What happens when three year olds can read

I love my kids.

I think they are amazingly, awesome in so many ways. I get to watch Parker walk out her love for Jesus and have a heart for the orphan. I get to see her play the role of the oldest with joy. I get to see Emery adore and bless the little ones around her. I get to watch her toughness and grit like determination and I love it. I get to see Bradley and his fierce focus when he is on the court or the field.  I also get to see his sensitivity to others and all the feelings.  I get to watch Judson interact with people and inevitably bring a smile to their face. I also get to watch him learn and enjoy the simple things.

I see the great things in my kids and the not so great things. Just like you.
I think some of the greatest blessings to my kids comes when others see the same things in them. I watch their eyes light up when a coach or a teacher praise them. I see their confidence grow when my friends encourage them.  I see their faith become greater when other adults affirm what we are teaching them at home.

Simply put….my kids need you.

Recently I saw the exact opposite of the above happen at Jud’s preschool.  His teachers were praising and sharing another student, who at the age of 3.5, had learned to read. They had balloons and were sharing it and I saw this look of protectiveness come over a lot of the parents.  I watched them struggle to encourage and celebrate this amazing accomplishment in this cutey. And I thought about the thoughts I have had in so many situations with my kids and their peers.

Straight up competitiveness. That feeling of being threatened because of the success/accomplishment/talent of another child.

We have believed the lie that another kid’s awesome makes our kid’s awesome less.  We have bought the idea that our identity is found in the behavior/accomplishments/talent of our kids. When our identity and worth is wrapped in our kids we can only walk in jealousy and competition.  We lose the ability to celebrate because we are too busy downplaying the abilities of a three year old to make ourselves feel better.  We place the weight of our worth on our kids and they are not built to withstand the load.

The enemy wins every time when we are more focused on making our kids better than yours.

What would it look like if we began to actively embrace the unique gifting and design in each other? What would it feel like to be excited when our sisters walk out their calling? How would the environments our kids find themselves in each day shift when we take the load of our worth and root it in Christ?

My kids may never amount to much in the eyes of the world or other parents or even their peers. But, my prayer is that they have so securely anchored their identity in Jesus that none of that matters. I pray that they will walk in confidence because they know they are NOTHING apart from Jesus and He has declared them worthy.  And the reality is that starts with me and them watching me choose the Kingdom instead of the world.

Sweet friends, let’s raise our kids with voices that celebrate how Jesus has wired them and the race He has marked for them. Let’s fight for our identity to be marked by Jesus not the accolades of our offspring.

Let’s raise world changers together.

 

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Calling All Adoptive Mama’s

For several years, I worked for an agency that wrote home studies for adoptive parents. I read, did a lot of research, attended conferences and went on countless post adoption visits. I had my easy explanations, advice, tips, one liners and opinions for my new, in the trenches, haggard, exhausted and overwhelmed parents.

Basically, they were stuck somewhere in between the I love this child, I’m afraid to tell the social worker what is really going on, and what the heck have we done.

So, feeling uber confident in my knowledge and experience as an adoption social worker, I just knew we would sail into the adoption sunset within 2-3 months of bringing Judson home. I would apply all my adoption expertise and our little guy would be attached, sleeping through the night, fully integrated into the Stew fam.

That lasted 2 hours of being home. I might as well have brought home pink flamingo to raise for all the knowledge I had.  There was quite a bit of breakdown between my head, my heart and my emotional stability. Pretty much I was a mess and that was just the start.  Discipline, sleep, routine, bonding and nurturing….all those things that we have had to change up some paradigms to inch towards our new normal.  And when we were knee deep in it, I had zero brain power to read a book about post adoption issues. I just wanted someone to give me ideas…in a short, non judgy, bullet point way.

SO, almost three years later, we have weathered some storms, made some mistakes, come to some realizations, laughed, cried, and basically pieced together what works for our guy within our family. And now, being on the post adoption, we survived the early years side of things, I had an idea…

Real adoptive Moms.  Real Advice. Real In the Trenches Ideas.

I would love to gather things that families have tried  in regards to Bonding, Eating, Language, Sleep, Siblings and Discipline, etc.

After I have gathered all of the info, I will compile the info and have it ready to share!

Please leave a comment with 2-3 tips that worked for your family. Include the age and gender of your adopted child when they came home also! Thanks so much. I really believe that we can help each other and encourage one another in the journey. I can’t wait to see how we are able to reach out and help other trench dwellers!

Blessings!

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Home

Home

The word that stirs so many emotions and catchy phrases. The word that implies a place and also a heritage. I am learning a lot about that small word that carries great meaning. I am a southern born and raised girl who loves monograms, hair products, SEC football in the Fall, a dish for every occasion and making two syllable words sound like three. I love the hills of East Tennessee and the big hometown feel of Nashville. I don’t like sweet tea but I sure know how to make it.
Home for me holds memories of long, hot and humid summer days that were spent by the pool, on the lake or in the air conditioning with my friends. It is Sunday dinners at your parents house and catching up on all that’s going on with your Mississippi family. Home is memories, both the ones you have and also the ones you are making.

But, while the south is home in so many ways, it is not our HOME.

Our home is where we choose to root and plant our family. More than that, our home is simply found in Christ. I am learning that He is the only security that is eternal, not a place, not an address, not a memory or a heritage.  People often say things to us like, “I could never move from my family.” Guess what…I thought the same thing.

I learned a long time ago that the words NEVER and ALWAYS can only refer to God.  Any time I use them in reference to myself or others, I am simply putting a limitation on God and His plan for my journey.

NEVER keeps you from living out all God has planned, just like ALWAYS limits how you see yourself and others in the building of the Kingdom.

The reality is just because I utter the words NEVER and ALWAYS, it does not change, alter, skew, reverse, or disqualify what God is wanting to do in and through me.  Stepping out in faith will often mean leaving comfort. Whether that means going across the street to meet your neighbor, inviting a co worker to lunch, volunteering at a homeless shelter,  moving to another country or taking a new job.  Making the decision that your security is not the goal but simply choosing to trust Him more than you trust your comfort, your idea of what you need to live, and what you can do, opens us up to see God move in a new and fresh way.

We can do some good, decent things on our own. We can also omit a lot of what we could do because of the limits we put on God.

OR

We can believe God when He says that “YOU CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO GIVES YOU STRENGTH.”

We can you know….do all things through Him.  We can rely on Him to be your strength. We can do immeasurably more than we think we can….because of Him.  We can believe Him when He says there is a way that seems right to man, but its end is death (Prov. 14:12).   The way of man that seems right…the way that seems right, that is safe, that makes sense.  When we determine our rights and automatically equate what makes sense/is right/ with what God wants and expects, what God’s plan for our life must be,  is the minute we choose death. Because we serve a God whose ways are higher, whose love is deeper, and whose will is sovereign.

Life or Death?

Our life is not our own, just as His death, for us, is not something we deserve.

Life or Death?

Never and Always……

May we always choose Life and Never underestimate the journey God has for us.

 

 

 

 

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Lessons Learned while Stuck on an amusement park ride

The Swings…the place where one of my worst “what If” fears became the “oh sweet Jesus, we are actually stuck.”

On a bright and cheery Monday morning, our fam of six set out with friends for a day of thrilling adventure courtesy of an amusement park full of rides waiting to be explored. We started out small on a kiddie coaster and it was pure, hands in the air, JOY, for our brood of six.  Right next door was this fun little ride.

 

We coaxed our notoriously non rider to ride it. “It will be great. NO big deal. YOU got this. These are totally safe.”

To our utter astonishment, he agreed. It was a two seater so I took Judson, Jason took Bradley and the girls rode together. Great. Awesome.

We buckle the belt, listen to fourteen announcements, and up we go.

Up and Up and Up and Up..150 feet in the air. .0284 miles.  50 yards. 15 stories…in the Air.

Then we started swinging. Around and around at 40 mph and I’m thinking.. “This is so cool. Look at Bradley conquering his fear. Thank you, Jesus, for giving him courage.”

It was glorious. I was answering one of the 45 questions Judson had in a 2 minute span, looking around.

Then all of a sudden we are a slowing. Slowing. Slowing and I’m thinking. “NOoooo, this is just part of the ride.” Until we STOP.

Just Stop.

And hear, “We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are experiencing technical difficulties. Maintenance is on its way. You are safe.”

Awesome.

So here are the lessons I learned over the next 10 minutes while suspended 150 feet in the air with my five year old, waiting to plummet to my death.

1. We either fuel our fear or we face it

Fear is simply the emotion we feel when we believe we are in danger of a person or something and it is likely to cause pain.   The crazy thing is we often label something as a fear, that simply has NO power to harm us. For instance, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof our mouth…not a fear. Fear of peanut butter causing us to go into Anaphylactic shock due to an allergy…legitimate fear.  While suspended in the air, I had to make the choice to calm my heart, trust the Lord, and speak Truth to myself. I made myself look around, down and all around.  My entire family was on this ride and I had zero power to control the outcome.  Fear could have caused me to think that we should never get on a ride again because we could die.  Facing our fears, many of which are based on what ifs, often stops us from living. Abundant Life is usually not on the safe side of fear, where we overestimate our ability to control things, but rather on the facing of it, moving through the lies to the Truth, and choosing the overcome that which has held us back.

2. I answered the question of what if.

What if we are up here for two hours?  What if we fall to our death or life altering injury? What if Judson slips through the two safety belts? What if Bradley starts to panic? What if?

What if every one of these fears happens?

We are up here for two hours and live to tell about it.  We die or have a life altering injury, which makes God no less Awesome. Judson will not slip because my hand is on him the whole time. Bradley panics and his Daddy is right beside him to walk him through it.

We spend so much energy on the mere possibilities of life that we miss on the realities right in front of us. We live so much of our life in the worst case scenario. We live in the contingency plans of our own making instead of choosing to trust God and His infinite plan. I decided while suspended in the air, that when the what if’s lead me to living in fear, then I am going to remind myself of the Truth on the other side of the what if. Bad things happen. But that doesn’t make God any less Sovereign or me any less loved.

3. Perspective changes everything.

It really does start in your head. It really does start with a choice.  You are the only one who can control what you say to yourself. Life happens, bad things happen…but so do great things. I realized that this could be our worst nightmare, but it could also be part of the greatest adventure that God is allowing us to walk. Courage is a decision, a choice. No matter what, His GRACE is enough. He promised that to us and I chose to believe it. Daily, I am choosing to believe it. If we plummet to our death, if we are stranded for hours…His love never leaves me, nor do my circumstances make God any less good, and perfect and enough.

4. Judson does not possess the fear of death gene.

This is really just another way of saying he doesn’t know to be afraid of things that can cause him pain. Since day one, he has pushed the boundaries of his own safety.  There is just a part of him that wants to always see if we mean what we say. Yes, the stove is hot, Judson. Don’t run in the road, Judson. Right after he asked me why the ride stopped, we went on to have a conversation about what would happen if he fell. “Would I die?” he asks, to which I make the 3 second, split second decision to say, “Yes, yes you most likely would.”

So what does Judson do?

Look at me and scoot down in his seat towards his imminent death.

He seriously may be the death of me.  My hand might have clamped down on his leg in lightening speed and the words might have come out of my mouth in a much more severe manner than normal, but I shared, with love, not to do that again.There is courage and bravery and then their is reckless stupidity. I am praying he learns to be brave because I know there is so much he has overcome and still more that he will face, but let’s not throw gasoline on the fire, and learn to practice a little wisdom.  As his mom, I want to set him up to choose courage, to live life based on the Truth of God and not the fear of man. I have seen my fair share of helicopter parents who want to shield and protect and SPF their kids to the point that their natural response is to choose the safe route, the predictable, winnable path. We do our kids a disservice when we allow our fears to become the banner that they raise to live life on this side of what could be. There is a difference between seeking parental wisdom, trusting our gut and knowing the line and just flat out trying to keep our children from the very lessons that God will use to bring out his character in them, for His plans, for His Kingdom and for His Fame.

The swings taught me a lot that day. They reminded me that I am not promised tomorrow, this afternoon, or even my next breath. Life is fleeting and fast, but I have this moment to live, to enjoy, to learn, and to embrace.

So for today, I choose to not live in the what ifs, to trust Him in my every moments. ,

 

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On the day of his birth

As my sweet Judson turns 5 today, I have a million things running through my mind. The realization that he has spent more days with us than without us, hits, but is quickly followed by the stark reality that I have been his forever Mom for more days than his first Mom who gave literal birth to him.  I look at this boy who has changed and grown and changed some more and I am simply amazed that we get to spend our days watching this boy become more and more of who God made him to be. I see glimpses of that boy….

JUDSON

The year from 4 to 5 has been eventful for sure. We moved from Seattle to Tennessee to California in the first half of his fifth year. Judson is charming, inquisitive and utterly delightful (in most moments).   He loves to be with people and is not afraid to get to know you whether you are open to it or not. Judson is fearless in the way that he has no idea he should practice caution. He simply does what feels right at the moment which leads to some interesting parenting challenges. He is tall, he is friendly, he is a defender of people and an amazing encourager. Judson loves routine and does some of the cutest things like kissing me three times before bed and daily telling me “You are the best Mom.” He is the kind of kid who becomes the kind of man that is known because of how he treats others.

OBSI

Obsi…the name his first Mom gave him.  The name we kept to lay claim to the rich Ethiopian heritage that is his. The name that has been changed as the sign of a new start, but also is significant of the sacrifice that his first Mom made. And though her sacrifice was honorable in light of her circumstances and choices, there are still scars that have been left that we see.

We see Obsi when you ask why your skin is different.

He notices he looks different and while we celebrate him for who he is, Judson is just beginning to understand that one of these is not like the others.  We see the occasional timidity and the words, “What if they don’t want to play with me because I look different?” We see, as his parents, that just by nature of being in our family, he loses anonymity and everyone knows there is a story there. As his Mommy, I see the challenges he will face and I am so thankful to walk it with him. We see Obsi and his dark skin and pray that God will continue to shape him into a warrior.

We see Obsi when you say things like, “God made all the skins and Mommy, you love all the colors.”

On the surface this is cute and precious, but it shows the depth of processing that has been going on in his mind.  I also see the words we speak over him giving him life. God did make all the skins and He loves all the colors.  We want to be a family that isn’t easily offended when people notice Judson and ask questions, because honestly, that is part of the deal of adoption. We pray our family is seen as merely a reflection of the Kingdom, of Heaven….all the colors and all the skins.  We see Obsi and love that at the young age of five, he is tender to the things of the Lord.

We see Obsi when we face our first experience of blatant racism.

We recently felt the sting of judgement because of the color of Judson’s skin, his adoption story and his African birth….not by one family, but by three. People who made assumptions based on these things and chose to react in fear based on it…without one conversation with us or really, even knowing us. We also saw a friend radically and completely defend him. I saw the fight come out in her on his behalf and it was strong and powerful and completely beautiful.  I am not naive that racism is still a huge issue in our world (even in our country), but this gave me a small glimpse to the complete injustice that exists in light of it. I felt how ridiculous it is to make gross assumptions based on one aspect of a person.  I also saw that we can’t shield him forever. We can’t keep it away from him because false thinking and stereotypes are in the most unlikely places, waiting to rear their ugly head. I grieved for my Obsi in that moment when I saw the cruel words that will one day land in his ears, the darting glances, the unease that will take root in others at the mere sight of him. I also felt heartbroken for those who will miss out on being in the space of this amazing kid. I felt the sting of rejection for him and pleaded to the Father to protect him for as long as possible, to help us know how to handle it and to be people of peace.

STEWART

Judson loves his family. He tells us all the time, “We have the best family.” We are not surprised he is wired for family because he was knit together by the Father. In this past year, Judson has prayed numerous times, words that Jason and I have not said to him. He has prayed, “God, You are the best Dad.” and we have seen that Judson felt the love of the Father when his earthly Daddy was waiting to be the hands and feet of that love.  Over this last year, I have watched this StewKid, relax into his family and breathe.  I have been in the front row as he has stopped fighting us so much and trusted we are for him and we are not leaving. I have heard the question, “Mommy, you are coming back to get me, right?” less and less.  The other StewKids love him, laugh with him, argue with him, wrestle and tattle on him. They only see their brother.  He still asks a 14,245 questions a day and will push the SAME boundaries, but he is a fighter, he will get it done and he will make a way. This StewKid will be a force to be reckoned with for sure. We are just praying his is a life submitted to the King.

If I could have a conversation with Judson Obsi Stewart’s first Mom, I would say a lot of these things…

But mostly I would say our boy is just getting started….

Stewarts-1174

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I pray my kids rebel

Rebellion is not something I heartily pray for myself or with my kiddos. Obedience is a huge value in our family, so much so that it is apart of our Stew Family Mission Statement.

Obedience is Better.

We even have catchy phrases we say to our kids like “Obedience brings blessing. Disobedience brings consequences.” Another good one is “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” Or, the phrase I have used 42,387 times “Obedience is right away, all the way and with a good attitude.” You now know that just the fact that I have said it that many times means one or more things has happened…they delayed, they did it partially or they grumbled about it. The reality is grumbling doesn’t mean they haven’t completed the task, it just means I’m after their heart and mind not just their actions.

Obedience to Christ will more times than not mean disobedience to the World.  Having the strength and courage to choose disobedience doesn’t often come naturally, but only through the daily choice to obey. To trust that the gains of this world are not worth comparing to the glorious riches of knowing Christ in His victories, but also in His sufferrings.

So when I heard this AMAZING lyric by Rend Collective, I was immediately in love with this song.

WE WILL NOT BOW TO SIN OR TO SHAME. WE ARE DEFIANT IN YOUR NAME.

I pray and hope I model defiance to my children. When we look at the battle we face daily for our identity, I pray that Parker, Emery, Bradley and Judson will rebel against the standards that the world sets. Instead of adding one more thing to our calendar, I pray we will rebel against putting our kids in every imaginable activity and instead choose intentional time around our table. Instead of making decisions out of fear, I pray we will make them in faith. Instead of living in our home insulated from the world, I pray we love our neighbors and serve them well. Rather than allowing our standards to be set by what is sold in a store or in a magazine, I pray we seek the Spirit to lead and guide us in all matters. Instead of submitting to a life of playing it safe, I pray we pursue the abundant life, making much of Jesus and nothing of ourselves.

Ultimately, I pray we choose defiance for the Glory of Jesus.

 

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Your King is Coming

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”  John 12:12-19

As I read this passage a few weeks ago, John 12:15, immediately gripped me and I just began writing my thoughts. As we head into the week leading up to Easter, I thought I would share…

FEAR NOT
…how peculiar that the first thing He would tell His people was to not be afraid. The fear we live with is not of God. The fear that dwells in us, is our natural response to the world around us, Our flesh crying out for a King. Our great fear is that we are not heard, not seen, not valued for who HE created us to be. The fear can also be stepping into what He has equipped and ordained us to do. The hesitancy, this emotion, is what makes us stop before we start…so He tells us to put the fear aside, lose our grip on control, and simply TRUST. Put your feet on the path and take one step towards Him…not your purpose, your plan, or your calling but only towards Him and as you are walking….your feet will head straight towards the days He has crafted for you alone.

Daughter of Zion
He calls you daughter. You have all the rights of a daughter, a child, of the King. He Is your Father, your Abba, Your Dad. He calls you daughter. The creator of the world, who spoke the cosmos into existence, who gave us every cell we need to live, who tells the Sun and the Moon where to reside…He calls you daughter.

BEHOLD
Look at Jesus. Take Him in. Breath Him in. Drink His living water. Absorb His presence. Hear His Words over you. He is with you. He is for you. Be HELD by Him.

Your KING is coming
My King is coming. He is not absent, He is not tarrying. He is on His way. Mighty and Gently, He is coming. How I Often want to be rescued from the day to day that at times, seems meaningless. The hours that drag and the questions that linger…am I really living out all God has for me? Does this matter? I ask You, Come Jesus, into my day, make it all about you and not an ounce about me.
He is coming. He has come and is continually coming into our moments, breaking into our space, inviting us to walk more fully into who He created us to be. What joy and freedom comes in knowing that my King has come and is coming.

sitting on a donkey’s colt.
Hmmm….not what we would expect of our mighty King. On a cloud, on an Arabian horse, on a rainbow, on a chariot…but, no, daughter, He came on a simple donkey’s colt. In reality, it doesn’t matter what He comes on because nothing is good enough or reflects the grace and majesty of Jesus. No vessel gives any significance to Jesus, only Jesus makes the vessel more than it was ever intended to be. A simple donkey made to ease the burden of its master, to plow his fields and to do the work that is needed, but not honored. Yet, Jesus, knew the purpose of that colt was to carry a King. He always makes us more than the work we do and gives us a purpose that is meant to carry the King to the lives around us, to make Him shine, to simply lift Him up. I remember this great quote from Max Lucado, “We all have a donkey to give.”  Our greatest talents and gifts are not ours to build our own Kingdom, but only THE KINGDOM.

I love that Jesus lives like everyday is opposite day. He bucked the system, he challenged the rules, He laid a new foundation. He was simply a rebel and I flat out adore that He took the man made, unattainable reality of their everyday life and made it look foolish. His way is not conventional. It will never make total sense, BUT, it will have purpose.

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Comfortable Surrender

Surrender….

I hear that word and immediately see Mel Gibson in Braveheart, yelling, “Freedom!!” because surrender is not an option. I feel the emotions of defeat, loss, pain and humiliation and let’s be transparent, who really wants to experience any of those things on any given day?

Ultimately, it makes me feel weak, so, no thank you, surrender is not an option.
But, then I think, what battle am I fighting? I’m pretty sure I am not standing on a battlefield, in a kilt, with warpaint on my face and a spear in my hand.

Recently, I heard a friend say this and it struck me to my core, “I am afraid to fully surrender to God because I am afraid of what He will ask me to do and I don’t want to be uncomfortable.”

I realize that for me, even worse, is false surrender.  I build and strive to make a life that I say is surrendered and  point to all the things we have sacrificed along the way….career, hometown, friends, activities, time, vacations, money and convince ourselves that this life of surrender is what God asks of us.  I think back to some pivotal decisions and realize we have somehow mistaken fear for wisdom and actively convinced ourselves that the line between surrender and our comfort zone is somehow one in the same.  The tension of surrendering just enough to say, “Look at our surrendered life.” but, then I look within and understand that a great deal of what I have “surrendered” has been more about protecting myself than giving all of my life to Him.   Jesus paid the price of his life on the Cross, so  His brutal death so we can be comfortable in our lives spent for Him seems fair, right?  We will often give Him our activity  yet in the quiet, we know we are living only a fraction of the faith we claim to possess.

The reality is we trust Him with our Eternity, but we do not believe Him for our today.

This life of comfortable surrender builds our kingdom not the KINGDOM, leaves us empty, but full of ourselves and hungry for the approval of man, yet starving for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

And this is where many in the church find themselves…where I have found myself.  Not living apart from God, but living comfortable for Him.  I wonder how many of us have missed out on on our greatest periods of growth, His abundant blessings, or the necessary refining that comes through stepping out in faith?

We are not realizing that LIFE is on the other side of surrender, not for the sake of surrender, but because that is where Jesus abides. Living surrendered means living without all the answers, but dependent on the Only One who does.

Jesus said in Luke 17:33, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”

Wow.

This verse breaks me because preserving my life is my natural response. Giving myself excuses to avoid trying, dreaming, believing and stepping out in faith has led me down the fear path of self preservation. I wonder how much of LIFE I have missed because I didn’t simply believe these words that JESUS spoke.

I want to lose my life in exchange for the LIFE He abundantly surrendered His own for. I want to keep that LIFE. I want to leap into surrender each day knowing that His Kingdom is constantly at work and He is breaking into my moments to remind me to let go, lean in to Him and simply trust.

I have put my big toe gingerly into the water of surrender and I can say that one moment of a life lost for Jesus is beyond a hundred days comfortable for Him.  If facing my fears, believing the Word and trusting Him with my life means looking foolish to this world, then I pray that I am the most foolish woman you will ever meet.

 

 

 

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The prayers of a boy

Every single night, we tuck our kids in, say our prayers and hopefully speak life and identity into their hearts and minds. I will be completely honest in saying that in my 12 years as a parent, bedtime is not always my finest hour.  In my mind, I am ready to check out of Mommy duties, so I can be quick to enforce a bedtime.

One of our first stressors in bringing Judson into our family was helping him transition to bedtime. He had some very intense responses early on that left us completely at a loss of how to respond. We ultimately worked it out and he is an awesome sleeper. He rises a little earlier than we would like, but he still naps everyday at 4, so I will take it. Parenting…the act of constant compromise between our wants and their needs.

He is also like every other kid and likes to prolong the bedtime ritual. We have created a process that he follows EVERY night. It goes a little something like this.

  1. Judson crawls into bed and we cover him up.
  2. He asks, “What kind of day am I having tomorrow?” This is where I tell him about the next day (which he needs to know) and he asks about 14 questions about it.
  3. Jason or I pray for him.
  4. Judson asks, “Can I pray for you Mommy/Daddy?”

Then the fun really begins. Here is a sample of the prayers of Judson:

“Dear God, He bring us peace and power and mighty. I ate pancakes for dinner. And sausage, but not to much because I don’t want to get sick again. I went to Bridgeway and played and we don’t go to church, we are the church. And God brings us peace and blessing and if you are lost, God finds you. AAAAAAAAmen.” ”Wow Mommy, dat was a long one.”

Then, he hugs us and kisses both cheeks. On our way out, he says, “Your de best Mommy/Daddy in de whole world”. Then, we say, “Your the best 4 year old in the whole world.” He then asks for the opposite parent to come in and pray and the above process is followed. And then, we say I love you and close the door. This may be met by a few questions through the door.

I literally left in tears the other night at the precious prayers of this boy. I mean, seriously….if you are lost, God finds you…how can you not love that!

Early on, I honestly wondered if I would ever cherish bedtime with Judson.  And God has shown me the beauty of routine, ritual, and a process that helps build security into a boy who spent many nights alone, with no one to tuck him in, say prayers over him, find his blanket, kiss his cheeks, rub lotion on his extremely dry knees and elbows, give him a game plan for the next day, and say, “I love you.” God is so faithful.

My heart has been so very tender since then to the Mommy’s and Daddy’s who are longing for those moments. For the ones who are waiting and wondering if their child is being shown love in an orphanage full of children. I keep thinking about the many who are in the midst of those hard days with traumatized kids where the dark doesn’t bring sleep, but rather brings out the fear of what has been their story. I keep returning to those older kids who have told themselves they don’t need anyone but in the dark, the tears come out of longing for a family.  The Lord keeps me awake, lately, praying for the millions of children who will never know the security of a bedtime routine and for the others He is keeping awake because of the longing in their heart to give a child the security of a bedtime routine. I hope the prayer of a little boy reminds you of the Truth….

God is Peace.

God is Power.

God is Mighty.

God is the Blessing.

God will find you.

 

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Being a Yes Family

Our church has started a two year series called Being Jesus. Over the next two years, we will be embarking on a blended gospel study of the life of Jesus. To say I am excited would be an understatement. ( I invite you to follow along here.)

A couple of weeks ago, my parents came for a visit and it was just what we needed. Settling into life here has been easy in so many ways, but it is a transition. Finding the grocery store, learning the rhythms and norms of a new church, meeting people…..this all takes time and energy. So needless to say, we were all excited to see Nana and Poppy (and a few weeks later, LuLu and Uncle Matt) and get a taste of the familiar. The reality of living a long plane ride away hit me harder than I expected when they left. Experiencing the loss of family, in our everyday life, has been the absolute hardest aspect of moving.

I say all this to set the context for what the Lord has been teaching me through this season.

As our pastor was describing the type of people Mary and Joseph were, he made the point that Jesus grew up in a YES family. Their response to all the crazy, out of this world, scenarios that God threw at them was simply, YES.

YES, I am your servant.

YES, I will face looks of shame and scorn.

YES, I will walk through scandal.

YES, I will obey.

YES, we will go.

All these things, they willingly took on, as a result of their response of a simple YES.

Jesus grew up with earthly parents who modeled a YES life to whatever God led them to do. They were radically faithful. As a result, when Jesus was “lost” and they found him in the temple, his response was….”Where did you think I would be?” He responded with YES.

As I have let this stir in my mind and heart, it has sunk into my soul and has gripped me. The reality is that getting to a place of YES is a moment to moment surrender. It is about moving our NO to MAYBE and our MAYBE to a MORE THAN LIKELY to ultimately, a soft, surrendered YES.

There are moments when we are unable to say YES, because we are unable to tell ourselves NO. The habit of denying ourselves, telling ourselves NO, is often the real reason we are unable to say YES to those things that God is leading us to do.

I am in no way comparing our YES to move across the country to the radical YES of Mary and Joseph to raise the Savior of the world.  But, I am learning from their incredible example of YES and I am praying that by modeling a life of YES to Jesus, that Parker, Emery, Bradley and Judson will know no other response to God.

I think we have to practice a YES response to Jesus. I am fairly confident, that this was not the first time Mary and Joseph had said YES to God. Sometimes in my walk, I am quick to say YES to the BIG things I feel led to do by the Lord, like moving to Seattle for a year or to California, but taking time to get to know my neighbor is usually met with a NO, I don’t have time.  Or, getting up just 15 minutes earlier is met with the snooze button because of my lack of self denial.

So how do we become more of a YES people?

How do we become a YES family?

I would love to hear your comments on how you encourage YES in your life in response to JESUS. Let’s learn from each other!

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