Why “Liked” is Essential Reading For Teen Girls – And a Giveaway!

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I remember junior high and high school.

It was a fabulous time in many ways, but it was also extremely tough. Wanting desperately to be liked and accepted. Desiring deep connection but unsure how to get it in the midst of often fickle friendships. Wondering what was really true as I considered numerous opinions. All the while living with an ache to be who God wanted me to be, but not exactly sure how to go about doing it. It was an emotional minefield.

20 years later, I look at the generation of young women who are currently maneuvering the teen years and know they’re dealing with the same core issues. Except they’re doing it WITH the added pressure of social media and an online world that’s anything but helpful when it comes to embracing our true identity in Christ. Have mercy on their darling souls. They’re fighting an uphill battle.

coverEnter Kari Kampakis’ new book, Liked:Whose approval are you living for?  Ya’ll. This is essential reading for young women. And for Mama’s of young women! From the first few pages I knew it was a jewel and the rest of the book measures up completely. Let me tell you why:

It deals with more than behavior, is goes deep to the heart. One of the things I like most about this book is the how Kari unpacks the reasons why it’s tempting for students to be enamored with likes and instant social media attention, and the dangers that come from it. “Constantly playing to a crowd has a cost that will catch up with us. It manifests as exhaustion, stress, burnout, anxiety and desperation.” (p. xiv) She explains how seeking the approval of others can lead girls away from the heart of God.  I love a book that deals with more than what presents on the surface, and this one does!

Twenty Tips for Social Media Habits – While the book is much more than a guide to healthy social media behavior, this section tucked in the Character Chapter is worth the price of the book alone. In fact, I found myself wishing that grown women and teens girls alike were required to read this list before engaging in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat! What if everyone followed these principles:

  • #3 – Before you post, consider three questions: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
  • #11 – Recognize what is and what isn’t your story to tell.
  • #15 – Don’t base your confidence and sense of value on social media.
  • #18 – Don’t spend so much time in the online world that you neglect the real world.
  • #19 – Settle conflicts in person.
  • And this is only one-fourth of the list! These words of wisdom can serve as a guide, super helpful for keeping young women from the train wrecks we’ve all witnessed on social media.

It’s packed with Biblical truth. Most of us can throw around helpful advice about dealing with mean girls, finding our identity in Christ, and growing in humility and kindness. But one of the things I love about this book is how Kari connects every bit of that (and more!) to the truth of Scripture. She has a reference for issue after issue, displaying God’s heart on the matter and not simply her opinion. In the Confidence Chapter, she lists verses dealing with self-worth, and on nearly every page is a highlighted Scripture that connects with the topic at hand. (With cute hearts and dots around it! The girl in me loves this little detail.) Basically, the book nails one of my must-haves; it’s theologically sound. She bases her words on the truth of God’s word and not empty human opinion. Standing ovation for that!

The lessons are foundational for LIFE, not just the teen years. Over and over while reading Liked, I realized I needed to be reminded of the truths Kari Kampakis shares. Know what this means? Her words are timeless. They have the potential to shape the course of a young woman’s entire life, not just her teen years. If a girl wraps her heart around these truths, she will be on a track to honor Christ with her attitudes and behavior.

Practical, Practical, Practical! – Our darling young women who are navigating friendships and social media and family dynamics need some guidelines to live by while God is shaping those inner hearts. Without a doubt we want the Holy Spirit to cement in them Holy desires that flow outward to righteous behaviors. But just like the rest of us, teen girls are a work in progress. Sometimes they need concrete guardrails to keep them from running off course. The book is full of quizzes (to help girls determine where they stand on the virtues discussed in the book), discussion questions, and lists of practical advice like:

  • Ten Ways to Deepen Friendships
  • Eight Ways to Deal with Hard Emotions
  • Twenty Ways to Grow an Active Faith
  • Eight Ways to Become a World Changer

It’s RELEVANT – Every chapter has great examples of situations that ring true for the modern teen girl. Kari has 4 girls of her own, so she lives daily with the issues that plague them! This is not a book written by an out-of-touch, well meaning woman. This is a book written by a person who has their pulse on the teen girl culture, and knows how to address what their dealing with.

If you’ve got a teen girl in your life, this book would make a stellar Christmas present. Do you work with girls at church? It would make a great small group study. (Discussion questions are already included at the end of each chapter.) And if you’re a Mama of girls coming of age, do yourself a favor and go ahead a pick up a copy. This book can become a battle plan before the war for her desire for approval begins.

OR, MAYBE I’LL JUST SEND YOU A COPY.

Comment below with why you would want Kari Kampakis’ new book, Liked, and I’ll enter you in a drawing. Winner chosen Friday, December 9. You’ll get it in time for Christmas!

 

 

 

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Preaching to the Choir

I was incredibly honored to speak at a women’s gathering at my home church last night. But, have mercy, if it wasn’t one of the most nerve-wracking speaking experiences I’ve ever had!

I’m usually a little nervous before I get up to speak. There is a serious weightiness that comes with knowing you’re about to share God’s word. But this time my heart thought we were at a cardio class instead of a women’s group and nearly beat right out of my chest the whole time! I was a shaking leaf.

It was an intimidating crowd, ya’ll. Present were 4 previous school teachers, numerous women who changed my diaper in the nursery, my college roommate, Sunday School teachers, youth group trip chaperones, and women of the faith who trained me up in the Lord and launched me into the world like a chick from their nest.

Also, half my family! (I made them sit where I couldn’t see them.)

These people have seen every awkward stage and every foolish mistake. They know I talk to much in class and procrastinate and that I can be really self-centered and prideful. And unlike most of the crowds I speak to, this one knows I don’t have it all together. And they have the pictures to prove it.

And the report cards. And the Stupid Beth Stories. And the youth group videos.

When I looked into their faces, I was painfully aware that these dear women had seen me through years of foolishness and sin. Not that I have arrived, by any means. But we can all hope that I’m a little further along on the road to righteousness than I was at 15.

But it was more than my own previous mistakes and immaturity I saw when I looked at that crowd. I also saw Pillars of the Faith. Women who have raised Godly children, and proved faithful to husbands for decades, and served Christ’s church through thick and thin.

I saw women of the Word who have taught generations through Sunday School and Bible study. Women who lead the charge in missions and take food to shut ins and host all manner of events to draw in young people and point them to Christ.

I saw women who have buried children and walked through painful divorces and lived through terrible diagnosis. All while steadfastly glorifying the Father and determining to be faithful to Him despite their questions.

I saw women who have been walking with Jesus since before I was born. Who have lived out a life “worthy of the calling.” I saw women who wholeheartedly embody the message God had laid on my heart to deliver: Cling to Christ.

So how do you tell those words to women who have been doing it longer and better and in deeper ways than your young little self? You do it with fear and trembling. And with great humility realizing God has asked you to preach to the choir.

And with a little head scratching, wondering at the ways of One who sends a student to deliver a message to the teacher.

It was by far some of the holiest ground I’ve stood on. And although I was the one delivering the “message”, God used the women in that room to act as a mirror for the very words I was teaching. Out of my mouth came, “Cling to Christ” but their lives reverberated back to me: Cling to Christ.

A holy echo. A sacred reminder from those who have devoted their lives to the heartbeat of my message.

I might have been preaching to the choir. But in retrospect, they were the ones preaching to me.

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Haiti & Hurricanes

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I have vivid memories of Hurricane Opal.

It was October and I was 15 years old. I huddled with my family in my parents’ bedroom all night, listening to the storm rage and wondering when the walls were going to give way.  At some point, the wind lifted a small building off the ground and slammed it against the eastern wall of my house. Electricity was severed. Homes were destroyed. Trees fell. Floods raged. And people died.

It was an awful storm.

It’s October and another category 4 hurricane is headed toward a people I love and a place I adore. All the live long day I’ve been checking weather reports and scouring the latest projections and praying fervently for God to protect Haiti.

I’ve seen that vulnerable little country and I’m well aware of how massively unprepared they are. I’m worried sick and in my mind’s eye, I constantly see what I cannot shake:

I see little brown village children chasing bubbles next to shanty houses and piles of debris. I see Mama’s with babies on hips, stirring food over an open fire in the only pot they own. I see the total of a family’s belongings hanging on clothes lines and lining the earthen floor of their tent. I see houses made of tin, and tarp, and cardboard, and sticks. I see half naked children playing in front of makeshift shelters leaning precariously on gravel hillsides.

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But what I can’t see is how any of that has a chance against 130mph winds.

Barring God’s divine intervention, many will suffer tremendously at the hands of Hurricane Matthew. And I’m grieving it already.

I know for certain I’m not the only one. All day I’ve been fielding comments and messages from many of you who are burdened for the people of Haiti.

I want to hug your necks.

I’ve wished more than once that we could all gather in one place to nervously fret and watch the news unfold together.  Partly because I was raised to deal with the hard stuff as a “we” and not as a “me.” In my way of thinking, we should see this thing through packed in living rooms sitting on the arms of couches as we worry about the worst and root for the best together.

But also because I think people who feel the same about something fuel each other to act for good. When we circle the wagons around a common catastrophe, the vulnerable find protection, the harmed find help, and the devastated find hope.

Dear one who’s worried sick about the Haitian people. let me remind us in light of the impending devastation that we were created to accomplish enormous good. It’s time to allow your compassion be the catalyst to gather your people and find a way to help. This is your moment, tender hearts! Leverage that empathy you feel plus the people you know and the resources you have to help the masses.

We are God’s plan for offering mercy and compassion and love to the hurting. There is no plan B.

As the needs become evident in the days to come, let’s not leave the people of Haiti hanging. I just can’t see that happening.

People will be hungry. Let’s feed them. Many will be injured. Let’s care for them. Homes will need to be rebuilt. Let’s build them. Churches and schools will be destroyed. Let’s raise them up again.

This is no time to sit on the sidelines, friends. Begin praying now about how God would have you help.

Disciples’ Village, the ministry in Haiti I am honored to work for is on the ground and ready to meet needs as soon as the storm passes. If you feel led to give, they will be on the front lines of relief efforts and are worthy of your trust with funds. Every dime given will go straight to hurricane victims. I fly in to Haiti, myself, on October 16.

Click here to give to Hurricane Relief through Disciples’ Village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When the Almighty Speaks

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I went to the Beth Moore Living Proof  Live conference in Mobile two weeks ago.  It turned out to be a Burning Bush experience that has reshaped my life.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t all that thrilled about going beforehand. Nate asked me the morning of if I was excited about it:

“Umm… I guess so. But honestly I have so much to do with work and this website deadline, not to mention all the stuff here at home, I’m not giddy with excitement the way I usually would be.”

I was so distracted by everything that needed doing, I was in no hurry to slow down and hear from the Lord.

If I had known then that God was going to speak TO ME about MY LIFE, there might have been some pep in my step to get out the door. But attempting to get as much done before I left as possible, I didn’t even pack until 30 minutes befpink-luggageore time to leave!

(As evidenced by the fact I couldn’t find a grown up bag to put my clothes in. I had to borrow Anna Beth’s pink “Going to Grandma’s” luggage. I stuffed my things in with 4 minutes to spare. Katrina captured my cool-ness on the way in to the hotel.)

Within minutes of walking into the areana, however, I knew that being there was no happy accident. God began to impress Himself on my soul before the worship even began. It was weighty feeling that He was present and that I was in for a confrontation.

I remember getting very still and quiet as others chattered around me waiting for the conference to start. I was so aware of His presence. And if you’ve ever been hyper-aware of His presence, you know there is one response; heart humbled, wholly submitted, waiting eagerly on any word from His mouth.

He did not disappoint.

The next two days were an absolute downpour. Words flowed from His heart to mine and I couldn’t decide whether to write it all down or sit perfectly still for fear of missing something!

There have been times in my life that I’ve wondered if what I was hearing was from God, or simply the voices in my own head. THIS WAS NOT THAT. There was no room for doubt. He was beautifully clear and absolutely authoritative.

So…I cried. I wrote. I repented. I submitted. I marveled at a God who would care so much about me. It was astounding and I’m still very much in awe of it.

There is so much to tell you. JUST SO MANY THINGS. Because when the Lord speaks it’s usually not so you can keep it to yourself. Pray for me as I write the next few posts with what He taught me!

But for now…this: When you have the opportunity to hear from the Almighty, take it! We say we want to live in deep connection with God, to hear him speak and have a close relationship with Him. But how often are we running to the places and times that afford that opportunity? And how often are we saying no to those times because our lives are overbooked and we think the demands are too demanding? I was guilty of it just days before that weekend. So guilty of it I almost backed out of going.

But looking back I can promise you this: Not one thing I “needed” to do compares to what I experienced and the change it’s brought in my life. Simply put: The things we think we have to do are trash compared to hearing the Almighty speak.

Can He speak to us in the car? You bet. While we’re washing dishes and folding clothes, absolutely. I think it’s vital we learn to “Practice the Presence of God” (Brother Lawrence…look it up) in our every day lives.

But I’ve been walking with Jesus for almost 30 years, and I’ve seen a pattern that others testify to as well. God very often chooses to speak when we set aside tasks in favor of being with Him. It’s as if He blesses the fact that we gave up our to do lists and sleeping in and lazy weekends and needy needs in order to hear from Him. He takes our simple act of choosing Him over the other, and blows us away with what He has to tell us.

If you’ve hit a spiritual plateau, if it’s been a while since you’ve heard Him speak, if you know you need to hear from Him, do something drastic and find a way to set everything aside in favor of being with Him. Get up early and read and pray. Find a women’s Bible study and go to it. Attend a conference. Plan a one day personal retreat. Run to a time and place where other things are off the table and He has your full attention.

You can take this one to the bank, ladies: You will not be sorry. No one who has set aside time to listen to God has ever looked back and said, “Wish I had spent my time doing something else.” Au contraire. You’ll be looking for an opportunity to do more of the same. Once you get that taste of Burning Bush in your mouth, you can’t get enough.

So go listen to the Almighty Speak. And let me know what He says!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Church Vans Down Memory Lane

Well let’s just go ahead and acknowledge the elephant in the room: TWO posts back to back. It’s a Back to School miracle, friends.

I think it’s a little early to celebrate consistency, though. We all know my track record when it comes to writing daily. Reference posts from last January where I committed to write for 30 minutes every night. I’m just going to ask for grace on that one and play the Four Children card. Live, learn, and don’t make internet commitments.

I can go ahead and tell you my two day streak will be broken tomorrow because LIVING PROOF LIVE with Beth Moore and 5000 of my closest friends in Mobile this weekend! Actually, I am traveling there with some very dear friends and I’m most certainly looking forward to all the talking and the processing and the rehashing every little thing under the sun.

My gal pal offered for us to take her minivan to this wee, little heard of event. I thought it was a grand idea because we’re all minivan types at this point. And what on earth is the point of caravanning if we can all be together? I just think togetherness is the way to go on spiritual excursions, don’t you?

She did text me an hour ago to ask if I would be willing to do some of the driving “if I was comfortable driving someone else’s vehicle.”

I gave a little chuckle. Wrecking someone else’s nice vehicle doesn’t even register on my radar as a concern. I didn’t tell her that, though. She might think me unconsciencious. (Someone, please tell me how to spell that word!?)

Her text led me to a mini-moment thinking of some of the other vehicles I’ve been trusted to drive on spiritual-type trips:

Ya’ll, I was 20 very young years old and a youth director at a small church near my college town. I look back now and wonder why on earth they trusted me as a youth director?! I WAS STILL A YOUTH MYSELF. Totally unaware of what a rookie I was, I decided my little brood of youths (who were all of 23-48 months younger than me) needed to experience the wonder of youth camp. So I picked one far away in Pennsylvania because I like an adventure and wanted to go somewhere I had never been.

See how spiritual I was.

Our church didn’t have a van, so I decided the only option was to rent one. (Because NOT riding altogether isn’t an option.) But when I made the call to set up the rental, they told me I wasn’t old enough to rent a van. A deacon had to go with me and sign for the thing.

This should be a standard qualification for youth directors/ministers. If they can’t legally rent a vehicle, maybe they shouldn’t be responsible for the spiritual formation of young people.

Anywho. My sweet deacon went with me to the rent-a-van place and signed his life away on the paperwork. The next day I drove it right out of the church parking lot filled to the brim with hormonal teenagers, blaring DC Talk, and worried not one iota about the safety hazards of handling a large vehicle.

And I was pulling a large trailer containing our luggage.

In what can only be considered Divine Protection, we made it back a week later with nary a scratch or lost soul. Which really does warrant thanksgiving to the Almighty because I have distinct memories of that trailer swinging violently back and forth behind us as I attempted to navigate the treacherous Shenandoah Valley roads.

Looking back as a 36 year old who’s come a long way, I wonder at the wisdom of letting me take off with all those precious sons and daughters under my care. And as much as I cringe at the thought of how much harm could have come to their physical bodies, I downright shudder at what kind of spiritual guidance I was giving.

Sheesh, ya’ll. I was just young and foolish and had very little spiritual maturity going for me. What was God thinking? I made a lot of mistakes. I think I might have taught some wrong doctrine. I didn’t know a thing about how to effectively disciple anyone. I had maybe 8 Biblical lessons up my sleeve that I pulled out on a regular basis. And I distinctly remember yelling at the whole lot of them one day during youth choir.

I was inadequate spiritual leadership material.

Strangely, 16 years later, I feel exactly the same way about myself.

Why on earth does He let me parent these children? I’m pretty sure I’m warping their pretty little souls! Why does He let me write? There are so many writers out there who have more wisdom to offer than me! Why does He let me lead groups to Haiti? I don’t know a thing about foreign missions. Why does He let me teach Bible studies and share at Women’s events and rock babies in the church nursery? I can’t be trusted with any of those!

Despite years of Bible study and seminary and books and conferences and podcasts, I am painfully aware that I am still inadequate spiritual leadership material. So why does He let me continue to have influence in the lives of others?

This is His reply,

“My grace is sufficient for your inadequacy, Beth, and my power is made perfect in your weakness.”

So I guess we can all let out a collective sigh of relief. None of us are adequate spiritual leadership material. But that doesn’t matter! In His wonderful grace, He choses to use us anyway.

By his Grand Design, he sets us up in situations where we are painfully aware of our lack, so that we’re forced to focus on His supply.

So go drive a church van up a mountain road pulling a trailer! He’ll be with you passing out grace every mile of the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Martha Gets Me Every Time

I’m BAAACCCKKK.

Ya’ll. All four kids now have lives outside the walls of this house from 8-3. And I’m feeling so much liberation I can’t stand it. I’m enjoying things like: silence, lunch with my husband, a candle burning, uninterrupted thoughts, uninterrupted potty breaks, and glory hallelujah I can now get my work done without screaming and crying and gnashing of teeth.

But even with all this new found freedom, the day is somehow packed from beginning to end. And since we don’t have time for chit chat, let’s just jump into it.

(I still don’t know why you people read this stuff.)

You might remember I went to Haiti in June. While I was there I had the incredible privilege (took me 3 tries to spell privilege right) of spending time with a few pastor’s wives. Dear ones, these women are living IN THE MINISTRY TRENCHES. They lead lives most of us couldn’t wrap our heads around.

They are pounded constantly with needs of the villagers because help and resources are slim to none. People have no food, they go to the pastor’s house. People have a sick child, they go to the pastor’s house. People have an emergency, they go to the pastor’s house. And guess who’s usually the one home? The pastor’s wife. Dealing with her own children and her own set of troubles because ain’t nothing easy in Haiti!

I wanted to gather them up and hug them close and give them freedom to vent and keep their kids so they could have a date with their husband and hug them and write encouraging Bible verses on notecards and send them on sabbatical for a week.

And buy them something. I really wanted to buy them something. (Because I am so stinking American and think giving stuff is going to help anything.)

But mainly I wanted to hug their shoulders and say, “I am with you. In whatever small way I can offer, I will come along side to encourage and equip and strengthen you for the impossible life you are living. How can I help you?”

But that’s tough to communicate when you only know about 5 words in Creole.

So I decided to talk to Bill. (Boss Man. Founder and President of Disciples’ Village.) The conversation went like this:

“Bill. I know we have training and conferences and all sorts of things for the Haitian Pastors. What are we doing for their wives?”

“Nothing. But they could really use something.”

“Well don’t you think we should plan something??!!”

“Yes. So go for it.”

And that’s the story of how the Disciples’ Village Pastor’s Wives conference of 2016 was born.

I was all kinds of elated and fired up and full of ideas during the last part of the trip and even into my first week back in the states.And then I did that thing known as THE GREAT AMERICAN FREAK OUT.

What on earth? A conference for Haitian Pastor’s Wives? Geez, Beth. Why didn’t you just offer to take them all beans and rice? This is maybe a wee little stretch outside of your area of expertise. And ability. You have less than 4 months to plan this thing. AND YOU NEED TO CONVINCE OTHER WOMEN TO GO WITH YOU.

Oh my lanta, me and the Lord were up and down for days. But I wasn’t about to back out because I just don’t do that ever. Even when I should. But long about the beginning of July, I simmered down a bit and was finally able to hear from God. And he said something along the lines of, “This is my deal. Trust me.”

Well, alrighty then.

And so I’ve been trying really hard to do that with all of this thing. Sometimes it has been easy. Like when I began to earnestly pray God would call women to go with me. And He did. From four different states. Within a matter of days.

But there have been other times, like today, that the freak out begins to sneak up on me. I’m not saying that my anxiety has anything to do with the fact that the other two people in charge of details for this women’s conference are men. BUT MAYBE I AM.

And then there’s the fact that I’m here and the conference is in Haiti and there are 1 zillion questions I would like answered while preparing for this thing yet I have virtually no access to the ones with the answers. Just men. Who are maybe guessing at the answers. (Dear Steve and Bill. I trust you completely. Please don’t fire me Go read someone else’s blog.)

I’ve also been forced to confront some yuck-ola pride issues. Ya’ll. I like things I plan to go well. I enjoy success. When the stuff I set out to accomplish blows up in my face it makes me feel bad about me. I like to avoid that scenario whenever possible.

But as usual, the Caller Into Deep Waters has something to say about the anxiety and pride that have crept into the calm, peaceful place I enjoyed not long ago. I think He’s saying something like this:

“This is my deal. Stop seeking your own glory and seek mine. In fact, let’s start with Just Seeking Me.”

Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion. And it will not be taken away from her.

 

 

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Overdue Update

You know that thing where you have a friend you love to tell stuff to, but you don’t see each other often, and you have a heart full of things to say to them, so you tell yourself you’re going to wait until you “have plenty of time” before you call because you don’t want to skim the surface during the conversation….you want to go deep.

BUT YOU FINALLY WAKE UP AND BREATHE REATLITY and tell yourself to just get on the durn phone already because “have plenty of time” ain’t happening any day soon.

Do you know that thing?

‘Cause that’s where I’ve been with you, my dears, for lo these FIVE (tell me it ain’t so!) LONG  MONTHS.

Please don’t hate me. Today you get the super fast catch up (i still can’t wrap my mind around why all thirteen of my readers care one iota about my happenings). Maybe one day when the children are graduating college I’ll get back into a regular writing schedule.

MY HEART IS SO FULL. But here goes….list style.

  1. A bazillion thank yous for all your sweet words and heaven pounding prayers back when we had the hearing for the New Chick. After TWO days at court one month apart, and multiple heart failures in between, HE’S STILL IN OUR NEST!!!! Hallelujah to the Great I AM. It ain’t over yet, friends. But at least he’s still under my roof. Another hearing should be coming up, but in true government fashion, I have no idea when.
  2. I love my work! It’s been a super busy spring as I built a new website for Disciples’ Village, and then dove headlong into creating brochures, and connecting more people to what we do, too. Is there anything better than doing what you love?? The Father is soo good to me.
  3. June is trying to kill me. We had company from Haiti, a trip to Haiti, Art camp, Football camp, stomach virus, wall paper tear down, 10 year anniversary trip, a baby shower, switching a 2 year old from the crib to the big boy bed, and saying goodbye to the mother of my heart as she moved to North Alabama. HAVE. MERCY. All the emotions and stuff.
  4. Did I mention Hand, Foot and Mouth disease? It ain’t no joke, friends. 5 of the 6 of us had it and I would rather have a root canal. I’ve actually never had a root canal, but it can’t be worse than this. It’s been a month. My feet are still peeling from all the blisters and now some of my fingernails are coming off. Dear scientists, we need an immunization for this!
  5. The kids are all fine. Wild and unruly, as usual. 3 of the 4 are mostly potty trained. (As if you care.) But the one who is transitioning to the big boy bed might not make it through the month. Because reverting from sleeping to not sleeping is for the birds. Ain’t nobody got time to be tired all day.
  6. I’ve gained 7 pounds. SEVEN STINKING POUNDS. I’ve got to get it off. But I’m too hungry to get it off. And I like to eat all the good stuff. And all the emotions drive me to eat. Bleh. Just BLEH.
  7. HAITI. Did I mention Haiti? I just got back. I love it more every time I go. There is a hunger there, folks, for the light of Christ…for the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I can feel the beat of it in my bones, as a friend recently said. The rhythm of God moving in a hundred ways, orchestrating His will for the good of people overlooked and underheard. Being a part of that song is LIFE CHANGING.

 

Bagging rice and beans to distribute in a nearby village. Clearly I am super moved by it.
Bagging rice and beans to distribute in a nearby village. Clearly I am super moved by it.

 

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My team and some of the kids from Alex’s House Orphanage.

 

This is the depth of my love for you. A picture of my arm fat. Complete with the Haiti Glow. B
This is the depth of my love for you. A picture of my arm fat. Complete with the Haiti Glow. But it’s a shot of one of my favorite moments, connecting with those darlings. Aren’t they beautiful! Side note – I took over 600 pictures…you’ve now seen all 3 that include me.

Maybe the rhythm will get you too. 😉 Come with me!!

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What is Foster Care Like?

Multiple times over the past two years, people have shyly asked “What is foster care like?”

Mostly, the people asking were considering foster care themselves. And they needed to hear the good, the bad and the ugly before they jumped in any deeper.

I understand how they felt. I wanted the same thing when we were praying through the enormous, life changing decision; someone on the inside to bare their soul and lay it all out there for consideration. It helps take the edge of the unknown.

What is foster care like?

Foster care is letting go of life as you know it. It’s having things that were once important cut down to size for the sake of the more important. Foster care means changes. Lots of changes. And sometimes it means living differently from the culture around you.

Foster care is a humdinger on marriages. But it’s also an amazing environment for growth. It’s learning to fight alongside your spouse rather than against them. Foster care is the catalyst that causes you to cling to one another lest you both drown. It also means laughing, a lot. And crying even more. But doing it all together.

Foster care is watching your bio children’s world shift, and them surviving…even thriving…because of it. It’s saying I will do what God asks me to do, even if it means your life will be less cushy, less cozy, less comfy than it used to be. And it’s believing they will be better for it. That they will learn to look out for the vulnerable because of it. It’s hoping they adopt a faith that is countercultural due to it. Foster care is being amazed when you begin to see evidence of that very thing.

Foster care is having unexpected emotions toward bio parents. From grief, to anger, to deep, deep compassion. It’s seeing yourself in those you thought you never would. It’s wanting to shake them silly one minute, and take them under your wing the next. It’s motivation to reach the next generation before they suffer enormous hurt and loss and devastation.

Foster care is loving a child so much, it’s appalling. It’s having all the questions about whether you could love a child who wasn’t “yours” disappear. It’s delight. And joy. And a surge of protective instincts.

Foster care is wondering if you will ever love the new child like you do your others. It’s deciding that this might be the child that you pray to love, choose to love, despite your feelings. Foster care is tears, and frustration and driving around in the car for hours trying to get them to fall asleep. Foster care is realizing six months later that you’re crazy about that darling little thing. It’s forgetting what life was like before them and realizing your can’t see your future without them.

Foster care is trading your four door in for a minivan. And being totally okay with it.

Foster care is having a messy house. All. The. Time. It’s being embarrassed when friends drop by because there is just stuff everywhere, again, always. But it’s also learning that a clean house can become a shrine. It’s the chance to let go of that idol worship and embrace a bunch of little people and all the mess that raising them brings.

Foster care is being totally overwhelmed with laundry. It’s doing laundry every day. At least twice a day. And still not seeing the bottom of the hamper. Foster care is swallowing your pride and letting that saint from church take your laundry to be washed, dried, folded and delivered back to your door. It’s smelling those clean clothes while tears of gratitude run down your face. Foster care is letting others help, when you are usually the helper.

Foster care is being embarrassed in stores. At church. At the park. In the McDonalds playplace. Foster care is having children who act in VERY different ways. Foster care is wanting to announce to everyone in the vicinity that you aren’t an incompetent parent and explain all that child has been through. But you Can’t. Ever. Do. That. So you simply take the looks and learn to let it go.

Foster care is being overwhelmed. And tired. And emotionally depleted. It is loving your bed in a way that you never have before. Foster care is being really, really thankful for Kids Night Out and a date. And nap times.

Foster care is having more people pray for you than you can ever personally thank. It’s knowing there is an army on your side. It’s humbling and empowering all at the same time.

Foster care is meetings. Lots of meetings. And social workers. And lawyers. And a system you don’t understand and certainly don’t always like.

Foster care is feeling powerless. It’s having other people lay claim to a child who’s been with you since birth. It’s knowing you have no control over what happens to them in the future.

Foster care is a roller coaster. It’s terrifying. It’s stomach churning. It’s being certain that if this ride doesn’t kill you it will leave you beaten half to death.

Foster care is knowing God in a way you never have before. It’s feeling like you’re drowning one minute, and knowing He’s saving you the next. It’s learning to trust in new ways and for new reasons.

Foster care is a little girl who learned to walk and talk and sing and dance. It’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and books and “sippy cuppa”. Foster care is footed pajamas and hold me mama. It’s seeing the light come on in once dark eyes and watching what was dead come to life.

Foster care is a little boy with blond hair pattering through the house as fast as his legs will carry him. It’s tight squeezes around my neck and “mama mama mama mama” over the monitor when he wakes up in the morning. It’s rocking rocking in the middle of the night, my cheek resting against the top of his noggin. It’s prayers, and prayers and prayers and prayers.

Foster care is more thoughts, and emotions, and experiences, and love, and prayers than I ever thought I would hold in a lifetime.

I guess you can say foster care is more life. Abundant life.

 

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Dear Anna, Stuff on Being a Mom-Part 1

Anna Girl,

I just tucked you in, snug as bug in bed. Your darling face looking up at me with contentment as I kissed your cheek goodnight. It was a good day. But I blinked and now it’s over.

Right now your days are full of Barbie and dress up and more art projects than our fridge can show. You live a pretty swell life and even if you don’t realize it, your childhood so far is hunky dory. But I know how fast time flies and it won’t be long before you’re the Mommy, hiding in the laundry room like I was an hour ago. Before that day comes, there is so much I want you to know. Much more than one letter can hold.

So we’ll start where we are. Where I am today.

I want you to know that being a Mommy is so fulfilling. But it can also be incredibly draining. Some days the demands from little ones will seem like they are more than you can meet. Wrap your mind around this now: YOU CAN’T MEET ALL THEM ALL.

There will always be one child who got less of you that day. There will always be more words than you can listen up. There will always be more questions than you have the capacity to answer. They will always want more of you than you are able to give.

And that is okay.

If you could meet all their needs and wants and wishes and listen to all their chatter and questions and stories, where would the room for God be?

Yes, be attentive. Yes, be present as much as possible. But embrace this truth as soon as possible: You are finite and their needs are infinite. Therefore they can only be fulfilled by a infinite God.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel that I’ve failed at least one of you. I didn’t listen to enough of your words. I didn’t watch enough of Titus’ bike tricks. I didn’t read enough books to the babies. I didn’t give enough kisses. I didn’t say enough yeses. I didn’t offer enough encouragement and I certainly didn’t play enough games.

No matter how hard I try, I am not enough.

But I’m learning, slowly learning, that you might just grow up in spite of it.

I no longer pray that you look back on your childhood to remember a mother who was your everything. I now pray you grow up to know a God who IS your everything.

And I pray when your time comes to be a mother, that you let yourself off the hook of meeting every demand. When they’re all crying and wanting and whining, shut yourself in the laundry room because even though you can’t, God can.

I love you, Baby Girl. You are going to be an excellent mother.

 

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Gift Giving

I wasn’t going to write tonight.

Ya’ll, I had just hunkered down for Downton Abbey and I was quite happy about it. But then I got the “ding” on my phone alerting me to a Facebook message. It was a dear friend from Texas days gone by. She went on about how a foster mama friend has gleaned encouragement from what I write. Sweet lady was just so encouraging and gave me strict instructions to “keep writing.”

But in light of Anna and Mr. Bates and Mary and that beautiful music that sets it all up in the beginning, I thought How nice. I’ll write tomorrow. Tonight I’m getting lost in a castle and other people’s (fictional) lives.

Then Nathan informed me that it would me 40 minutes before we could watch Downton.

This may be the fastest post yet.

It’s strange this whole writing for the world to see thing. (As if the whole world sees it.) It’s taken me two years to get to the place where I can write without obsessing over the placement of every word. And Christ has done some serious work in my spirit to teach me how to offer my thoughts without worrying how they go over.

I happen to know my high school English teacher reads this blog. THE HORROR. And a woman who knows more theology than the average seminary graduate. GAH! Every time I mention scripture I wonder if I’ve said something heretical! There have been few things in life that caused me to deal more with my insecurities than writing has.

People are so kind to comment at church or in passing at the store. Mostly I just want to say, “PLEASE O PLEASE don’t mention the blog.” I get embarrassed and usually say something incredibly clever and gracious like, “Um. Thanks,” while my eyes dart around, and my brain frantically searches for a new topic.

I always wonder if they are simply trying to be encouraging. I’ve said untrue things while trying to be encouraging. Oh dear. Are they doing the same to me?

Clearly I need therapy of a different sort.

I can’t grasp why God would use what I write. It’s just my thoughts flowing through my fingers. But he used a donkey to speak some truth in the Old Testament. So maybe it’s not so farfetched? Either way, I’m learning it’s not for me to figure out. It’s for me to offer.

You have something, too, ya know. Something to offer. I have been the grateful receiver so many times. A home opened with love for a meal or a cup of coffee. A listening ear. A song. An insight into scripture. A kind word that saved me in an awkward situation. A donut at the door on the worst day ever. A scripture written and given on a scrap paper.

An admonition to keep up the writing.

Our job isn’t to worry about how others receive our gift . Our job isn’t to compare it with another’s. Our job isn’t to decide if our gift is worthy of giving. And our job isn’t to fret over whether it was impactful.

Our job is to simply offer the gift.

And leave the rest to the Master Giver.

I pray you humbly offer your gift to others, knowing it was given less for you and more for them. Pray that I do too.

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