She was already cuddled up for the night beneath her comforter, pillows blooming around her olive skin. While I perched beside her, we spent a minute chatting about her favorite teacher.
“But Mom, he doesn’t know Jesus.” She looked down.
(Sometimes God does stuff in my kids’ hearts that only he could be creating, y’know?)
Raising kids who were creating change in the name of Jesus felt a little more clear-cut in Uganda. Today I’m contributing again on my friend Kristen Welch’s WeareTHATfamily.com on this topic. Hop on over and check it out! And may God continue to give you and your kids wisdom as you love courageously in his name.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post of Personal Creations, who wanted to extend their printable Scripture art to you! Just one more thing to be grateful for this year. Happy Thanksgiving! – Janel
When it comes to Thanksgiving, we gather around the table to enjoy a the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the all-American green-bean casserole–and to celebrate each other’s company. Before carving the turkey and piling the plates with food, take the time to say a special thanks to the Ultimate Giver: God.
While prayers of gratitude have been around far before Thanksgiving in 1620, all early celebrations of thanks began with God at the center. Across many unique celebrations, people praise Him as a way to say thanks for the all the good that He’s given…and given…and given.
Do you ever get tired of being the driver in your home? Y’know–driving the homework. The dishes from their hands to the dishwasher. The manners and respect. The time with God. The self-control in conflicts. The propriety in dating.
I need to admit: I get tired of the lack of my kids’ ownership in the values my husband and I care about–whether it’s peace, or order, or worship, or personal responsibility. And as my kids get older, in some ways, my control diminishes.
There are moments in my home that can only be tidily described as chaos.
Last night, as my two youngest were building a fort in the bedroom, I heard some concerning-sounding thuds: “That was the bathroom mirror, Mom! ” (Oh. I think that’s supposed to make me feel better?) There was also the repetitive, distinctive bleat of a kazoo, which I could have sworn I’d already thrown away. At least there was a lot of giggling, wrestling, and role-playing complete with foreign accents. (This time, at least, it was a good chaos.)
I thought of this today as I was thinking of the first time we actually hear of the Holy Spirit in Scripture: The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
I learned this morning that the Hebrew for “without form and void” is tohu wa-bohu–literally waste and emptiness; a wildness. It was a watery desert, lacking purpose and beauty or life.
And this is what I love about the Holy Spirit showing up here in the second sentence of the Bible. He’s calling forth beauty and purpose and usefulness. He’s creating life out of disorder and confusion. He’s making something good out of chaos.
It’s been a rough month for a lot of people around the United States.
As I type, there are children in Florida and Montana and Texas whose lives have been precisely, heart-rendingly divided into before and after.
In all these dark days, there is a sliver of light. God has given our kids wisdom in all sorts of ways to help their friends; to be people of refuge. In fact, in some ways, kids will be better equipped to help their friends than adults will be. There’s automatic rapport and connection. They automatically know ways to say things in an understandable way.
So I’m wondering. How can we help our kids be emotionally safe places when their friends are hurting?
It was late, and she was crying now. Her marriage had been hard–hard for a long time.
I think it was there that I really saw Him, though He’d been there the whole time. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is a little like an I Spy book to me. Knowing what He looks like, I’m learning to spot Him among the clutter of circumstances, ones He’s meticulously arranged.
I want to tell you what He looked like, there in that dimly-lit room, where she was just so tired of waiting for God to change things. Even there, in her road-weary face that longed for a break in being “tough” and “strong”–I saw Him making beautiful things out of dust, as the song goes.
He’d already been working there for years.
This kind of waiting reminds me of what it must feel like to be lying on the ground, holding on to something precious over a cliff: your muscles, fatigued and burning as your grip slips, your heart pleading and knocking in the hollow of your chest. If you’re there, your hands sweating and slipping, I want you to picture someone lowering Himself beside you, taking over your weary hold. Where your biceps and forearms were failing, His are able and unmoved. His voice and your relieved muscles speak of presence, of release to infinitely more capable hands.
I didn’t know what a turquoise-painted pumpkin was—until my nephew, the one with the chocolatey eyes and the wide grin, was allergic to peanuts. Now I know that a teal pumpkin outside a house on Halloween means they have non-food treats for kids with food allergies. When I was a young youth intern, it felt extreme of one mom to walk through the mission-trip bus and ask all the kids to surrender snacks with peanuts. Now, having known at least three moms who grappled with this life-or-death allergy on a daily basis—I get it.
My sister-in-law have had some heart-rending conversations over the last year about the fear she deals with around this allergy—which could take her son in ten minutes’ time. One wrong snack, one EpiPen too far away.
But my heart balled up with a single text last week from the same sister-in-law: Her daughter, who’s not yet one, had an anaphylactic reaction. …To eggs.
What do we do with the legitimate fear that seizes our hearts as parents?
She learned to read and write in the last decade or so, when she moved to Kampala from her village in northern Uganda. But despite my college education, she has a lot to teach me.
When I visited her shared compound on Saturday, she couldn’t wait to show me inside her house. I had to comply looking into the toothy ivory grin parting that smooth, ebony face. And when I entered, I understood why.
Of the many nuggets I’ve gleaned from my father-in-law, perhaps one I am most grateful for is his response to my husband’s teen years.
A lot of people find merit in Mark Twain’s quip: When a boy turns 13, put him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole. When he turns 16, plug up the hole.
But my father-in-law wasn’t one of them. Those tornadic years of my not-yet-husband’s were a signal to pull out the outdoor gear, summit as many of Colorado’s fourteeners as they could knock out, and tack on some decent kayaking, cycling, and snow caving along the way. My father-in-law saw the rippling strength of the teen years as a chance to explore manhood together.
As people have forecast heartbreak for these years of parenting—and I realize my portion will come—my husband and I loved our six years of youth ministry. It was a little like working with wet cement, these textured, gravelly years of becoming. We could hold gut-level conversations about real, heartrending issues. Our faith offers unmatched answers to the question marks looming in the teen mind: unfathomable meaning and purpose for their lives, far beyond themselves.
On many of the Wednesdays of 2017, I’ll be helping my friend Barbara Rainey, on everthinehome.com. We’re exploring what she calls “prayer lessons”: ideas to pray for ourselves, our most critical relationships, our communities. This week’s post, God of My Heartbreak: Teaching Teens to Pray, offers ideas to come alongside teens in prayer.
I hope it encourages you today, wherever this finds you.
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As you know now, my family and I are moving back from Africa, i.e. place I have felt technicolor, I-heart-my-life alive for the last five years. Though I believe God is showing us it’s time to move back for now, and though it’s also been a place where our family has encountered profound suffering, it’s been far more of a place of deep satisfaction. All of us are struggling with returning. We’ve been so stinkin’ happy in this place. For me, serving in my sweet spot has throbbed with purpose and meaning.
Ugly truth: My hide has been, off and on, a little chapped. I don’t completely understand why God’s doing this. And after all we have endured here, truth is still percolating into my heart that, hey, God can put me wherever He wants me.
Truth: Even (especially?) in work that serves God, I can get pretty…entitled. Sometimes I think I can even be in danger of passing that on to my kids. There’s a thin line, I think, between our kids trusting in God’s good character, His working everything out for our good, waiting expectantly for God to work on our behalf…and us feeling entitled to His tangible reward here on this planet, when we want it, as we want it.
Really glad you're here. Welcome to a lingering conversation--about a head-turning, undeserved kindness that's turned my life on its head. This site's about Jesus in a pair of well-worn Levi's: faith walking around in our sneakers, scuffing up against real life and real people.
I hope you'll find some questions worth asking, conversations worth engaging, compassion that's compelling, and practical ideas to knead genuine love into relationships. (...With a side of slightly irreverent humor.)
After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have recently returned to the U.S., where we continue to work on behalf of the poor. I write and love on my family from Colorado.