It’s OK to Grow as You Go [day 17: grow]

I have fond memories of playing in the park while my brother was on the baseball diamond as a child. There was flower picking, gravel scooping, and begging mom for slushies. It was the magic childhood is made of — at least, that’s what it seems like looking back. Little friends would chat, and sometimes we would get past “what’s your name?” and “what is your favorite color?” No one had ever told me not to talk to other kids about Jesus, so I asked my playmates if they were saved like they had any idea what that meant. I barely did. I just had Jesus in my heart, and everything on my heart came out eventually.

As I got older, fear of not presenting Jesus perfectly or having something in my life that would block the effectual working of the Gospel kept me from exhibiting this type of boldness. I knew I didn’t know everything, and I thought, “If I share my faith, someone is going to ask me a question I can’t answer.” So I just didn’t. I started to hear things like, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” I began to think it was OK, as long as I didn’t live like the lost, to keep my mouth shut about the greatest gift ever given to me. I’ve come to find out I was wrong. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

I needed someone to tell me, “It’s OK to grow as you go.” I needed permission to share my faith without an undergrad in apologetics. I wish someone would have encouraged me to live faithfully as a Christian witness, speaking the truth in love while humbly admitting when I made mistakes. I would have benefited from a reminder that fear is a tool of the enemy which keeps me from fulfilling the will of God laid out in the Great Commission. Maybe someone did tell me, and I just wasn’t listening.

But now I know — when I celebrate small, I thank God that I don’t have all the answers. I find joy in the fact that I will never know everything about Him or truly understand the scale of what Has he has done for me. I relish each opportunity to share Him, and I trust Him to do a good work in spite of me. If I wait to live missionally until I’ve achieved spiritual giant status, I will miss out on great things God wants to do through my life. As I celebrate small, I praise Him for the understanding He gives along the way, and I trust He will polish my witness in his power while covering my flaws in His blood.

I think back and wonder how things would have been different had someone given me permission to be imperfect. I trust God was working even in my silence, but I think I think I’ll speak up from now on. I may have to pretend I’m still the brave little girl picking dandelions and spilling my heart to anyone who would listen.

What keeps you from living missionally?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

See Yourself in Stories of Missional Living[day 16: read]

I love a good missionary biography and not just because I am a missionary myself. I liked them way back in the day before I met Jesus and surrendered to serve Him with my life. There was always something exciting and adventurous to me about tales of faraway places, foreign tongues, and run-ins with all types of creeping things. I kind of glossed over the parts about God’s sanctifying and redemptive work because I didn’t have spiritual eyes to see the wonder of these things yet.

Now that I am on the mission field, I am less wowed by the things that used to blow my pre-adolescent mind. In fact, today I had a stray cat run into my house and made eye-contact with a gecko who had made a home in the box of Cheerios atop the fridge. I spoke my second language imperfectly all day and spent time with a new friend. This place is now my home and doesn’t seem exotic or as foreign as it once did. Life here is just that now — life.

I read stories of missionaries a bit differently now. I see myself in their tales — in dreams that turn out differently and hearts that experience major overhaul at the hand of the Holy Spirit. I walk with them through true faith crises brought about by cultural clashes and coming face to face with all kinds of spiritual darkness. I feel solidarity with people who fight to love Jesus in a world that hates Him.

I don’t see superheroes like some of you may think of when you consider those who have answered the call to missions. They’re just people struggling to love their families, figure out communication and a new way of living, and take opportunities to tell the old story. I glimpse a gracious God who grants the heart’s deepest desires and allows His servants to celebrate small successes in ministry, never knowing the scope of what He has done through their measly offerings.

Missional living isn’t about where we are; it’s about who we serve. It’s not even about who we are but what God is able to do despite our imperfections. It is a willingness to say “I can’t, but He can” and take the small steps of faith to follow Him into hard places and love people who may be difficult to love. It’s about sinners that have been saved and given a great job to do.

When we celebrate small, we see what a great privilege it is to live missionally for the Savior. We praise Him for each opportunity He gives to speak of His goodness and each trial that brings us into a more intimate relationship with Him. We find mission fields in our front yards and in the car pick-up at our children’s schools and say “yes” where we are and to who God puts in our lives. We run the race and tire, but we are carried. We fail but, we are forgiven.

A life changed in Nepal. God is faithful.

I challenge you to read stories of what God has done and is doing around the world. I hope you will read them with fresh eyes. Ditch the notion that those living missionally are super special people. Missionaries are just like you — they are super-loved by God. They make tons of mistakes, but they celebrate big when God gives small victories in their lives and ministries. I urge you to see yourself in their stories.

Consider your own biography of missional living. What has God called upon you to say “yes” to? Who has he put in your life to minister to and to share of His goodness? How has God used you already? What big, missional dreams has He placed in your heart for the future? What is He at work redeeming in your life now? How do you sense His mighty hand at work in your life?

You can have your own thrilling adventure in missional living when you choose to celebrate small and trust God will use it to bring about big. Read some missionary biographies and you’ll see — He’s quite good at that.

How are you living missionally?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

A Fruit-Bearing Formula for Moms [day 15: remain]

Motherhood is soul-wrenching and energy-draining, but it is simultaneously joy-inspiring and life-giving. We moms dream big dreams for our children, and we want them to have all the best things of the world and none of the hurt. We want them to invite Christ into their life the moment they reach any semblance of maturity. We feel so much pressure to be perfect. At the heart of it all is one thing — for me anyways. We want our work to matter. Not because we want to be appreciated or respected — though that might be nice! — but that we want the seeds we sow to take deep root in our children’s lives. We want all our mistakes to fall away, covered by the blood of Jesus. But we want those stinking seeds we put everything we had into planting to do something!

Sleepless nights, stomachs tied up in knots, and tears shed behind locked bathroom doors. Dealing with developing children is heart work and heart work is hard work. We want to train our children “in the way they should go” so when they grow up they will continue in that way (Proverbs 22:6). We till the ground and we plant seeds. God gives the increase, bearing fruit in our children’s lives. We want to see it remain.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16-17).

The formula for achieving this desirable result is presented in the rest of the chapter, and it is surprisingly simple. 

1. Abide in the love of Christ
2. Love others
3. Ask for fruit according to His will

 

Abide

We delight ourselves in Christ, and He gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4) The desires of our heart are not the fruit, however. The desires of our heart are the big dreams He changes to match His own. We begin to dream according to His will. We begin to beg that the Lord would do the heart work and relieve us from the pressure of perfect performance. Dependent on Him, we draw closer to Him. Sure of our standing with Him, we are free to love our children with mama bear abandon.

Love

I love this article which points out that our children are our neighbors. We are to be kind and loving even when our children fall short of our expectations of them. Even when their dreams are small and short-sighted in comparison to what we believe the Lord would want for them. We are to love them like Jesus loves them — sin, snot and all.

Ask

Abiding in Christ, desires aligned with His, we beg for the fruit only He can bring forth in our children’s lives. He wants to accomplish good work in their hearts. He wishes that our heart work would remain. He desires to grant us the desires of our hearts. Ultimately, He will work His will for our good and His glory though it may not match our picturesque plan or fantastical fantasy. We can be sure His ways are true though this may be beyond our comprehension this side of heaven.

Remain

In this heart work, we can remember that we moms are truly never alone. Our Father is there on the sleepless nights, when our stomachs are tied up, and when we lock ourselves in the bathroom. He has promised to never leave or forsake us even in these soul-wrenching, life-draining days. So, we celebrate small. We hang on to those joy-inspiring, life-giving moments, and we cling to Jesus. Because, not only will He give us fruit that remains, but He will also sustain us for the heart work of raising children so we also may remain. These precious children need us.

What do you think of this formula?

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How I Invite Him in for the Good of my Kids [day 13: invite]

Five Minute Friday: INVITE

00:00

I have befriended a woman in my neighborhood who has a daughter just a year older than Jo. Naturally, I want to get together with my friend so I bring her along to spend time with her “friend”– I use the term loosely in this case. The problem is, for whatever reason, she just has little to no interest in being friends with this little lady. She’s sweet as can be but they just haven’t hit it off. We keep getting together, and every time the girls giggle a little more and sit a little closer. We are getting there.

In some ways, I want to force my daughter into a relationship with Jesus, too. I want so badly for her to trust Christ and surrender her life to Him. But she’s still young and lacking understanding. I can’t invite Jesus into her heart — that’s something only she can do — but I can invite Him into our lives. I invite him to our table where we break bread and talk about our days. I can invite him on our walks when the words of our hearts seem to flow out more naturally. I invite Him to the foot of the bed where we read books and pray in His name each night before bed. I invite Him into crinkled covers when she slides next to me in the morning as I read my Bible.

I can’t make her know Him, but I can help her know about Him. As I invite Him into our daily lives, I give her opportunity to crack open the door of her heart just a little bit more. As I celebrate small, I praise Him for each opportunity He gives to talk about His goodness, to lean on Him as a family during hardship, and to thank Him for the big and little ways He shows up in our days.

I trust that a relationship that arises naturally out of a true appreciation of who He is and what He has done for her will be real and rooted. Truly, it is not something a mother can force on a child. I’m still going to keep trying in the case of our neighborhood friend though.

05:00

How can you invite Jesus into your daily life?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

The Hardest and Best Words a Mom Can Say [day 12: write]

I would be lying if I said that I’ve kept up with memories and scrapbooks as my kids have gotten older. I didn’t finish the baby book I started with my first and didn’t even pretend to try after my second was born. I did, however, scrape some Shutterfly coupons and a bit of cash together to make photo books for both the birth-weeks and the first months of my babies’ lives. In these books, I spilled love over the pages to my children. Photos of an exhausted, swollen post-birth mommy are scattered throughout. I cringe at the sight of them, but I hope when my babies sit with these photos they just see the joy on my face to finally hold my precious babies.

On the last pages of these photo books, I wrote letters to them. They were overly lofty and sentimental, but I couldn’t help but dream big for the tiny bundles I held in my arms. There’s something about a newborn baby that inspires hope in the hearts of all that are privileged to look upon. As I gazed into their eyes and breathed in that non-duplicatable newborn smell, I prayed over them. I asked God to help me be the mom they needed and to allow them to do big things for Him. I even asked Him to start preparing a mate for them to serve the Lord alongside — crazy I know! I wrote these prayers into their photo books, and I’ve read them aloud many times since.

I love reading these over again just to remind myself to hope and dream and beg God to use their lives for His glory. I love watching their little faces light up, delighted that mommy’s heart overflowed in words this way when they were waking me up all hours of the night. It’s good for me to remember that my dreams for them had nothing to do with the ease of potty training or straight A report cards or proficiency in sports or art. It had everything to do with teaching them to love Jesus and surrender their lives to Him.

But first– mommy has to surrender their lives to Him. That is the hard part. But why should it be? He is nothing if He is not trustworthy. And I trust Him with every other area of my life. It’s just too much pressure; I want them to turn out great! I want them to achieve my dreams for them — and that’s where I go wrong. My dreams.  I would never say, “My will be done” with my lips, but what does my life say to Him? What does it say to Him when I lie awake at night wondering how I can fix the things that are hurting them? Or when I want to keep them at home and away from the things that are confusing about life in a foreign country? It says, “My will be done.”

I’m mom, and I love these kids fiercely, but they are not mine. They were graciously gifted to me by a loving Father. They are mine for a time, and I am painfully aware that that time is fleeting and my influence is limited. When I celebrate small, I see surrender as the starting line. I know He dreams bigger and better dreams for my children than I ever could. He knows them better than I ever will and works from the inside out to accomplish His will in their lives. If I truly want them to be fully His, I must fully surrender them as mine. I have to place them into His hands, trusting that His will supersedes my best-laid plans. With open hands that ache at the letting go, I allow Him to take the lead in their lives. I say, “Thy will be done.”

 

Do you need to surrender your children to the Lord?

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