When we can't see....

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A few weeks ago while heading up the side of a mountain in Guatemala with a Chicken Bus full of kids, the radiator blew. As I stepped off the bus, I knew it was not good (although, I‘m not mechanically inclined) the green stream of anti-freeze flowing down the street, mixed with oil— was a good indication. It was hot, and the kids were ready for camp. We had to call the city for another bus—not an easy task, especially on a mountain side town next to the road. As the time passed, the kids, as kids do, wanted snacks. Lucky for us, we broke down right next to a small bakery. The kids stocked up on fresh bread and homemade popsicles. Time went by and the kids were saddened as the bakery, slowly selling out of everything, eventually closed for the day— but finally our second chicken bus arrived and we were off to start our great camp weekend.
In Acts 16, we read a story about Paul and Silas. They were beaten with rods, flogged, and eventually thrown in prison. Not exactly the “Thank You” they had hoped to receive for casting a demon out of a girl and saving the day. However,—in one of their most difficult moments, what did they do? They sang...they worshipped God, the walls shook and the prison doors flung open! In that moment the guard that was there—fell to his knees and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
You see, we don’t always know the story on the “other side”.
We don’t know the story—on the other side—of our bad day, our tragic story, or painful experience. We don’t always get to see the joy that God brings to the situation. You see if you’d ask the baker, I’m sure he’d share the story about the day his store sold out of food— where God provided for him and his family and how, just maybe, our broken bus—was his answered prayer. The guard in Acts would always remember the day Paul and Silas were jailed as his best day ever—it’s the day he encountered Jesus, and the first day of New Life for Him.
Our very worst moments, can still be used for God! Our very worst days, can be the answered prayers to another!
We don’t always get to see the goodness, but by Faith we can know it’s there. We can remember the moments when we DO see the other side, to assure us when we can’t! Even in the tragic moments, the moments that stop us on a dime. The call that changes everything—we can know that God will use it, because we’ve seen him do it before and he will do it again. By faith, we know, God is good. The baker is happy, the guard is safe, and God is with us. We can trust him—even when we can’t see!

In a world where we teach our daughters that they can be anything... why not a mom?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

So, today was career day at my children's school.  I love spirit days, they always give me a chance to frantically dig through whatever I can find to help my child look like their favorite animal,  or character from a book.  (Seriously, I hope you can read the sarcasm screaming out here between the line) Even better, now living here in a developing country- it makes it even more fun when you just can't run out to the closest Hobby Lobby and craft your way to the perfect costume.  So, my heart was beyond happy to get word that the school was celebrating the last spirit day-- Career Day.

I was even more excited when my daughter announced that she'd like to go as a mommy.  She was torn between a marine biologist, (Here words were dolphin doctor) and the honorable position of mom.  We quickly whipped up her costume, equipped with baby, coffee and cell phone.  Off I sent her to school.   I snapped a quick picture of her proud moment, bearing the resemblance of a little "mom" and called it a pretty good morning.

This evening as my son was getting ready for bed he said they had asked on the field at school for the kids to share their careers.  He said that as his little sister spoke to the crowd saying "I'm a mommy, " the kids began to giggle.  It broke his heart and tonight it broke mine.  He was sad because of the value our family has placed on callings and our careers.  "If God calls her to it, mom..." he whispered.

In a world where we teach our daughters that they can be anything-- why can't they still be a mommy?  In a world full of women's rights and marches, and the advancement of equal opportunities- why shouldn't our young girls still have the right to choose to be only a mom?  Who ever in this world that has been shamming this idea should have a good reminder of what it means to have equality and freedom.

Don't get me wrong- I'm the first to believe women have a place at the table.  I believe a woman has the right to be a doctor, a lawyer, a pastor, or serve her country- even with her baring arms, if she so wishes.  I believe at the same time our men have the same equal opportunity to choose what ever career they want, whether it be a business man, a missionary, politician, or a full-time stay at home dad.

Why must we limit our children based on what we feel is the best for them?  If we truly mean it, when we say "You can be whatever you want to be," we must be willing to embrace that career no matter the gender, and no matter the job.  Success is not defined always by your bank account, but from the joy it brings to you and those around you and the desire that God places in your heart.  I promise you my life as a missionary is not preparing us for that golden retirement, but I can assure you that my heart is full and I'm content in the life I live.  I love living my passion and our calling in God.

My husband and I tell our children when they share their dreams for their future to simply pray about it.  Then we always respond that if God calls them to it, he will bless them and bless those around them.  To us that is enough.  Who are we to argue or question the calling and passions God places on our children's hearts.

Being a mommy, is not "just" a job.  To many it is "the" job.  Being a full-time mom or dad is not for the faint of heart- believe me I've tried it and I feel I failed miserably, but I know women who rock it, toting their Pinterest life styles, spending the day with their kids.  I see the passion and joy they have in their lives and I'm convinced it's an incredible job-- to stay at home and raise your children.  A job that any child, boy or girl, should be proud to be on Career Day at school.

This mom is done with the idea that we must conform to someone's opinion that you can't just be.  You can just be a mom.  You can just be a dad.  You can just be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a construction worker, electrician, a secretary, a teacher, or nurse.  Just be.  If God has called you, and your heart is happy and it brings joy to the people around you- DO IT.  You can BE whatever career you want and BE proud of it.  Own it.

So to my beautiful, little girl- Own it, sweet Norah.  Carry your baby and cup of coffee and be proud of the woman you will be some day.  Be a Mommy that walks with grace and pride and the joy of Jesus to share with your babies and those around you at every mom group, grocery store aisle and school function. Be such a mom, that the world sees Jesus ooze out of you, and they think-- wow, what a woman, what a job.  I want to be a mom when I grown up too.

Come to the table...

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Tonight I sat in a small church somewhere in the middle of Guatemala.  There I set under the tin roof, and between the cinderblock walls.   With the cars steps outside door, and the sounds of children running down the street-- I sat.   Surrounded by the church, while taking in the moment that we are in fact the church.

I had just served communion to the fifty plus men and women sitting in those white plastic chairs.  As I walked to the front carrying the remaining of the bread, walking alongside my husband and two church elders.  All of sudden, I got that choke and I had to swallow quick and hard, you know those out of the blue, almost too emotional moments.  I felt this overwhelming thanks of gratitude, humility.  Because I, a woman-- was standing here, and I heard the words of my God say, "Come to the table..."

I graciously walked to my chair and held that tiny little piece of bread, balancing that glass grape juice.  I heard it again, "Come to my table..."  and my head went down in prayer.  How incredible is that we get to come to the table, it doesn't matter who we are: man, woman, white, black brown.  We can be Latino, European, African, Asian, Australian.  God invites us all to the table. John says this in Revelations, "After this I looked up and there before was a great multitude  that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the lamb (7:19)"

Have you ever processed what Heaven is really going to look like; the piercings, the braided hair, the buns,  blue eyes, brown eyes, and green,  red hair, curly hair, freckled faced and tattooed.   The global body of Christ, has all kinds of kinds- and I get to be there in the middle of that great multitude.

I know I've sat and stared at that bread hundreds of times, but tonight his words, his invitation just burned in my heart... God is here and he is inviting.  He is inviting me, he is inviting you to just come.  His death- his blood, his body is crying out "Come to the table, come eat in remembrance."

In a word with so much separation, so much passive segregation I see my savior across the table, saying, "Sit."  He places no limitations on me because of who I am, because I am his beloved and he is mine.  He says "Come."  He doesn't care that I'm a woman.  He doesn't care that I'm white, and He doesn't care about who I was.  He just cares that I'm there- ready to worship him.  He says, "Come to the table."

Tonight, I gave thanks for a place that I can come just as I am-- forever His and partake at His table.  I gave thanks for the millions who sit with me- all colors, all cultures, all languages, all children of God- who come to the table to remember the King.

The Strength in two Chairs: The story of Valery

Thursday, February 28, 2019

This week we took a little more time to go learn some more at a near by Spanish school.  Trust me when I say I'll be learning Spanish for the rest of my life.  I never knew that God would use it as a chance to see the strength and beauty in two souls that shared a table with me.  I want to share their stories-- I want you to see there beauty.  

Valery sits across from me in here chair. Her hair is long and dark. Latino women always have the best hair. It's silky and it shimmers when the sun hits it. She is young-- maybe my age. The thirties have to be young, right? She has a black leather coat, and denim pants. I notice the Hello Kitty shirt underneath. She is simple, yet beautiful. Her smile is beautiful, with perfect white teeth. Her eyes the color of chocolate. As she sits and I begin to speak I notice- Valery's right eye doesn't focus. Valery's right eye is weak, and I can't at that moment remember why that seems to bother me so much. 

Valery was married when she was 14 years old. That is not a typo. It's still a thing in many places in the world.  In the Mayan culture these brides marry due to traditions and poverty. (A law was passed in 2015 making it illegal to marry before 18, but this was before Valery's time.) It's a horrible cycle.  She had a broken life and by the time she left had had 3 children.  Her husband, like many men here (machismo culture), constantly cheated on her.  Valery shared that she knew of eight different women.   She said her life was "complicado" and shared a little about her kids.  It was the end of the first day, and time for me to go home.  

That night I traveled to the grocery story, and as I made small talk with the cashier I looked at her and I noticed her dark eyes, and one eye just a little weaker and when she smiled my mind flashed back to a moment and to a friend.  "She looks like Monica," I thought, "eyes and all." Then my gut turned and my stomach knotted up- because I finally remembered THE LOOK. I remember the night Monica came came to my house, her eye covered in blood (black and swollen).  I remember the fear in here voice. I remember the time it took for the color to come to her face and her beauty to return- and I remember seeing how her one eye never quite looked the same.  The small reminder of a broken night, a violent relationship, and a shattered soul.  I flashed a smile at the cashier, swallowing the tears and headed home.

Over the next few days I had a chance to listen to Valery open up.  I chopped through Spanish, and she corrected me.  I asked questions, and she poured into me. Valery admitted her husband hit her and hit her and hit her. She said she was young (remember she married at 14), and he just kept saying he was sorry.  "When you're young, flowers fix a lot." One time she asked about one of the other women, Valery paused, shook her head and never finished that story.  I never asked more.  

She choked up saying how she finally, after 12 years, had the courage to leave her husband.  She took her children and moved to the city.  Throughout the days she spoke of her culture's traditions, and of a past she doesn't go back to.  She left a part of her culture, her community, her family--for a life without fear or abuse. She lost everything. She traded her skirt for jeans and leather- but she gained freedom and hope.  She openly shared her guilt for disappointing God, because God doesn't want divorce.  In broken Spanish- I mustered up the words to share hope. Our God offers love. He forgives and he understands.  Tears filled her dark eyes, and I knew she didn't get told that often.  I'm thankful for broken Spanish and sharing Gods love. I prayed for her and went home.

The next day we shared more Spanish.  I was learning, promise-- but I couldn't help but think God was using our time too.  She said her son was 19 and had a drug problem.  She spoke of rehab and trying to help him when he doesn't want to help himself.  She talked about the 5 drug houses that are within walking distance of her home, frustrated that her son just can't get away.   The poverty is deep here and the problems even deeper.   I shared with her my husband's story. How God called him out at a concert and changed his whole life. How in a single moment, God radically changed him from a life of drug use, to a life of sharing that victory in Jesus.  

Today marked our last day.  We laughed and cried a little.  She smiled sweetly and said thank you.  Valery said she prayed last night for the first time in a long time. Valery prayed because she believed again that God loved her, and that he was reaching out to her. Valery said "I have hope! I have hope that God can radically change my son- because he radically changed you husband. I believe that now. I believe that God loves me."  She thanked me, telling me such kind words and I just smiled and laughed.  

You see it's Valery I admire- It's the Valerys that are so amazingly beautiful to me.  They have this gentle force to keep moving on in spite of brokenness and pain.  I look at her and think, "Oh my God- you created such a wondrous woman, and I got to hear her story."  I got to understand her story (in Spanish!). So I ask you to pray for Valery (God knows her name) tonight. Pray for the Valerys in world tonight that go on fighting hard, and are just waiting to be reminded that they are loved. They are cherished and that they matter to God. They matter to me too.  

"He lifted me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry clayHe set my feet upon a rock, and made my footsteps firm." 
Psalm 40:2

Raising a Peter- a rock solid Kid

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Some days my son leaves me exhausted. I love him, don’t get me wrong- HEAR ME. I love my son, but there are days, a lot of days where he can be a little— or a lot of difficult. His stubbornness is a thorn in my side. He’s always quick to act, and slow to think about the consequences. He pushes me to my limits. There are nights, I feel the tears swell up in my eyes as I wonder, “Am I doing something wrong.” He fights hard, and never backs down— and I worry am I a strong enough wall to take the blows. I worry about the man he will be- I worry and I pray. I pray a lot.

He is a great kid with an incredible heart, but the gray hair on top of my head-- they are all his. He wants to change the world. He loves deep, and feels deeper than most. He has big ideas and bigger dreams. This week I heard God whisper to me while I was reading, “Jenni- you are simply raising a Peter. I don’t need him to be soft- I need him to be solid.”

Peter one of the greatest of all the disciples didn’t exactly get his start doing great things. In the beginning we read that Peter was often seen as brash, maybe even a little implosive. He was the first to speak, the first to act, and the last to think through the implications of his words or his actions. Jesus was always patient and steering- something I am still working on. You see Jesus knew that Peter’s course was set, even if Peter didn’t know it. Jesus knew that someday others would follow him, even though the road would be hard.

Jesus speaks to Peter softer and more often than any other disciple. Sometimes in praise, and sometimes in blame. Jesus spoke words of approval, and praise and he didn’t really speak to others in that way. And at the same time, often in the same breath, He said harder things to Peter than any other of his twelve- with the exception of Judas. Peter eventually got used to the correction and even got used to thinking before he spoke or acted.

Peter had faith like none other. Without a doubt leaping from a boat to run to Jesus— on water!!! He had the ability to step out in great faith, but when the waves and the wind crashed he became scared and began to sink. He needed help learning how to have faith in the midst of the adversity, but the Lord was there to guide him. Impulsive with his words even when he was shouting out “I’ll never betray you” and then 3 times denying Christ. I think though THIS was this moment ini his life, as he heard that rooster crow the man he was— soft, incomplete, unstable was transformed into the solid rock we know today. The rock Jesus referred to in Matthew 16. It just took a little time...

So this what I have to say to us moms out there with difficult boys— Mommas, what if you are raising a Peter? What if the very thing you see as his greatest weakness will some day solidify into a mighty rock? Peter was the rock that was needed to begin the church, to unify and lead. You are raising a rock solid kid, I know that I am. A kids that just like Peter, that someday might build a church, perform miracles, or even change the world. Praise God for the Peters in the world, and the moms who are raising them.

The Christmas Story: Hope to those facing infertility

Saturday, December 22, 2018

This is one of those times when I go back and reread this every year.  A reminder of God's faithfulness.  When it seems so long before we would get children, and now here we are celebrating with our two beautiful kids. .....

We all know—Christmas is upon.  It is advent and the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  This season many have talked about how we celebrate his arrival on the dark, starry night.  We understand that although we celebrate knowing he came once, we can wait in anticipation that Christ the Lord will come again.  He has left so much to remind us of His short time on earth.
It has been during the past few weeks that I feel the Spirit guiding me and opening my eyes to things I needed to hear.  Many know that my husband and I are eagerly waiting the birth and arrival of a child.  No—we are not pregnant, but we have been trying to adopt again for three years.  Now I know what you’re thinking… What on earth does the Nativity Story have to do with adoption?  We’ll let me tell you.
First of all, for all of you in the same place as we are know that God keeps his promises.  He promised the world that Christ would come.  The world waited, and many in the Bible cried out eagerly awaiting the arrival of a child.  Now if God will keep his promises to the world, wouldn’t he keep his promise to us?   God promises to us that we will have our hearts desire (Psalms 20:4), that we will have whatever we ask in his name (John 14:14) and that he is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).  Just as the world awaited Jesus’ birth, we can have hope that God will to send us a child.
Through the years my husband and I wonder and wait as our file keeps getting passed by.  I stare at the pages of our portfolio and wonder why?  Why would we not be chosen to receive a child?  Maybe we are not rich enough, live in the right house, live in the right town.  Maybe it’s because we are too young or too old. 
Sometimes the mind wonders with worry, but this Christmas season I have found comfort.  God did not send His son into the world to be raised by the rich.  He did not Him to be born and raised into a life of luxury.  He didn’t even care how old his parents were.  Mary is said to be between 13-14.  Elizabeth and Zechariah were much too old to have children, or so they thought.
 The one thing we can take away from Christ’s chosen parents is that they were normal.  Maybe even a little poor.  In Luke we read how Mary and Joseph had no money for an expensive offering; instead they offered a bird up to God.   God doesn’t care how much money we make, our age, or where we live (Jesus was born in a manger). We can find comfort that God doesn’t discriminated but waits for the perfect child to be given.  Mary and Joseph were chosen to receive Christ.  In adoption, we can also know that we have already been chosen to receive God’s blessing.  It might not happen in our timing, but it will happen.  God doesn’t care if you are 14 or 30!  When he has chosen a child—it will happen.
I cannot image the pain Mary and Joseph experienced as they took the journey of Mary’s pregnancy.  Mary risked being stoned.  Joseph faced ridicule.  They were shamed.  They felt alone.  They traveled a long hard journey.   The road of adoption is much the same.  It is a long hard journey.  It’s not an easy one.  So many people don’t understand, yet you push on.  You might feel ashamed because your womb is empty, alone in journey.  As I read their story I find comfort in knowing that God sometimes allows the road to be hard.  God sometimes allows the pain of the journey—but as we see in their story, there is hope.  Hope that it will all be worth it in the end.
In spite of it all, Christ was born!  Amen!  Christ came into this world and the world received the greatest gift of all—salvation.  As we wait, we can know that we too will receive a child and they will be the answered prayers—a gift from a good and faithful God.  We cannot get discouraged.  We cannot give up hope.  God has been faithful before, and he will continue to be faithful time and time again.  As Christmas is upon us and you need rest from the adoption journey, we can find comfort in the journey of our Savior and the journey of His parents.   We can rejoice in the birth of our Lord, eagerly waiting his return.  We can also rejoice that God always follows through, and that our story will be a testimony to His greatness.  Our story will be a miracle of God grace.  Find comfort this season in the love of our God, and the joy in the birth of Christ Jesus, and know that God’s timing is always perfect.
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Years.

When enemy lines are drawn....

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

(This, see this picture above, is what the enemy has sought to destroy.)

What if I told you this picture would never have happened a few months ago?   What if I told you that a few months ago these kids and their families were nothing short of enemies.  A daily battle waged against each other and their parents. BUT, what if our greatest friendships are sometimes found across the enemy line… and that line was drawn by the devil himself.  What if, what God knows is good, the enemy will seek to destroy?

You see when we arrived here just a few months ago, it was crazy.  I had already established a few good Facebook friends and I knew it would be okay here with this new set of friends.  Then life was thrown, more like launched in our faces— like a giant catapult of culture shock and adjustment.  Blow after blow!  Our kids cried and we did too.  They struggled. To be honest all the kids did.  My son became a spontaneous wreck as evil words spewed from his mouth.  He cried.  He screamed.  Our daughter never slept, we never slept and we really retreated into all but survival.  Facebook pictures showed smiles, but on the other side we were truly falling apart.

In those same months all the parents went into survival mode.  I’m going to be honest that when the battle is waged and the the smoke is thick, its hard to see who’s firing and who’s in the same trench with you.   It’s hard to remember who is fighting who.  You see I was too caught up in my own struggle to see the other parents grasping and surviving.  My mama bear mode went into beast mode, and I was out to defend and save the two amazing littles that God so instrusted me.

You see though that’s the problem with Momma Bear mode.  It taints your vision.  It’s causes you to only see through one lense.  This one particular family struggled. They were having a hard time, and often when two kids are going through hard times they take it out on each other. Instead of lifting each other up, we chose to bring each other down. Instead of praying against THE enemy, this woman became the enemy.  No, we never became like the Real Housewives, but I promise you— I was not supporting her and if your are not for someone you really are against them.  Instead our kids yelled about their kids, and we allowed it. We fed into to it, we blamed each other— instead of the enemy. 

You see that is what the enemy seeks to do— kill our joy, steal our calling, and destroy our friendships.   He is out to defeat us.  We were just so caught up in cross fire, that we forgot who was firing.  

Now, I wouldn’t be typing this if there wasn’t purpose. Through this and the battle that waged for 3 months— God chiseled. I began to humble myself to him and pray.  Asking God to fix the situation.  We selfishly were praying to change them, to change their hearts.  After a horrible eruption of events, God stirred my heart in the middle of the night and asked me to pray.  He spoke to my heart to pour light into the darkness.  No, I had never bad mouthed this woman to anyone, but I certainly wasn’t encouraging her either and speaking kindness.  

It was different, but I looked for every opportunity to speak to others about her beauty, her patience and her amazing friendships.  I took time to pray for each and every one of her children.    And then it happened, one day I got a text asking for coffee.  Now this was not just coffee, but two white flags!  It was crossing into No Man’s Land.  In these two plus hours over the rain in a coffee shop in Costa Rica  we sat and tore down the immense wall the enemy had successfully helped us to build up.  We cried.  We spoke truth, and saw on that day we had more alike that different. 

The realness of the moment, was when we learned that we both had began to pray for each other around the same time. That God had spoke to her in the same way.   

I look at this picture, and I see God’s grace.  I see the beauty of a battle won.  I see how an incredible friendship was almost lost, simple because we lost focus and misfired.  Watch your battle lines ladies, because the enemy likes to draw them where they don’t belong.

AND an additional side note, my dear friend read this to approve the post and agreed-- this is OUR story and should be shared.  Let us not let another friendship fail because of misfires to one another, when the real enemy is already defeated on the cross.  I have no doubt that what the enemy tried to use to destroy this friendship, the Spirit will use to shine light on the only one who give loves and grace.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. — Genesis 50:20 NIV

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