What I Gather About Disciplined Children

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Ava started playing the violin just before she turned six, almost four years ago.  I remember early on posting a Facebook status, complaining about the stress around violin practice times.  I was half wanting to vent, half wanting advice from more seasoned parents.

The overwhelming advice?  Let her quit.

It was shocking to this then 28 year old mother.  It had never crossed my mind to let her quit.  I began evaluating whether or not I was expecting too much and whether the arguments were even worth it.

I then had the realization…. which I think I knew all along….. that children need discipline.

I came from a disciplined home.  My father worked hard at being a successful attorney and at his role as pastor.  My mother kept a clean and organized home and had dinner on the table every single night.  My parents set high expectations for me.  It never crossed my mind to argue with them about chores (until I was a teenager) or bring home a grade that was less than my best.  At church, I knew the behavioral expectations.  I easily sat quietly through an hour long Bible lesson when I was still in the single digits.  I prayed and read my Bible daily because that was the behavior that was modeled to me.

It has certainly been a challenge to remain disciplined in my adult life, but I am so grateful for the lessons taught to me as a young child.  The discipline of my childhood has served me well in my adult life.

I hear people all the time criticizing my generations and the generations younger than me.  Perhaps we set the bar too low and expect too little of our kids, and that translates to entitled, lazy, undisciplined children?

Violin is hard to learn and my daughter complains about practicing?  Let her quit.

It is easier to do the housework myself than to force my children to help.  I’ll just do it all.

My life is too busy.  My kids will be fine without a routine.

It is hard teaching my children to sit through a church service.  We just won’t go.

My kids are so disrespectful but I don’t have it in me to have one more intervention.  I’ll let it slide.

These are tendencies I struggle with daily.  Sometimes it is easier to just let it slide, give up and take the path of least resistance.  I find myself taking this path all too often.  But isn’t this a battle worth fighting?  I see enormous potential in my children, and I want to give them the tool of self-discipline.  I know it will serve them well, as it has served me well.

I’m certainly not an advocate for pushing our children beyond their limitations or fighting every. single. battle.  I don’t believe that creates a nurturing environment or a house that has any fun, for that matter.

But the beautiful thing about teaching our kids discipline is that somewhere down the road, they begin to see the payoff.  It took over three tumultuous years of violin practices and lessons before Ava began to make beautiful music.  She still has a long way to go, but she can take on and conquer a beautifully challenging song.  Ava recognizes that her hard work and dedication is paying off and that she has learned to play a very difficult instrument.  The battles come with less and less frequency.

So to all of you who told me to let her quit, I respectfully disagree.

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In what ways do you teach your kids self-discipline?  Sports?  Schoolwork?  Chores?  At church?  In what areas do you not compromise?  In what areas are you more flexible?  Do you agree with me that lessons of self-discipline will help with entitlement mentality?  I would love your feedback!  Especially from all of the seasoned parents out there!

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What Kind of Person?

It was one of those nights in the Rennard house.

Tempers were flaring.  Hormones were raging.  Frustrations were high.

My sweet 9-year-old was testing my limits.  Disobedience.  Disrespect.  Unkindness toward her little sister.  Temper.  Grunting, growling, stomping.  Talking back.

I stepped out of her bedroom, gave myself a few moments alone to catch my breath and calm down……

Mind racing.  Feelings of failure.  Inadequacy.  Fear of the future.  Disappointment.

Then it comes to me.

“Ava, what kind of person do you want to be?”  I say with tears in my eyes.

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This question opens up an honest dialogue.

Does she want to be like her parents?  Like all the members of her family who have devoted their lives to serving God?  Ultimately, does she want to be like Jesus?  Does she want to be someone who is transformed by the Holy Spirit and bears the fruit of the Spirit in her life?

OR….

Does she want to be ruled by her flesh?  Does she want to be selfish?  Does she want to be disrespectful and unkind?  Does she want to always get her way at the expense of everyone around her?  Does she want to harm those who she loves with her sharp words and unkind actions?

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Tears well up in her eyes.  She is processing, thinking, evaluating the question posed to her.  I hold her close, pray earnestly for her, reaffirm my love and acceptance of her, tell her I am blessed to be her mother.

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This question has been churning in my head for weeks.

Ava, what kind of person do you want to be?

I know what kind of person I want Ava to be.  I have my own hopes and dreams for her.  While I can train, teach and lead by example, the choice ultimately belongs to Ava.  Will she allow the Holy Spirit to transform her into someone who reflects the character of Christ?  Time will tell.

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Meanwhile, I hear the gentle voice of a loving Father ask me the question…..

“Rachael.  What kind of person do you want to be?”

Do you want to know me and respond to my voice?  Do you want to lay aside weights, sin and distraction in order to know me more?  Will you allow me to remove the pride from your heart?  Will you be someone who makes space in your heart and life for my lost sheep?  Will you reflect my character with your words and in your deeds?

OR……..

Will you put me on the back burner of your life, calling on me when it is convenient?  Will you elevate yourself at the expense of others?  Will you fall in step with the materialism around you?  Will you go where you want to go instead of where I lead?  Will you gossip and slander?  Will you exclude others so that you feel more included?  Will you always put yourself first?

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Will I allow the Holy Spirit to transform me into someone who reflects the character of Christ?  Time will tell.

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I Gather a Prayer for Ruby

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This baby.  Even minutes after delivery, she was perfect and beautiful, round and healthy (as you can see).  God only knows how many prayers were prayed for her during the last nine months…. and now she is here, making everyone giddy with joy and excitement.

A few months ago, when I began to pray for direction for my prayer for Ruby, I felt directed to the life and ministry of Samuel.  As I began to study and write the prayer, I felt the Holy Spirit moving right here at my computer.  I love the Massingale family dearly and believe in their ministry and role in the Kingdom of God.  I already know that Ruby is going to be a tremendous blessing to their family, an asset to their ministry team, and a force in the Kingdom of God.

This is my prayer for little Ruby.  I love you already.

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Dear Ruby,

May the prayers prayed for you be answered (I Samuel 1:20)

May you dwell in the presence of the Lord forever (I Samuel 1:22)

May you be on lend to the Lord as long as you live (I Samuel 1:28)

May you minister before the Lord from a young age  (I Samuel 2:18)

May you grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man (I Samuel 2:26)

May the Lord call to you until you answer (I Samuel 3)

May you dwell in the right place, waiting on the Lord to speak (I Samuel 3:9)

May you hear when the Lord speaks (I Samuel 3:10)

May none of your words fall to the ground (I Samuel 3:19)

May you be established as a prophetess of the Lord (I Samuel 3:20)

May the Lord reveal himself to you by his word (I Samuel 3:21)

May your life and words lead people to return to the Lord will all their hearts, put away foreign gods, direct their hearts to the Lord, and serve him only. (I Samuel 7:3)

May you never cease to cry out to God for others (I Samuel 7:8)

May the Lord answer when you cry out (I Samuel 7:9)

May you set up memorials when the Lord helps you (I Samuel 7:12)

May you always build an altar to the Lord (I Samuel 7:17)

May you see clearly with spiritual eyes (I Samuel 9:19)

May the hearts of people be changed after an encounter with you (I Samuel 10:9)

May you never defraud, oppress or take anything from those you are sent to serve (I Samuel 12:5)

May your words and your life say to people, “Do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself.  Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way.  Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things he has done for you.” (I Samuel 12:20-24)

May you not judge on appearance, but see the heart as God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7)

May you, through faith, conquer kingdoms, enforce justice, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, be made strong in weakness, be mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:33-34)

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Gathering of Parental Confessions

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There’s something therapeutic about confession.  We all are guilty of trying to make ourselves appear better than we actually are.  Whether it is my portrayal of myself as wife, friend, mom, cook, housekeeper, employee or Christian, I want you to think I am better than I am.  I’m growing by leaps and bounds in this department.  I know that I find transparency in others so refreshing, so I am trying to become more honest and transparent about myself.

Therefore….. here are some (possibly sad, possibly comical) confessions about my life as a parent.

1. I pay my daughter to read.

In my defense, I got this idea from a friend.  Her daughter isn’t a huge fan of reading books, so they offered to pay her $5 to finish a challenging book.

A few weeks later, I found myself incredibly frustrated.  We take a weekly trip to our public library in the summer, and Ava always picks out a bag full of novels.  She then brings them home, where they sit until our next library trip.  The only thing that gets read are Archie comics.

(I may or may not have told her she will never be a smart person if all she reads are Archie comic books.)

So I offered her $3 for every library book she finished the rest of the summer.  She finished her first one the next day.

2.  I bribe and/or threaten my children.

Bedtime is a sacred time in our home.  Not actual bedtime, but the quiet that follows shortly thereafter.  There are no compromises when it comes to bedtime in the Rennard house.  Both of my girls know that we don’t mess around with this rule.  Ava knows that if she gets out of her bed, she will be grounded the following day.

When we moved Isabel out of her crib, we bribed her with M&M’s.  She knew if she stayed in her bed all night, she would get candy the next morning.  Don’t judge.

3.  I allow some lazy mornings.

Many mornings, I have to be up early for work or to get Ava on the bus.  On the mornings when Jimmie gets Ava on the bus or we have nowhere to go, I permit laziness.  This means I get up to get milk and a bowl of Cheerios/craisins for Isabel, then get back into bed.

I either sleep a bit longer, get my Bible reading done, or catch up on blogs.  I have been known to let her watch TV until 10 or so while I do this.

4.  I sometimes hide.

I recognize this sounds terrible, but I KNOW you moms out there can relate.  Sometimes the noise, demands, complaining and arguing get the best of me and I just need a moment of peace.  My favorite hiding places?

Bathtub.  I lock the door and let Jimmie be boss and referee for a while.

Bedroom.  I have been known, very occasionally, to take my dinner into my bedroom while I eat and watch TV alone.  Father/daughter time is important, right?

Shopping.  When I’m feeling really overwhelmed, I take a quiet trip alone to Goodwill or Target or somewhere where I can wander in peace.  This approach works wonders.

5.  I yell.

I never thought I would be the parent who yells.  With Isabel, yelling isn’t necessary.  She responds well to discipline in a normal tone most of the time.  Ava is a different story.  She seems to not hear anything I say until I have dramatically raised my decibel level.  I’m working on this one.

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I think five confessions is enough for today.

As parents, I think we need to permit ourselves imperfections without feeling like failures.  We have so many positive interactions each and every day with our kids.  We give so much of ourselves to make sure they are fed, clothed, healthy and happy.  It is so easy for me to overlook this fact and focus instead on the negative all the time.  I will continue in my attempts to grow and develop as a parent, but I also want to allow myself room to be human.  I want my kids to see my imperfections as well, so that they learn about grace, apologies, forgiveness and unconditional love.

What about you?  Don’t leave me alone here… what are your parental confessions?

Happy Monday!

sig I know it has been quiet around here lately. My daughter starts school next week, so you will see more posts starting then. Have you missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
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Gathering to Heal
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Gathering to Heal

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Sometimes all the pieces fall right into place.

Gathering was looking for opportunities to serve our community.  I saw a status update on Facebook about an organization called Young Lives.  I contacted the regional director who put me in touch with the Young Life director here in Noblesville.  He was fantastically energetic and passionate about reaching Noblesville students.  He told me more about Young Lives, their branch that tries to connect with and serve teenage moms.  We began to pray about getting involved.  Women from Gathering wanted to get on board.  We prayed and God put the right leader into place.  And now, only a handful of months later, we are starting a Young Lives club in Noblesville High School.

Like I said, sometimes God puts all the necessary pieces into place.

Each summer, pregnant teens or teenage moms involved with Young Lives have the opportunity to go to camp for a week.  The camp needed volunteers  to administer spa treatments for their spa day.  We were assured no experience was necessary, so I hopped in a car with Chellee and Tasha and drove nearly four hours to Michigan.

It isn’t very often I’m surrounded by so many selfless, caring, generous people.  I didn’t take it for granted.  We had lots of fun and laughed until we cried, but I was keenly aware that those people surrounding me were wholeheartedly about the Father’s business.  Theirs is the work of the Kingdom.  Many lead a weekly club for pregnant and teenage moms.  They are a constant, trusted friend in the lives of girls who face challenges and hurdles that would be hard for anyone to overcome.  These volunteers are the ones who pour their lives out to reach “the least of these”, demonstrating selfless love and always, always point these girls to a compassionate Savior.

And yet, I was so moved by the joy on the faces of these volunteers.  They give and give, but their reward is from above.  They have a joy that only Jesus can offer.  Their reward?  The satisfaction that comes ONLY with spending a life to bring glory to God and lead others to Him.  I could see how their love and commitment to these girls, combined with the work of the Holy Spirit is like a healing salve on deep wounds that these girls have endured.

And the girls?

Beautiful, each and every one, because they are loved and chosen by a King.  They come from all backgrounds, races, socioeconomic statuses, and cities.  They carry the weight of the world on their young shoulders, but for one week, they are free.  They bring their babies and their pregnant bellies, and are loved and pampered.  They laugh and play, make new friends, and hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  I was able to talk with girls who were full of enthusiasm and hope, on their way to the healing that comes with that good news of Jesus Christ.

I am moved, recognizing that these girls chose life for their babies, when so many in their shoes have chosen abortion.  And I recognize the honor and privilege to serve God by serving girls who have made a selfless, loving choice when they could have chosen death.

I recognize that it was an honor to sit for hours, giving facials to girls who chose to take care of their babies instead of abandoning or aborting them.  What an honor to pamper the girls who sacrifice their youth and freedoms to take care of their precious children.

I recognize it is an honor to be part of an organization that shows Christ’s love in this way.  I am humbled and know deep down that this is the work of the Kingdom.  What more rewarding life could their be?

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Please pray for me and for the other women who are starting Young Lives at Noblesville High School.  We are praying for God to lead and guide us in this venture, and to teach us to serve in a selfless, Christ-like manner.  We want to provide love and support for girls in need of healing and hope.  We want to point them to Jesus in our word and deed.

Also, if you don’t know much about Young Life, I would highly recommend checking out their website.  They need volunteers from the community to keep things running smoothly and are always in need of donations to cover their expenses.  You can also learn more about Young Lives here.

If you live in the Noblesville area, you can contact the Noblesville Young Life director, Michael Redding, at michaelredding.younglife@gmail.com for more information.

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It has been quiet around here.  I am slowing down my pace in July, trying to spend more of my time with my girls before school starts.  I will get back to my normal posting pace this fall!  Thanks for understanding!

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I Gather a Prayer for Zion

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Our friends and neighbors, Norma and Fidelis, just had a beautiful baby boy.  His name is Zion.  My new practice is to write a prayer for any baby born to a friend of mine.  I base the prayer off of a name or something felt in prayer.  In this instance, my prayer is based off of Zion’s name.  And I have to tell you, I felt the power of God so strongly as I researched scripture for this prayer.  I can’t wait to see what ministry this precious baby boy turns out to have in the kingdom of God.  So, Zion Jude, this is the prayer I gathered for you.

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May you be a holy foundation from which others may rise up (Psalms 2:6)

May the Lord forever sit enthroned upon your heart (Psalms 9:11)

May you always rejoice in the salvation of the Lord and recount all of his praises (Psalms 9:14)

May the salvation of many be birthed out of your ministry (Psalms 14:7)

May your life and ministry always be a support to other believers (Psalms 20:2)

May the great king dwell in your heart and bring joy to all the earth (Psalms 48:2)

May you always be glad (Psalms 48:11)

May God always shine forth out of you, the perfection of beauty (Psalms 50:2)

May the vows you make to God always be performed (Psalms 65:1)

May God’s residence be established in you (Psalms 76:2)

May God always choose you and love you (Psalms 78:68)

May you hear the judgments of God and be glad (Psalms 97:8)

May you forever declare the name of the Lord and his praise (Psalms 102:21)

May you trust in the Lord and not be moved (Psalms 125:1)

May you be glad in your maker and rejoice in your king (Psalms 149:2)

May the word of the Lord and the law be proclaimed from your mouth (Isaiah 2:3)

May you shout and sing for joy, recognizing the Holy One of Israel is in your midst (Isaiah 12:6)

May the fear of the Lord be your treasure (Isaiah 33:6)

May the voice of the Lord roar from you, that the heavens and the earth quake (Joel 3:16)

And finally, Zion…..

GO ON UP TO A HIGH MOUNTAIN, O ZION, HERALD OF GOOD NEWS; LIFT IT UP, FEAR NOT; SAY TO THE CITIES OF JUDAH, “BEHOLD YOUR GOD! BEHOLD THE LORD COMES WITH MIGHT, AND HIS ARM RULES FOR HIM; BEHOLD, HIS REWARD IS WITH HIM, AND HIS RECOMPENSE BEFORE HIM. HE WILL TEND HIS FLOCK LIKE A SHEPHERD; HE WILL GATHER THE LAMBS IN HIS ARMS; HE WILL CARRY THEM IN HIS BOSOM, AND GENTLY LEAD THOSE THAT ARE WITH YOUNG.” (Isaiah 40:9-11)

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

What I Gather About Myself as Mom

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I laughed a little as I wrote that title, for several reasons.  Do any of us really have all of the answers about motherhood?  And if anyone does have all of the answers, surely it isn’t this 32-year-old with two children under the age of ten.

And yet the subject of motherhood has been on my mind a lot lately.  I recently spent a week away from my family, returning just in time for Mother’s Day.  I must confess, I felt a little torn while I was away.  I missed my girls every day, but I also felt an overwhelming peace, just having some time to myself, some time to breathe.  And that feeling of peace, having space and time to breathe?  It made me feel a little guilty.  Upon some self-reflection, I came to two conclusions about Rachael as mom that I will reluctantly joyfully share with you.

1.  Rachael is selfish.  Motherhood has a way of showing me 1,000 times a day, in ways both small and large, just how selfish I am.  Many days, my first thought is of how I wish my kids had slept longer so I could sleep myself.

When I want to write, Isabel wants to play with me.  When I am reading, Isabel needs her 13th drink of the day.  When I am taking a bath, Ava bangs on the door.  When I want to go out on a date with Jimmie, I can’t because there isn’t anyone to watch the kids.  I want to go hang out with friends but Isabel has to get in bed.  And on and on and on and on it goes.  

Let me just be straight with you.  My kids are six years apart for a reason!  I loved being a mom from the start, but I also daily got a glimpse into my own selfishness when I had Ava.  I was young, clueless and ALWAYS FELT INCONVENIENCED.  That’s not easy to admit, but it is the truth.  So I waited until Ava was fairly self-sufficient before I considered bringing another demanding human being into the world.

Let me try to make that last sentence sound better…. Because of my awareness of my own selfish inclinations, I felt it would be best for any future children to not have my attention constantly pulled in two directions.  Better?

Before I draw some conclusions about my selfish nature, let me get into the second conclusion about myself as mother…..

2. Rachael loves fiercely.I fell in love with both of my babies the moment I laid eyes on them.

With Ava, I have always been amazed at her outgoing nature, leadership abilities and her brain.  I stare in wonder at her face, amazed that God allowed us to be the parents of such an exceptional human being.

Isabel has always been my baby, my baby, my baby.  I hold her close, remembering that God promised her to me.  She is a gift, heaven-sent, to bring joy and love into our home and the world.

They are my girls and I love them the way only a mother can.  You better believe that if someone tries to hurt them I will throw rocks at them show up to defend my babies.  My love for them is constant.  It surges in unexpected ways that astound me.

And so I am confronted with this dichotomy of selfish Rachael and loving Rachael on a daily basis.

Until I realize that God is in it all.

God knows my innermost being.  There is no character flaw that is hidden from his probing gaze.  He knows the deepest, darkest places of my heart.  And yet…. he sent these children into my life, knowing that in spite of my humanity and selfishness, I would love them unconditionally.  This very combination of selfishness and love is what transforms me into a better mom and ultimately a better person.

I am selfish but I love my children.  In order for me to demonstrate that love effectively, I must confront my selfish nature daily.  I must allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate the darkest places of my heart so that the heart I show my girls is full of love and the light of a savior.

Jesus uses me as an instrument to point my girls to him.  Jesus also uses my girls as an instrument to point ME to him.

There are days motherhood brings out the worst in me.  I find myself yelling or grumpy or angry or resentful.  I’m sorry to say these days happen in my house.  However, I see how over time, God has chipped away at my selfishness and I am transforming into a more giving, generous, loving, forgiving, graceful and compassionate person.  Motherhood has been that vehicle of transformation and I thank God that in his grace, I am slowly becoming the kind of mother my girls deserve.

Maybe I will get there before they move out.

What about you?  What has motherhood taught you about yourself?  If you don’t have children yet, what scares you about motherhood? What vehicle, other than motherhood, has God used to transform you?  I welcome your feedback and HOPE I’m not alone here!

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What I Gather About $5,200 and Braces

I am ruined.

I think that phrase probably merits an explanation, so here goes.

A few months ago we took Ava to the orthodontist for a free consultation, knowing braces were in her future.  Sure enough, we were told Ava has a particularly serious lack of space in her mouth, not to mention a major cross-bite.  The cost for an expander and two years of braces?  $5,200.

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I am ruined because in the months since realizing we would spend $5,200 on braces, my brain has been thinking of all the things we could do with $5,200.

We could buy a church in Cuba.

We could sponsor 12.38 orphans in Uganda for a year.

We could sponsor one orphan in Uganda for 12 years.

We could help our friends in Cuba improve their home, or just buy them a new one.

We could pay for a family we know to get caught up on their house payment and not lose their home.

We could buy 346 chairs for churches in Cuba in need of seating.

We could surprise my cousin’s church in Jersey City with an offering.

We could buy a couple mopeds for pastors in Cuba without transportation.

I could give an offering to a friend wanting to adopt.

My friends, I am ruined.

It has been a process getting to this place of ruin.  My dad was always generous with his money, supporting missionaries all over the world.  I have seen poverty in Cuba.  I know how $5,200 can bless a Cuban church.  I have talked to my friend Linda about the starvation of kids in Uganda.  I gave up shopping for a year.  The Holy Spirit nudges me nearly every time I find myself thinking I “need” something.  I am ruined.

On top of all of that, I am uncomfortable with the societal pressure to look perfect.  I don’t want to send the message to Ava that she isn’t good enough, that her appearance is so important to us that we will spend more money than we spend on practically anything on “fixing” it.

And yet… I don’t want her to go through life judged negatively because of a not-perfect smile.  Girls and especially teenage girls in the U.S. face enough pressure as it is.  I certainly don’t want to contribute to what will surely be feelings of inadequacy in her teenage years by not getting her braces.

Then I think of Sarai, Ava’s friend in Cuba.  She is one month older than Ava and just as precious to God and almost as precious to me.  I think of what Sarai worries about.  Sarai deals with an empty belly when her parents are low on money.  Sarai has a lymphatic problem in her leg which causes it to swell 2-3 times the normal size.  Sarai rarely has shoes that are comfortable for her to wear on her long walk to and from school.  Should Sarai have a severe toothache, her tooth would most likely be pulled.  She has no hope of a perfectly straight, gleaming white smile.  Yet Sarai is happy, content, loved and secure.  Sarai loves and is loved by God.  For Sarai, perhaps that is enough.

Sarai

Yes, I am ruined, but I don’t want to be any other way.  I never want to go back to my calloused indifference.  I never want to go back to thinking that where my money goes doesn’t represent where my heart is.  It matters how our family spends $5,200, and at the end of the day, I have to give an account to God in prayer for the kind of steward I am.  If I want to be held accountable for every dollar I spend, I certainly must be held accountable for spending 5,200 of them.  Ava has her braces, but the money was not spent lightly.

Oh, I recognize the risk I take saying this out loud.  It is a risk because I am setting myself up to be judged.  Every new outfit, every car, every home, every purchase I make has the potential to be judged by those around me.  Yes, this makes me uncomfortable.  But surely I must recognize that God sees every purchase I make, whether you do or not.  His opinion matters and let me just say it, matters more than yours.

I am ruined and that is because children are dying of starvation.  I am ruined because all people do not have access to clean water and medical treatment.  I am ruined because my brothers and sisters in Christ suffer.  I am ruined because people are dying without hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.  I am ruined because people in my own city are going to bed hungry.  I am ruined because someone I know may lose their home.  I am ruined because a friend lost their job and doesn’t know how they will pay their bills.  I am ruined because the gospel message has not been preached to every tribe and tongue.

And ruined I will remain.

What about you?  Have you had any experiences that have left you more aware of how you spend your money?  What process do you go through when spending large amounts of money?  Is prayer involved?  What is the most rewarding thing you have done with your money?  I would love to hear your feedback!

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A Gathering of Links IX

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Happy Monday to you all!  It is a beautiful, warm, sunny day in central Indiana and I couldn’t be happier about it!  We have a lot going on in our world.  Friday we had a Mad Men themed going away party for my niece, which was a blast.  We had a huge turnout for the community garden workday last week.  Ava is taking ISTEP this week and Isabel is at a campground with my mom.  I am trying to soak in all the time I can with my niece before she (*tear) moves out.

I have lots of great links to share with you today, but first I want to share some exciting news….

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Agnes has a sponsor! A huge THANK YOU to the special family who will be making an impact on this precious girl’s life. I can’t thank you enough. I had hoped to have more sponsors by now, but I believe the seed has been planted and we will see more of these kids sponsored very soon! (If you are interested and missed our big promotion, please see this SPONSOR AN ORPHAN link)

Also, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the way all of you received my most popular post of the week, A (Re)Gathering of Faith.  It was my most popular post in the history of Rachael Gathers, thanks to all of your shares.  I was so moved by the comments and messages I received from so many of you responding to my story.  Sometimes I hesitate before I hit “publish” on personal stories, but the feedback from you reminded me that we all struggle and we can draw strength from the testimonies of one another.

So, let’s get to it!  Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and check out some of the best links from the WWW this week!

Spiritual Inspiration:

From Winn Collier, Revolutionary Shepherd.

At Mary DeMuth, Candace’s Crazy Beautiful Story of Healing.

From A Deeper Church, Not Just Bread, Not Just Wine.

From Narrow Paths to Higher Places, On Loving Well: A Stone’s Throw Pt. 1.

At A Holy Experience, 6 Books When You’re Looking for Change.

From Sarah Bessey, In Which We Need to Ask Questions that Have No Answers.

Food Love:

At A Cozy Kitchen, The Best Tabbouleh Salad.

For Laughs:

At It Just Gets Stranger, Dear Vague Facebook Status Poster.

And my very favorite post of the week, beautiful and challenging and straight from the Bible:

From Brian D. McLaren, a compilation of “one another’s” in the New Testament.

What have you been into this week?  I would love your comments about your favorite blogs, books, TV shows, movies or activities these days.  Have a blessed week!

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A (Re)Gathering of Faith

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At a time when I should have been praying about petty fights with friends or asking God for a pony, I was interceding for my dad’s life.

As hard as I try, I can’t seem to remember pre-cancer days. I have scattered memories of short-lived remission days. Mostly, though, I remember the days of cancer. Lymphoma was an integral part of my childhood vocabulary, along with chemotherapy, radiation and phrases like “two months to live.”

And oh, the prayers.

Maybe there was a night here and there when I didn’t pray for healing and health for my dad, but I don’t remember those carefree nights. In the forefront of my mind are the nights of pleading and begging, with a voice or in a whisper, with dry sleepy eyes or with the tears of a child.

There are so many stories to tell of those nights. Stories of angels in my room or the closeness I felt to my comforter. Stories of loneliness and fear, intermingled with stories of faith and hope.

But the story in my heart today is the story of the after. The story of a prayer unanswered and a father buried along with the faith of his daughter.

 

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My brother became the pastor of the church when Dad died. A revival had been scheduled before his death and it was decided to move forward with the special guest speaker. Evangelist S. was a friend of my father, of our family and of our church. My guess is that in the midst of church-wide grief, the leadership was desperate for healing and hope. So he came. And this 16-year-old was there.

It was surreal walking into those church doors those first few months. I saw Dad everywhere. The church building was my preferred context in which to place my dad (beats a hospital any day) and the building of that church had been his life’s work. Yet, in I walked, sitting as though I hadn’t been shaken to my core.

That minister preached a masterpiece of a sermon. He remains the most captivating storyteller I have ever heard. As was customary for this particular minister, he began to pray for people after his sermon. I am Pentecostal, and it is not uncommon for Pentecostal preachers to call someone out for prayer in front of the congregation. He asked if anyone was sick and began laying hands on people to pray for them.

I don’t quite know how to describe how I felt in those moments. Just try to imagine with me….

*16 years old
*Father was just buried
*9 year battle with cancer
*Thousands of prayers for healing
*Sitting in father’s church
*Minister praying for the sick

A flood of grief enveloped me. A cloud of sadness rested on me. An anger burned inside me.

And then it happened. A kid from our youth group had raised his hand, saying he was sick with a cold and had a terrible sore throat. Evangelist S. called my name, staring me down with penetrating eyes. Our conversation went a little something like this:

S: Rachael, stand up.
(I stood, tears already flowing)
S. Rachael, do you believe God is a healer?
(My world is shaking under my feet. I don’t know what I know. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know. I want to scream. I want to run. I sob)
Rachael: (through broken sobs) Yes.
S: Rachael, do you believe God can heal Alex RIGHT NOW?
Rachael: Yes.
S: Rachael, I want you to step out of your seat, lay your hands on Alex and pray for healing.

I know what some of you are thinking. I have thought it myself. What Evangelist S. did could have been considered cruel. He could have inflicted further damage on an already broken girl.

And yet….

I stepped out, laid my hands on Alex and prayed. I prayed for healing and Alex said his pain vanished immediately.

Evangelist S. is one of my heroes. Yes, what he did that night could have been cruel. But that is where the HOLY SPIRIT comes into play.  Imagine with me for a moment what he must have felt in that moment, when the Holy Spirit led him to call me out, a girl he knew and loved in a deep ocean of fresh grief.  Imagine what faith and trust he must have had in God to obey in that moment.

The reality is that I was at a crossroads that night. I was on the verge of losing faith. My father died and I felt something had died in me. My father was buried and I felt my former life had been buried with him.

But hear me now….

My father had been resurrected to be with Jesus and I had to experience a resurrection.  I was confronted with the most basic and yet the most important of all questions….

Do you believe God is who he says he is?

The question was posed and I answered from the deepest, truest place of my being.

Yes, God is healer.  Yes, I believe.

My journey didn’t end that night.  I continued to deal with overwhelming grief and still have days when grief overcomes me.  But from that night forward, I knew what I knew.

I know God loves.  I know God heals.  I know God is worthy of my trust.  I know God is who he says he is.  I know it today.  I have never forgotten.

Evangelist S., I thank you for listening and responding to the Holy Spirit.  I thank you because it was a pivotal moment in my life and I took a step in the direction of faith and have never looked back.  I thank God for his abundant love, reaching out to me at my point of desperation…. posing the most difficult yet most essential question of my life.  My answer was, is and will continue to be a resounding “YES!”

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Me, with my Dad, not long before his death.

Much Love,

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Gathering Smiles (Guest Post by Linda Burke)

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(Linda at Hope Refuge School in Uganda)

I want to introduce you to a very special woman in my life, Linda Burke.  I grew up being close friends with Linda’s daughter, but as time passed I developed a special friendship with Linda as well.  My friendship with Linda has been a blessing from God.  I have learned that true friendship crosses age barriers.  Beyond that, I look to Linda as an example of dedication and passion for God’s children.  She has traveled with us to Cuba several times, and I have witnessed her compassion and love for the poor firsthand.

More recently, Linda has traveled to India with a dental team, cleaning teeth and doing dental work  in impoverished villages.  She has most recently stepped into the call of God, finding sponsors for starving orphans in Uganda.  I have witnessed her eyes well up with tears on numerous occasions while talking about the burden God has placed on her to help these children.  She is a mother figure to them all.  She spends her own money traveling every year to run the Helping Hands project and devotes countless hours to seeing it grow and run smoothly.  I have lost count of how many orphans she personally sponsors.  Please take a moment to read her story and consider sponsoring an orphan yourself.

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My first trip to Uganda was in July, 2011.  Since that first trip my life has forever changed.  My heart was captured by 1,100 children at the orphanages in Kachamo and Kenkebu.  This October will be my 5th trip and each time I am grieved by the poor living conditions, non-existent health care and lack of food.  In spite of these conditions, when we arrive at the orphanage we are met with singing, waving of branches and big smiles.  A thousand faces looking up at you with those beautiful smiles, putting their hand in yours wanting to be your friend.  It doesn’t matter that their shirt is threadbare or their stomachs empty, they always have a big smile on their face.  As they gather around you, hundreds of hands are reaching towards you, wanting your attention, wanting a hug, wanting to be loved.

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Before I leave for home I try to gather all these smiles so when I close my eyes I can see their beautiful, smiling faces.  Gathering their smiles keeps me from being overwhelmed by the despair these children experience.  The needs are so great and you feel that you can never do enough.  It is also difficult when you are told that some of the children you met on a previous visit have died from disease and hunger.

Since that first trip God placed such a burden on my heart for these children and a desire to make a difference in their lives.  The large number of children is overwhelming.  Where do you start?  My friend Rachael made it easy.  She told me to start with 50.  So that is what we did!  On my next visit we took photos of 50 children and began getting sponsors for them.  We called the program “Helping Hands.”  The program is growing thanks to God’s direction and the help of many friends!  We currently  have 80 sponsors!  Our goal for this year was 100 but by faith I believe we will surpass that goal.  Our desire is to have sponsors for all 1,100 children.

In October we will be returning to Uganda to begin helping with some of the basic medical needs of the children.  Thanks to the many sponsors, we are making a difference one child at a time!

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If you are moved by Linda’s story, please visit our SPONSOR AN ORPHAN page.  The program is run through Live the Way, an official not-for-profit.  Your donations are tax exempt as a charitable contribution.  You can comment on this blog or e-mail me at rachael@wearegathering.org.  Just let me know which child you want to sponsor and we will get your packet and photo mailed to you this week.  Let’s join together and make this happen!

For further reading on Hope Refuge Schools, please refer to the following links:

What I Gather from the Death of Namuda

Gathering Hope

Live the Way

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Gathering In Close

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When I was 19 and in college, I started working at a preschool at a church in Indianapolis.  I have worked there off and on ever since.  My boss and co-workers are great.  They have been flexible with the birth of both of my girls and our travel to Cuba, hiring me whenever I need a job and they have an opening, and letting my sub when they don’t have an opening and I need some extra money.  They have graciously let me take both of my girls to their preschool program for free while I work.  It’s a job made in heaven for this mom.

Currently I work two days a week.  I leave with Isabel about 7:15, before Ava wakes up for school.  Jimmie gets Ava on the bus, then I am home by the time she gets off the bus at 3:45.  It has been a pretty good system for us.

Recently, though, Ava has been complaining about me going to work.  Many nights throughout the past eight months we have dealt with supposed stomach-aches, tears, and guilt-trips.  Our typical conversation has gone something like this:

Ava:  Are you working tomorrow?

Me:  Yes, Ava, I work every Monday and Thursday.  You know that.

Ava:  I don’t WANT you to go to work tomorrow!

Me:  Ava, you know Daddy will be here with you in the morning.  I already laid out your clothes.  He will get you on the bus.  It will all be fine.

Ava:  But I don’t WANT Daddy to get me on the bus.  I want YOU to get me on the bus.

So the conversation goes.  This has been a little unusual for Ava, considering she has always been a Daddy’s girl and most days would choose her dad in a flash!  I have tried to comfort her, reminding her that many kids don’t have the luxury of having parents home to get them on OR off the bus.  I have talked to her about what a blessing my job is to our family and how good it is for Isabel to go to school, just like she was able to go to that preschool.  I have prayed with her, hugged her extra tight.  I have tried waking her up before I leave for work, just to say goodbye.  I have tried sending her morning texts before I clock in at work.  I have even talked to her on the phone before she gets on the bus.  None of it worked.  The complaining had been getting worse and worse.

Fast forward to this past Monday.  She begged me to wake her up before I left for work.  When I did, she opened her eyes, looked at me, and started sobbing.  I eased her back to sleep.  That night at the dinner table, we had a discussion.  It went something like this:

Me:  Ava, we really need to talk about how you react to me going to work.  I feel like you are trying to make me feel really guilty and I don’t understand why.

Ava:  (tearing up)  I just want you home in the morning.

Me:  Ava, Daddy is always here with you.  We never leave you alone.  I just don’t understand.

Jimmie:  (thank God for Jimmie)  Ava, does it bother you that Mommy isn’t close to your school during the day?

Ava cried, nodding her head.  Thanks to Jimmie’s probing question, the reality of what she was feeling hit me hard.  I work 35 minutes away.  Jimmie works 45 minutes away.  Ava has been worried all this time that if something happened at school, Mom and Dad wouldn’t be close.

We went on to have a conversation about what would happen in an emergency.  We eased her fears by letting her know we both always have our cellphones and that our neighbor and friend Tasha is almost always home during the day.  She relaxed and didn’t say anything about me going to work on Thursday.

As I have thought this week about Ava’s internal struggle, I have had great empathy for her feelings.  I have recognized a similar longing inside of me.  It has been a prayer, a stirring in my soul for as long as I can remember.  I have cried it out.  I have worried about it, whispered it as a prayer in the middle of the night.  It has been the plea of my heart and will continue to be as long as I live.  It is the cry of a vulnerable child to a loving parent.

God, just let me know that you are close.

Lord, no matter what path you have placed me upon, let me feel your presence near. 

Be close enough that I may hear your still, small voice.

Be present in my life, that I may see your beauty in the many moments of my day.

When I cry, send comfort.

When I am broken, mend the pieces of my life.

When I find myself in the mire, lift me out with your ever-present hand.

When I call upon your name, come to my rescue as only you can.

Jesus, just let me know that you are near.

“It is the LORD who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1)

Have any of you had any similar experiences with your children?  Can you relate to my prayers?  Do you feel God near?  Do you worry when you don’t feel him close or can you rest in knowing he is there whether you feel him or not?  I would love your feedback!

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A Gathering of Cuba Photos

The months I spent living in Cuba were some of the best of my life.  Someday I hope to share more about our life in Cuba.  Today, though, I want to share some photos of the time I spent in Cuba in November of 2012.  In all of my trips to Cuba, I had never stayed with our close friends.  Pastor Lorenzo, his wife Zulema and their four children are like family to me and I really wanted the opportunity to spend some time with them, experiencing their everyday lives.  So, our family stayed in Havana for a week for the national convention and various business.  Jimmie left with the girls, and I stayed four extra days just to be able to spend time in their home.  These are the photos from the time I spent there.  I hope you enjoy these insights into Cuban life and take time to read the captions!

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This was taken a couple of days before Jimmie took the girls home.  Jimmie is with Dani, our pastor friend who also serves as a translator when we need one.  He has a machete and a coconut in his hand.  He had just cut it down from the tree behind them and used the machete to chop off the shell.  IMG_1288

I can’t remember the name of this man.  He is a neighbor of Lorenzo and Zulema and attends their church.  He uses their property to house his goats.  One of the goats belongs to Zulema as well.  Every morning he showed up at about 7 a.m. to take care of the goats and help Lorenzo with his work around the house.  At some point during the day, he left with four goats in hand to take them on a walk through the busy streets of their barrio.  It was quite a sight!

I love this photo for so many reasons.  He looks so Cuban to me.  Goats are hilarious creatures to me in general.  There are underwear hanging from the clothesline for all to see.  My towel that I used all week is hanging to dry on the right.  They also have YHVH = Jesus painted on their rusty pen for the animals.  As we always say, “Estámos en Cuba!”

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Meet Zulema.  I love this photo of her.  She has her broom made from dried-out, fallen limbs.  Each morning after the kids left for school, she brushed the leaves and debris off of her “patio.”  Her patio is the dirt you see behind her. IMG_1291

These are two beautiful and special children, Abdias and Sarai.  A generous pastor from North Carolina gave a laptop to Pastor Lorenzo.  The kids love playing games on it and spend a lot of their free time doing just that.   IMG_1292

Zulema is at work in her kitchen here.  The water is frequently shut off, so you never really know if water will come out of that faucet when you turn it on.  The bucket behind her stores water for such occasions.  Here she is rinsing rice before cooking it. IMG_1295

One of the reasons I love Cuba is because it is so GREEN!  The tropical climate makes for beautiful foliage and gorgeous flowers.  Here you see some plants Zulema planted to beautify their patio.  The bench on the left is very sad.  They utilize everything, though, and won’t throw it away.  Also notice the rocker in the background.   Over half of the plastic is gone on the seat of the chair.  Let me just tell you, it is not a comfortable seat! IMG_1300

Lorenzo has quite a bit of land.  He has had some help getting the tools and seed necessary to farm a little.  When I was there, they were just getting started.  He had some help from two men from his church.  I love this photo.  Cuban farmers work.  I don’t know of a more exhausting job than farming in the tropical sun.  I admire them so much.  They hope to grow enough food to share with hungry church members and some to sell, as well. IMG_1309

Here Lorenzo is showing me how he cuts off the bottom portion under the banana bunch so that all of the water and nutrients go to the developing bunch.  I had never really seen a banana tree and found this fascinating. IMG_1312

Lorenzo is explaining his plans for their land. IMG_1313

The goat-herder helps on the farm.  Here he is spraying pesticides of some sort.  I’m going to pretend they are organic.  One day he invited me to his apartment.  We arrived and he had some kind of drink for me.  It tasted like a dreamscicle.  It basically was, made with goat’s milk.   IMG_1316

Beautiful!  There are so many varieties of bananas in Cuba, I absolutely cannot keep track.  One thing I do know?  You cook the green ones, you eat the small yellow ones.  You haven’t truly tasted a banana until you’ve tasted one of those yellow beauties in the back. IMG_1321

This is a portion of the inside of their house.  I took this photo mainly to show the electrical situation going on in their home.  Yikes!  Thankfully Lorenzo knows what he is doing with electricity.  I did purchase some electrical boxes and light switches for them during my stay.  IMG_1329

Tomatoes with vinegar, oil and salt.  Enough said. IMG_1340

I’m not sure I could love these people any more.  Even though they have so little, they bless me so tremendously.  They offer their love freely and without expectation.  They welcome me as one of their own family members.  My only sadness is that they are so far away. IMG_1343

Zulema, the beauty that she is, standing outside of their home. IMG_1344

Lorenzo, locking up the house. IMG_1345

If you’d like to read more about what I learned from my time in Cuba, please check out my post Cuba Gathers.  I hope these photos give you a glimpse into the everyday life of some of Cuba’s finest people.  What do you think after looking at these photos?  Would you want to stay somewhere like this?  Have you ever visited a place drastically different from your home?  I would love to hear your feedback!

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Gathering Delight

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Bedtime. Let me set the scene for you.  Dinner is over.  Hopefully dishes are done.  There may or may not have been arguments about a certain 9-year-old practicing violin.  There may or may not have been screaming about a certain 3-year-old not wanting to get out of the bath.  Homework is done, sometimes after much complaining.  Mom is tired.  Dad just wants to sit down.  After bathroom trips, teeth-brushing, picking out clothes for the next day, another bathroom trip, and searching for the perfect stuffed animal or book for the night, we tuck them in, say prayers or play our thank-you-God game, and lights are out.  Okay, okay.  There may or may not be a threat about what will happen if either of those girls gets up.

Currently Isabel is in a stage where she is testing my bedtime limits.  She shares a room with Ava, so many nights she keeps Ava up for an hour or more.  She sings, talks, gets up, hits Ava, tickles Ava, climbs into bed with Ava.  Now that she is potty-trained, she comes in our room, having to go potty.  Again.  She slams the closet door, plays with her toys.  She makes messes, then opens and closes her bedroom door just to see if we are outside.  She.  Tests.  My.  Patience.

Ava knows that Mom has enough drama at bedtime and is usually pretty good about staying in her bed.  She knows getting out of bed means grounding from her Kindle.

I hope I have set the stage adequately for the happenings of Thursday night past.  This particular night we tried to get the girls in bed early because Ava had ISTEP testing the next morning.  I had told Ava that the next day I would not be home when she got off the bus and she would walk to Tasha’s house.  She was nervous about it, but we talked it though.  Tasha’s house is only a block or two away and Ava walks and rides her bike there from time to time.

About 30 minutes later, Ava was in our room.  I didn’t look up.  I didn’t want to lose my temper or get into a discussion.  It had been settled.  Ava would go to Tasha’s.  Jimmie walked her back in her room and was in there for a long time.  When he came back in our room, the discussion went something like this.

Jimmie:  Ava is sobbing.  She wants to see you.  She is nervous about tomorrow.

Rachael:  She has walked to her house before.  She goes to Kristi’s house, that is even farther.  She is being dramatic.

Jimmie:  She said she had a dream that someone kidnapped her by the park.  She is scared.

Rachael: (still relatively unmoved) Jimmie, she is just looking for reasons not to go to sleep.  This isn’t a big deal at all.

Jimmie:  RACHAEL, YOUR DAUGHTER IS IN HER BEDROOM.  SOBBING.  TERRIFIED.  SHE WANTS TO TALK TO HER MOM.

I believe that often when Jimmie raises his voice, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through him.

I walk into the room.  My baby is looking up at me, tears streaming down her face.  She reaches up, wraps her arms around me and holds on for dear life.  She is scared.  I finally come to my senses.  I speak soothing words.  I make other arrangements.  We make up.  I hold her, hug her.  I speak of Jesus as our protector.  I speak of fear and how it has no place in us when we know Jesus.  I pray over her.  I stroke her hair and watch her in wonder as she sleeps easily, comforted by my words and her Jesus.  I am so overwhelmed with love for this child, I think I may burst.

I hear the voice, somewhere deep inside, speaking truth I have avoided.  This is your child.  Take delight in her.  She is wondrous.  She is not an inconvenience, she is a delight.  Find joy in her.  Speak gently.  Show her grace.  Be a soft place to fall.  I delight in you, my child.  Now delight in her.  Your child.

I don’t know when it happened.  I always have moments of delight in Ava.  She is so smart and confident.  She is caring and strong.  She leads, she loves.  She has PASSION.  My head knows this, but for a while now I have been so consumed with myself, my problems  and my struggles that my heart wasn’t in it.  It may have been that way for a week.  Maybe a month.  I pray it wasn’t longer than that.  I was so grateful that God woke me up Thursday past.  It is easy for me to take delight in the 3-year-old who hugs mama all the time, says the cutest things, cuddles and kisses.  I thank Jesus that He reminded me that I must wonder at Ava.  She is a glorious gift.  If I look, I can see Jesus in her.  I can see the beauty of creation.  I can see His love in the way she loves.  I am delighting in her again.

He delights in me, after all.  The Bible tells me so.  Even when I fall terribly short as a mom.  Even though I am willful and resistant to His prompting.  Even if I get up when I’m supposed to stay put.  Even though I make messes.  Even if I pretend I need something when He has given me everything I need to rest.  Even when I talk when He wants me to be quiet and still.  Even if I slam doors He has opened so I can see the light.  Even if I annoy and hinder my brothers and sisters on this journey with me.  Even if I’m afraid when there is nothing to fear.  Even if I cry even though He has assured me everything will be okay.  In spite of myself, He delights in me after all.

Do you delight in your children?  Do you ever consider that God takes delight in you?  What obstacles keep you from delighting in your children?  I would love to hear that I’m not alone in this struggle!  This wasn’t a mom-moment I am proud of, but I thank God for the lesson that followed.

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I Gather a Prayer for Claire

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My dear friend Tasha recently gave birth to a perfect baby girl.  When I say perfect, I’m not exaggerating.  We joke that the Mexican blood in her gives her the most gorgeous complexion that my pasty babies never had a chance of achieving.  I was blessed to be at the hospital during the majority of Tasha’s labor and during the delivery.  She didn’t seem thrilled with my suggestion of being IN the delivery room (how dare she?), so I excitedly waited… and waited…. and waited in the waiting room.  I passed much of the time with Tasha’s Mexican grandmother, who also happens to be a spiritual inspiration.  We passed the time talking in both English and Spanish, discussing everything from her family to Cuba to God and the church.  Mostly, though, she prayed.  I could hear her nearly constant prayers for Tasha, her whispers of “Jesus” throughout the labor and delivery.  It was beautiful to witness.  I felt like I was on holy ground in that waiting room.

In the early morning hours, God led me to a scripture in Psalms.

The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. (Psalms 118:27)

That is how I felt during those early morning hours.  Even though I wasn’t in the room, I felt like God’s light was shining on us in that hospital.  I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the joyous miracle of life.  The occasion reminded me that joy truly does come in the morning, even after a long, dark night.  Claire was born.  She is perfect and I will always think of her as a light sent by God.

So, instead of showering her with blankets or clothes or bottles, I choose now to shower her with my love and with a prayer of blessing.  This prayer is for you, Claire.

Dear little Claire (or OB as I like to call you),

Your entrance into this world came like a blazing ray of light into what had been a dark time for some.  You truly are a gift of God.  You  bring light and life and joy to your family and everyone who surrounds you. This is my prayer for you.

May the light of God’s face shine upon you. (Psalms 4:6)

May the Lord alone light your lamp and light up any darkness that comes your way. (Psalms 18:28)

May the Lord be your light and salvation, coming to your rescue in every way. (Psalms 27:1)

May you ever walk before God in the light of life. (Psalms 56:13)

May his word be the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path. (Psalms 119:105)

When you fall, may you quickly arise, having the Lord as your light. (Micah 7:8)

May you be a light to this world, a city set on a hill, hidden to none. (Matthew 5:14)

When others look at your light, may they always see the glory of your Father. (Matthew 5:16)

May you be wholly bright. (Luke 11:36)

May you help many others turn from darkness to light. (Acts 26:18)

May your light be a guide to the spiritually blind. (Romans 2:19)

May you never be unequally yoked with darkness. (2 Corinthians 6:14)

May you walk in the light, having fellowship with believers, bring cleansed from all sin. (I John 1:7)

May you always love your brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom. (I John 2:10)

And finally, dear Claire, …May you be blameless and innocent, a child of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as a light in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ we may be proud that we did not run in vain or labor in vain… (Philippians 2:15-16)

Lots of love,

Rachael

 

 

What I Gather from the Death of Namuda

My dear friend Linda is an inspiration to me.  Linda has always been an example of faithfulness and dedication to the Lord, but the recent events of her life have been the true inspiration.  Around the time of her 60th birthday, she felt called by God to be an ambassador for starving, sick and abandoned children at an orphanage in Uganda.  Linda hasn’t looked back, carrying the weight of such a monumental task with grace and a seemingly never-ending well of love for the poor, hungry and fatherless.  Our family decided to sponsor one of the orphans and our daughter Ava chose little Namuda.  She was the youngest of the available orphans for sponsorship at only 3, and something about her pulled at Ava’s heartstrings.

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We sent our monthly donation, prayed for her, saw her photo and hand-print made from Ugandan dirt on our refrigerator every day.  And then, just like that, after returning from a trip to Uganda, Linda told me with teary eyes and a broken heart that Namuda had died. I learned from Linda that it is not uncommon.  The orphanage loses approximately one orphan a week to hunger, AIDS, various other illnesses and even to kidnapping for child sex-trafficking from time to time.  The news broke my heart and set me on a path of self-reflection and running into the arms of my Savior for answers to life’s hardest questions.  Here is what I gather…

1. The Someone Must Be Me.  We are all guilty.  We think quietly or even say out loud, “Someone should do something about that!”  I couldn’t get past the feeling that these orphans are dying on my watch.  If I have the ability to support Linda, promote the cause, find sponsors myself, give more myself and, more importantly, if I feel GOD has brought this cause across my path for a purpose, I am the someone who must do something.

2. Her Life Matters.  I don’t know if anyone other than our family and Linda cried for Namuda.  I don’t know if she had a funeral where people celebrated her too-short life.  I do believe, however, that God had a plan for her life.  I believe she could have been the nurse who daily cared for the needs of the children at that orphanage.  I believe she could have been an encourager of the broken-hearted.  I believe she could have told the hopeless the message of a loving Savior and Father of all.  I will not forget her because she matters.

3. There is Hope. In the midst of my grief, one night I was praying with Ava before bed.  She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and asked if we could pray for Namuda.  An overwhelming peace of God came over me as I looked in her 9-year-old eyes, with tears streaming down my face and said with confidence, “Ava, Namuda no longer needs our prayers.  When Namuda was on this earth, she suffered.  She had no parents.  Her belly hurt because she didn’t have enough to eat.  She could have been terribly sick and in a lot of pain.  But now, Ava, Namuda is in the arms of her heavenly Father.  Now, Ava, Namuda never has to feel sorrow or pain or hunger.  She is with the One who loves her so much He died for her.  She doesn’t need our prayers anymore…”

Now, meet Eseza.

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Our family joyfully sponsors Eseza now.  I see strength and beauty in her eyes.  We pray for her with more fervor.  Ava has a box marked “Eseza” and just in the past few weeks has saved close to $15 to add to our regular monthly contributions.  I am working more vigorously and passionately to support Linda and spread the word about the Helping Hands Project.  I know Eseza matters to God.  I have high hopes for her and hope to meet her in person one day. Until then, I will take the lessons God has softly spoken to me about her death and run.

If you are interested in learning more about Hope Refuge Schools and the sponsorship program, please check out our official non-profit, Live the Way, or contact me.

http://www.facebook.com/#!/LiveTheWay