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A Weak Yes

If you know our story, then you know we have seven children and our youngest is adopted. That’s the short version. The longer version involves years of arguing with God about surrender, complaining about why His timeline was different than mine, and finally submitting to Him because His ways are better.

I didn’t set out to have a large family, in fact, I only really wanted three children. My husband and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary this year and I have to tell you a secret…… The last twenty years have NOT gone according to my plans. As I reflect on twenty years of marriage and more children than I intended on having I have to say this life has been better than anything I could have imagined. Follow Jesus and you’ll never be bored has become my motto. I am certainly NEVER bored! Most days there is so much do to that I don’t know where to begin. I will be the first to tell anyone how unqualified I feel to teach and train these little people in my care. Yet, God has seen fit to call me to this monumental task called motherhood.

Being a mom is a hard and often thankless job. Our work feels endless and monotonous. Moms do the hidden things that no one sees, and certainly don’t think to give thanks for. We do them out of obligation, but also out of love. Preparing and cleaning up from meals is not an easy task when there are nine hungry mouths to feed! Any mother who tells you her favorite part of the day is scrubbing the toilets and doing laundry and dishes is either delusional (Please rescue her and take her on a coffee date!) Or, she’s learned that as much as some tasks are unpleasant, they are a gift to her family and so she does them with joy.

We’ve forgotten that hard things can be full of joy. The lie of the culture is that the only way to find joy is to do the things that bring YOU fulfillment. The truth is, we can find joy in the most mundane and unpleasant tasks when we shift our gaze and change our perspective. I have this little decorative plate propped up by my kitchen sink. Engraved on it is this phrase; “You were made for this”. With seven children, I spend a LOT of time at that sink looking at that plate. I’ve learned that I have a choice in how I view my time there. It can be full of complaining, or full of thankfulness, and joy. A simple phrase sometimes isn’t enough to remind me of that calling. But, I’m glad it’s there because it brings me back every time to the weak yes I’ve given to Jesus over the years.

“You were made for this” and a cameo by our beta fish, ‘Doug’ He’s hiding in the coral.

Washing dishes can be an act of love. Making and serving a meal can show how thankful we are for the family God has surrounded us with. Even mounds and mounds of laundry can be a chance to remind ourselves how blessed we are, (thank God we have clothes to wear!). But in all seriousness, it is all about perspective. When I said “yes” to the Lord in the area of family size, I wasn’t thinking about the laundry, or dishes, or how much food I would have to keep on hand (at this moment we have four teenagers living here! They are like bottomless pits and consume a ton of food!). When I said yes to the Lord, sometimes reluctantly, I was saying yes to His ways, and plans which are higher than mine. I was saying, even though it won’t always be fun, I want to do all You have called me to.

Motherhood is a calling. One I stepped into with just a weak yes, but God has taken that weak yes and blessed me beyond anything I ever dreamed. Sometimes all He’s asking is for a weak yes. For us as daughters of the King to step out of our comfort zone and step into the very thing He made us for. For me, it’s raising world changers. Maybe for you, it’s some other task you feel ill-prepared and unqualified for. If I’ve learned one thing in this journey it’s that God doesn’t call the qualified, but He certainly qualifies those He calls. He’s just waiting for us to say Yes.

Great Reward

My husband is my favorite cheerleader! Today is our 20th anniversary and I have to brag on him a bit. If you’ve taken a look at the website, or ordered a book and noticed the logo stamped on the bag or envelope, you are seeing the fruit of his labors. He is the graphics guy, I can take zero credit for those things.

Writing the book was his idea. He knew it would be a challenging project, but he also never doubted my ability to finish it. He doesn’t just push, he encourages along the way. Every time I wanted to give up, he gave me space to process my emotions on the subject. Every time I got stuck in the process he helped me find a way out. Last week we got away for a few days and did some hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Road Less Traveled

On the last full day of our trip, we hiked a trail that was marked “Strenuous”. It started out fine, but before we even reached the halfway point I was ready to turn back. He encouraged me to keep going. He gave me time to rest, He found chocolate in his bag (a snack he had brought for himself) and gave it to me. All in an effort to encourage me to keep going even when it was hard. He has been this way since the beginning of our marriage. He can be intense at times, but even in his intensity, he is kind.

Similar to this hike, in our journey with God, there will be times it feels easier to give up and turn around. To go back to the smooth, flat, paved path of life. But Oh the things we will miss if we do that! If we turned back in our journey when it got hard we would have missed meeting our daughter, we would not have some of the incredible friendships we have today, and we would not have seen victories through prayer that we have seen over the years.

Following Jesus

In life, there will be times when sacrifice is required to keep following Jesus and where He leads. He never promised it would be an easy, smooth, path. In fact, He says there will be hard things to walk through. It’s basically a guarantee that life won’t be smooth sailing.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

John 16:33 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Because it is so true and I”ve seen it play out in my life over and over again! Rarely is life smooth and easy. It’s often hard and full of difficult circumstances to navigate. But, we are not without hope! Jesus has overcome the world. There is nothing we face that He is not able to help us through. There is never a time when He leaves us to figure it out on our own. He is with us through it all. Not everyone we meet will be up to this challenge of taking the less traveled road. It can seem lonely because taking the harder path sometimes means taking it alone, but the reward for sticking with it in the hard times is great! Even if we don’t recognize it until later.

Streams of Refreshing

When we finally made it to the halfway point of our hike there was this sweet reward. A beautiful and serene waterfall. It was secluded off the beaten path. There were few people who made the trek. So we had a few moments to just rest and take in the beauty all around us. It was quiet except for the sound of the water rushing over the edge. We found a rock to sit on at the edge of the waterfall. We ate a snack and soaked our tired feet in the cool, refreshing water. But the journey wasn’t over. This was only the halfway point. We still had to make it back up to the trailhead. We had descended 1300 feet to get to the waterfall, and now we had to make our way back up.

The Promise

The trail was narrow, and difficult in spots. It was steep and rocky, but along the way, there were these sections of flat, wide trail. In those sections the ground under our feet was soft and we had a chance to catch our breath before going back to the hard. During the hike, I just wanted to get back to the car. When we finally made it back, I started looking through the pictures I had taken along the way. I was surprised to see a rainbow across the bottom of the waterfall. I didn’t see a rainbow when we were there, but somehow my phone had captured it. A rainbow is a reminder of God’s promises.

Jesus never promised an easy life. He does promise to lead us to streams of refreshing and be with us along the way. Keep pushing forward in your journey with God. Keep pursuing Him even when the trail is difficult. The reward for staying the course is great! I am so thankful my Jesus loves me enough to stay by my side even when I want to give up. And I am so thankful my husband takes me on difficult paths to beautiful waterfalls. The reward is great! Stay the course!

Battered and Bruised

Last night I fell down the stairs at home.  Now before you get concerned and wonder if this is a cry for help, let me assure you…It’s not.  I’m just terribly clumsy.  I was wearing socks, and my socks slipped, I missed the first step and I proceeded to slide down the next 5 bumping along as I went.  My tailbone (which I fractured as a child during an unfortunate trampoline incident) took the brunt of the fall.  Thanks, tailbone!  I was a little shaken after the tumble and knew I would be sore in the morning.  This morning I woke up and everything hurts; back, shoulders, and yes tailbone.  Sitting today will be a challenge, but so will standing, cooking, and laundry.  As I began to look at the day ahead and start to complain to God for my weakness and lack of coordination I was quickly reminded of a time when someone I had yet to meet was willingly battered and bruised for me. 

Jesus went to the cross for me.  For my sins, because of His great love.  I don’t know that there is anyone I would willingly fall down a set of stairs for, except maybe my own children.  Yet, what Jesus endured was much more painful than some slight soreness from a little tumble.  Then it hit me like a slap in the face, yet this revelation had been there all along.  Jesus did that for me, and for you because family is His desire.  The kind of love that I would only show to my children, Jesus has shown to all humanity because His desire is that we become family.  This concept of being a daughter of the King of Kings is something I’ve been taught in church my whole life but didn’t really grasp until I brought home my adopted daughter. 

Galatians 4:4-7 says: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” 

A friend recently asked me, “How did adoption change your faith?”  Adoption has opened my eyes to a love that before was only theoretical but now has become my daily reality.  Every morning I greet my sweet daughter who did not grow in my womb and ask her, “How was your sleep?”  I don’t for a second look at her and think that she is somehow less than or that she isn’t a full member of our family.  She may look different but in my eyes, she is a full heir.  Before we adopted, my husband and I worked on some things with a local estate planner just to make sure everything was in order.  One of those things was a living will.  Even before we brought home Hadassah we made sure there was language in that legal document that would guarantee any children added to our family whether biological or adopted would receive a full share of any inheritance we might have.  Not only in our hearts but in the eyes of the law she is a “full heir”.  So when we brought her home and I read that passage from Galatians 4, I was overwhelmed with the revelation that I too am a full heir with Christ. 

I am adopted!  This is not a negative.  Many times throughout history adoption has been looked at as a negative.  It’s been something that has hidden in the shadows.  Adoptive parents sought children who were the same race and they purposely kept the child’s true identity a secret from those children.  This lead to feelings of being an outsider or outcast by those children when they became adults and found the truth.  I am thankful that much of the old way of doing adoption has changed, but I feel the negative connotations persist.  If we look with the eyes and heart of the Father we can very clearly see, adoption is anything but negative!  Jesus was battered and bruised, and ultimately died in the most excruciatingly painful of ways simply to bring us into his family.  Adoption is costly!  For us that looked like time and money, for Jesus it was His life.  Adoption is redemption.  Simply put, the Gospel is an adoption story.  God loves humanity so much that he gave His only son to take the punishment for us so we can come close.  We are not second best, but full heirs with Christ.  Adopted means chosen, loved, and valued.  Jesus paid a high price to rescue me, and I will spend my life pouring out my love for Him.  I can think of no better way to spend my days.  I am adopted and loved.  I am a daughter of the King. 

What Kind of Slavery Have you Been Freed From?

Here we are April 2020.  Most of the world has been on lockdown for the last 6-8 weeks.  We’ve been fighting an invisible enemy that has completely changed our way of life.  We don’t know when this will end, or what the new normal will look like.  This invisible enemy is attacking not just our physical bodies, but our very way of life.  There are now two distinct and very different worlds, the one before the virus, and the one we now live in. 

That sounds like the beginning of some dystopian novel right?  Some work of fiction, or one of those movies about zombies come to take over the world, and you don’t know who will fall victim next.  In many ways daily life hasn’t changed.  I still get up at about the same time everyday.  We eat three meals a day.  We do school, we cut the grass.  I bought plants and pots to put them in today at the hardware store.  In many ways life hasn’t changed, but then again everything has changed.  We’re told to keep our distance from others when we’re out.  Many people are wearing masks.  The store is out of toilet paper and Clorox wipes and has been for a while.  You see a friend at the store, in the pre-virus world you would instinctively give this friend a hug.  Now there’s a pause and distance is kept.   Sports are canceled, vacations too.  I was supposed to be out of town on a retreat with my husband this weekend, instead we stayed home. 

I’ve found myself stuck lately.  There are many voices talking about a “reset”.  People are saying things like, God is going to use this to draw us back to Him.  I’ve even said, “He’s allowed all the distractions to be removed, so we have no excuses.”  Even with that knowing I’ve been like the Israelites in the desert looking back at Egypt.  Missing all the things left behind.  Today as I was looking back at what’s been left I felt the Lord issue a caution to me;  “don’t get so distracted by what’s been left behind that you forget to look at where I’m is taking you.”  I’ve been working my way through the final minor changes of Livin’ the Dream and making sure it’s ready to go to the printer.  This week as I was busy looking back at my Egypt I felt the Lord whisper, “You need to read your book.”  I want to share a short excerpt from Chapter 10.  This excerpt is a commentary on Exodus 16:1-3.

Book Stack on Wood

Except from Livin’ the Dream, Chapter 10: Overcoming Doubt

“The Israelites are hangry. They’ve been traveling for two months, and they are just tired of being in the desert. They are hungry, it’s taking too long, and they are thirsty. I’m sure the children are getting just a little bit whiny at this point, and they’ve had enough of this ordeal. They have forgotten what life was like in Egypt. Instead of remembering their slavery, all they can think of is how good the food was. They are so consumed with their current suffering that they can’t look ahead to what God has promised them: a land and home of their own, flowing with milk and honey, where they will live freely without taskmasters. They are looking behind at what they left to come here. Their doubt is so bright they’re nearly blinded by it. But what does God do to clear their sight? He sends manna, bread from heaven to comfort His people and draw them back to Himself. He satisfies their hunger. Can I get an amen? With that one miraculous act, He reminds them of all the miracles He performed in Egypt that brought them to this place. When doubt kicks in, it’s time to ask God to send help. Send the manna we need to get over that hurdle, send a reminder of your goodness and promises.”  

We as a culture have been enslaved to many things prior to Covid19.  Those things that had become like gods in our lives are being exposed and removed.  We need to be aware of what God is highlighting in our own lives that had us caught in slavery.  Don’t be quick to return to those things.  Recognize they are gone, mourn if you must, but leave them behind because they are baggage and you can’t take them with you if you want to enter your Promise Land.  It’s time to move forward in our walk with Jesus.  What things is He highlighting that are baggage?  Maybe they were even cozy at one time like a soft blanket, but even cozy blankets can be heavy and take up a lot of room.  If this is truly a divine reset and God is preparing us to move into a new season we must be willing to leave things behind that will be a hindrance to us.  I’m not even saying those things are necessarily sinful, some are, but some are just heavy weights that need to be left behind.  I know for me God is revealing a lot of areas in my life that are just baggage.  He wants to set us free from bondage so we can go where He is taking us.  In the passage above the line that hits me right in the gut is this “Their doubt is so bright they’re nearly blinded by it.”  Oh God that you would open my eyes to see clearly that I wouldn’t be blinded by my own doubt, my own longing to return to Egypt. 

He came to set us free!  He won’t do it by force, it’s up to us to surrender. 

Worship is Warfare

We are living in uncertain times.  If I can be completely honest, I have had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in the past week.  As a mom, friend, wife of a small business owner and daughter of the King, I feel in the past week I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions and they can vary from hour to hour.  There are moments where I’m completely fine, joyful even; and then I have moments of complete despair where I find myself asking, “Is this how the world ends?”  Yes, I know that the last one is probably a bit dramatic.  This is what I’m talking about though, each day holds a new level of uncertainty.  I don’t know what tomorrow brings.  We have pushed pause on all of our long term plans.  We were talking about trips this summer, things that normally we would have already bought airline tickets for, yet here we are still planning these trips, but unsure what the future holds and waiting to make firm plans because we just don’t know what the prices will look like in a month.  I am a planner and I don’t like change.  I’m not one to easily adjust when things change quickly, and I don’t like feeling out of control. 

But, I know the one who is in control.  None of this is a surprise to God.  He who is sovereign over the whole earth, He who holds us in the palm of His hand.  He isn’t taken by surprise when schools close, or sporting events have to be postponed.  The markets dropping don’t cause Him to bite his nails with uncertainty and He is FAITHFUL!  ALWAYS!  In all circumstances.  We are in a sifting moment of time where the church has a great opportunity to BE the church.  Maybe we can’t gather together in our buildings, but we can BE Jesus to our neighbors and we can use this opportunity to strengthen our own faith.  If you believe, as I do, that we are living in the last days, then this latest crisis is simply a training ground for what is to come.  David had the faith to defeat Goliath because he had gained strength and faith in God by defeating lions and bears while working as a shepherd.  You can read the story in 1 Samuel 17.  David who is known for writing much of the book of Psalms defeated giants.  Goliath is the one we think of, but he defeated many other smaller giants first.  The training ground for defeating Goliath, is in the place of solitude, watching the sheep and keeping smaller attacks at bay, all the while writing worship songs to God. What we are facing right now is that place of solitude.  As many are working from home, we are being forced in a way to confront giants in our own lives and make them obedient to the word of God and what He says. 

For me a big giant I am having to confront is fear, and my own desire to be in control.  These are unseen giants.  The battle is largely spiritual, mental, and emotional.  The fact that the battle is unseen doesn’t make it any less real.  It’s in the place of hiddenness and fighting these personal battles that God is training us, His bride to fight the bigger more visible battles.  I want to encourage you as we are all in this together and I’m sure you have battles you are fighting as well, whether you are facing fear, or feeling alone due to lack of social gatherings, or depression over the current crisis.  There is a strategy to combat these enemies.  In 2 chronicles 20:22-24 we read about a time when Israel went to war against the Moabites and the Ammonites.  They were a formidable foe, and King Jehoshaphat didn’t know how to proceed.  He inquired of the Lord and said, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  Later in verses 21-24, we see the Lord’s strategy revealed.  Send the worshippers first!  When the worshippers go out with praise, the Lord sets ambushes against Ammon and Moab and the army of Israel is victorious.  A virus may seem like a different foe than an invading army, but I assure you, it is no different. Even today President Trump referred to this as a “war”.  This is a battle, just like any other.  Worship is still a powerful weapon in our arsenal.  Let’s use it.  Not only will this improve your mood and your own peace in trusting in God, but I believe if we turn to God in this time as a nation we will see the Lord break in and move on our behalf and we will see this giant fall.  Look back at 2 Chron. 7:14.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I WILL hear from heaven, and I WILL forgive their sin and WILL heal their land.”

God gives a Holy prescription in times of uncertainty.  Worship.  Pray.  Repent. Turn from wickedness.  Let’s turn to God, who knows; maybe he will relent from sending calamity to our shores.  As the Ecclesia, we have a role to play.  Spend time in worship, humble yourself before the Lord, don’t give in to fear, and step into your authority to speak calm and peace into the storm.  God, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you! 

I’ve put together a YouTube playlist of some of my favorite songs that minister to me when I’m fighting battles and need to speak peace over the storms that rage.  You can find the link to that below. 

Top Ten Homeschool Tips

With so many schools closing in the coming weeks Here are my top tips and encouragement for schooling the kids at home.

I’ve been homeschooling our kids for over a decade. It’s not always easy and I’ve often eyed the school bus as it drove by my house longing for it to take my children too, but in the decade-plus that I”ve done this, I can honestly say there have been more good days than bad. I’ve grown closer to my children than I would have if they were away 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. We’ve made memories, and learned things together that I would have never known if they were away.

I know this is kind of a sudden thing for those of you who have never homeschooled before, but if we look at this short term minor inconvenience as a gift we can use these weeks to build relationships with our kids. I know it’s a struggle if you still have to go to work, or if you’re facing lost pay because you have to stay home. I see you mama, and I’m praying for you. We will get through this together! If you need encouragement, ideas, or help of any kind please don’t hesitate to send me a message. I am happy to chat or talk over the phone.

For now, here is my best homeschool mom advice:

1. establish some sort of routine or schedule. It’s easy for the day to turn to chaos and video games if you don’t do this from day 1. It doesn’t even have to be rigid.  Your day doesn’t have to start as early as the school day normally starts.  If you have young kids, or boys, I have found when planning my schedule it helps if I plan for breaks and active times.  I always try to alternate a quieter, sitting subject or lesson, with a more active, and somewhat less structured activity.

2. Homeschool doesn’t have to look like a classroom! Please don’t sit your kids at the kitchen table with worksheets all day, I promise that will not foster relationships between you and them and it will likely lead to a mutiny! Don’t do it! Learning can look like following a recipe together, reading the Bible and talking about the passage, or if you need a break pop on an audio book (you can get them from the library, or an online service, you have so many options!)  Also, GO OUTSIDE!  At least once a day if the weather allows go outside walk around play, get some vitamin D (Bonus Vitamin D helps strengthen your immune system!)

3. YouTube is your friend! There are countless history, science, and even math instructional videos. Disclaimer: You may want to screen them first to make sure you agree with the content.

4. Snuggle on the couch together and watch a movie or read a story.

5. The store may be low on some items, but now is the perfect time to plant seeds. You can get potting soil, seeds, and seed starter kits at the hardware store or Walmart. Plant your own food. Lettuces and radishes grow well in early spring and they will be ready to harvest in 30-40 days. For kids a quick crop is great to hold their interest.   This is a great science lesson, if you want to tie in a history lesson to this you can look up “victory gardens” maybe even find a YouTube video on it.  Our grandmothers and great grandmothers planted gardens to help during times of war and other national crisis.  We can do the same today.  Some crops are easier than others in my experience, lettuce, spinach, peas, and radishes grow well, don’t require any special soil or fertilizers and are insect resistant. 

6. Have a sing-a-long (My kids are actually doing this right now in the other room) 

7. Learn a new card game together, or pull out the board games and have a game day

8.  Go on a nature walk.  If there is a nice day you can make a scavenger hunt for your kids and then go outside together and try to find the things on your hunt here are some ideas of things you can look for this time of year: a brown leaf, a bud, a flower in bloom, a song bird, a turtle, a frog (if you are near some sort of water), Mushrooms, animal foot prints, moss, Animal scat (that’s poo, yes I know it’s gross, but trust me boys LOVE this one!), an interesting rock. 

9.  Reach out for help from others.  I’m here for you, if you need ideas or prayer or a kind word of encouragement, we live in the one of the most connected times in history, even though we’re all in our own homes we can still connect.  Just this morning I had a video chat with one of my children who is currently living overseas.  If I can connect with her, we can connect through the magic of the internet! 

10.  You are not alone in this!  This isn’t a homeschool tip per se, but at the beginning of each school I spend time seeking the Lord and asking for a special verse from His word for our Homeschool.  This is our verse for this school year.  The Lord gave me this verse back in August 2019 before any of this craziness hit.  He is sovereign and He knows what we need before we ask.  We’ve been praying and standing on this verse long before a pandemic.  God’s word is true and He is unchanging!  Cling to Him in these uncertain times.

“But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you Jacob, he who formed you Israel: DO NOT FEAR, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  Isaiah 43: 1-3  

All of Is. 43 is an encouraging passage to read, but this promise right here has gotten me through many challenging days this school year.  God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. 

Livin’ the Dream, Literally!

        Livin’ the Dream is such a cliché.  In general, I despise clichés.  I remember a children’s literature class I took in college and the professor was so opposed to clichés that she told us upfront if we used them in our papers she would automatically give us a zero on the assignment.  Ouch!  That’s harsh.  Maybe my dislike of clichés goes back to that experience. 

        So how in the world did we choose what is perhaps the biggest cliché of all time as the title for my new book?  It’s a funny story actually, and the title came out of a completely unrelated conversation between my husband and me. 

        This message of dreaming with God has been burning in my heart for several years!  After we adopted and brought home our dream of a daughter that God had been showing me for over a decade in dreams in the night, my husband said, “You need to write a book.”  I think in the beginning I just thought he was tired of me sharing all the insights I was getting from God on dreaming.  As time went on, however, and I started the writing process there was so much to share.  When I sat down that first day to write I really wasn’t convinced there would be enough for a full book.  I thought maybe I can just write a blog post or an article.  This is only going to be enough to fill a small pamphlet, not a book!  Amazingly to even me, as I set my heart before God and asked, “What do you want to share with Your bride?”  The words flowed and before I knew it, I had written nearly 40,000 words. 

        The writing came easy because this message had been building in my heart for so long it wasn’t difficult to get the words on paper.  The title, however, was a struggle!  For about 2 years I had a “working title”.  I didn’t love it, but it was all I had.  I actually shelved the book for almost a year because I didn’t have a title I felt adequately expressed the message of the book.  During this time I began asking God to give me a title.  If this truly was a message He wanted me to share with the church, I wanted the title to be a good representation of that.  So for almost a year, I asked God, show me what the title should be.  Give me a dream, scripture, anything!  I was beginning to feel a tad desperate while at the same time wondering why I ever bothered to start writing in the first place.  A book without a title isn’t going anywhere. 

        Then one day my husband and I were driving home from a wedding.  We were just talking about life in general, the kids, what commitments and activities we had that week.  When out of nowhere he said, “You are living your dreams.”  I kind of laughed and said, “yeah literally!”.  It only took a moment for me to realize that’s the title of my book. 

        When I say I’m “Livin’ the Dream”, I don’t mean it in the same way as most people.  For most people, it is nothing more than a cliché.  They will sarcastically joke about a hard job that they don’t enjoy and say, “I’m livin the dream.”  It’s cliché and sarcasm.  When I say it, it’s not cliché.  I mean it literally.  I have had dreams in the night where God showed me glimpses of His plan for our family years before those plans came into being.  Today, I am living in the reality of those dreams.  My greatest hope and prayer through this project is that those who read the book will be encouraged to pay attention to the dreams in the night.  That they too will experience what it is to live your dreams.  Not just your dreams of things you desire, but that thing you were created for.  The plans and purposes of God for you.  He formed you in your mother’s womb and set a purpose for you before you took your first breath.  Grab hold of those dreams, and experience the joy and fullness of living in purpose. 

Who Are You?

I’ve been asking this question a lot lately.  Maybe it’s a mid-life deal?  I don’t know.  Regardless, I”ve found myself asking, “who am I”?  I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, intercessor, ministry leader, writer.  None of these descriptions really seems to sum up who I am.  I do all those things, but they don’t define me or my purpose.  I’ve always been interested in name meanings.  Each of my children have interesting, unique or unusual names.  For each of them, their names were chosen deliberately.  Some were chosen because of a specific meaning we wanted to speak over them.  Others were chosen because God highlighted a verse in His word to us while I was pregnant.  Our youngest was given a name that God showed us about 9 years before she was born.  We knew the name was for her and we reserved it, even though there were other children who were born in those nine years.  We held that name for her.  It holds a great deal of meaning even pointing in some ways to her destiny.

                Names are important.  Each time I speak my children’s names I’m declaring something over them.  My oldest Son’s name is Tadao.  It’s Japanese, it means “Gentle Warrior”.  When I was pregnant with him and we began seeking the Lord for a name we felt impressed by the Holy Spirit that our son would be a worshipping warrior, much like King David in the Bible.  He would be a worshipper, but he would also know how to war, and his worship would be warfare.  I’m only beginning to see the fruit of this name choice.  For sixteen years every time I speak his name I am declaring over him, “you are a worshipping warrior”!  It’s a powerful declaration. 

                Until very recently I felt a negative connotation over my own name and it’s meaning.  Melissa means, “honeybee”.  I embody this name meaning well.  I am always working on something, moving from one thing to the next.  A busy worker Bee, describes my personality well.  Why is that a bad thing, you may be asking.  I’ve grown up in church and throughout childhood when I was taught the story of Mary and Martha I was always told, “be like Mary, because she chose the better thing”.  The better thing being, sitting at the feet of Jesus.  I have a hard time sitting and just soaking in Jesus’ presence.  I’ve been led to believe this is a negative.  That to be a good Christian, one must sit, and be still with Jesus.  In practical terms this looks like long extended quiet times, getting up before dawn to have that time with the Lord before the distractions of the day.  In heart terms it looks like years of guilt carried on my back because my best quiet times happen while I’m working.  As a busy mom, the kitchen sink is one of my most visited prayer rooms.  I have had quiet times in the laundry room while moving a load from the washer to the dryer.  I’ve worshipped Jesus extravagantly while mowing the lawn (yes, I’m fairly certain my neighbors think I’ve lost my mind sometimes).  A “quiet time” doesn’t have to be done while sitting. 

                I was talking with a friend recently about name meanings and she asked, “what does Melissa mean?”  I scoffed as I replied, “honeybee, and I hate it”.  I explained why, and then she preceded to shed light on why I was wrong.  She informed me that honeybees’ are hard workers, they communicate with each other by dancing, they work together with each member doing their task to benefit the whole hive, and they make honey.  This sweet liquid is the result of their work.  Without Honeybees’ hard work pollinating, the world would be void of many flowers, fruits and vegetables because these plants require a pollinator in order to produce a harvest.  This idea that being a honeybee is a positive has really shifted my entire viewpoint of who I am in light of my name meaning and calling in life.  As I dug into this concept a little more and began to do research on my name I quickly discovered another version of my name that caught my eye.  According to  “In Ireland it is sometimes used as a feminine form of the Gaelic male name Maoilíosa, which means “servant of Jesus”.  Wow!  All this time I’ve been thinking of the serving of Martha as a negative, but this meaning has brought a new perspective. 

            What if, when Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better way, what He was really saying was that her attitude was better than Martha’s?  After all, someone has to prepare and serve the food.  Someone has to clean up after the meal, and someone has to make the guests feel welcome.  I propose Martha was doing all these things because that was her role in the home at that time.  The problem was not that she was serving Jesus instead of sitting at His feet.  I suspect the problem was that she was doing it with the wrong heart.  Jesus is after our heart. 

            Who are you?  Are you more of a Martha, or a Mary?  Are you a busy worker bee, or are you content with the calm peaceful times at the feet of Jesus?  The challenge is not to be something that we were not made to be.  The challenge is to live our calling and serve Jesus with a pure heart.  Not jealous of someone else’s calling.  Martha complained to Jesus and asked Him to tell her sister to get up and help her.  Mary was doing the better thing, not because Jesus didn’t value the hard work of Martha.  Mary was doing what was better, because her heart was in the right place.  The better thing is to serve Jesus.  If that looks like spending hours in your prayer closet listing out all your neighbors and friends and lifting them up to God, do that!  If that is taking a meal to a sick friend, do that.  If that is offering a listening ear to a grieving neighbor when you’re out walking the dog, do that.  Serve Jesus!  As Christians we are all called to honor God with our lives.  That’s who you are.  You are a Christ follower, so live in such a way that your life points others to Him. 

Be Kind

                We just started a history unit on the Civil Right Movement.  Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and other heroes of this dark time in our nation’s history.  I remember growing up learning about these people and thinking, “That’s ancient history.”  I felt it was horrible how African American’s were treated in the 1950’s and 60’s but as a child I also felt, or maybe was conditioned to think that we had gotten over that period of history and all was well.  I grew up in the 1980’s, at the time I didn’t really have a solid understanding of just how close we were to that time period, only 30 years prior people with dark skin were not allowed to drink out of the same drinking fountain as me and my brothers.  This injustice didn’t really resonate with me until recently. 

                Four years ago we adopted our daughter.  She is amazing!  She has the spunkiest personality, she is friendly and will eagerly talk to anyone!  She also just happens to be African American.  There are many things about our nation’s history that I never really had to think about until I had a daughter who looked different than me.  My biological children will not have to be taught the same things I will have to teach her.  Of course I will teach all my children to respect others, to obey the laws and to speak kindly to police officers, but my daughter will get an extra dose of how to interact in certain situations.  Has our nation grown and improved since the 1950’s?  Yes!  And I thank God for that, but bias still exists and there is still some distrust of the black community from the white community in our nation today.  In my position as a white mom of a black daughter I feel I often straddle this divide. 

Our community has largely accepted our family.  I’ve been out with my daughter plenty of times in the community and have never been mistreated, but I can’t help but wonder how she will be treated by others when she is older and I’m not with her in public.  How will others see her when she shops at Target as a teenager without me by her side?  Will the security guard follow her through the store, suspecting her of being a shoplifter?  Will other shoppers avoid her in the aisles?  I don’t know the answer to these big questions, but as a mom I can’t help but ask them.  I pray in ten years when my daughter is old enough to be out in public without me by her side that we will see even greater acceptance of African Americans in our nation.  I’ve seen glimpses of this glorious day.  I’m daily seeing the evidence of a growing diversity in my home town. 

Just because we are seeing improvement doesn’t mean we can forget the past or that we should think of it as ancient history.  The truth is there are people who are still alive today who lived through the segregation of the 1950’s and 60’s.  Yesterday I read to my kids about Ruby Bridges who was the first black child to attend an all-white school after segregation ended.  The picture in our book is in black and white, but shows a sweet looking six year old girl walking out of a school building escorted by three guards!  Why in the world would a six year old need guards to escort her to and from school?  The hatred was so tangible in the south at this time that the guards were sent for HER protection from the angry mob of mostly adults who didn’t want her attending school with their children.  What a statement about the culture of our nation at the time.  When adults are threatening children simply because of their skin color.  It is a sad time period in our nation.  Even as we discussed this great injustice and how wrong it was for people to have been treated that way.  We discussed how far we’ve come as a nation yet, how we still have a ways to go, I still felt a tad bit detached from this time period.  It’s hard to have an understanding of history that happened before your lifetime. 

Then last night I saw a post from a friend about Ruby Bridges.  She is alive today!  She turned 65 this year.  She’s only 65.  My mother in law is 65.  Suddenly everything is brought into perspective.  This may have happened before I was born, but it is NOT as ancient history as I once thought.  I’ve heard it said that those who don’t know their history are bound to repeat it.  Those are wise words and are the perspective that guides how and why I teach accurate history to my kids.  I don’t want to sugar coat even the hard things.  We’ve discussed the gas chamber of Nazi Germany, the slave trade, and more recent atrocities like abortion.  My kids that I’m homeschooling are currently in third and fifth grade.  I make sure to make the lessons age appropriate, but I don’t want to give them a false sense of pride in our nation, or avoid the yucky parts of history.  We’ve done some pretty horrible things to our fellow man in this nation and throughout world history. 

The only solution for a hurting world is Jesus.  I also take these type of hard lessons and point the lesson back to Jesus as the only solution to these very big problems.  Racial reconciliation is a process.  There has been HUGE improvements, but there are still hurting people alive today who had to live through these dark days.  May we never forget the hard roads they had to walk as we move forward in kindness, seeking to bring the love of Jesus to a hurting world.  We should take each day with this mindset, be kind, you don’t know the battles others are facing. 

A Look in the Mirror

                The day it happened took me completely by surprise.  I was in my early 30’s and I woke up one morning and looked in the mirror and my first thought was, “who’s that?” at the sight of my own reflection.  In that moment I had an epiphany.  I was an adult, happily married, mother of six amazing children and by all accounts I should have been completely content with my life.  Yet, I felt somehow like something was missing.  I saw my own face in the mirror, but I felt as if I didn’t know the person looking back at me.  Maybe it was the sudden realization that my 20’s were over.  Maybe it was the fine lines and tired eyes that did it.  Whatever it was, I didn’t like it.

                I started to think about my life, where I was, and how it was so very different than what I had planned when I married my husband as a 20 year old.  Looking back I can see just how young we were, but at the time we felt that we couldn’t wait one second longer to start our lives together.  I have no regrets.  I married my high school sweetheart.  It’s been mostly smooth sailing, but it’s not been anything like I planned. 

                When I was planning my life out as a 20 year old, I had many grand ideas and lists about how things would be.  None of those things have materialized.  In some instances, this has been really hard to grapple with.  My plans included finishing college, working for a few years before having children, traveling without children, enjoying married life, then children (only 3), back to a career, and putting all the kids in public school.  Boom, bam, done!   Out of those plans, exactly one thing went sort of how I planned it.  I did finish school.  It took longer than I planned, and I had 2 kids by the time I was done, so even in that goal, I didn’t exactly reach it the way I had hoped I would.  Isn’t that how life goes though?  Rarely do things turn out exactly as we plan.

I’ve come to grips with the fact that God’s ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts. Realizing this truth hasn’t necessarily made me any less prone to try to make things go the way I want, but at least I’m learning that His ways are better. My plans included 3 children and a career. God’s plans were so different, but so much better than I could have hoped or imagined. After years of resisting, I finally gave in and surrendered to His ways. My life and our family has been made richer because of it.

This journey of life reminds me of the poem; “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

” Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

In life, Choosing to follow where God leads will often take us down the “road less traveled”, but going that way will make all the difference. Had I chosen to continue to ignore God’s leading and stay on the well-traveled path (the one I originally planned to take); I know four people today who would have never been born. That would have been a tragic loss.

Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken and Other Poems unabridged, edited by Appelbaum, Stanley, Dover Thrift Editions, Dover Publications, 1993, pp. 1.