Why I’m Not Afraid to Air My Dirty Laundry On Sundays

be still and know that I am GodLast Sunday we returned from a family trip in the wee hours of the morning. After attending church and eating a good meal, we spent the majority of the afternoon relaxing, what we normally do on Sundays. A day of rest. A day set aside for worship. A day different from the rest.

With today’s technology, it’s easy to do laundry without effort. You put clothes in a machine, turn a dial, and press a button. Going to my child’s bedroom requires more work than that.  It’s a simple process.

Last Sunday, I did the unthinkable – I did some laundry and hung it on the clothes line.

Gasp.

I’ve come a long way in being okay with hanging up laundry on Sundays occasionally.  We live on a main highway in a small conservative town. Stores aren’t open here on Sundays. People don’t mow lawns on Sundays. And you don’t air your dirty laundry on Sundays or people will see.

Like other unwritten rules, I’ve learned to assess the root and value of them.

Are they for man or are they for God?

I’ve learned to check my motives for breaking silent codes that bring looks of “I can’t believe she’s doing that.”  Hanging clothes on the clothesline on Sundays is one I’m not bothered by because there’s a principle I value:

I should be the same person in public that I am in private. 

If I’m okay with occasionally doing a few loads of laundry on Sunday, then I should be okay with letting people know about it.  God sees it anyway. I can’t hide things from Him.  He sees my dirty laundry.

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Does He see yours? Or do you try to hide it?

For years I hid my dirty laundry from others. Not the stinky-teen-boy kind, but the unhealthy behaviors I struggled with. Having an eating disorder was a very private thing. No one knew my stuff except me and God and my parents on occasions. I was good at hiding things.

Are you good at hiding things?

For years I responded to conflict with anger. As my children grew older, I couldn’t hide it. It began overtaking my relationships with them and their dad. It was easy to hide, too. I could do a lot of good yelling before going to church and sit really calm in that church pew.

There’s an unwritten rule you aren’t supposed to struggle with things.

You definitely aren’t supposed to be angry in a pacifist faith.

I learned to hide things real well.

So people wouldn’t see.

But God saw.

And as He nudged me to address the anger, the hurt, and rage, I felt more comfortable letting Him wash my dirty stuff. He was gentle with  it and He removed the stains and stink and filth and exchanged it for clean, bright, and beautiful through the forgiveness and power of His grace.

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It’s been a journey with me and God. As He’s changed me inside and out, things have changed in how I relate to unwritten rules.  I’ve learned to answer to God first, then my husband and family above anyone else.

Paul says, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t make me innocent.” I Corinthians 4:4

What guides your choices?

Having a clear conscious in the eyes of others doesn’t make us innocent.

While it’s trivial, I’ve learned in my accountability with God, is okay to do laundry every once in a while on a Sunday. I’ve learned I answer to Him for my actions. I could have an empty clothesline every Sunday but be cheating on my husband Saturday night.

It’s all in how it looks, right?

Where do you need to get honest with God?

What I love most about God is that He sees everything and yet He pursues us because He wants a relationship with us.  He pursued me for years to change and heal from an eating disorder and to change and heal from anger, hurt, and rage that was inside of me. I’ve learned I can air my dirty laundry with Him and it’s okay.  He makes us clean and bright, to be on full display in His clothes of righteousness, not ours.

Will you let Him clothe you today? It’s safe  with Him. He won’t fail you.

Father, will you speak to each one reading these words and take the contents of their heart and make it what you desire? Will you equip those who struggle with unwritten rules and judgment from others to know you love them and are a God of grace, forgiveness, and freedom?  Will you continue to pursue those who are struggling with things inside their heart that only you know about?  

Thank you, Jesus, for washing dirty, smelling rags and making us beautiful in you. Amen.

How can I pray with you or encourage you as you learn to walk in freedom? I’d love to hear.

P.S. There will be a new look to Life Beyond the Picket Fence soon as I launch a new website for the blog.  You’ll be able to subscribe to a newsletter linking you to the other things happening here at the ministry and connect you with the other sites I’m writing for. If you are a current subscriber by email, I’m hoping the transition will be smooth. I’ll keep you posted when the site is launched so there won’t be interruptions in your connection here with us.  Thank you!

Slow and Steady Does Win the Race: The Challenge of Consistency

The Challenge of ConsistencyRemember that Tortoise and Hare?

There’s a saying,slow and steady wins the race.” Other words describing this principle are

  • consistency
  • perseverance
  • doing the work

Is it hard to be consistent and persevere when you don’t see it paying off?

In the Love Affair that’s Not With My Husband bible study, we’ve witnessed Esther being consistent and persevering in what Mordecai instructed her to do {Esther 2}. We’ve identified how hard it is to “trust and obey” when we don’t see the results of our efforts. 

Things You Feel

Whatever you call it –

  • impatience
  • discouragement 
  • frustration
  • self-pity

…if it pulls you away from being obedient, it impacts.

Doubts You Havea pity party

  • Have you ever had a knock-down, drag-out pity party with God?
  • Have you ever been impatient and jumped ahead of God?
  • Have you ever been discouraged by people whizzing by you while you’re consistent in the task you’re called to?
  • Have you ever felt God just doesn’t see you?

I’ve had these feelings. As the bible study ladies and I have been looking at God’s character and perspective, we’ve been reminded we don’t see what God sees. We don’t see the finish line. We don’t see what we’re overcoming by being consistent, persistent, and faithful. We don’t see the character God is forming in us when we do the steady work.

But God does. 

Like Esther, at just the right time God puts us in situations where the work pays off. Slow and steady does win the race, if we are patient and have faith in the One who holds all things in His hands.

Applying It To Scripture

The same is true for our study of scripture. When we’re faithful and consistent by spending time in His word, He builds things in our character we’ll need later on. By looking at God’s character when studying scripture, it gives us a picture of His faithfulness and reminds us that He is the only One who sees the whole picture!  Join us in studying God’s word by looking at

  • God’s perspective
  • God’s character
  • How you can apply His perspective and character to your personal situation.

We’re using these principles as we study the book of Esther, but you can use them in studying any scripture passage. We’d love to hear what qualities of God’s character you are learning about as you study His word.

I’m hoping to put together a simple resource to offer readers when our bible study is complete. In the meantime, whether it’s studying scripture, living your faith, parenting your children, or doing the job you’re called to do – be consistent, persevering, and don’t give up. 

Remember the rabbit probably got tired when the tortoise got his second wind.

tortoise and hare finish line

Sometimes being patience brings the opportunity for the last stretch to be the best one ever.

Slow and steady……whatever your race, He’s the one who brings you to the finish line.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Home Improvement: Having Faith in the Unseen

Our dehumidifier - "Bucket is full."
Our dehumidifier – “Bucket is full.”

There’s a machine making background noise as I’m typing. It’s a dehumidifier taking the moisture out of the heavy summer air. Every twelve to fourteen hours, a light on the machine says, “Bucket Is Full” because the machine has collected enough unseen water particles from the air producing a tangible substance – water.

Amazing

I know there’s a sixth grade science fair explanation here, but every time I empty the bucket, I think of another simple-yet-complicated process – Faith. Continue reading “Home Improvement: Having Faith in the Unseen”

Parenting Series: Fifty Things I Want My Child To Know About Life

To my children entering the world of adulthood –  I recently wondered what I haven’t taught you.  So here’s my non-exhaustive list of things I want you to know. 

fifty things I want to my child to know about life.

  1. Be as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove {Matthew 10:16}. Use common sense when dealing with people, institutions, and situations.  When in doubt, trust your gut.
  2. Don’t use a Pampered Chef stone on an open flame. It will break.
  3. Cleaning up after yourself right away will save you a lot of dread of doing bigger jobs later.
  4. Don’t give out your personal information to anyone unless you need to for business, professional, or personal reasons.
  5. Disable the GPS tracking on your smartphone when you finally can afford one on your own since we have deprived you of this luxury.
  6. Be kind to everyone but you don’t have to be their friend if they are not healthy or appropriate to be in a relationship with you.
  7. You can buy potatoes, beans, corn and tomatoes in a store. Not everyone has a garden.
  8. Pay your bills on time and don’t carry credit card debt.
  9. Watch for hidden fees in business transactions. You don’t need “all the extras.”
  10. If it’s too good to be true, it is. Unless it’s answer to a specific prayer and you’ve checked it out with God first.
  11. Pray every day and be in God’s word as often as you can.
  12. Consult with God about your daily decisions.
  13. If it doesn’t feel right, wait, or don’t do it.
  14. Don’t buy meat from Walmart.
  15. First impressions really do matter.
  16. Budget for your necessities first and make sure you can pay for them. Get necessary debt paid off as soon as possible.
  17. Stay away from people with bad pick-up lines.  Or good pick-up lines unless you want to have sex with them.
  18. Don’t have sex with anyone with consulting God first. He does have something to say about it. If you’re serious about your relationship with Him, you can’t ignore this area.
  19. Open the door for others.
  20. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
  21. Don’t take stupid risks. Have common sense {see #1)
  22. Build relationships with your siblings. You have relationships with them for life. See them as adults, not as who they were as kids. Don’t hold grudges.
  23. Find a church you feel comfortable in, but don’t stay away until you find “the right one.”
  24. Keep in touch with your grandparents.
  25. Don’t say display anything on Twitter or Facebook you wouldn’t want a future boss, spouse, or mother-in-law to see.
  26. Don’t throw credit card receipts or statements with personal information in the trash no matter where you live.
  27. Don’t get into a car with a stranger.
  28. If you can’t find a job, McDonalds is always hiring.
  29. Marriage is hard work. Don’t think you can change anybody but yourself.
  30. Extend grace to others.
  31. Don’t judge people who were not raised like you.
  32. Don’t expect your future spouse to be like me or your dad. 
  33. Earn your way in life but give to others and graciously receive when something is given to you.
  34. Air-dry any clothes you don’t want to shrink or look worn.
  35. Clothes pins can be found at a hardware store.
  36. You can’t microwave anything with metal.
  37. You need to brown a roast before putting it in the oven or crockpot.
  38. Kids are cute but don’t have them before you are ready to give up your time and energy to someone else.
  39. Worship God no matter what the circumstance.
  40. Cheap food is not always the healthiest.
  41. You need life insurance, car insurance, and renter’s or home-owner’s insurance.
  42. Be cautious when walking in dark hallways. Park under lights in a parking lot at night.
  43. Be generous with kind words as long as they are genuine.
  44. Don’t order things from TV advertisements.
  45. Cheap is not always better.
  46. Expensive is not always quality.
  47. Go to a doctor when you think you need to.
  48. You can learn to do just about anything. Most of what your dad and I know we didn’t know when we were your age.
  49. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
  50. Your way is not the only way.

That’s all for now. I love you,

Mom

What You’re Born To Do: Lesson From a Killer Dog

I learned a lesson from a killer dog. This spring our Boston Terrier was killed by another family pet, an English Shepherd. Both were outdoor dogs along with our German Shepherd. The kinship reminded me of the furry friends on Homeward Bound.  They were steadfast dog-friends and would play endlessly around our little homestead.

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingSomething went wrong in that cold spring day. My husband found our Boston cowering under a car in our barn. When Ron picked her up, blood spurted out of a wound and there were bite marks on the side of her body.  “Play-fighting” gone bad.

The culprit, our English Shepherd, had blood near her mouth. She wanted to be stroked like usual, not knowing the harm she had done.  We knew.  The Boston didn’t live.  We decided our Shepherd needed a new home.  One where she could run and herd animals, which is the nature of her species. She needed to do what she was born to do.

Are you doing what you’re born to do?

Our Shepherd was designed to be a herding dog for other animals. Though we have animals on property, we don’t have the need for her as we did when we were still milking cows. Every morning before milking, my husband would go into the pasture and herd the cows towards the holding pen.  A great job for an English Shepherd.  Without animals to herd, she wasn’t able to exercise her God-given abilities and calling in life. She became restless, aggressive, and destructive.

Can you relate? Do you ever feel restless, irritated, and angry? Have you ever considered the connection between anger, discontentment, destructive behavior and the frustration of not doing what you’re wired to do? Do you ever wonder why you’re jealous of others or why you lash out through gossip, mean words or back-handed comments?

Just like my dog put her out-of-sync energy into destructive aggressiveness, we can put our out-of-sync energy into being destructive or into a state of long-term frustration and irritation.

We weren’t meant to be this way. We were meant to be free, to have joy and fulfillment from being and doing what God’s design is for us. The problem comes when we don’t exercise our calling, our gifts, our leg irons“bents.”  It’s similar to students who love working with their hands or are body-kinesthetic.  Many of them shut down or learn to hate school because they spend the whole day reading, writing and doing math. They get irritated and restless, some to the point of being assertive or angry. They feel stifled, misunderstood. Trapped.

Do you feel stifled, misunderstood, or trapped? What would it look like for you to soar in your gifts, talents – the things that make your heart sing?

Like our dog who needed a home where he could “be” in his life’s purpose, we need the space to do this, too!

I’m not going to give you an inspiring message to “be all you can be.” Most of us can’t quit our job tomorrow or abandon our kids to be all we want to be.  If so, I would trade in laundry to be the Laurie Partridge equivalent for Hillsong.

But – you can become more aware of what your heart cries out in the big and little moments of lifeWhat makes your heart burst forth in song? What brings passion to your soul? What is the root reason of your discontentment, frustration or irritation? Once you discover these things, you’ll be more aware of how God’s wired you and whether you have an outlet in your life to do and be what He has created you for.

running puppy

I wasn’t created to do laundry. I definitely wasn’t created to sing like Laurie Partridge. But I am wired to minister and communicate hope to others through teaching, writing and speaking.  A few years ago when I was in grad school for counseling, I was sharing with a stranger about a subject in History I loved teaching in the classroom.  The person approached me later and said, “When you talk about teaching, your eyes light up. It’s your passion. You were made to teach.”

He connected with my soul.  My heart does sing when I communicate what I’m passionate about – either in print, in front of people, or one-on-one as I share about Him.

What makes your heart sing? Do you have opportunities to do exercise this passion in your life? If not, what do you need to do to connect with that joy inside of you? I’d love to hear from you –please share your journey with us!

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Some ministry announcements:

Recently a few readers request topics for me to write on either here or the other sites I write for.  I’d love to hear from you, too.  What topics would you like to see me write on related to faith, parenting, or life?  Please respond with those comments on the ministry’s Facebook page and I’ll enter your name in a drawing for a surprise giveaway as a “thank you” for partnering with me.  You can get to the Facebook page here.

Those of you who are prayer warriors, I’m speaking to two different groups this week in southern Indiana on Hope Beyond the Picket Fence. Would you pray for hope to be received by women who need encouragement? Thank you.

Sharing Hope Beyond the Picket Fence
Sharing Hope Beyond the Picket Fence

Also, I’m speaking throughout the Midwest this summer and fall.  If your women’s group is in need of a speaker for a fall or spring 2014 retreat, please consider this ministry! I’d love to tailor the needs of your group through biblical teaching and authentic encouragement.  Feel free to contact me at yoderbl@gmail.com for more details or visit the speaking tab for topics I frequently speak on.  Do you have a theme or subject you don’t see or would like for me to speak on a blog topic you’ve read here? Just let me know and I will design a retreat or individual topic for that theme.

Have a great week – and I’m praying for God to show you how He has made your heart to sing!

Saying Good-bye and the Power of the Mundane

photo flowersI’m sitting on my porch swing taking in the day I hope will never end.  The sun is on its way down to slip behind the trees in an hour or two.  The flowers are bright around me and a breeze is on my cheek.  The birds are singing,  the cattle are walking to a cool place for shade.  Another Sunday gone, another week comes to an end. So predictable yet so different. 
                            This week my oldest son is graduating.  Up until now things have been routine.  Days have been predictable like every season we’ve walked through.  Today as he shared in church, he reminisced on things that have influenced him…...Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, the support he and his classmates have received in being part of a faith community.
                          “Being in a small town, there’s accountability. Because if you mess up, everyone knows,” he said.  A doubled edged-sword in ways.  My son declared it instrumental in helping him make choices growing up.  There’s value in everyone knowing your name.
                            Today’s not quite the same as I sit on my front porch rocking to the low bellows of the hungry cows.  In the routine of photo (87)life, somewhere my boy became a man. A man who has surrounded himself with friends who hold him accountable.  A man who has chosen to love God not because we said so, but because he has learned of His grace, faithfulness, and unconditional love.  A man who began walking out of my life years ago as I realized I needed to release him to be the leader God has called Him to be.
This week we will celebrate, say good-bye, and let go.
                                 Every mother releasing her son knows its different than releasing a daughter. Somewhere along the way your role changes as you step aside to let him grow and figure out who he is.  There are times to step back so he can develop strength.  Times where you have to be strong and push him into the storm so he can figure out how to survive, all the while watching with a life raft ready at a moment’s notice.  Times where you must step back and let his father instruct and discipline.  Times where you still touch his cheek with a kiss because he is still a little boy inside a man-size body.  Times where the best words are, “I’m proud of you.”
                               This boy has been a big brother, his sister’s best friend, and a son who has held me accountable when my actions or words did not match what I believed. He has been the voice of reason when needed.  In the ordinary and routine moments, he has grown into a man who is ready for the next step.
                        I believe raising kids for moments like these lie in the mundane and routine, in the moments we live when we think no one is watching.  One thing this child and I know how to do is forgive, trust, and give second chances. Important moments for us have included the words, ” Will you forgive me?”
                               I have two more boys to raise in mundane moments.  Six years from now, sitting on my porch swing, I will be saying good-bye to my last knight in the household.  I’m reminded to not rush these days on or to close my eyes to what is ahead.  Each child God gives us is one to be fully seen and known.  They are kings and queens in the making, not for our glory, but for His.
                        I’ll shed lots of tears this week along with other moms and dads celebrating the milestone of graduation.  I’m thankful for each tear of joy, sorrow, and sadness along the way.  Each one a part of the process of releasing a child to fly, lead, and grow.
                        Don’t miss the moments each day.  Let the wind blow on your cheek as the sun slips beyond the horizon. Read a book, sing a song.  Let your boy dazzle you with his charm or your girl snuggle in your arms. Shed a tear, laugh out love, and kiss a cheek.
 photo (86)
And let the mundane and routine bring blessing when the last goodbye is said.

The Power of Hope and Compassion: Let’s Git-R-Done

This week has been crazy. We’re getting ready for graduation and open house next weekend. The second time around isn’t so bad, but it’s a great reason to get things done around the house that need to be done.  We’re operating is “Git-R-Done” mode.

photo (91)Like cleaning, painting, and the other “normal” stuff that happens every spring at life on the Back Forty….planting garden, 4-H animals, tending these things while doing the “real stuff”of life like working and raising kids.

Tired has entered our vocabulary just a few time this week.

I love this kind of tired. There’s something meaningful in planning, preparing, “git-r-doning” that brings rest and peace to a soul at night. Getting things accomplished, seeing the fruits of your labor, and having things in order.

But one night this week, I went to bed early after doing nothing but working nine hours and bringing home Little Caesar’s Pizza. I was exhausted that day, mentally and emotionally.

Do you ever have days like that?

It’s one of the hazards of being a counselor.  As I came home from a normal day counseling at an intermediate school, I walked and talked with God while my kids ate Little Caesar’s.

The kids I work with are heavy on my heart this week, but there’s so much more to it.  Because their lives are normal for many families in our community, in your community.  Kids who don’t know their dads.  Kids who witness violence in their homes leaving them scarred and emotionally messed-up.  Kids who understand their parent’s priorities don’t include them.  Kids who are on the brink of making good choices or ones that will set them on a path for self-destruction.

I’ve come to believe one of the greatest powers in human connection lies in words of hope.  Not false hope, but real hope.

Hope in choice.

Hope in what you can control.

Hope in seeing the good in a situation.

Hope in a future that is yet unwritten.

Hope in a God who is personal.

I sat in a meeting with a mother who broke down in front of three other adults. She had been strong and brave all year, but the restraining order she had against her child’s father told me much more.  As she was leaving the administrator’s office, I took a risk, hugged her, and said, “God bless you.”

She sobbed more and clung to me like a life preserver.

The risk of compassionate words in that moment spoke truth to my soul.

We need each other.

The boy in my office cried because he’s not accepted by the Latinos and he’s not accepted by the whites. He’s mixed. He’s not accepted by his mom or his dad. A product of a sexual encounter, he doesn’t know family. He finally said through his tears, “I hurt. I don’t belong anywhere.”

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong anywhere?

As I came home with Little Ceasar’s and put my cleaning clothes on, I longed for each child to know what “home” is.  I longed for each adult walking through life with childhood scars to know what it feels like to belong, to be accepted.  I long for each of us walking through life in difficult places to have someone reach out and say, “God bless you for where are at today. You’re a survivor.”

If you’re a person who can give hope to another, let’s Git-R-Done. MP900387256

Let’s take a risk in caring, in sharing, in reaching out.

Let’s be the hand of Jesus and words of hope that give life to others. 

Will you do that with me today?

Will you stop the busyness for just a moment to give a moment of life to another?

God bless you, my reader, for the places you have walked and have received hope for tomorrow.

If you are walking in hard places today, let me pray with you on your journey. You can email me at yoderbl@gmail.com

Join my for other posts this week:

Mother’s Day Legacy: My Daily Prayer at www.notalonemom.com

Being Intentional About Quality Family Time This Summer …at www.parentsspace.com

The How’s To’s for Making A T-shirt Quilt at www.parentsspace.com

 

Mother’s Day: Inspiring Women and Messed-Up Experiences in Motherhood

MP900341759Today is Mother’s Day –  the day we think of the blessings of motherhood. In reflecting on this day, I’m reminded of inspiring women who had messed-up experiences in motherhood.  Many biblical women endured hard places, being forced to lean on the Lord alone and nothing else. For example:

  • Jocabed, mother of Moses knew her child would be taken away and killed if he were found.  Emotions if I were her?  Fear and anger (Lord, why would you give me a child only for him to be taken away or killed?anxiety and depression. But she responded with faith in God even though He gave her a child at a difficult time. Faith that He would take care of her and the child. Faith that the Author of their story knew what He was doing.
  • Mary, mother of Jesus knew her divine pregnancy defined her as morally corrupt and open for misunderstanding and judgment.  Emotions if I were her? Fear, anger, anxiety and ambivalence.  While knowing the honor and calling on her life, no doubt there were dark days for her, being aware of the whispers, looks, and judgment that came her way.  But she responded by clinging to the Lord she knew was writing her story, clinging to Him when no one else may have encouraged her.  She clung to him when she felt alone.
  • Sarah, mother of Isaac was pregnant past her prime, when her husband already had a child from another woman.  Emotions if I were her? Fear and anger (Lord, why would you allow Hagar to bear Abram’s child when you knew I was to have one?), anxiety, jealousy and bitterness.  While she knew she was bearing a child anointed by God, the strained relationship between her, Hagar and Ishmael must have caused some strife in her life.  She responded by remaining faithful the story line the Lord gave her, even though it was hard. Scripture tells us she laughed (Exodus 21:6) and took one day at a time.

There are truths these women encountered that face many of us:

Life wasn’t supposed to be this way

This isn’t what I expected

Motherhood has more pain than joy right now.

MP900227697I hear these statements when I share with women. Mother’s Day can be painful to individuals suffering in heartache, often alone.  But motherhood pain isn’t a popular discussion in bible studies, church meetings, coffee breaks or in social media.  Facebook or Twitter statuses rarely say, “Motherhood is not what I bargained for. I don’t think I can make it.”

If Hallmark doesn’t fit the bill for you this Mother’s Day, God’s Word does.  It shares the lives of real women in hard places, with real pain….. in places they didn’t expect to find themselves….places where there are no easy answers.  If you or a woman you know faces a tarnished Motherhood this year, share these principles from biblical women who were hard-pressed to find joy in motherhood.

  • They each knew the Lord intimately.  Each of these women could stand in their circumstances because they knew the Lord and His character when the truth of their circumstance dictated His absence from their situation.  God is never absent from our situation or that of our children He sees beyond the trial and knows the ending.  In that we can take hope.  When there’s no hope in sight, we must look to and know the author of the Story.
  • They clung to the Lord and His character.  Clinging conjures up visions of grasping hold of, refusing to let go because doing so would result in disaster (clinging to a raft vs. drowning, clinging to a ledge vs. falling to destruction).
    Clinging
    Clinging

    Despite their emotions, these women clung to the One they easily could have rejected.  If motherhood only includes blessings, then what do you cling to when the image of motherhood is not what you signed up for?   You cling to a sovereign, good God who sees the bigger picture…..clinging to the truth of His character when the “truth” of our emotions can lead us away from Him.  Our emotions can betray us.

  •  Motherhood does not define our happiness, but our relationship with God does.  What do you think got Mary through the whispers, misunderstandings and acts of judgment thrown her way?  If Jocabed’s happiness was determined by baby Moses, what was she left with when God’s plan took this child from her?  Happiness for these women did not rely on their motherhood or dreams for their children, but was rooted in their relationship and identity with the Living God. 

Wherever this Mother’s Day finds you, take encouragement from these women. They were real women whose encouragement didn’t come from the culture around them, but from the Lord authoring their story.  You can receive the same encouragement, too.

Lord, thank you that You are the Author of our stories.  Will you encourage each woman who is hurting this Mother’s Day?  Thank you.

Inspiring Stories: Kaylee’s Story “Loving the Kids”

This post is written by my daughter. For the prelude to her story, read here.

It’s taken nearly a year to heal my broken heart—to relive the rich memories with a song rather than sorrow lacing my heart.

It’s been nearly 11 months since I left with a group of students from Liberty University to spend the summer in Guatemala.  While there I had the opportunity to learn Spanish, live with a host family, and revel in one of God’s sweetest gifts to me—the chance to work in an orphanage.

Loving the KidsWe did ministry by serving the Guatemalan people in various ways. I saw pain, suffering, and poverty. I saw people who had nothing. I saw teenagers who weighed a mere 40 pounds from lack of food. I saw a woman with Down syndrome living in a trash heap. I saw a boy with epilepsy whose bed was nothing more than the ragged and worn hole of a hammock he shared with his other siblings.

But I also saw joy amidst the sorrow and healing among the brokenness. As I was serving in the orphanage I was honored with the sweet and precious gift of loving these children—the forgotten ones.  These little ones had a cot to sleep on and tortilla and beans for their bellies but didn’t know a father’s love or a mother’s touch. For me, that is where the difference lies.

The street children and sickly kids may not always have a full stomach or a spacious home, but they have parents. They have someone who loves them—who is  willing to go days or weeks without food so that their children might have a bite to eat. Some may argue with me, but I find it hard to discern which is worse— go without food, or not know the love of a mother or father.

The first day at the orphanage, I held a 3 year old in my arms named Andy. Instantly, I knew the warm truth that trickled deep into my soul: he was mine. I believe God draws different people to each other. He drew this precious bundle of laughter and mischief to me. I visited him in the baby house every day. Going on walks, we giggled, tickled, played, laughed and chased each other. All the little things little boys do.

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A week into the trip, I met Antonion or “Tono”—the little boy who would forever change my life. I still can’t think of him without a knot in my throat but I have a joy in my spirit now. One afternoon I sat down to help this little 9 year old boy, who sported the crooked smile behind his tough guy facade, with his homework. The rest is history. He was my shadow for the rest of my time there.  Mejor amigos (Best friends). I fondly referred to him as my “hermanito” and he replied in broken English “You (pointing at me) my seeeee-ster for-eever.

When he said that, how could I ever go home?

I don’t know why God drew me to this certain child. Maybe it was his crooked smile, or the way he would jump into my arms when he saw me. Or how he begged me to just watch him play soccer for hours. Or the way he would take my hand and off we went to play marbles, cards, or just sit and talk. Other children could sit on my lap, but only if he knew where I was. Maybe it was because he reminded me of my own three little brothers who are now too old to sit in my lap. I don’t know, but what I do know is that he needed to be loved and that was something I could do.

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I fell in love with Leydi and her sweet spirit, Alexa and her tough demeanor (once she knew I was there to stay, her brattiness melted away and she let me into her heart), Julio with the twisted leg, Cristian, the constant troublemaker who just needed a smile and hug,  Elias, who wouldn’t sit still at school unless he was sitting on my lap.  The list goes on…

For a time, I honestly thought I would never leave.

I was having the time of my life.  My favorite compliment was when people asked me in Spanish if I was “mixed,” thinking I was half-Latina because of my tanned skin and dark features, but knew I wasn’t because of my blue eyes. I would proudly reply, “My Grandpa’s Italian” and beam because they thought I fit with the culture I was becoming a part of.  I even got use to the rats and bugs. They didn’t bother me so much. I loved the simplicity of life there—the relaxed atmosphere, the friendliness and love of the people, and not having access to modern technology.

I was home.

The week before I had to leave, I hardly slept. I couldn’t believe the time had come. I’ll never forget whispering in releasing and letting goAndy’s ear “Te quiero muchisimo mi niñito” (I love you little one) knowing he wouldn’t understand that the next day I wouldn’t be coming back. Saying good-bye to the other kids was painful, especially when Julio, my treasure with the twisted leg, looked at me and said “Adios preciosa” (Good-bye dear one). As soon as he said that, I kissed him, and walked down the mountain because if I hadn’t I never would have. Tono was the good-bye I was dreading. He buried his head in my stomach, squeezed me tight and we said good-byes.

I came back to the U.S. and cried every single day for the next month. My heart had never been more broken.

Life went on. I went back to school. There were days when I would weep on the floor of my dorm, crying out to God asking, “Why?”…. Why what? I didn’t even understand the questions in the depths of my heart. But God heard them and he allowed me to go back for 2 weeks in January.

The highlight of that trip in January was spending time at the orphanage.  I saw the precious bundles of joy that I had missed every second I was gone. Once again, I kissed, cuddled, tickled, chased, and played hide and seek with my baby Andy. I held Elias while we watched a movie. I held tightly to Julio (the boy with the twisted leg) as we jumped on the trampoline the orphans had gotten for Christmas. I told Leydi and Alexa they were beautiful, I tucked Marcos into bed and kissed his sleeping cheek.

551075_324437974298235_97023136_nI prayed with little Tono to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I took him down to dinner with me the last night and as the music played, he grabbed my hand and put his other skinny arm around my waist and said “Bailamos” (Let’s dance).  The little gentleman whisked me across the floor. When we said good-bye a second time, I cried as he wrapped his little arms around my shoulders, kissed my cheek and said “I’ll love you forever.

He is just ten years old.

I cried as I walked away leaving Elias crying on the steps of the orphanage at the top of the mountain. I cried as I knew I would miss seeing baby Andy grow up. My heart broke even more. I felt like Mary in Luke 2:19 “She treasured and pondered all of these things in her heart.”

These last few months, God has been faithful as he has graciously helped me release the bitterness and anger at Him in my heart for tearing me away from these precious kids. It was only when I acknowledged my bitterness and anger toward the Lord that my heart began to heal. It was only after this happened that when I looked at pictures of the children I could smile and remember instead of cry.

Now I have a joy in my spirit instead of sorrow in my heart.

Matthew 19:14 says, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

The little children go to Jesus, not me. They are His and not mine. He loves them more than I do or ever 1342f-img_1464could. Instead of mourning a loss, I celebrate the fact that Jesus knows each one of us and our needs individually. He is taking care of the children; He only used me to help him for a time, but what a blessing it was.

If you are a parent, hold your children close and tell them you love them because there are millions of kids out there who do not have parents—little girls who will never have a daddy to tell them they’re beautiful and little boys who will not know a mother’s loving touch.

If you have the opportunity, I challenge you to go and serve. The very least you can do is pray—pray for God’s children. That is what my prayer has changed to.  Instead of saying “God, let me go back,” I pray “God, today may they know they are LOVED.”

I write this in faith that I am going back. I don’t know when, where, or how but God has told me I am going back. I claim that promise. In the meantime, I pray for the precious ones and trust God knowing that He is loving them and meeting their needs in a greater way than my simple love ever could.

Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

 How are you living that out in your own life today?

If you would like to sponsor one of the orphans at Hope of Life Ministry, please contact them and begin a relationship with one of these children that will change your life and theirs.  Click here for more information.