Yaya, Close Eyes!

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Yaya and Daniel

We were privileged to have my parents join us at 11:00 service at church today. Daniel, my silly and busy two year old, was standing in the chair between my parents holding their hands during the singing. He was dancing and smiling, just having the time of his life. Then the pastor began to pray; Daniel got quiet and still. As the pastor paused towards the end of his prayer, the back half of the church heard, “YAYA! CLOSE EYES!” David and I couldn’t stop the laughter; and the look on my mom’s face was priceless. She had opened her eyes to check on Daniel during the prayer and he called her out in front of everyone! It was so hilarious

As usual, this made me think a little deeper. Daniel is watching us and he is learning the right and wrong way to do things. He may not understand what prayer is, but he understands that it is a time where he needs to be still, quiet and keep his eyes closed. He has seen us do it enough that he is now learning to recognize prayer other places and not just at meals.

Moral of the story: Our children are watching. What are we teaching them? Will they see enough faith to recognize unbelief? Will they hear enough truth to recognize the lies? Will they see enough hope that they grow a heart for the lost? Let’s lead them well and point them to Jesus in all that we do.

“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.”                   Luke 11:33 NIV

 

 

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Dada! Are you?

One of Daniel’s new things is looking for people when they leave his immediate line of sight. So tonight, we left Dada in the pipe section of Home Depot and went outside to look at the flowers. As we came back inside, Daniel starts yelling, “Dada! Are yoooouuu?” He was calling and looking down every aisle. Finally after looking every place we could think of, we rounded the corner and Daniel’s face lit up. “Dada! There. Dada!” After all the looking and calling we finally found where daddy was.

Daniel’s sweet little voice echoing through the store tonight made me think about how often I intentionally look for God. I can read my bible and go to church, but those can often seem automatic. How often do I look in every place possible, desperately seeking my Dada and excitedly waiting to find and be where he is?

What if he is leading me to seek him in a different place? What if I need to turn my attention in a different direction?What if I need to look past all the junk I have allowed in my lives and seek harder than I ever have before?

What if we walked through the store of life and looked down every aisle, actively calling out, “Dada! Are yooooouuu?” I guarantee you Jesus would meet us down the aisle where he is working and invite, equip, and motivate us to join him right where he is. Are you ready?7860a0e620a20b4bdaebca59bd8722ba--typography-poster-typography-design

1 Chronicles 16:11 “Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.”

Victory in Jesus

Yesterday we laid to rest a man of God. As people shared about his life, tears fell from my face. Lives completely changed, paths totally altered, and Jesus always glorified were the echoes of every person who spoke of Mike McDaniel and the life he lead. He showed Jesus through the simple things like repairs and mowing, but also in the bigger things like writing life changing curriculum and investing in men and women with the truth of the Gospel message.

He loved his wife well. They sought to honor Jesus with their marriage and spent countless hours together in prayer and bible study. They ministered to women, men and couples; sharing what their life had been before Jesus freed them and they offered grace, hope, and the promise of freedom for those who chose to accept Jesus as their Savior.

Mike was one of those men who the whole room stopped to listen to when he talked because they knew it was important. He had a way with building deep relationships with men and helping them feel empowered and safe to share their struggles. He was good about following up and meeting one on one with people he knew needed that time. He was a true disciple who created more disciples so that they could go and change the world for Jesus.

We all have our struggles, and Mike was no different; but he never let his struggles have the winning punch. Mike was very honest about his past struggles and that is what propelled him forward to keep helping others who struggle with addiction. Addiction ministry is hard, but Mike knew that he had a calling on his life to never back down in trying to help others overcome. He knew that Jesus was the only answer and he had to let others know that there is always hope no matter how bleak life seems to look.

At the end of the service yesterday, a group of men from a recently opened men’s recovery facility sang “Victory in Jesus”, one of Mike’s favorite songs. It wasn’t particularly on key or something I would hear on the radio; but it was one of the most touching renditions I have ever heard. A few men held a hand toward heaven and a tear in their eye. Others glowed with freedom as they sang of Jesus’ victory in their life. These men weren’t just singing, they were sharing, through song, of the life changing power of Jesus as he was loosing the chains of addiction in their lives and ushering them to the throne of grace. These men were a representation of Mike’s life work. He had prayed for this men’s facility to open for a long time and when it opened, he immediately began investing his life into these men, as much as he could, even when he was sick.

“Victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever. He sought me, and he bought me, with his redeeming blood. He loved me ‘ere I knew him, and all my love is due him, he plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.” May this be the anthem that we, just like Mike, build our life upon. May Jesus be the life-giving and life-driving force behind every decision we make and every life that we touch. May we, just like Mike, offer all our past baggage over to Jesus and ask him to use it to bring glory to his name. May we pour our lives into others, with nothing holding us back, all for the kingdom’s sake.

The song that Mike’s friend Hal sang, “Give Me Jesus”, keeps replaying in my mind: “In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus…Give me Jesus, you can have all this world, just give me Jesus.” That’s what it’s all about. Thank you, Jesus, for Mike’s life; a life well-lived. He sought to honor you and accomplished just that. His memory will forever be held close in our hearts. May he rest in your peaceful embrace in his new heavenly home.heaven

 

Moms Get Added Grace

Moms get added grace. Our daily normal is an odd mixture of cheerleader, peace-keeper, motivator, intervener, mess-overlooker, encourager, cleaner-upper, tear-wiper, hand-holder, runner-afterer, hug-giver, and builder-upperer. I’ll give an example. My oldest turned six last month. One of the adventures we promised him was that he and Daddy would go zip-lining at Tree to Tree Adventures in Tallahassee. Bravery is often hard to come by for a little guy, so I spent days encouraging him. We played out different scenarios and I built that confidence up.

Fast forward. Daddy is zip-lining on the adult course. The little one, who will be two this week, makes a massively stinky diaper present. My oldest wants to try to go to the bathroom before he goes zip-lining and is trying to manage on one of those super tall toilets. We are in the big stall that has a changing table and little man makes the process almost impossible by kicking where feet ought not kick while stinky diaper issues are being cleaned up. Big kid is moaning, groaning and fussing about his hands hurting as he is trying to do his thing and hold himself up. I get little man changed and set him down. He finds every disgusting surface to touch while I am encouraging the older one (you mamas know). Older one is crying because nerves apparently got his system wacky. Wants me to hold his hand. Turn my back for a half second and little one is sliding under the stall on his back trying to escape. All I see are germs. I scurry over and drag him back under. He sneaks over and tries to climb into brother’s lap, but I pull him away. Older child is frantic at this point and wants me to reschedule and take him home. Younger child finds random toilet paper pieces and shoves them into spinny trashcan lid as far as his arms can reach. Again-so many germs. I shoo him away and try to encourage the older one, again. Little one finds soap dispenser and  drips soap all over the floor. I chase him back and he sits, sprawled out on the floor. So gross. My insides are cringing at the germs. He slides his legs back and forth like a snow angel and laughs hysterically. He gets up wants to love all over me with his public potty, germ infested self. Eww! The older one needs my encouragement again so I direct focus there. Little one suddenly appears with a plunger from who the heck knows where and begins swinging it like he is a long lost knight of the round potty or something! stock-photo-illustration-for-children-the-super-kid-hero-with-toilet-plunger-and-viking-hat-realistic-353547500While all of this is going down, I begin wondering what kind of crowd we have attracted outside and try to push the thoughts away and focus on moving this moment along. Finally we have success and I manage to get little guy to drop the plunger and stop touching everything he can reach. We wash hands and every other exposed surface of the skin!

And just like that, life goes back to normal.

They go to the playground, run around like nothing ever happened while mommy finds a bench and talks herself down off of the edge and reminds herself that it’s just a part of the job. Oldest child feels better and is ready for ropes course and zip-line. Brave does not even begin to describe how he handled that course! He was so confident and never wavered. All  of that pep-talking was worth it!When he got to the end, the guide asked if he wanted to go again and he did! My overly cautious child owned it!100_4648[1].JPG

 

In that moment, I didn’t care that my children wreaked havoc on my nerves. I didn’t care that my little one was covered in germs that I probably couldn’t even pronounce. All that mattered was that we got to cheer on my oldest as he conquered this new adventure. Little man got to see all of the “Beeeeg Dinnnnoooos” (big dinos) and practice saying it all day long; running until he literally stopped moving. We had a great day as a family doing something we don’t often get to do. And God absolutely gave me the grace that I needed for each step of the way.

God does that. He gives us mamas added grace because we never know what the next moment may hold. These babies are important and they need us to be on our A-game. Even when the germs gross us out and the moments seem to never end. He always gives us just enough grace to behold the biggest blessings of our lives.

 

 

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Holy Spirit Power

I was 18 years old and in a country halfway across the world. I had just experienced a six hour bus ride up and around a mountain on a pothole-ridden dirt road. We had a live chicken, tied up in a bag, slide back and forth under our feet, squawking and fussing the whole time. And to top it off, I had the privilege of visiting a “public restroom” that was door-less and contained open-hole squatties that emptied down a long shoot into a pig trough.

The town we arrived in was small and at the top of a mountain. Our hotel had a stunning view and was complete with a small bowl and bar of soap to wash our clothes. Dirt roads lined the town as small concrete buildings acted as homes and business. It was one of the nicer towns we had visited during our summer there and it was one of the most unique as well. We had been told that the only churches allowed, unless they were secret house churches, were all controlled by the government. As we met local believers in this town, we realized that somehow this church was meeting but the government in the town didn’t regulate their worship or doctrine. They were meeting twice a week and were able to teach the WHOLE TRUTH!

The next day we were invited to visit the church and they gathered many of the members together. Our translators relayed the amazing story as we stood in a circle in a dimly lit stone building. There were no men in the congregation and the oldest lady there acted as the pastor. She said they had prayed and prayed for a man to be the leader of the church but no men would step up. Then she prayed that God would send them someone who could read so that they could do more than just sing hymns and pray, but also learn what God’s commands said. When no one came, she and the congregation prayed fervently that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally open her eyes to be able to read the words of scripture.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

As she opened up the only bible in the church, with a faith bigger than she could muster on her own, the words leaped off of the page! She had never been able to read a day in her life and all of a sudden, God answered the prayers of this hungry congregation. She wasn’t able to read anything else, only God’s Word! How incredible!

As we all stood in a circle, holding hands, tears streaming down our faces, we experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. The local believers began singing a familiar hymn in their language and we joined in English. We worshiped. With a people distant and different but suddenly as close as kin. Sisters. Daughters of the powerful King I served.

I left that meeting overwhelmed. My faith was so weak; my concept of God, so small. I had never had to depend on God like that, much less experience such a tangible miracle as these women had just relayed. I remember asking God to increase my faith; to teach me to believe and expect the unimaginable.

I sit here 17 years later recalling this amazing memory that changed my whole understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit and I still pray that God would increase my faith. But then these questions keep resounding again and again: What or who am I investing in that would require this kind of faith? Is my life too safe? What holy risks do I need to take? What faith-filled prayers do I need to take the chance of praying so that others will come to know Jesus? Am I…Are we living a faith-filled walk with Jesus?

Maybe it’s time we take the chance…