in an unfaithful land, ring out loud and clear.

Better than a life jacket before a trip down The Toilet Bowl, these are the truths I want to equip my children with as they grow up in a culture that grows more and more like Babylon everyday. And in our culture that responds more to story than anything else, what better story to tell them than God's? His story is dazzling.

  • Leaders rise and leaders fall, but Jesus is the One True King - even seemingly untouchable leaders are in His hands.
    • Dazzle them with story - Nebuchadnezzar, proud enemy king, humbled and proclaiming God's glory in an open letter to the known world in Daniel 4. Cyrus, king of Persia, being stirred by God to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem in Ezra 1.
    • Arm them with truth - "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." Colossians 1:16
      "He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings" Daniel 2:21
  • Jesus, not our safety or comfort, is the greatest treasure - we were never promised an easy life. He promised that He is with us no matter what.
    • Dazzle them with the story - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking unsinged through a raging fire with Jesus at their side in Daniel 3. Daniel spending the night in a den of hungry lions, mouths shut tight by God's angel in Daniel 6.
    • Arm them with truth - "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20  
      "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
  • God will give us wisdom - walking in faith means we will often not know what to do. He will give us what we need when we need it.
    • Dazzle them with the story - Nehemiah humbling himself before God and then boldly requesting from King Artaxerxes permission, safe passage, and supplies to rebuild the conquered city of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 1-2. 
    • Arm them with truth - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." James 1:5
      "When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Matthew 10:19-20
  • We have nothing to fear if we fear God most - "even if He does not" faith grows from a true knowledge of God's character; He is good, He is able, He loves me, I can trust Him no matter what. 
    • Dazzle them with the story - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew without a doubt that God was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace. They also knew that God might not choose to intervene. Their faith was in God, not in the outcome they wanted. They would obey God, the One who was able, even if He chose to let them suffer. Daniel 3:18.
    • Arm them with truth - "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:28-31
Our days are dark and will grow darker. How can we equip our kids to grow up in this modern day Babylon-world?

Tell them His story. Dazzle them with His faithfulness. Equip them with the fullness of His truth painted in vivid detail, not in cartoon shadow. They need to know how very broken our world really is, and how good - how great - is our God.

March 18, 2016

When my heart is tired of grieving.

This past Monday, my heart trembled a little when our social worker wanted to stop by to talk in person. This isn't my first rodeo - I knew what that meant. A hard conversation was coming.

As gently and compassionately as she could, she broke the news. She had gotten word that Baby M will most likely be moving soon. It wasn't her plan, wasn't her choice. It wasn't mine, either.

I stood and nodded and held my tears in check. I thanked her for her kindness, for fighting for what she thought was best for M. As I closed the door, my heart was reeling, screaming to pull back, whimpering in the corner, "this is too much. I'm done. I don't want to do this anymore!"

I was already bracing for all of the well-intentioned "I don't know how you guys do this..." comments that would come when people heard that M was moving. Bracing for the teary conversations with my children. Bracing for the painful process of packing up baby clothes and toys, printing pictures, writing letters I'm not sure he will ever see... buckling a baby I love so much into a car seat while he smiles at me with his whole-body-wiggle-smile and sending him to live with strangers. Bracing for all the times when I will think I hear him crying, and then remember that he isn't there. And sometimes, I'm just so weary of this process of loving and letting go and grieving. I'm so tired of caring so much and not having enough to give. I am not enough.

I've heard the term "compassion fatigue" before; I love it for its simple descriptiveness. Caring is tiring. Sometimes our hearts don't want to come out of the corner and be vulnerable again. We just feel... done. No more, thank you. Please stop the ride - I want to get off; I'll just go buy a funnel cake and sit on that bench over there.

This morning I was reading Matthew 15:29-39. For three days people have crowded around Jesus, and around them. The people are listed out by their needs - the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute... and "many others." Jesus has touched them and healed them and ministered to them for three days. As amazing as this scene was, I imagine the disciples are tired. Tired of seeing these heart-breaking needs. Tired of everyone wanting something from Jesus, when they just wanted to be with Him. Tired.

Jesus' words in verse 32 are so stunningly kind. "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way." 

I wonder what the disciples thought. Were they tired of Him caring so much about everyone? In my selfish weariness, I think I probably would have condemned them in my own mind for not planning ahead, not bringing enough food - or leaving when I wanted them to two days ago.

Not Jesus. Jesus loves them. Jesus sees their every need. Jesus has compassion - true compassion that doesn't have an expiration date.

Their response to the problem of feeding the crowd stuns me every time. Years ago I had written this note in my Bible - I wondered the same words again this morning.

Why are they asking this? In the chapter just before this, they had seen Jesus feed a massive crowd with five loaves of bread and two little fish. (Matthew 14:13-21). Sure, there are a lot of hungry people with them now... but they actually have fewer people, more bread, the same Jesus.

Typically I shake my finger at the disciples and think, "come on, guys - get it together." But today, today as I sit tearfully feeling done, feeling the weight of compassion fatigue, wanting to get off the stomach-lurching loop-the-loop ride of foster care, I think I get it.

Because in my fatigue, I have a tendency to think a whole heap of a lot about myself. How I am tired, how this feels unfair, that no one understands how I feel... what about me, me, me. And in the blink of an eye, I lose sight of the fact that I'm with Jesus. The One who chose me by name, who called me His own, who promises He will always be with me. The One I have seen provide time and time and time again. I forget that He isn't asking me to be enough - He knows that my reserves are running woefully low. All He is asking me to do is to keep coming to Him, keep fixing my eyes on Him, keep bringing Him both the weight of the need and the little bit I have - and He will be enough. He is always enough.

Why are the disciples asking this, right after they had seen Jesus provide miraculously and abundantly? I think they are tired. And in their fatigue, they are thinking about themselves, not about Jesus. They are thinking about how it feels like Jesus is asking too much of them - rather than realizing that He wants them to believe that He is enough when they are not.

My heart is weary. My Jesus knows that. A few chapters earlier, in Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus promises that when I come to Him weary and burdened He will give me rest. That when I take His yoke and learn from Him, I will find rest for my soul. That His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

If the burden is feeling heavy... maybe it's because I think He's asking me to carry it alone. And that's the furthest thing from the truth.

So, dear Lord Jesus, here is my weary heart. I am grieving, and I'm so tired of grieving. Forgive me for thinking so much of myself, so little of You. Fix my eyes on You. You are the One who calms the storm with a word, feeds the multitude out of a lunchbox. You are enough, and I am not. Give me a heart of compassion that doesn't grow weary of doing good - a heart so much like Yours that I don't pull back in selfish safety.

I'm getting my baskets ready, Jesus. I know that once again, You will provide. You will be enough. So much more than enough, in fact, that I'll have to pick up the leftovers.

I must tell Jesus all of my trials
I cannot bear these burdens alone
In my distress He kindly will help me
He ever loves and cares for His own.