Thursday’s Thread: A letter to my younger self…

This past week a letter came in the mail to my youngest son who is about to graduate. The sender is what caught my attention. It was addressed both to and from himself. He told me his 7th grade English teacher had his class write a letter to themselves when they were in her class and here it was 6 yrs later and he was receiving it in the mail. It was fun for us to read both to see his transformation and also the distinct call God has had on his life all along. It was a great exercise for him to do then and an encouragement to receive and read it this many years later…boy does time seem to go by so fast!
After experiencing the significant impact of this letter I decided to write myself a letter but rather than addressing it to the future me… I decided to write to the younger me.

To my younger self,

There’s so many things I’ve wished I could tell you… we sure have come a long way by the Grace of God!

I write this as our youngest son is preparing to graduate High School.
Crazy as it may seem we’ve now spent 27 years raising boys and maybe what’s even more wild than this is….I’d choose it all over again!
Motherhood has been a gift and so worth the years we’ve given to them.
When it comes time for you to make this decision or if it falls unexpectedly upon you…don’t look at what you’ll be giving up by this seemingly overwhelming interruption instead what you’ll gain from it. For the gift of these little but mighty humans will far outweigh anything you expect. Sure there will be a lot of hard days, in fact seasons when you’ll wonder what you did. But those moments will strengthen the minor muscles of your heart.
The lessons you’ll learn and the love you’ll experience is like none other.  

Parent from YOUR place of creativity and passion.

Don’t try to be someone else….Be you!
You’re an amazing Mom and will rock this thing by the grace of God!
Please don’t make the mistake of getting lost in the boys’ lives, it’s so easy to slowly drift your identity inside of theirs but these boys of ours need you to be the woman God created you to be so they will seek out woman of character and strength as their wives to walk through life beside.
Tell them you love them a whole lot and linger longer in their beds tucking them to sleep each night, you’ll hold onto those memories in the years to come. Show them God through and through and even when you mess up show them Jesus…let your hard shine through the broken glass of life for through its’ rays they will see Jesus even more clearly. These up close encounters with Him will turn their hearts towards Him in their own hard & holy moments. 

Let God be your first…

A lot of things will fight for this spot but make Him your focus and everything else will fall in its rightful place. This doesn’t mean you won’t experience a lot of pain and heartache it just means God will be with you through it all.

Hold on tightly to the beautiful moments….Cherish, respect and honor your husband. And love him with all of you, he loves you dearly. He will be a living demonstration to you of Christ’s love for the Church. Although great storms will threaten your unity and love, cling to what you know is true. 
Fight hard for your marriage and not against it. 
Pride will threaten it from all sorts of places. 
The brokenness you’ll carry into marriage will be what God uses to grow you the most. Don’t fear these splintered messes for God will meet you within the secret spaces of your heart and do some amazing healing here. And this my sweet one is what He will use to heal and minister to others. 

You know all the times you thought you were too fat and not enough look past your criticisms when you’re older you’ll find your curves and the unique shape of who you were created to be is where your beauty really lies.
Those fears that keep rising telling you ‘you’ll never be good enough’ or ‘you’ll probably fail so don’t try’…don’t believe those lies you’re going to do things and go places you’ll never believe.
Those kids you’re so afraid of messing up well that doesn’t happen either because  grace wins in the end and covers all of your mistakes and misgivings.
Yep and even all the times you mess up and say the wrong things well somehow those get redeemed too!

Younger self, your faith is what will hold you together. 
Nothing else will fill you, guide you or bring you greater purpose. 
The world will dangle its attempts but you’ll do yourself a huge favor to resist their offerings and only give yourself to things of God. The world will offer to numb and satisfy you but their empty offers will only create a greater need within you and a whole lot more of mess you’d have to clean up. 
You’ll find the satisfaction for your soul lies within the pages of His Word…it has the power to transform your life and allow you to live free. 
So, before you do anything every day no matter the importance of your day saturate yourself in Him!
Implant yourself deeply inside His word. 
The wisdom of His Spirit will guide your household through all of its storms.  

God’s word never gets broken down even when our lives are in the middle of its own brokenness. 

The Church is full of brokenness and broken people including us.
Dismiss unrealistic and unbiblical expectations of God the Church and people this will guide you well. I fell into this trap far too many times early in our ministry years and  when I finally found freedom from this thinking I was able to love the messines of Christ’s bride as God does.  

Don’t be disillusioned into believing you are as valuable as your titles or the numbers on any measuring stick-
your identity comes from the Creator of our world.

Stay true to your desire to do Kingdom work, it will be full of some of your most rewarding and hardest work. But when you surrender your Kingdom work to God it will be less about what you will do for Him and more about all you’ll do with and through Him!
And young one, don’t get caught up in the bigness of ministry look for the small and unseen spaces of ministry…most of real life happens within these places. 
Get forgotten for the Kingdom for it’s here God is seen. 

There will come days when life is going to take your breath away and you’ll experience pain that runs deep…rest in the assurance that God is going to get you through it all!
He will never leave or abandon you.
For brokenness resides on this side of Heaven but one day when we join God in His heavenly realms all of our brokenness will find its once intended wholeness and healing.
Until then… we have the remembrance of all the times He’s brought us through the hard and holy moments of our life and will do it ever-so-faithfully again!

Words matter…they carry with them a reckoning force..ones that have the power to destroy or to revive lives.
Don’t waste your words on uselessness.
You have a tendency to get stuck on words, instead reserve your energy for the rebuilding and restoring of people to God.
The rest is only our missed opportunities that are wasted on pride. 

Remember when you hid your young self underneath the dining room table from the embarrassing shame of not knowing your ABC’s?

Well, it all turns out good.
Letters and words actually become what God uses in your life  to tell others about Himself. 

Let your love for words fall upon the pages of your heart. God’s going to use them to speak into places you’ll never travel. 
Our story is a bigger part of His story…you’ll find ‘story trading’ is a precious gift He’s entrusting you with as you share and collect stories all throughout life. 

On the matter of relationships.
Loneliness is a choice…

reach out and invest in others.
Don’t expect others to fill the emptiness that only God can fill.

People are worth it and community is a valuable commodity that is often exchanged for busyness.
Every hard is made easier inside of community!
Friends will be God’s hands and feet through your life to reach inside your heart and bring the healing it needs. 

The abuse you suffered when you were four will find its healing too.
Don’t let its pain drive you into all sorts of corners striving for attention, instead cling to the healing God has for you! 
It will blow you away what it feels like to be healed and healthy again. 
Share your story again & again for it’s a driving force in your journey to find healing. 

And as you walk into this new season of empty rooms fill them with the things and people of God. Let their emptiness become a vacuum for others to come and find rest in Him. Your heart will find healing as it has every time before. Our purpose never changes even in the midst of our circumstances changing…it’s here where God allows His purpose and our passions to collide, never becoming too settled for they’ll continually be changing!

Lastly, pray hard & never stop!

Prayer will sustain you, lead you and give you the grace to forgive. 
Prayer will carry you further than any thing else! 
Lean in deep to God in the quiet places of your soul, He can handle all you’re carrying and will lead you through your dependency upon Him. 
Sweet girl, pray with a recklessness and vulnerability before God you’ll be amazed at His response to your transparency.
His grace wins every time!
I love you younger self even all the jagged edges that God’s grace will soften and use along the way!

…….Ruthann, another version of you!

P.S. Here’s the beautiful family we’ve been given!

Thursday’s Thread: How is it time already?

Been spending a lot of time looking back and reflectinglately…there’s so much to take in and process these days.

I keep feeling my heavenly Father nudging me to rest & reflect.
But it’s hard to rest in the reflective moments
as our minds tend to conjure up all of our shortcomings and failures rather than celebrating the good.
It’s so tempting for us Mommas to settle in regret. 

In the hard days of toddlers and unending meal prep I often lost myself in looking ahead. Having four boys right on top of each other and a husband in ministry the days were crazy and intense. I found myself living in the waiting room of life more times than I care to admit…waiting for better seasons to come and just enough time to pass to usher in some sweet relief and yet here I am on the other side looking back…

I wonder what causes us to look ahead in the hard and look back when it’s passed us on by?

Each new first beckoned the years to slow down while the days seemed to pass all too slowly. Each fall brought the crispness of a new school year with the change of weather and an excitement of what was next. As the older the kids grew I had a hungering for the days of the past to return. The tension we live inside as Moms stirs a restlessness within us, doesn’t it? When we’re  down in the trenches of parenting it seems to come all too hard & fast. We spend so much of our days sifting through expectations and doubts… surviving rather than thriving. We can’t see it until we’re down on our knees cleaning up messes and life seems to be coming on so fast that we hear the whispers of truth we’re longing for….It’s in these times the truth has to overcome the lies shouting in our thoughts. Then there’s the dew drops from heaven God pours over us as we catch glimpses of our children living their own God-first life. This is where we begin to see what all our long nights and hard days are really all about…Mommas know you’re doing eternal and meaning-full things. Don’t ever forget this!

Our ministry of being present in their lives is how we’ll change the world-
One child, one day, one moment at a time!

For these seemingly small moments of investment are a big part of our child’s story… our ‘return of investment’ on our child’s soul. 

I can’t quite remember when it happened but without too much blinking it seems I’ve left the days full of naps and lullabies and am entering a season full of unknown. 

I’ve been thinking of a story filled with change and hardship. Though it tells a very different narrative it speaks of a longing to return. I am reminded of the Israelites who were freed from a season of  oppression and slavery, who longed for freedom perhaps even dreamt of their release. Yet within the pages of their story we read of a hungering to return to the past. I’ve wondered what could cause a person to yearn for the past more than moving forward? 

Yet these are the contimplations hovering over me…

For a second the other day I was doing the ordinary when all of the sudden I found myself weeping for my son’s leaving, for the quiet lull that would return with his absence. My heart was in a quandary of emotions…there’s nothing greater than knowing your child is walking in the way of the Lord and yet I knew there was an ending to a season coming through my door. My tears were burning my eyes, not another loss so soon. I feel like I’ve been collecting losses these days and yet my heart desires to not feel their pain. What eases this kind of loss? Our world numbs it with so many different things trying to find some relief from its pain….addictions fill our homes where too many dreams get replaced with regret. If only we knew our temporary fixes are keeping our healing at an arm’s length away from happening within our souls. 

These times become the narration of our story.
It’s where 
God calls for us to come….to sit and rest in these moments with Him.
God asks us to live a life of worship in the smaller corners of our lives,
where He meets us….
I think of Hannah a barren woman in God’s story who hurt day after day longing for a child to call her own.
One day while she sat in the presence of God in the walls of a sanctuary and poured out her pain before the Lord. Eli her spiritual leader came to her and mocked her accusing her of being drunk as he saw her lips begging God for a child. Rather than wallowing in her bitterness and hurt Hannah opened up her heart and spilled it like an offering before God and Eli. And God ushered whole heart healing to Hannah and gave insight to Eli who changed his tune. Eli prayed a blessing over Hannah.
If it weren’t for Hannah’s surrender
her laying down of her brokenness not only before God but also before her spiritual leader she wouldn’t have known the cry of her son Samuel that came from this interaction.

God wants to meet us in our seasons of pain and He wants to heal us here too!

It’s here where our lives get cultivated by our Creator, where he repairs our wounds. We’ve been writing a story our whole life…words from deep within.
And now God is leading us to finish the lyrics written from the depths of our souls.
It’s in these hard and holy moments that God is leading us to continue writing out
our story…
He’s making us in the secret…inside our moments of weeping as well as our sanctuary of worship.
My soul deeply longs to love rather than injure.
Oh God,
grant me this kind of soul quenching healing…
open my heart dear Father in the secret places and bring your fullness of healing.

Who’s needing some of this?
Maybe your circumstances aren’t the same, perhaps your story involves tragedy that’s still bleeding….listen to your heavenly Father who’s calling you to your knees as the sun peeks over the horizon. 

A lot is going on in our world…a whole lot of pain pounding down on the pavement of life. And maybe right now you need to hear the words rest & reflect… think upon God’s goodness and faithfulness and how He has carried you through some hard storms before.

Although there’s an ending to my constant shuttling of kids to their activities, no more fixing lunches in brown paper sacks and cleaning off their muddy shoes…
but what I know to be true is that God has prepared me and you for this time not only for the days which have passed on by, but for the days that are here & upon us.

My sweet son this one who is about to leave for college, sat beside me on my bed last night and patiently said, ‘how are you doing with everything Mom?’ It melted my heart at his compassion and thoughtfulness, because what I have ahead sweet friend is these kind of conversations filled with big questions where he’s able to handle my broken answers and console me. You see there’s not as much navigating to do when the one asking the question is mature enough to handle your answer.This growing up thing may be hard on our nurturing hearts but it’s really soothing to our souls. I’m finding the way through this season is found in celebrating these tender moments that renew us. We must remind ourselves our brokenness doesn’t knock us out it is what others get to be strengthened from.

So today rather than getting lost in the cutting edges of regret we must find rest and reflect on how God’s grace carries us forward.

And the question for each of us becomes…
‘How are we going to leave our story better than how it began?’  

Thursday’s Thread: Will I ever be enough?

Ever feel like you’re not enough?

Some days I struggle with this more than others.
Not smart enough….pretty enough…skinny enough…tall enough…good enough…not enough at home, work or in our friendships…
we’re just never quite enough for what ever it is we’re doing and there seems to always be someone who is doing it better…climbing further and running past us.

I’ve listened to plenty of hearts tell me these words to know there’s a whole lot of us sifting through our inadequacies and letting them swallow us up at night.

Our striving to be enough comes from a deeper part of our soul where our sense of belonging rests…it’s in this secret place we crave to know we are valued and matter. 

When I was younger I always wanted to be an amazing athlete. But no matter how hard I tried or how many hours I practiced, there was always someone better…I longed to be discovered and to stand out, but often felt overlooked.

Then when I became a Mom it was no different….

I seemed to always be traveling a few steps behind the other Moms.
You know the kind….
the ones whose kids know 5 languages and they’re able to write their name in cursive before they’re three.
While back at our house my kids were discovering new ways to string GI Joe from the light fixture and see how many frogs they could fit in a rubber boot.
While I was cleaning mud off the floors and begging God to help me find a way to keep four active boys occupied without permanently hurting one another or letting them play video games all day…
of course there were those days too!

I’ve wasted so many days wanting to be enough that I’ve missed living…

It’s been in the moments I’ve set aside my striving that I’ve found abundant life.

It was a hot summer day and the boys were all in their rooms for a little R & R. That’s what we called ‘Rest & Relaxation’ time, another name for nap time or let your Momma ‘Rest & Relax’ time.
Although I was missing my chance to rest because I had lined up a whole list of tasks for the afternoon. One of those was washing out the trash cans.
Why on earth I thought this was necessary I’m not sure.
There hadn’t been any rotten food left in them or an urgent call for it to be done.
My ‘need’ to do this was part of a much greater need to be enough.
I had prayed earlier in the day for God to bring someone into my day that I could share His love with…how this evolved into cleaning my trash can is beyond me.
As I was walking out the door that afternoon to begin this daunting task my phone rang and it was a young girl from our youth group.
She asked if she could come over that afternoon and talk.
Although I told her yes I felt torn…I knew if I met with her the tasks I had set out to do that afternoon would stay undone.

As I hung up the phone my heart was still in a bit of a frenzy.
You see what was in some strange way feeding my ‘not enough’ tank was getting things done and trying to be the ‘perfect’ wife, Mom etc.

But isn’t this how it can sometimes be?
In our pursuit to be someone else we lose who we are…
We believe the lie…. what we do equates with who we are.
I was exhausting my weary self trying harder to be better.
I went to great lengths to clean enough, pray enough, parent enough and all the while feeling like I wasn’t enough.
As I stood there torn and frustrated I felt a tugging on my heart and I heard God whisper ever so gently but firmly to my aching self…’you’re enough..all of you with me is enough’. It hung on me as if it was pulling me down…. I sunk to the carpet sprawled out before God
and I laid down all I was trying to be…
all my striving in vain…
the emptiness that felt like I’d never be enough pleaded with God to fill my brokenness and mend my splintered heart.
No more apologies needed for who I’m not…it was time for me to fully live.

When I was younger I can remember the words that stung this story trader’s heart.
I was told I talk too much.
Sifting through those words on the other side of wholeness I am fully certain that God put a crazy amount of words into my heart because He has a story to be written….no need to be saying sorry for something He’s doing.
It’s odd how people can sometimes view our tiresome traits.
If only I would have been inspired to find my voice… for life gets birthed when people are shown who they are.

Those who are told they’re too much are those God uses to awaken a sleeping world.

Yet it’s within our most broken & vulnerable moments that we are being prepared…
That afternoon that young girl didn’t need me to be perfect, to measure up.
What she needed was someone who had lived a few more years longer than her and who loved her enough to travel the hard road ahead with her.

I’m humbled every time I recall that afternoon.
She had bravely drove down our country road and stepped onto my porch to share the hard news that there was a sweet little baby growing inside of her…yes, no small need…no task comes before this kind of braving a storm where shame could have driven her away…every one of us needs someone in our times of courage so we know we don’t walk alone.

This is where God calls our hearts to be rendered to Him, not tangled all up in working out our worth.

We can often overcompensate for not feeling enough…
by being too much.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day.
Not only am I truly enough….my belonging doesn’t come from striving, it comes from choosing to be present and engaged with others.
For it’s here where our hearts are broken wide open for others and we experience the compassion of Christ, where our courage gets shaped by our pain.
I am enough for that which is far beyond my abilities because God who lives in me is more than enough.
My ‘need’ to clean out my trashcans that day was in no comparison to the life that needed saved that day…or the soul that needed restored.

…..Oh Lord please let our tasks not become what fills our thirsty souls…quench us with your living water…the pouring in and pouring out of our souls.

The fear of not being enough is our desperate cry to be seen and to be known!

Oh Lord how many of us are just wanting to be seen…Sisters may we look away from our phones long enough to see each other and speak boldly into each other…look around at your people they’re needing you to speak into them…because purpose is not something to be earned it’s something we awaken. We were made for this kind of community.

When we give away we receive! 

God’s not calling for us to be unseen but for Him to be seen.
He will always be seen when we quit striving to be more.
So many of us think the way of the cross calls for us to hide, but it doesn’t. Rather God  calls us to be vessels to illuminate His love to a hurting world.
It can be frightening living a life abandoned to God… resting in Him.
There’s something to ‘Rest & Relaxation’ time…
I’m learning to find this more and more these days.

Our world is so broken and is calling for us to meet it in its pain…it’s needing us to love whole-heartedly even if our hearts are broken too. For it’s in these times of pouring ourselves out that we’re able to be refilled by our loving Father in Heaven.
For deep heart-healing happens when we love with our whole broken hearts rather than half-hearted love any day…it’s where our brokenness becomes the gift God intended for it to be.

Thursday’s Thread: Heartbeats of home

The end of the school year has me all caught up in its happenings.
Funny how beginnings and endings
have a way of doing that…
my emotions range from feelings of crazy grace to inklings of unwanted sorrow.
I’m continually amazed
how God has let a busted up woman
raise a house full of boys into such
grace-filled men. 
But God has a way of bringing
the dead back to life
and restoring us for His greater purpose.

Yet intertwined within the beauty of my restoration and new life is a somewhat hindrance of grace. For inside the beautiful rebirthing of my soul I’m finding a loose strand….a remnant from my past surfacing. In the midst of recent loss and the impending losses down the road I am reminded how growth is part of our forever story. It takes my heart folding itself this morning intoa surrendered position for me to look into the internal work of my heavenly Father. This is not a moment fordoubt…..For a rendering of my heart is needed to expose and heal.It’s a time for me to go back to the beginning with God and wander in the garden a little longer with Him.

For the fourth and last time…this fall I’ll be leaving a big piece of my heart in a dorm room as we drop our youngest son off at college.

I’ve often been asked,
if it gets easier with each one.

I’m not sure Ive ever experienced the easier part of this….Each one of our sons has brought something so unique and special to our family that their loss was equally felt.

But, I will say the reality of life after this one leaves has me a bit undone.
It’s as if a corner of my life is being unraveling…. Don’t misunderstand me I still have a lot of life to live within the grief it’s just the process of unfolding what I’ve known for so long. I recalled the many times I’ve experienced this familiar feeling and how quickly I’ve attempted to fill in its spaces…..that I wonder what I will fill myself with this time...
I recall my husband’s all too familiar words….

We don’t raise them to keep them.’

This truth haunts me, I know he’s right but my soul wants to hang on…
But for how long is long enough…I wonder?
This boy right here is so ready to fly away just like each one of his brothers were.
There comes a time within each heart
-what is calling them forth is louder than the lullabies they’re leaving.
And it’s here in this bend in the road that I must release him to do what God has laid so heavily upon his heart.
The more I see hints of him perching
the more my heart wants to linger longer yet I know it is time…..

So at the beginning of these lasts, I am pondering a heartfelt question which is roaring inside of my chest….
Can I do this?’
Sure I’ll physically and emotionally get through this season but will I be better on the other side?
Don’t we all want to come out of our fires unsinged from the pain and better than we came in?
Like Daniel and his friends when they exited the fiery furnace…not a hint of the fire could be smelled. Oh to not have the scent of our trials on us as we emerge from them seems so right…
And yet sometimes God allows the fragrance of our struggle to draw others into our story with us. 

As I thought through this process that’s been tugging at my heart…. I wonder, what investment do I have wrapped up in all of this…. has making lunches, etching Bible verses upon their hearts and the mounting laundry baskets
become… who I am?

Has my daily role in their life somehow submerged into who I am?
Has my avoidance of getting lost in worldly titles caused me to get wrapped up in an identity crisis of my own?
In the midst of grieving the loss of my sweet Dad and the loss of being known as his child crashed me into this crazy intersection in life once again asking….Who am I?

Perhaps its what’s lying around many of our lives; some loose pieces of our identity have gotten embedded into our roles.

Have I staked too much of who I am in what I’ve been called to do?

As a Mom when our children’s achievements and behaviors regulate our emotions and our peace starts unraveling this is an indicator that our identity has gotten misplaced.
When our value is found in raising perfect kids and our peace becomes dependent on their performance rather than resting in Christ… It’s in these moments we feel stuck, when we aren’t where we thought we would be and neither is anyone else in our tribe…It’s in these places of discontentment that our identity can get out of whack.

Somewhere in my giving over…training…leading…serving…I’ve traded in this beautiful thing called Motherhood to define myself. It’s an easy thing to do. When we hear all day long… ‘Mom, can you do this…Mom, where is my…?’
We can forget the woman God created us to be reaches farther than our daily tasks.
That stirrings of our heart is God trying to awaken His call within us….His defining and refining of us.

Oh sweet Momma’s listen to what the Spirit is calling you to…yes be ever-so-present in your role as Mom, for the days take so long but the years fly by so quickly…but inside those days don’t lose yourselves. Yes, you’re their
Momma but you’re first and foremost
a Child of God…

The question doesn’t become whether I love my children more than God…it lies in where my love is rooted. My love for my children is best expressed through my deep love for God…He fills me up so that I can pour His love out upon them. When I confuse this order my identity becomes grounded in my role rather than in Christ.
And yet my love for God and my children are not in opposition or divided; they’re instead an extension of my love from God.

I remember one of my ever so tall boys towering over me in his dorm room as he looked deep into my eyes and said in his ever-changing voice,
‘You’re more than just our Mom, you’ve got a whole world out there that needs you!’
I knew in that moment if what I thought was hidden down deep filling my heart was coming to surface I needed an adjustment in what was defining me…my identity.
There’s immense beauty in a woman being able to fall apart so that she can let God put her pieces back together again…here is where vulnerability and the mercy of God meet. 

I am sure any task we do in Kingdom work has the potential of becoming a defining season for us…this includes the sweet and hard days of Motherhood too.

As I look down the road to my days ahead of empty beds and stilled rooms I can walk through these days confidently knowing there will be sadness but joy will come as well.

For God heals us and He fills us and when we feel like life is not enough He has a way of showing up ever so tenderly. You see to expect the future days to painlessly come would be to diminish the sacrifice & love that’s been lived inside them for the past 27 years.

When we love deeply we grieve deeply!

So as grief has come through my door before I expect it will be with me once again…and because nothing that has caused such work and prayer passes by without notice, neither will this transition of my life. I can fully trust in God that the impending season we are about to enter will be full of His blessings and joy as well as some sad moments.
Grieving people significantly in our lives places value upon all they have meant to us.
It also gives our days in the future the space they need to become great and filled with new beginnings.

So I will let my heart rest knowing….
There’s something sacred about doing the next thing even when it feels terribly ordinary and mundane in comparison to our days lived up to now.
Within these beautiful days we’re able to see glimpses of the seedlings we’ve been sowing for years. It’s in this season we see the harvest of our late nights and hours of heart wrenching prayers….These are truly the treasured days to come!

Thursday’s Thread: Your child’s struggle is real… a ‘crisis’ of faith.

I don’t know what parenting hard & holy has you awake at night right now if it’s a hard road you’re traveling through the murky waters of adolescence or just the every day navigating required for these tricky times.
But there’s one thing I know that is true even though the details of our journey
s may be quite different our children will all face an intersection….A crisis of faith.
Where their faith
will get tried through a difficult season.
Where the beauty of the cross
connects to the heart.

We all have an event or a time…. Where we’ve questioned God with our burdened heart to see if our belief was for real….a peering of our eyes to feed our souls.

With three sons married and out of the house we are holding onto the shirt tail of our youngest anticipating his launching and doing a lot of looking back. Thinking through the years I’ve been hesitant to offer a lot of parenting advice as I often feel unworthy to speak. Much of the time I’ve felt like I was doing more wandering than anything else but God keeps prodding my heart to tell our story. I suppose God has a way of seeing deep within while not paying a lot of attention to what lies above the surface….He has a way of repurposing our struggles and turning them into usable grace-giving life to others. 

Parenting is hard friends, it’s been some of the most exciting, holy, unknown and intimidating seasons of our lives. Although it is far more enjoyable to rest in the beautiful moments, it seems we live so many of our days navigating through the hard ones with our families. 

We happen to be in one of the more treasured seasons of parenting as our youngest is at home with us and we’re able to lean back into our older sons and glean wisdom from their experiences. It’s been a beautiful time of listening to stories of God’s redemption and protection in their lives. As they speak first-handed of what worked well and not-so-well in our parenting… they’ve been generous to share from a sweet place of wisdom and grace.

Their faith hasn’t come without brave battle wounds which God is using to heal others.

In the middle of the crazy and the common our children each encounter a confrontation of faith. A time when their life calls them to choose the why and what they believe. Parenting them through these hard and holy times is a beautiful and bitter thing,

I love what John Bloom another writer says about this season…

if our children are going to see the Light, they very likely must endure darkness. Which means we will endure it with them, and experience a powerlessness over the outcome we find hard to bear.’

My husband and I worked with students for over 20 years, I naively liked to think of raising kids  as an equation A+B always =C. But I soon found out it didn’t work like this and honestly a bit devastated as I spent many days sprawled out before God. No matter how hard I deeply desired to protect our sons from evil their faith would have to be fought for in order for it to become their own.  These battles cause our kids to trust and rely on God more than they ever have.

God uses whatever storm our child needs to develop a faith that is deep and belongs to them alone. Our faith is not enough for our children to borrow, they need to get it for themselves. These sacred moments we feel we can’t take any more
God has a way of wrapping us up in His loving arms and carrying us through these rough waters.

God is tenderly rooting them in their faith and using these times to get to know our children better.

My Father in law was so good at speaking truth he had a special way of speaking words and etching them on my heart.
He used to say,
Ruthann with God you will have everything, without Him you will have nothing!
These words have resurrected my thinking so many times and reminded me as a parent that God alone is what my children ‘need’, the cost may be great but their faith will become greater.

The book of James tells us…
‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’
James 1.2-4 TPT

It’s so hard for us as parents to imagine our children trust falling into anyone’s arms but our own and yet the moment we recognize the greatest trust fall they can do is into the arms of Jesus.

Our child’s crisis of faith becomes our cross road as well deepening our faith and rooting it alongside of theirs. It is where we have to keep on walking when our legs feel too weary to stand…breathing the truth of God into their lungs and placing them into His care again and again.

One thing is for sure…remember although this is a strenuous road know you’re not doing it alone…parents all around you are in their own hard broken moments of their own and God is with each one of you and He will see you through! These crisis’ are hard because we can’t know if our broken and needy prayers are going to bring about their clinging to God or a rejection but know if you’re feeling weary…God is not done writing your child’s story and He is not going to stop until He gets their whole heart!
And no-thing you do will keep Him from giving you all you need to get through. 
God is your child’s biggest fan…He’s always there beside them no matter the trail they trod…He’s cheering them on and loving them farther than your love can reach. 

And as Ann Voskamp says so beautifully….
‘…parenting is hard & beautiful,
and very, very hard & very, very beautiful,
and sometimes you just get down on the floor & weep
& there’s no shame in it — tears just saying we’re loving deep.
And it’s kinda true… parenting children you literally have to look up — keeps you parenting from the best posture of all.’

Thursday’s Thread: Looking For the Ordinary When Life Feels Chaotic

I find myself longing for familiar these days more than ever!

Been walking through a lot of the unfamiliar lately and I feel my heart calling me back to what seems unchanged.

I’ve always thought I was okay with living life in spontaneity and yet I’ve never longed for consistency more than I am right now. 

In the past 8 years we’ve moved, changed jobs, had 3 sons graduate high school, 2 graduate college, another who will be graduating next month with his beautiful wife…3 sons get married and move away to 3 different states, both of my parents die and as I write this I am preparing not only for my son and his wife’s college graduation but our youngest son will be graduating high school and leaving for college in the fall two states away….an empty nester about to be happening over here.

To say my life isn’t screaming for familiarity, I’d be lying!

My heart seems to be lingering in the ordinary much more than I’d like to admit. It’s been calling me back to the simpler days of balancing laundry and naps, tending to scraped knees and breaking up arguments. Oh back then truth be told I felt it was all a little too chaotic but these days to go back to fixing snacks and feeding hungry stomachs seems like it would take away my hungering pangs that are keeping me up at night. It’s funny when we’re in the midst of the mundane and the ordinary, we long for the days that seem a little more uncommon and extraordinary. 

And yet I am reminded that in the middle of all the unsettledness it’s possible to drop an anchor down right here and find some steadiness in the storm.
I’ve been studying about anchors lately and finding my heart leaning into their purpose more and more.
Did you know some of the earliest anchors were rocks?
And these rocks were said to be so effective they’re often still used today along with an anchor when it needs extra stability and it needs permancy …to stay firmly planted.
In fact in the midst of a storm they’re so effective they say….
‘they’re nearly impossible to move’.

I want God to be my rock…my anchor
when this life seems to be changing all too fast and loss seems
to be the forces of my storm.
No matter the wind that is hurling against it if it’s firmly anchored the boat will stay put protecting it from damage. The boat may move ever so gently in the wind but it will stay put.
So it is in our lives too, we may feel the perils of the storms but oh may we anchor our souls in the strength of the Lord.

As I am writing this I have a reminder wrapped around my neck. My sister had it made for each one of us recently when my Dad died. He was a sailor for 21 years in the Navy and he always seemed to be our family’s ‘anchor’ -the one we felt secure in. And yet when he died my sister knew we needed a daily reminder that
God is the anchor of our souls
so that’s what she had etched on a chain for us.
I find myself grabbing it when life seems a little unsteady and I feel a little alone. It’s there in those moments I realize my ‘home’ has shifted a bit… and my anchor lies in the Lord.

The details of our live’s events don’t choose what is ordinary and what is not. It’s a choice to live in the present rather than wishing the days away!
Every morning is a day waiting for me to join into what it holds for me. Every day I am given another day to make an imprint on history and yet sometimes I live too many of my days lingering in the past. Somehow I just need to trust fall into this season and trust that God has gone before and behind me and goes with me too. A lot of days I’d rather just stay inside the comfort of what is familiar and attend to my wounds. But inside the confines of my security I can hear God calling me into a new rhythm for my days.

When I was having these 4 boys of ours, no one ever thought to tell me of the changes that were going to hit all at once, like the crushing of a violent storm. They told me plenty of times about how my hands were full taking care of four boys, you’d think just one of them would have warned me of the days of transition ahead, that were beyond the horizon.  I suppose their warnings would have been in vain overshadowed by my physical exhaustion and tossed aside as unmerited advice….after all we usually only live inside our present days.

Today as I was day-dreaming of boys hanging out of trees and gathering frogs in their boots, I was thinking how easy it is to memorize the days of old rather than living in today. That’s why I took out his small leather notebook this morning. It was one I had given my Dad when my Mom passed away. It was for him to begin again and to count his blessings.  Today as I reached into his dresser drawer I pulled it out as it was time for me to begin again and do some counting of my own.
I opened the half used notebook as an invitation from Dad to finish his words and count some of my own simple thanks….every one written as an arrival upon the pleasures God had given me….the sun as it warmed my face, the flowers that are scattered across my yard delicately decorating my path, even the breath I had just taken that filled my lungs…each blessing was a gift. I wrote down each one pumping hope into my veins.
After all we could all use some hope wrapped around our brokenness.

I’ve been finding the way out of my brokenness is reciting blessings.
Dad always told me when things were pressing down real hard to count my blessings and life would seem a little bit easier.
Perhaps in the process of being grateful God is somehow binding up all of my broken pieces like a rock anchored at the bottom of the sea…anchoring my heart and keeping it  steady in these storms.
When I spend my days looking to the beauty that surrounds me rather than the noise that’s wreaking havoc on my soul I find myself exhaling more than I am deep breathing…counting my blessings instead of keeping track of my losses. 

Sometimes just breathing speaks our desire to walk again.’ 

That’s what I said to her and she shook her head with tears streaming down her cheek. Loss was bigger than words can explain in her one life….she buried a child who’d taken his life and now she was losing one thing after another in her own life….her marriage, her job, a friend, a relative…burying them all inside her brokenness. Made my eyes shift off my losses and see deep within her heart….tears welled as I struggled to give hope. This woman had hope, more hope than I could have passed out that day and yet she was leaning into me for a little more….
Maybe our brokenness gets redeemed when we see a purpose it can serve!

My mind shifted to the boats that line the coast back home and I realize….
Anchors allow Sailors to count their blessings rather than their losses too!

Choosing to anchor my heart in Christ alone won’t prevent the storms from coming but it keeps me counting beauty rather than becoming a critic in the midst of all our craziness. And when I count good rather than hard my life gets resurrected to what God has set before me rather than feeling like I’ve died. 
After all this change, the one that needs to change is me and the only hope of becoming a new me is anchoring my soul in Christ. So the one thing I can do amidst the change and chaos is to pay attention to the beautiful things He’s surrounded me with.
Then maybe then I’ll hear His voice in my day a little louder as I walk with Him and in Him one step at a time…

then, pretty soon His steps will be mine and I’ll look a little more like Him.

Thursday’s Thread: The Road Back Home

Has God ever called you to go back home?

My parents had just spent five years of their lives serving in the inner city of Philadelphia when they heard God tell them to go back home.
Five years earlier they obeyed God when He told them to push pause on their lives, hold off retirement awhile longer and go to the inner city of Philly to serve there.
And now here they were just five years later being told to go back home…. It would have been easy for them to question God but they didn’t instead they graciously grabbed hold of God’s directing in their lives and headed home.
They felt God was leading them to their family. Most of their kids and grand kids lived in Maine and they felt a clear calling to make their family their ministry.
Just a couple of years earlier my Dad had suffered sudden death and spent 7 days in a coma.
When he woke up from being unconscious his brain had to relearn how to do some of the simplest tasks and yet Dad woke up with a distinct message from God, which he communicated, to all of us.
He said that while he was in his coma he heard God tell him that all 10 of his children would be walking with the Lord before he died.
I remember when Dad shared this with me I have to admit I was a tad bit skeptical of his encounter. I reassured him God would continue pursuing all of his children but it was up to them to follow God and have a relationship with Him. But Dad unswervingly held close this word from God and even spoke of it to his death.

I was raised in a strong Catholic family and although I grew up knowing about God it wasn’t until my Dad’s first heart attack when he was 39 that I heard of the idea of having a relationship with God and how much God loved me.
It was sixteen years later that Dad had his encounter with God. At this time very few of my brothers and sisters were walking in the Lord, I prayed for all of them to find God but I couldn’t imagine God would be so gracious to pass out such a promise to my Dad. I mean I’ve read that kind of stuff in the Bible where entire families came to the Lord but surely God couldn’t do that with mine! There were 10 of us kids, could God really work in all 10 of our lives?

I was recently reading a story in Mark 5 about a man Jesus encountered who had a legion of demons wreaking havoc on him and how Jesus set him free. Following the man’s healing he had a seemingly simple request of Jesus he asked him,
‘can I go with you?’
And to the man’s surprise Jesus replied
and told him,
Go back to your home and to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how He had mercy on you.’
Like this man Jesus also told my parents their ministry was back home.
Many of us struggle with this kind of mission. We want the exotic, adventurous assignments. The one where we evangelize to strangers and the lost yet not our families! We often neglect the sharing of our stories with the ones God has placed inside our family circle.
Yet that wasn’t so with my parents, it was so refreshing to see the fire in their hearts for their new ministry.
They returned back home after serving a five-year commitment in Philly and immediately began investing in my family’s lives.
They babysat grandchildren, extended love to the broken and began the ministry of reconciliation where it was needed.
Dad and Mom got involved in their church even traveling an hour and half to be part of a church.
My parents never claimed to be perfect they just gratefully embraced God’s amazing grace and love.
They served God even in their own brokenness this was where the beauty of their lives laid. They chose to set aside the lies the enemy often tells us that we can’t lead and serve in ministry unless we are healed and walking in perfection. Dad and Mom continued their ministry to our family until their deaths…Mom’s in 2015 and Dad’s recently in March of 2018.

Can you imagine if the once demon possessed man chose to keep quiet?
If he had returned back home and chose not to embrace the ministry God had given him?
Who would have missed the message of the gospel?
And just like him my parents had a story to live out back home, the gospel to be told through their lives.

As I mentioned my Dad recently passed away. Before he died I had the treasure of having him at my house for five weeks, it was a beautiful time of watching him live his ministry out all the way back home to Jesus.

Come in a little closer friends…. because the story I have to share is a very personal and tender one but I know it has the power to minister to some of you who are praying for your love ones to know God.
Until recently my Dad had been receiving treatments for his bone cancer back home and had decided to come and see us in the south for a few months to enjoy the warmer weather and a change of scenery. I was ecstatic; to have him closer and glean from his hope filled perspective.

A few days before my Dad came to Texas I sent him a copy of John Piper’s writing titled ‘Don’t waste your cancer’.

I had shared it with my sister years ago when she had cancer and thought Dad would be blessed by it now.

He read the article the night before he came to my house and the following morning as my younger brother was driving him to the airport my Dad told him of his renewed purpose for his life. He told my brother about the writing and how it gave him a new perspective for his life.

John Piper writes….“Cancer does not win if you die.
It wins if you fail to cherish Christ.”

So that is just what Dad chose to do!

‘So it is with cancer.
This will be an opportunity to bear witness.
Christ is infinitely worthy.
Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life.
Don’t waste it.’

“If you don’t believe God designed your cancer for you, you will waste it.”

When Dad arrived he and I had a lot of conversations,
I loved talking with my Dad.
During one of our conversations I asked him if he realized everyone all of my siblings were seeking a relationship with the Lord except for one.
We both were kind of stunned…we hadn’t thought of it recently and were reminded of God’s promise to my Dad’s heart. You see my Dad wasn’t counting our faith like that, although he desired for all of us to follow Christ he just faithfully prayed for us all to truly know Christ. We rejoiced in this realization as a declaration of how God was fulfilling what He had told my Dad 26 years earlier. As we talked that day I told Dad maybe my sibling would find God through my Dad’s death and not his life…. that perhaps God would use my Dad’s absence to fill my their life with Him. Dad found comfort in this but didn’t stop living out his ministry to our family, which God had on his heart.

Just five days after arriving at my house my Dad went into kidney failure. We didn’t expect him to be dying so soon. He thought he had more time and more of his ministry to do. He was always looking ahead to what God was asking of him. One day in the hospital as he was really suffering I asked Dad why he thought God was having him wait to die, I wondered what was getting him through the hard of each day. He confidently told me ‘God has more ministry for me to do.’ Dad didn’t make our family his only ministry he served everywhere he was. He told countless people of God’s love from his sheets of his suffering, never missing an opportunity to credit God and pass out his love and grace. As his days grew shorter and nearer to his death my Dad asked for this sibling to come and see him he wanted to speak to them about God one more time. My brother came the following week and stayed for a couple of days. As my brother was leaving he gave my Dad a hug and as he hugged him my Dad whispered in his ear ‘Trust in the Lord so we can be in Heaven together.’ It was a message God had given Dad, he loved my brother dearly and couldn’t imagine Heaven without him!
Dad died two days later and just 5 days after that I got a text from my brother that read,

‘I wanted you to know I decided to trust the Lord.’

I still can’t write these words without getting teary…without joy bubbling in my soul. You see my sweet brother knows the grace and love of Jesus and is walking with Him. We all miss Dad but together we have Jesus. We may lose everything on this earth but we have Jesus together.

What ministry has God laid on your heart that you keep putting off until a later day? Who has He been nudging you to talk to?

No matter what our circumstances are… we have a purpose, a ministry here and just like Dad resolved to not waste even the very thing that was wasting his physical body away, we too have hard & holy things to live out.
Sometimes I can get so caught up in the here & now, the busyness and hard days that I forget people, I forget to love on those around me and I forget why God has placed me here.

What is God asking you to put in this space?
Don’t waste your______________!’

I know there’s a lot I could fill in the blank with right now…. my time, my hurt, my unforgiveness, my losses, my pride, my selfishness…. whatever it is that He’s calling you to not waste resolve today to live through it…a recent diagnosis, a recent layoff, an addiction that’s ruining your life, a broken marriage, betrayal…whatever it is I challenge you to resolve it within your heart
-to make every moment,
every gesture,
every conversation count and matter.
Because when we make all things count we make Jesus’ sacrifice matter!