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Want a grateful family? Take time to look for Jesus

Image credit: Flickr.com (2012), CC BY 2.0

Last night, I sat by the fire with a friend and marveled at God’s provision. This necessary pause infused my soul with breath and joy. I’m finding it necessary to take this pause and remind myself of the presence of God in everything. I sat back and reflected on how the year unfolded for us and prayed for the vision of seeing God in it all. From a new position with increased travel, outsourcing some school classes, mom’s new opportunities, a graduation, walking through our last-ever surgery, finding a new trail to walk as a family, growing new friendships, a renewed focus on marriage, taking more self-care opportunities, and the opportunity to teach again, there is a recognition that God was with us through it all. Wherever we were, God was and is now. That is so powerful for me. To know that the Lord of hosts, the King of Kings, humbles himself to sit beside me in all my minutes is incredulous and marvelous in the fullness of the meaning of those words. For he is mighty. He is wisdom incarnate. He is hope. He is love. He is mercy … and he sits with me in the joy and in the dark and in the tears and in the peace. He is the ever-faithful counselor of our soul.

Now if you know me, you know that I always take these moments and apply them to those around me; my family, friends, and even the cashier at the local Kroger. For who can contain that moment when you realize how loved you are? What a true friend we have in Jesus! There are moments when the re-realization of this causes us to come aflame for and with Him.

So I sat with my smalls (our affectionate nickname for the younger block of kids in our family) and asked them to list out what they remembered about this past year: a new friend, a lost friend, a scored goal, a huge ice-cream sundae, running with the dog, playing a piano piece, three drama performances in one day, swimming in the pool, bonfires. We took time to quietly look for Jesus in all those moments. Friends, it was so powerful and I could just feel the heart of Jesus gladdened by this recognition. For with this recognition hearts and eyes were opened again to His presence. I could see the love and peace settle upon their souls. It was incredibly beautiful.

Similarly, my older kids feel the presence of God in forming more solid friendships, feeling a calling that won’t go away, relationships ended and relationships grown, trust built, goals achieved, late-night runs to Taco Bell and Chipotle, lunches squeezed into an orthodontist visit because we squeeze every minute out of our time together. Encouraging them to take the time to see how the Lord has always been present is a reminder of the bonds of this everlasting friendship.

It’s a simple thing to do. Quiet time with the family. An easel or notepads and just writing down memories. Where do you see Jesus in those moments? The discussion that comes forth is worth it. It changes and forms us all. My husband and I try to ask each other where we saw Jesus in our day every night before we put our heads down on our pillows. A reminder of His presence and the joy that comes from knowing He is with us.

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Advice to my Son: Go to Nineveh!

Image credit: By Lukas Rykvalsky (2016), Pexels.com, CC0/PD

I’m often heard saying that I am a professional at the younger years of parenting. Give me a baby to rock, a diaper to change, a toddler to play puzzles with, a book to read. These I can do with my eyes shut. The older years, though: Phew! They are not for the faint of heart! I am so grateful to be home, walking alongside them during these formative years before they step out as adults. A recent late-night conversation with one left me with words on my heart. I felt the need to share them and he approved.

Dear Son,

I see the fear in your eyes. You have been called, sent, and the destination seems to offer no relief. You wonder at the Lord’s request. Has he not seen where you have been? Does he not know the sin and suffering you’ve brought upon yourself; the weight of the world’s temptations you’ve let settle on your soul? How can he be asking you? And yet you feel the truth. The reality of the emptiness you feel is glaring back at you and the call becomes more persistent. Go to Nineveh.

I know you know the story of Jonah, where God asks him to go and preach to the Assyrians in Nineveh. Jonah goes the complete opposite direction to Tarshish, and on the way, a storm hits his ship and all craziness breaks out. Jonah figures it out that it is because he is running from the Lord and saves the rest of the passengers on his boat by jumping off the ship. The storm stops and Jonah gets swallowed up by a whale. He sits in the belly of the whale for a wee bit and figures things out. Whale spits him out. He heads to Nineveh. God takes care of him the whole way there.

I’ve always wondered if it really wasn’t about Nineveh at all, but rather what it represented to Jonah. Nineveh was an abandonment to Gods will over Jonah’s, to faith over fear.

As we spoke tonight, I was humbled by your honesty and blown away by your maturity. To walk through darkness and pursue the light requires courage, strength and a quest for truth. You, son, are seeking truth and He is leading you. You are right to be wary, for the path will not be smooth. You will have to slay many demons along the way. You will have to let go of that which seems so safe and familiar. But the call in your heart will lead you and He who calls will always be with you. Remember that! There is no place you can go where the Lord will not be with you. There is no place you have been, no situation, no moment at all, that you have ever been without Him. Once you recognize that momentous gift, your next step should be one of gratitude and trust for you are not alone.

But as you travel, remember what happened in Nineveh when Jonah got there: revival! God brought a complete revival to Nineveh. A whole city, probably about hundreds of thousands of people were converted from paganism to worshiping God and all it took was Jonah’s yes. Think about that! Jonah’s yes had magnitudes of impact.

There’s one more aspect to this story that you need to know. While Nineveh was an actual place the Lord called Jonah too, it also has a further meaning for us today. Nineveh of old had all its power and beauty but also greed and brutality. We too are surrounded by this. We live in Nineveh. We work in Nineveh. We cannot escape Nineveh. But you hear God’s calling deep in your heart and you are afraid. Maybe you are afraid because you see yourself in the people of Nineveh. Maybe you are afraid because you see yourself not worthy nor ready to be called to this task. None of us are ever ready, son. But I am sure this is not the first time you have heard me say “ If God calls you to it, He’s going to see you through it.” Look back on your life and see the truth of that.

You are going to move mountains, son.

Your yes will soften the heart of many a hard sinner.

Each day with every step and every yes, the you that longs to break free of the chains of this world will grow stronger and one day you will look up to the heavens and praise the Lord and those chains will just fall to the ground. Imagine that freedom!

Let that fear that sits in the pit of your stomach make you hungry for change; for new life. Don’t dismiss it. Take this chance and give it everything you’ve got and go, son. Go to Nineveh! Whom you find there may surprise you.

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A Mother’s Prayer

Image credit: Pexels.com (2016), CC0/PD

The prayer of a mother runs like a constant flow between her heart and the Lord. It is like blood streaming through the ventricles of the heart, so does a mother’s prayer connect her to the heart of Jesus. It’s a deep and profound prayer; one of surrender and supplication. We ask not for ourselves but for His will in the lives of those we love. Because we are in a constant relationship with the Lord, and we feel the freedom that brings, we so desperately want others to know the Lord; especially our family. And yet sometimes, they don’t.

Sometimes they run from Him. If they’ve been raised in His light, they might have eyes to see or ears to hear, but a heart that is closed, frightened or wounded by the temptations and worries of this world. They might know that a yes to the Lord requires a change. Has any yes to Him ever not? With Abraham, Peter and Paul as examples, I might not even have the same name by the time Jesus is done with me!

I often ponder how deep Mary’s prayer life must have been. As gruesome as the crucifixion was, there must have been the temptation for such deep worry. The late-night mothering of an older child brings me to this reflection often. Throughout the entirety of Jesus’s life, Mary was there beside him. She ushered him into ministry and was with him to the last. Yet she pondered so very much in her heart.

We hear the word ponder quite frequently in Scripture. The thesaurus shows meditate and reflect as the most frequently used synonyms alongside it. Ponder, meditate and reflect. This is the breath of a mother’s prayer life even in the fast pace of everyday life. There are times however for me, that, like the major negotiator, communicator, organizer, and relationship builder that I try to be, I try to control a situation. I believe I am doing God’s will by moving pieces in a fashion that I think will make for the best outcome for what God desires. I try to set the stage for him to work!

I imagine the Lord sitting next to me, with His head to the side, one eyebrow raised, silently asking me if I am done yet. Seeing that I am clearly unable to turn off this mission of mine, He waits patiently, moments, days, sometimes years, until I finally surrender and say I can’t do this. I can’t solve this. Will you please help me?

He swiftly answers of course, I’ve been waiting for this moment.

It is in that surrender as a mother, when we lay out our heart’s desire for those we love. We pray boldly and trust greatly that we regain the true freedom of being in a relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, I have been convicted to pray hard and let that be my doing. This is so hard for us mothers.

And yet we have been given such an example! My family is in the middle of so many possibilities and choices for our older children right now, and I am challenging myself to pray fervently to the Lord for Him to light, to guide, whisper, shout, and make clear the next steps for my them. With a thankful heart, I am praising Him for the gift of being a mother and the treasures of these children. I am asking for the fortitude to stay constant in prayer and let that fulfill my tendency to do. This is not a test for the Lord to see if things will go my way, but rather it is a test for me to learn to grow in prayer and trust.

I am laying my way down. Padre Pio is known for his simple breath of a prayer, “Pray and don’t worry.” May we all learn to trust in this way.