The Hope of Easter

Today is Easter and we’ve celebrated with egg hunts and even a Passover Seder. Today we will gather with family and friends at an Easter Service to celebrate once more. Why all the celebrating? 

Well, let me assure you, it is much more than colored eggs and bunnies. We are celebrating the miracle of life. 


A precious ‘son of my heart’ posted the following words a few days ago. He blessed my hear with his words. 

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Galatians 6:9

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
I am living proof, that if you invest Jesus into someone, as little or mundane as you might think it is, that seed will grow. That flower may only need to break through loose, fertile soil. Or in my case, it might have to break through red Georgia clay that’s under a foot of concrete. But be patient and continue to water it, and oh how sweet and beautiful it is once it blooms. 
To all of those that invested in me, I say thank you. And now I pay it forward, investing Jesus into other people, planting my own seeds.

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This is the miracle of new life, eternal life that we celebrate. This hope was made possible by the most important moment in history. That moment was when Jesus Christ, Yeshua, our Redeemer, defeated death, and gave us hope of new beginnings, fresh starts and forgiveness. 


If I told you more of my what Gary had faced, experienced and been through you would be amazed that just before Easter he was baptized as public proclamation of his faith. If I told you about his life, some of his choices, some of his struggles you would rejoice with me that he has come home spiritually. If I told you of the hundreds of prayers and years of waiting, you would take courage as you pray and wait for your own prodigals. 

So, yes, today we celebrate the hope of Easter! And today as Gary posted this picture of his wife and precious daughters, I know the miracle will continue. The hope will grow in the lives of his children. The hope of Easter changes everything. 


So, from my family to yours, I wish you a blessed day and the hope of Easter! 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So Loved 

Yesterday my five youngest children and I made a one-day, out-of-town road trip and I was the driver. It was a very beautiful and happy day spent with lots of folks we love. 


Naturally, on the drive home I was doing a lot of thinking and pondering. Things like, never ever give up on the possibilities of what God’s love can accomplish. His love is the most powerful force on earth and can change situations, people’s hearts and the direction of a person’s life. I needed that reminder. Maybe you did too. 

Another truth that is stamped on my heart was verified yesterday. There’s an old adage that says you can’t pick your family. I’d like to firmly disagree. Yes you can. Marriage is a perfect example. A choice to be family is made. Adoption is another example. A choice to become family is made. But there are other examples as well when no judge declares anything at all. Instead hearts declare belonging to one another because we so love them. 

You may not can choose who you are related to by blood, but you do get to choose your family. I’ve chosen well. Not only by marriage and adoption, but also by relationship. By caring and loving and praying and connecting and communicating and hoping and helping and sometimes the biding of time, by so loving them. 


During the next few weeks I will be in four different states visiting family. I will see two dozen family members. I am blood related to less than half of those, only nine to be exact. And yet, they are all my family. 

How can that be? I’ll tell you clearly how. Because love trumps blood, love trumps hate, love trumps differences,  love trumps distances, love trumps circumstances and love even trumps the law of the land sometimes. Relationships are formed when commitment is made, time is invested and choices are lived out. I so love them. 

Today I am loving the beauty of love. The choices we make, the lives we live, the paths we walk and yes, oh yes, the families we have!

Below is a photo of a few of my most beloved family members. I don’t share a single drop of blood with any of them. What we do share is love and let me assure you I so love them!


Below is another photo. This one is a photo of my mother and sister with whom I share blood. Guess what? We are family, not because of blood but because of relationship, precious memories, laughter and the bonds of love! I so love them. 


I can’t conclude my thoughts without adding this. The MOST important family decision you can ever make will be to become a part of the family of God. Choosing to be adopted into His family, as His child, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ will be the most life-altering decision you ever make. You know why? Because of love, once again, because of love. He so loves us. 

The Cost of Christmas

I’ll admit that I’m starting this day a bit exhausted, physically that is. The majority of mommas could probably say the same thing about this time on Christmas Day. My day will require a lot of me. My attention, my energy, even my patience will be in high demand. It will cost me. 
Mommas stretch themselves on days like today. We’ve planned and worked and wrapped and labeled and cooked and organized until we’ve just about come to the end of our reserve tank of energy. Even so, once again, we have managed to pull it off and pull it together. 


I’ll tell you one thing, if I could only tell you only one thing, about this Christmas. It will be good for my soul. My children gathered together under one roof at the same time, healthy, happy, whole. Y’all know it is my favorite place to be, together that is. It will be worth the cost. 
This year has been chaotic and challenging, breathtaking and beautiful in so many ways. There have been some heart-rending moments, some tears, some struggles, some unexpected changes. There have been some victories, some precious memories made and lots of opportunity for spiritual growth.  But here at the end of this sometimes tumultuous 2016 love has shown up, shown out and made my heart glad. 

No extravagant gifts, no expensive trips nor even any impressive decorations to speak of. But, oh the wealth we are blessed with. The wealth of seeing my children smile and hold them close when it was time to weep. The wealth of cheering them on at their best moments and reaching for their hand when they’ve stumbled and helping them to their feet. Such wealth. 

So, while this day will require a lot of me, it will give me so much in return. I’m so thankful that another momma 2,000 years ago, gave her all, more she she imagined she could as she delivered the greatest gift the world would ever receive. She was the first momma to pay  the cost of Christmas, the very first Christmas. 

Stranger Danger

As an adoptive mom of several older children, which means they weren’t infants or toddlers when we adopted them, I had no control over the first years of their lives. By the time they legally became ours, there were some deep seated attitudes, beliefs and hurts. 

I could say to them that they were beautiful, valuable and cherished. I could say to them that they were safe and would not be rejected or abandoned. I could say to them that they could trust us. But, they didn’t recognize my voice. In the beginning, I was just another stranger and that meant danger. 

Now, the voices that were familiar to them were the ones that reminded them to trust no one, to keep a safe distance, to manipulate and lie, to be afraid, to be cautious and on guard. 

When you adopt an older child, there is often a lot that needs undoing before they are even able to hear what you are trying to say, certainly before they learn to recognize your voice. There can be frustrating times, times when you wonder if they will ever hear you, believe you, trust you. 

To tell you the truth, it would just be too much for me to face alone. I wouldn’t attempt it without a strong support structure in place. And as a Christian, Jesus is the strong foundation that I rely first and foremost upon. 

You see, He understands fully what it means to accept into your family those who have been battered and bruised. He knows all about what it means to reach out to those who don’t yet easily recognize your voice, trust you, obey you or appreciate you. He understands all about the other voices that haunt and taunt. He can love those who haven’t found their courage to love Him back in like manner. He is the Good Shepherd and He is an expert when it comes to shepherding broken hearts. 

Chances are, you are standing in one of these two places today if not both. Perhaps, like me, you are an apprentice shepherd, reaching out to the broken people in your life, your community and your world. Perhaps you are one of the broken-hearted and you’re struggling with the voices that have been destructive and loud, preventing you from hearing the voice of Jesus, your Good Shepherd. Perhaps the loudest and most destructive voice is that of your own. 

In either case, take courage. Listen as often and as intently to the voice of the Shepherd until His voice is raised above the din and then run to him, no longer afraid. 

  

Perfect

Practically everyone I know has, at this precise moment, a perfect opportunity to be anxious. If it isn’t a personal matter like your marriage or your children or your health or your bank account, there’s plenty to be concerned about in our society. Senseless murders, tragic disasters and alarming events continue to happen daily and then flood our minds and hearts with images of sorrow and fear. 

As a matter of fact it is perfectly understandable that more folks suffer from anxiety than ever before. The world is a scary place and due to social media in part, we are barely able to catch our breath before the next bad news is upon us. 

The pressure on families to face the demands of life and not only keep afloat financially but, raise your children to be decent people with a decent education and a decent character are enormous and the perfect pressure pot to simmer anxiety in our minds to a constant low boil. 

Oh, and then lots not forget health issues. Weight gained, blood pressure that is high, feet that ache, migraines that assault, diagnosis’ that alarm, all contribute to the steady state of perfect chaos. 

Who could blame us for less than perfect reactions and words and proper responses when we are in this constant state of frantically fighting the next crisis at hand? No one can blame us but, there is someone who can help us. His name is Jesus, Yeshua, Son of God, God incarnate, Savior, and PRINCE OF PEACE!

He can provide you peace that the world does not offer, peace that passes all understanding and PERFECT PEACE. Perfect, as in customized just for you and your perfect mess. Perfect, as in exactly what you need right this very moment. Perfect. 

Our part? To fix our eyes on Him. No, we aren’t blind to all the storms brewing around us. We see them. We grieve the losses, we prepare, we work hard, we invest, we protect, we improve what we can. But, our focus, is not all these troubles. Our focus is our Lord. The result is trust because when we fix our eyes on Him we find Him trustworthy. 

This is how we can walk in perfect peace when the world is in perfect chaos. Remember, whatever you do, avoid the #peacethieves and one of them is named anxiety. 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭26‬:‭3‬ ESV)

 

This Glorious Love

I find myself at a loss for adequate words to describe what I am feeling. 

As I contemplate the evidence of such great love I can’t seem to express the tremendous emotions that well up within my heart.

As I consider how greatly I am loved and how much that love cost. This was no bargain basement love, after all. This was love that was extravagant and excellent. This was love that redeemed my soul. This was courageous love that defeated death. This was valiant love that defended me. This was extreme love that died so that I could live. 
This is a treasured love that when shared increases. This is a glorious love that offers forgiveness. This is a perfect love that is given to imperfect people. This is a pure love that is beyond any other love that can be experienced. 

This love is precious and priceless. This love made Him vulnerable for us so that we could make ourselves vulnerable for each other. This is a love that empowers and strengthens. This is a love that heals. 

This is a love that satisfies the soul. This is a love that rejoices in spite of hardship. This is a love worth embracing and making your own. This is a love that transforms. This is a love that can not be silenced. This is a love that rejects injustice. 

This love held Jesus to the cross. This love raised Him up again. This love does the same for us as we die to self and are made new again. This love comforts us when we grieve. This love holds us up when we are weary. This love carries us when we just can’t go on. This love, such glorious love, can be yours. 

  

Contusion Confusion

Several weeks ago I was reaching above my head for a can of vegetables and it fell out of the cabinet. I tried to dance my feet out of the way and even attempted to grab/slap it. I think I made the impact worse. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I yelled so loudly that I startled my children. They helped me hobble to a chair and get an ice pack on it. The edge of the can hit right above my inside ankle bone and an immediate knot and bruise appeared. In medical terms that is referred to as a contusion. Over the next few days I had moments of seriously wondering if I had broken my foot. But, then I would rest it, ice it and take ibuprofen for the swelling and pain. It would feel a bit better and I’d soon be about my business until I’d step in just the wrong way. The ouch would start again, the hobbling and the throbbing.

I’m a busy mom of seven and still homeschooling five of them. Our school year had just started and I was impatient with this mystery injury. It was indeed a matter of confusion. A friend was kind enough to loan me her walking boot and that helped a lot to relieve the stress on my foot when walking or standing at the stove. My family was super supportive, taking many of my steps for me. But, after two weeks I was still having pain and went for X-rays. Thankfully there was no broken bone, no fractures. The doctor said he thought the can hit in more than one place as I had three bone bruises. My first thought was, “It’s only a bruise?”. He must have seen the expression on my face as he went on to explain the contusion confusion. A bone bruise is different than a soft-tissue bruise. I listened skeptically as I was a bit embarrassed to have gone to the doctor for a two-week old bruise. But, he was right. As he expected, in less than a week, I was cautiously walking and standing normally.

So, why in the world am I taking space on my blog to write about ‘just a bruise’? Here’s why. Life can really bang you up sometimes. I’m thinking a fair few of you reading this have been bruised in your spirit lately. Maybe even your heart feels the strain of an unexpected blow. Perhaps you’ve been caught off guard and were injured emotionally. Could be that you are impatient with the healing process. You may be anxious to get on with life and busy yourself with what needs doing. It is possible that right when you think you are recovered a miss-step sets it to throbbing again.

Here is what I learned from my contusion confusion. All bruises are not the same. Some are nothing but a little surface discoloration and slight tenderness. Some can actually damage the soft tissue and muscle. They need extra care. Then others actually bruise the bone. Those hurt a lot and take a lot longer to heal. A bruised bone requires more intervention, more rest, more time. Often times, a brace of some sort is required to lessen the stress of normal activity while it is healing.

Now, I don’t know what kind of bruise you a facing today. I suspect that you may be fully aware that you are still in the healing process. You can be facing betrayal or grief. You may be experiencing shame or embarrassment. You could be struggling with trusting others or maybe even trusting yourself. You might even be good and aggravated at your actions that made you vulnerable to the injury in the first place.

The doctor explained to me that the places on my foot where I had the bone bruises were not protected by much fleshy tissue. They are more vulnerable to an impact injury. This is why people in construction wear heavy boots to protect their feet.

Vulnerable is not a word any of us embrace but, it is an accurate description of our emotional and spiritual state many times. When we fostered for fifteen years, I was always filled with compassion at the vulnerable state of the children that came into our home. Eyes wide with fear or anger, they would often size us up suspiciously as they limped in with their wounded hearts. They had been bruised. They needed to recover. They needed time. They needed rest. They needed healing.

If we tried to move too quickly in the new relationship, they might recoil out of pain. If we were making progress the slightest miss-step might take us back to square one. There would be days when the injury to their ability to trust seemed beyond repair. There were times when they needed more specialized care. There were times when we only had a short time to minister to their bruised hearts before they returned to places where they would be at risk for further bruising. There were definitely times of contusion confusion. We prayed a lot as we tried to determine just how deeply they had been bruised. We applied support through firm healthy boundaries. We applied love and mercy and grace liberally to try to ease the swelling. We didn’t expect more than they could give. We tried hard not to be discouraged when it seemed all our progress had been lost.

I am so thankful to say that I did see healing and the ability to function return in many of their lives. Sometimes we were just a temporary safe place. Sometimes we became a more permanent safe place. If you need a safe place, Jesus has prepared such a place for you. I know it may seem to some like a crutch to rely on the Lord. I understand the inclination to rely on yourself. But, if you are ready to progress and complete your healing, don’t refuse the offer of a strong arm and a place of safety. Lean heavily on Him. You can trust Him. He won’t drop you. He won’t leave you where He found you. He understands. He was bruised too.

“But, he was wounded for our iniquities (transgressions), he was bruised for our sins (iniquities): the chastisement of our peace was upon him and by his bruises (stripes) we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5