Asking Questions

Perfectionist.

Planner.

Organized.

Efficient.

All character traits that have served me well over the years. Four children, teaching, running a household, and serving the church all required me to be on top of things. It was important to me to plan for every scenario possible because I wanted to be “good”. A good momma. Wife. Friend. Teacher. Pastor’s wife. I didn’t want to let anyone down or fail. So, I controlled. The character trait that rises to the top - controlling.

Intellectually, I understand that I am never really in control. Spiritually, I understand that God is sovereign and that He ultimately is in control over every detail. Yet, I continue to elevate my precious to-do list above all else because it is why the house is clean, the papers are graded, and the Bible lesson is taught. I tightly grasp our family decisions because I need to think through every option and determine what is best and most efficient. With my words, I say that I trust God. But with my daily actions, I put my trust in myself.

Then God sets us on a path where I have no control. Zero. Scott and I came back from our trip to the Dominican Republic with this overwhelming feeling that it is time to make the decision to move full time to the DR. I felt peace. Inexplicable peace.

We were keeping our decision quiet, waiting for direction and timing. We started to plan. I created my precious to-do lists. Then, I took my girls to Mary Poppins Returns. In one scene, Mary Poppins draws the children’s bath and throws things into the bathtub to ensure they had everything they need for an adventure. The children pelted her with questions, and Mary says, “We’re on the brink of adventure children. Don’t spoil it with questions.” What?! I immediately took out my phone and made note of this truth.

53733291_10218896776597294_8387289754277773312_n.jpg

We are on an adventure. I can ask a thousand questions and miss what is before me, or I can trust that God is in control. I can choose to be present. To listen. To pay attention. The second option is the most uncomfortable for me. It goes against every natural instinct I possess, but I have no doubt that it is exactly what I am supposed to do.

God told Abraham to pack up his family and go. Abraham was not handed a map with the destination marked. Abraham asked questions, and God just kept responding with His promise. Abraham was obedient, and God blessed him and his family for generations.

Four months later and these words are still bouncing around in my head.

What would it look like to not seek every answer or plan for every possible scenario? What would happen if I asked less questions and listened more? I wish I could tell you the outcome, but it is still too early. But I can tell you that I have more peace about this single decision, than most decisions we have made in our married life. I can tell you that I am confident about the path we are on, the adventure we have begun.

As we prepare to move in 7 months, I will ask less questions. Trust more. Be present. Listen. Pay attention. I am beyond excited for the great adventure, and I do not want to ruin it with my controlling questions!


"It's fine."

IMG_6997.jpg

It’s fine.

A phrase that I say all of the time now. It carries so much meaning for me, yet it seems overly simple and impossibly incorrect. How on earth can everything be fine all of the time?

“It’s fine. I’m fine.” is a phrase that Scottie uses all of the time. Interestingly, her school is working to change this go-to phrase because when she says it, she isn’t really expressing how she feels. After much reflection, Scott and I realized that in our attempts to soothe Scottie for 15 years, we would often tell her, “It’s ok. It’s fine. You’re fine.” But, guess what? She wasn’t fine. She uses this phrase as an escape from figuring out how she feels and how to express those feelings to someone else. What a parenting fail! It is just another example of how we did what we knew and now that we know better, we will do better. So how on earth has it become my mantra. My phrase.

While in the Dominican Republic this past November, I sat around a table with my friend Jacque and Scott. Jacque was in the DR with the purpose of finding an apartment, looking for a car, and figuring out everything she needed to get before moving to the DR to be a missionary. I sat with Jacque and we began making to-do lists. Asking questions. Creating bring-with-you lists. The lists were growing. The information was pouring in and it could have been so overwhelming. But, I just kept telling Jacque that “It’s fine. It’ll be fine.” And for me, these words were not meant to just cover up feelings or fears, but rather I meant exactly what I said.

Here is what I know. When life is chaotic and overwhelming, I have two choices. I can freak out, become controlling, and drown in the overwhelming fears of the unknown. OR I can choose to believe that God has a plan and everything will in fact be fine. During that week, I chose to do the second thing, which is quite contrary to my Enneagram 1, type A personality. I wanted my friend Jacque to understand that it would all be fine. All of the to-dos would be accomplished. All of the unknowns would become known.

This mantra ,“It’s fine”, provided me with great peace and confidence. At the end of that week, Scott and I walked to buy a Coke (because they give you life in the DR on a hot day), and I told him that I believed that it was time for us to move to the DR. To say Scott was expecting it is an understatement, because I had been telling him for months that I would go if he wanted to, but I just didn’t want to leave our oldest kids and life here in the States. I dug in my heels because I desired to maintain complete control. (OK. I realized I have never been in control, but it is easier to fake it living in Texas.) I discovered that week that I will be ok. Scottie and Zoey will be ok in the DR. Jake and Emma Grace will be ok here. In fact, not only will we be ok, but I believe that by taking this huge leap of faith, we will grow in our relationship with God, within community, in our marriage, as a family, and in our ability to serve and love others.

I am believing that “It’s fine” because I am believing the words of St. Patrick in a whole new way…

“Christ with me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ in me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down,

Christ when I sit down,

Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.”

by Saint Patrick

So when you hear me say “It’s fine”, it is because I truly believe it will be fine. As I embark on this journey, I choose to believe what Saint Patrick said. I am not covering up feelings or ignoring a reality. I actually believe those two little words. Everything is fine….how can it not be?

It’s fine

Present.

My word for 2019 is PRESENT.

I want to learn to sit in the now, listen to God and those before me, and pay attention.  No longer looking backwards with regret or longing. No longer meticulously planning and attempting to control the future.  But simply being present.

Scott and I recently spent a week with the Makarios staff in the Dominican Republic.  What an incredible week! God gifted me with time and the opportunity to practice being present.  One afternoon, we were sent to go find a quiet place and reflect. I found a spot. Read a chapter in John. Listened. And reflected on the week…

IMG_6755.jpg

February 15, 2019

Present.  Stillness.  Listen. Pay attention.

Sitting here in the mountains

Worshiping with men and women who sing with abandon and confidence

Reading truth

Struggling through hard things…the unknown

Believing that we are equipped for this challenge

Hoping for God’s favor

Watching faces light up with laughter

Witnessing tears and hurt

Processing our present

Laughing with new friends

Looking towards our future

Trusting God with our children

Embarking on an adventure

Walking, no longer sitting and waiting

Encouraging with smiles and limited words

Realizing shared experiences create similar stories

Building relationships

Drawing closer to Scott

Running towards Jesus

Practicing boldness

Sharing meals

Trying new things

Thanking God for perfect timing

Paying attention

Listening

Writing my thoughts because I want to remember

Missing my family

Remembering our story

Leaning into the unknown

Clinging to the ONE who loves me

Choosing to be me

Opening my heart to new relationships

Releasing control

Praying

Lifting my arms to my Abba Father

Present.  Stillness.  Listen. Pay attention.

Share your story.

scottie beach.jpg

Walking on eggshells, constantly assessing the environment and mood of a child.  Feeling both exhausted and frustrated, but also blessed and present.  Realizing how intrusive the world can be, but also how beautiful and intricate.  Longing for a future that will never be, but so thankful for the life we have been given.  A life filled with contradictions is what it is like to live each day caring and loving a child with special needs.

No one can truly understand the ins and outs except for those who are walking with the same feet crammed into poorly shaped shoes.  Shaped for the average person.  Shaped for so few, yet desired by so many.  You try to explain her.  You pretend life is something it isn’t because it is easier than sharing the truth.  Being vulnerable.  If we truly expose our lives and feelings, becoming vulnerable, then we risk disappointment and hurt.  Not just for us, but also for our child.  And hurting her, well that isn’t acceptable.  I spend countless hours maneuvering our household and lives trying to protect her from what I can.  So many things are out of my control and they bombard her senses quickly and furiously.  Therefore, I will try to control what I can, which means being vulnerable, truly vulnerable, just doesn’t happen often.

After her diagnosis, I remember searching the shelves of bookstores and aimlessly scrolling through the internet looking for wisdom and stories of other families like ours.  I would hungrily read the words only to realize that they aren’t like us.  Stories of strict diet changes, radical therapy, and cures. Stories of what I need to do.  Where were the stories of how it feels?  How to process those feelings? Stories of successes followed by failures. Stories of the contradictions.  I never found those books or websites.

We were left to just do the best we could and accept reality while holding fast to hope.  We were left with our story.  A story that fills my head with words because I know it must be shared.  Shared for my sake.  Shared so others can step into our lives for just a moment.  Shared because God has given us the most amazing gift and her name is Cate Scotlyn.  This gift must be shared vulnerably, but that forces me into a place that I am not comfortable residing.  Vulnerable.  Raw.  Honest.  

How many of us are sitting on our stories because the sharing is too hard?  How many of us are searching for these same stories, and because we cannot find them, we feel as though we are all alone? Share your truths.  Share your stories.  We need to hear them and experience your life through your words.  I think being vulnerable, although hard and scary, may just be worth it.
 

Thank you.

1934467_1080318856236_5025102_n.jpg

Thank you, Joan.

When I was in my early twenties and newly married, Scott and I made our way to a church that was not the church he grew up in or a place anyone knew us.  We met other young couples who were starting their families.  We attended worship, joined a Bible study, deepened relationships through home groups, and began serving at our church.  We formed some of the most amazing relationships with other couples, and to this day, they are some of our closest friends.  After ten years, we moved to the other side of Houston.  But the friendships, spiritual encouragement and teaching we received at that local church shaped who we are today.  One particular person made a huge difference.  Joan Bogar’s investment in me was beautiful, life-changing, and sparked a deep desire to disciple and mentor others.

Joan and her husband, Jim, were leaders in our young marrieds Bible study.  They had just sent their son off to Texas A &M, and they chose to invest in a handful of couples beginning their families.  Joan stood in front of our group of men and women and taught God’s Word with detail, truth, and application.  She boldly spoke of how to love your husband, show respect, and support him without being a doormat or a passive, quiet wife.  She modeled what she taught.  She was who she was, and we knew what to expect when we asked her for advice.  Truth.  Always truth, but it was sprinkled with love and humor. 

We attended a leadership training at our church, and the Bogars were in the same training.  I don’t remember who spoke or what they were training us for, but I do remember they encouraged leaders to find someone to mentor.  They stressed the importance of mentoring and being mentored.  I remember that moment so clearly because I remember looking over at Joan and I knew.  She would be my mentor.  She chose me.  Quiet, introverted Amy.  She saw something in me that I certainly did not see.  She believed that I was capable of more...of something larger than what I could imagine.  Of all the young women she could have chosen, she chose me.  

Over the next few years, she continued to teach.  Encourage.  Disciple.  Equip.  Rebuke.  Model.  We simply did life together.  She mourned with us when our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.  She celebrated with us as I grew LARGE with our second pregnancy, and she showed up when Jacob was born and we were terrified because things didn't go well.  I had unexplained chronic arthritis and holding my baby was extremely painful.  Joan pulled us aside at a church service accompanied by a handful of men and women.  She sat me down, and they prayed.  Prayed with confidence and boldness.  A few years later, as she held my Emma Grace, I determined I would mentor my daughter they same way Joan mentored me.  When Scottie was born and we began to notice developmental delays and began the process of finding out why, Joan prayed and spoke truth.  When I look back over those years, her face, words, and actions are written all over our lives and my relationship with Jesus.

Introvert is not a big enough word to describe me.  My lack of confidence and inability to see my giftedness followed me for years.  But, Joan saw something and she challenged me.  She knew that I was feeling called to missions, and asked me to teach our Bible study class.  What?  I taught middle schoolers and little kids, NOT adults!!!!  But there was no way I would tell Joan no.  A couple of weeks later, I stood in front of the class and I taught.  She sat there beaming, encouraging me.  Shy Amy came alive when I spoke about God’s Word.  I felt confident and began to find my place.  She encouraged me to keep teaching. 

I am 43 years old, and I am still striving to disciple and mentor others just like Joan did for 22 year old Amy.  Her decision to intentionally disciple me changed my life.  I am forever thankful. 

  • I will disciple others.
  • I will encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and do bold things.
  • I will mourn with them.
  • I will celebrate the big (and small) things with them.
  • I will model what I “preach” because that speaks more than just words.
  • I will do life with them.
  • I will be their biggest cheerleader.
  • I will speak truth, but sprinkle grace all over that truth.
  • I will strive to live what Titus 2:3-5 says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
  • I will mentor just as Joan did.

Thank you, Joan.  Your faithfulness to God’s prodding and your willingness to love and mold me have left a lasting impact.  

Thank you.
 

Autism at 14

As I reflect upon Scottie’s life thus far and how the diagnosis of autism altered the course we dreamed and planned for her, I pause to think about how it looks now at 14.

scottie.jpg
  • I still cannot wrap my head around what lifestyle changes are truly necessary in order to support her the most.

  • I can honestly say I have no idea what causes autism.

  • I have “kinda” tried diet changes and essential oils hoping that something magical would happen, only to discover that I can find no differences.

  • I am still on guard in public because I know she looks different and people will stare.  And surprisingly, people are still unkind and thoughtless.

  • I feel anxious for her when we are in a loud, sensory-overloaded environment because I know that she is struggling.

  • I desperately want to beat it.  Fight it. Get rid of it. Do anything I can to make her life just a little easier.

  • I mourn the what-ifs for her...for me...for our family.

  • I absolutely cannot see the why or big picutre reason.

  • I struggle with conflicting emotions of wanting to correct and yet simultaneously celebrate when Scottie rolls her eyes or stamps her foot with a fantastic teenage attitude.

  • I just want to get through one day without being reminded that I have a child with autism.

  • I want to get through a week without beating myself up because I feel like I am failing her.

  • I want to be able to leave her at home by herself because she is 14 years old and she wants to have some independence.  She says, “What? Don’t you trust me?” Ugh...it isn’t a trust thing baby girl!

  • I want to dream of what our lives could be like when our babies all leave the nest and have families of their own, but that isn’t in our cards.

  • I want to dream about her future mate and what little Scottie babies would have looked like...what career would she have chosen?

z and s swinging.jpg

Autism is hard.  It was hard at 3.  At 9. And, it is hard at 14.  Life changing. Life altering.
Hard.

scottie and z reading.jpg

Autism is beautiful.  My Scottie is beautiful.  Despite the long list of hardships, difficulties, and what-ifs, I am so very thankful that she is mine.  She is exactly who she is meant to be, and we are the blessed ones. We get to call her ours. She sees me.  Really sees me. Sees the sighs. Sees my frustration. Sees my joy. Sees my pride. She sees me as I learn to love bigger and better.  She sees the real me. The me that is hidden and guarded with everyone else. She sees me, and she still loves me. How incredibly lucky am I that I have experienced the "being known completely and accepted wholly?"

April is Autism Awareness Month.  The statistics change yearly because the reality is, more and more children are being diagnosed with autism.  The latest number I found today is 1 in 41. 1 in 41. Chances are you know several children, teenagers, or adults with autism.  Chances are you encounter someone daily. Treat them with respect and admiration. Be full of grace. Be kind. Daily, they face a world that requires them to face their fears.  They are some of the bravest people you will ever meet. Learn from them. Do life alongside of them. Look them in the eyes and allow them to see you. All of you. I promise...you will not regret it!

scottie .jpg

Emma Grace

Strong.  Brave.  Witty.  Kind.  Trustworthy.

My sweet daughter, Emma Grace, exhibits all of these amazing qualities and so much more.  Anyone who knows her...who knows our family...knows that we are able to do the things we do largely because of the support she gives to each of us.  She loves her sisters (and Jake) and willingly steps in to serve and care for them.  She sees a need and, instead of waiting for her parents to do it, she fills in the gap.  Carpool.  Making dinner.  Trips to the park.  Extra support for Scottie.  Emma Grace has a quick wit and can go toe-to-toe with both her punny dad and her super sarcastic mom.  She offers kindness to those who are hurting, who are different, and who are rejected.  She is a great friend.  She's loyal to those who make their way into her heart.  For most of her life, she has been the big sister to a girl who needed someone to be strong.  Emma Grace loves her Scottie with a fierceness that you do not want to test.  From the youngest of age, I would tell anyone within hearing distance that 1) I could die tomorrow and my household would run perfectly because of Emma Grace and 2) I want to be Emma Grace when I grow up!

Anxious.  Fearful.  Insecure.  

Sometimes we forget that although she is so strong and amazing, Emma Grace is also a young woman searching for her place in the world.  A place that isn't just as a big sister.  Protector.  Daughter.  Helper.  The funny one.  She hurts.  She is a classic Enneagram 6 (if you don't know about Enneagram, look it up.  It explains a lot.)  Full of fear.  Fear of rejection from her peers.  Fear of not living up to the impossible expectations placed upon her.  Fear of the unknown.  She suffers from social anxiety.  Wanting to be liked.   Wanting to fit in.  Wanting a life that resembles a classic movie full of friends and experiences.  Wanting things she doesn't even fully understand.  She has no idea how amazing she is because the lies being told to her by social media, society, and teenagers often shout louder than truth.  

Emma Grace laughing.jpeg

Inspiring.  Encouraging.  Strengthening.

I teach at Emma Grace's school, and we have an hour every school day where we sit together in the lunchroom because neither of us has a class at that time.  It has been one of my highlights for this year.  I watch her in her element.  Laughing with her friends as they walk through the room.  Managing her busy schedule.  Last week, she shared with me that she was told that someone made a comment about her.  Basically, the comment was that Emma (and one of her friends) were so annoying because it was obvious they knew no one liked them and they just don't care.  What?!?!  Momma bear was ready to fight.  My momma radar shot up because I know that she has struggled with belonging.  Anxious about being accepted for who she is and fearful of being rejected.  Would this cause her to spiral?  Would this bring us back to where we were the year before?  Would she accept this comment as truth instead of stupid teenager talk?  But Emma Grace's response amazed me.  She said she would pull this student aside and tell him/her that 1) I have defended you and stuck up for you for years and expect the same 2) You are correct.  I do NOT care if you like me or not because I am going to be me.  3) People do like me.  You may not.  Your friends may not.  But I am liked.

Pride mixed with relief flooded my heart.  The longer her brave response sits with me; the more inspired, encouraged, and strengthened I become because of her.  Like many women, I worry about what people think of me.  I struggle with being confident.  Speaking my truth.  Living my authentic life.  Playing roles...wife, mom, friend, teacher, and ... And rejection SUCKS!  No one wants to be rejected.  Rejection can send a woman into a destructive spiral that prevents her from being a confident, world-changer.  When I feel as though I have nothing to give, I will be strengthened by Emma Grace.  When I am not sure that I am fully equipped to be who God wants me to be, I will be inspired by my sweet daughter.  When I doubt myself as mom, I will pause and be encouraged because my world-changing daughter is figuring it out and she is only 16!  If she can do it, I can too!  If she can sit comfortably in who she is and who God created her to be, so can I!  If she can speak with courage and call out the lies and defend herself, I will speak as well.  

Emma Grace - May you continue to laugh easily.  May you live life to its fullest.  May you know your strengths, but also rely fully on God as you work through your weaknesses.  May you continue to extend kindness to those who are rejected and invite them into your life.  May you continue to grow and develop into a Godly, truth-speaking, love-acting, and life-changing BOLD woman.  I am beyond proud of who you are.  I am beyond encouraged, inspired, and strengthened because of all of your qualities...from the wit to the anxiety.  I will continue to strive to be more like you and one day when I grow up... ok, we all know I am never growing up... but, I do have a lovely role-model and her name is Emma Grace.  Love you forever.  

Am I a disciple?

What is a disciple?  The word disciple is a word that is thrown around churches, but do we understand what it means?  Can it mean something different to different people?  What does the word mean for me? 

Disciple

  • noun
  • a follower or student of a teacher, leader or philosopher

Step One:  Am a disciple of Christ?  What does it require of me?

We are all disciples of something or someone.  Who do I want to follow?  Who do you want to follow?  Who we follow needs to be an intentional choice that we each need to make.  Often times we need to make that decision over and over again.  If I choose to follow Jesus, then I need to really view Him as my leader, my teacher. 

IMG_3319.jpg

A student learns from his/her teacher by listening to their teaching, modeling behaviors after their behaviors, and entering into a relationship with the one who leads him/her. 

  • As a student of Christ, I will create opportunities to learn from Christ through His Word and by being still, so that I can hear him. 
  • As a student of Christ, I will model my actions after Him which will require me to change my behaviors/actions to align with Christ's. 
  • As a student of Christ, I will choose to enter into a relationship with Christ.  A relationship requires me to spend time with him.  I must create time for Him and make it a priority. 

The first step in discipling is to recognize that I must be a disciple first.  Since I have chosen to be a Christ-follower, every day I need to develop an intentional relationship with Him.  The ways of developing this relationship are limitless.  Read God's Word,  listen to solid, truth-filled teaching through sermons, podcasts, and books.  Talk to Jesus through prayer and daily conversations.  Worship my Jesus through song, stillness, and appreciation of creation.  Relationships with other believers who continually point me towards God's truth.  If I desire to disciple others, I must make sure that I create time and an environment for my personal discipleship.  The list of ways can easily overwhelm me because the number of days that slip by without praying or reading the Bible creates a guilt that paralyzes me.  Remembering the reasons why I should pray, read, worship, and spend time with Jesus, gives me a sense of urgency to strive for a sweet relationship with Christ.  My days may not be perfect and without conflict, but I discover that the grace, mercy, love and beauty found in an "I-choose-to-follow-Christ" attitude makes it all worth it.  No longer is the list a list of unattainable expectations, but instead, I view the list as a road map for something I really, REALLY want.  I want to follow Jesus.  I want Jesus to be my teacher.  I want to be His disciple.  When others know me, I want them to know that Jesus is my teacher, and I am His student.

“Being a disciple of Jesus means that we are being transformed into His image. God wants to change us so much that it intrigues others.”
— Francis Chan, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples

Choosing to be a Christ-follower can only be my choice.  My decision.  No one told me to do it.  No one pressured me.  Choosing to remain in a disciple-teacher relationship can only be my choice.  No one can force it or guilt me into it.  I, Amy, choose to be a disciple of Christ.  It Starts With Me.  

Who are you choosing to follow?  

Christ-follower. Disciple.

We are not the church.  Excuse.

We are not the parents.  Excuse.

As I look around, I see Christ-followers passing the responsibility of discipleship to others.  The teacher says the parents or the church should disciple.  The pastor's actions and words don't emphasize discipleship.  Their words and actions shout numbers...we just need more people in the room, so that we have the appearance of success.  The teacher or school administrator (public or private) sees a student struggling with anxiety, self-worth, sin or any other heart issue, and he/she says we aren't the church.  The doctor cares for a sick child and neglects to address the emotional and spiritual well-being of the child or the parents because that is the job of the church.  The checker at the grocery story has the opportunity to speak truth over the young, single mom who is struggling, but chooses not to because that is not her responsibility.  The mom walks past her daughter in the hall, but does not intentionally disciple her because she goes to a good, Christian school and church.  

When did discipling become the responsibility of others?  When did the church decide that discipling wasn't just as important as evangelizing?  When did the educator decide that the heart of their students was not just as important as their education?  When did the neighbor stop caring for those to the right and to the left?  When did the dad decide that raising his son to become a strong, Christian man was not his responsibility, but rather it was the church's?  When did we as Christ-followers decide that Matthew 18:19 no longer applies to us?

"And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Is it not clear?  

The word "go" in the original Greek is a participle and reads "as you are going".  Disciple is the imperative.  We cannot make disciples.  I cannot force someone into following Jesus.  BUT, I can disciple.  As I am going, disciple.  

When I wake up in the morning, I will disciple my children.

When I go to work, I will disciple my students.

When I talk to my sweet friends and neighbors, I will disciple.

When I walk into the church, I will disciple.

When I buy my groceries, I will disciple.

For far too long, we have pushed this responsibility onto others.  I cannot control what the pastor believes and does in regards to discipling.  I cannot guarantee that the administrators/teachers at my children's schools enter every day with the same passion to disciple as I do.  I cannot force my sweet daughters to follow Jesus completely and freely, but I can disciple them.  I can speak truth to them.  I cannot change my students' behavior in class, but I can serve them and address the heart issue.  I cannot solve my friend's marriage problems, but I can love her and speak biblical truth to her.  

We cannot count on any institution or single person to be the only person responsible for discipling.  We, as Christ-followers, must be all in.  All of us.  I do my part as a mom, friend, teacher, and neighbor.  Church, you do your part,  Educators, you do your part.  Flight attendant, you do your part.  Mail carrier, you do your part.  

I believe that it is worth it.  The perspective adjustment is worth it because we are talking about the hearts of the next generation.  We are talking about giving hope to a hopeless people.  We are in the unique position to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Discipling is not optional.  We should not chose when and whom, but it should be everywhere we go and to everyone we encounter.  It is such a responsibility, but the reward is SO worth it.

Christ-Follower.  As you are going, disciple.  

Power in the THROUGH

Sometimes when I read Scripture, a word or a phrase will spark my interest.  On the surface it isn't necessarily an important word, yet I cannot get that word out of my head.  Inevitably, I will continue to see the word used in other verses.  Then I begin to investigate.  Meditate.  Wonder.  Speculate.  Apply.  Over a week ago, I read Acts 15:11 and it started the word search for a deeper meaning...

"But we believe that we will be saved THROUGH the grace of the Lord Jesus" Acts 15:11

Through.  Seemingly, so simple.  In fact, it almost seems too simple.  It is difficult coming up with the right definition, so I looked it up.  Truth is, I didn't really enjoy the official definition either.  A few more days of reading and thinking and I began to play a little game.  I thought of different ways that I would use the word "through".

I walked through the door.

The thread went through the needle.

The needle pierced through Zoey's ears.

Through is a simple preposition; however, it has changed the way I understand and apply some verses that I have read dozens of times.  When I see the word through in my simple statements, I realize there is a commonality.  An object going through another object requires action, which ultimately means these two objects physically collide.  

When I walk through the door, I must take action and walk my body throw a doorway where my body meets the opening of the doorway.

When a piece of thread goes through a needle, the thread is carefully placed in the eye of the needle and the two objects meet as the thread passes through.

When a needle pierces my daughter's ears, someone places the ear piercing gun on her ear and takes the action that causes the needle to go through her ear.  The needle and her ear meet.

Through.  A simple preposition, but there is a great power in the through

Acts 15:11 states that when we believe, we will be saved THROUGH the grace of Jesus.  Friends.  Give me a little grace as I take my new fondness for through and apply its awesomeness to this verse.  When I believe (which requires action on my part), I am saved (from death, hopelessness, loneliness, separation from my Creator) THROUGH (my action forces me to move towards and through) the grace of Jesus.  My action allows me to meet Jesus's grace.  We have an encounter that is powerful and beautiful.  I am not sitting still waiting for Jesus to plop his grace down next to me.  He often comes close...oh so close... but freewill means that I must take action to move into His grace.  Visually, I imagine me, in all of my ugliness and flaws, moving through Jesus's grace and it wipes, polishes, and molds me.  

"and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts THROUGH the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."  Romans 5:5

We receive Jesus's love (which gives us hope) THROUGH the Holy Spirit.  We have an encounter with the Holy Spirit and it passes through our lives.  When we are in situations or circumstances outside of our control, we have hope because the Holy Spirit works through us and in us to fill us with a Savior's love.  There is a hopeful power in the through.

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory THROUGH our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:57.  

We will have victory because Jesus has pierced our lives.  We have met.  We are one.  When I feel Satan attacking or I feel as though all hope is lost, I am reminded that through my Jesus, I will have victory.  There is a victorious power in the through.

Do you see the pattern?  I believe that each word in scripture plays a part and has meaning.  The preposition, through, is powerful.  There is power because it reminds me that I have the opportunity to have encounters with Jesus every day.  The encounters are not passive.  We aren't sitting near one another without melding and mixing.  Jesus doesn't sweep past me, but offers love, forgiveness, grace, hope and mercy through a piercing, intimate, molding, life-changing encounter.  This type of encounter requires me to take action.  To make a choice.  Sometimes the passing through can be painful.  Confusing.  Shocking.  But the process provides the opportunity for an intimate relationship with Jesus. 

Oh, there is power in the THROUGH!

Send Us.

Send us.  

When Scottie was about 18 months old, Scott and I told God that He could send us.  We were willing to go where He led, yet we remained put.  The mission organization we applied with didn't think it was a wise decision with Scottie, because we were still trying to figure out why she had  developmental delays.  So we stayed put.

When Scottie was about 3 years old, we tried again.  We just couldn't shake the feeling that we were suppose to surrender our family and go.  And again, we were told "not now".  How incredibly disappointing and confusing to surrender and say, "Send Us", just to be told no.  So we stayed put. 

Because of that willingness to go, we began to live differently.  No longer were we concerned with attaining more stuff or thinking that we were entitled to the things of this world.  We no longer held onto possessions.  I would throw, donate or give away anything and everything.  My sweet, young Emma Grace started attaching post-it notes to art and school work that she did NOT want me to throw away.  God did not send us in 2005 or 2007, but our hearts began to change and think about the world. 

And now here we are, and Scottie is 13 years old and we sense a movement.  Scott came home from his first visit to Makarios, a school in the Dominican Republic, and mentioned that he could see our family in the DR.  This past July we were in the DR with Jacob and Emma Grace, and I would tell anyone within earshot that I could see us there ONE day but not now.  Why?  Because the idea of dropping my 18 year old son at college and then only seeing him once or twice a year was not something that I could wrap my head around.  So no way.  Not now.  Sorry God, but I think I will keep my fists tightly closed with my son in them and not go.

But then I returned to the DR in October.  I spent time at Makarios again.  I shared meals with the amazing staff.  I laughed with the young teachers.  Margaret, an American missionary, shared trade secrets on how to get flights back to the states for less.  She encouraged and spoke truth in areas where I needed to hear it.  Slowly my hands began to open.  

So once again, I sit before my all-knowing God and offer to go.  He may not send us now...maybe ever.  I think the lesson for me is not about whether we go or stay, but am I willing to surrender my plans, my family, my control over to Him?  Am I willing to go?  Am I willing to place my Jacob in His hands and know that He will work all things out for my good, but also for the good of my sweet Jacob?  Am I willing to do hard things and leave air conditioning behind?  Am I willing to miss out on the things here?

With hands open, I release all of it to God because the plan He has is so much more beautiful and amazing than I could ever dream.  Perhaps it isn't about whether we go or stay, but it is really about the posture of my heart.  Is my heart open and willing to go when I profess to speak the words "Send Us".  No longer a question mark at the end but a period.

We have about 6 weeks left to raise support for Scott's new position at Makarios.  His position allows us to stay here...for now.  He will develop relationships with current partners and create new partnerships.  His job is talk about a school and a country we love.  It is the perfect job that encompasses all of his work experience - education and ministry.  We have no plans to leave for the DR...yet.  We know there is work to be done here first.  But the posture of my heart has changed, and when God says GO, we will go.

Send Us.

Seeking the One

Disappointment comes from the failure of a sinner to meet my expectations.  Expectations they never agreed to meeting.  Expectations that are not achievable.  Disappointment robs us from joy.  And I, for one, want joy in my life!

I will seek the One who loves me unconditionally.

I will seek the One who does not change

I will seek the One who is righteous.

I will seek the One who wants more for me than I could ever dream or imagine.

I will seek my Lord.  My Savior.

I will seek the One who loves and adores my children.

I will seek the One who protects.

I will seek the One who is the author and perfecter of not just my life, but the lives of my family.

I will seek the One who knows all things before they come to be.

I will seek my Lord.  My Savior.

I will seek the One who created.

I will seek the One who is my groom and is coming back for me, his bride.

I will seek the One who knows my heart.

I will seek the One I can call Abba.

I will seek my Lord.  My Savior.

I will seek the One who will not disappoint.

I will seek the One who is big enough to not just meet my expectations, but surpass them.

I will see the One who loves with such mercy and grace.

I will seek my Lord.  My Savior.

Seeking joy in the Joy Giver will fill me with an overflowing joy.  And that overflowing joy will flow out of my daily life and allow me to love and serve like Jesus.  Oh, I will seek you my Joy Giver.  My Lord.  My Savior.

So Much More

More.

I want more for my life than settling.
I want more for my life than just getting by.
I want more for my life than busy.
I want more for my life than surface relationships.
I want more for my life than hiding from the big dreams.

More.

I want more for my family than full, busy schedules.
I want more for my family than rushing through our day just to get to bedtime.
I want more for my family than biting our tongues and not fully sharing our hearts.
I want more for my family than co-existing in a home without spending quality time with one another.
I want more for my family than entrusting discipleship to someone else.

More.

I want more for my marriage than being roommates.
I want more for my marriage than hiding our thoughts, fears, and dreams.
I want more for my marriage than a shared partnership in raising our children.
I want more for my marriage than just talking about the things of God to and from church and not at any other time.
I want more for my marriage than just creating memories for the sake of holidays, pictures, and expectations.

More.

I want more for my spiritual life than just checking off a box.
I want more in my relationship with Jesus.
I want more from those who lead me.
I want more giving and serving the least of these.
I want more of God's Word

More.

I want more because I believe there is more to be had.  

I don't want more possessions, attention, or pats on the back.  I
don't want more for the sake of accumulating more money, things, people, or power.  
I don't want more of the world.

I want more of my Jesus living fully in my life.  I want abundantly more than I could ever dream possible because there is SO MUCH MORE to this life...to my Jesus...to His plan for my life.  

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us."  Ephesians 3:20

My Jesus is able to do far MORE (abundantly MORE) than anything I could ask for or think.  All of those big dreams that require courage and an incredible amount of faith, He wants to lead me.  A rich and beautiful marriage that is truly a biblical marriage and exemplifies the love Jesus has for his church...He wants to give it to me.  A family that loves one another (and enjoys one another) and loves the Lord...He is orchestrating the details.  A relationship with Jesus that is beautiful and intimate...He is waiting for me to enter into it.  A life lived loudly, boldly, and full of truth...He encourages and equips me to live it.

For far too long I have bought into the lie that I do not deserve more.  I am not gifted or capable of more.  I am not smart enough.  Eloquent enough.  Spiritual enough.  Beautiful enough.  Oh the enough list is far too long!  My head knows that the "not enough" list is full of lies.  My head knows, but my heart doesn't always feel it.  I am tired of looking around and wondering what if, yet closing my hands and not receiving what God is trying to give.  I am fed up with believing the lies of the world.  I cannot afford to miss any more time.  My family, my marriage, my God plans, my relationships, my Jesus...they deserve SO MUCH MORE, and it is time.  Time to open my hands and throw them into the air and praise the One who created me.  Loves me.  And dreams BIG dreams for me.

I want more.  SO MUCH MORE.  Do you?

Vulnerability

I am by nature NOT an adventurer.  I completely panic when I need to go somewhere new.  I do not want to jump out of plane, zip-line through a rain forest, swim with sharks, or bungee jump.  I am not a fan of heights and the idea of trusting a railing on balcony...well don't get me started.  My heart pounds just typing these experiences that I never EVER want to experience.

So when my sweet man says he believes that God wants our next step in ministry to be one that will require us to be 100% dependent on other people to provide financially, I may have smiled and said, "I am all in", but the reality is I felt anxious and unsure.  There was not one part of me hesitant about Scott joining the Makarios family.  There was not one part of me that doubted that Scott would be amazing at the job and the ministry would be perfect for Scott.  There was not one part of me that hesitated in wanting to join Scott and Makarios. 

But the what-ifs began to plague my restless mind.

Would people really give financially every month to help?

Would this job change keep Scottie from being able to attend her amazing school?

Would we be anxious every month and unsure if we could pay our mortgage?

Would people judge us if we took our kids on vacation? Or bought another car?

Would I be OK with the lack of control over where the money comes from?

Ah, control.  You see, ultimately it is a control issue for me.  The dependability a "normal" job gives our family gives me a false sense of control.  Scott has been laid off before and I didn't feel out of control.  Scott has worried about his job stability and whether he would still have a job, but I didn't feel out of control.  There is something very vulnerable about asking others to support your family, so that your husband can work full time for a non-profit ministry.  There is something vulnerable about relying on others to give monthly to your family.  There is something vulnerable about resigning a job without knowing when the next pay check will arrive in your bank account. 

When we read New Testament accounts of the disciples leaving jobs to follow Jesus, we learn that they completely relied on the generosity of other believers.  When did we lose this sense of community and complete abandonment to ministry?  They had no control over who would feed them their next meal...ok, so Jesus was with them and He had this ability to multiply fish and bread to feed thousands.  But isn't that same Jesus with Scott? Me? My family?

Vulnerability = Lack of Control

In order to be vulnerable, I need to give away the control I so desperately wrap my hands around hoping that I can alter the outcome in our favor.

In order to be vulnerable, I must be willing to bare all, including our finances and monthly budget.

In order to be vulnerable, I welcome the giving of others.

The beauty in being vulnerable is that we enter into more intimate relationship with those who support us.  The inspiring part of being vulnerable is that others' faithfulness to God and generosity with us will encourage not only my family but those we tell our story to.  Maybe the option of whether I want to be vulnerable or not needs to be taken away from our family.  Perhaps our new adventure includes bringing us back into the fold of what a true biblical community looks and feels like.  Oh, how I would like to control this entire situation, but for now I will rest in the knowledge that there is ONE who is in control and His plan is bigger, better and more beautiful than our plan.

If I am going to write or teach about vulnerability and intimacy with Jesus and with the body of Christ, I may just need to live that out LOUDLY and BOLDLY.  Because you see, It Starts With Me.