What breaks the heart of God

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I recently wrote about how God has taken my heart and made it a bleeding mess for the “have nots’ of this world and how as a society, we aren’t doing much to alleviate those needs. There IS enough food in this world to feed everyone. EVERYONE. There is enough money to bring fresh water to every last village around the world. Every. Last. One.

No, it is not a problem of the rich being too rich or not using their money as they should. No, this is about how each one of us, from the wealthiest person right down to the one who has all of their needs met but not much more, have stopped caring.

This week I got my feathers ruffled over a guy who took out a loan to buy a boat. He took out a loan because he couldn’t wait to sell his motorcycle to free up some money. The motorcycle was bought with his giant tax return and his life savings. He also has a huge loan on a very nice truck. I was so angry thinking about how many people could have been fed with even a tenth of his new boat loan; how many children could be taken off the streets and put in a safe house where they don’t have to sell their bodies; how many people could be given the gift of livestock and fresh water that would provide a means of self care for generations to come. But here was this guy who has spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on himself, for pleasure.

I was indignant! Does he not see the hurts of this world? Does he not read his Bible and see Jesus command us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” and “do unto the least of these as we would unto him”?

But I was wrong. So, so, so very wrong. Yes, there are needs to be met all around us. But the problem isn’t that we don’t meet them, the problem is that we don’t even care. We may say we do, we may write blogs about how we do (hand raised right here), but if we do care then we will do something about it.

Just today I plotted how to rearrange my back yard to be more child friendly and look attractive, thought about how to better organize my shelves of kid crafts and toys, fantasized about having my bathroom and bedroom painted and done instead of doing it myself over the course of a few weeks, and about a dozen other things that don’t really need to be done in the grand scheme of things. Not once did I say a pray for those people who will die today from starvation. Not once did I think about how I could free up just $10 in the next month to donate to Safe Refuge International (https://www.saferefugeinternational.com/) to help women caught in sex trafficking. I meant to drop off some size 5 diapers to CareNet Pregnancy Center (http://www.carenetirc.org/), but I got distracted by all of my ‘busy-ness’.

Today, there was no difference between myself and that guy who bought a boat. None. His heart was on things of this world, and so was mine.

Lord, forgive me. Forgive me for judging the boat guy. Forgive me being distracted from the things that really matter on this earth. Forgive me for setting my heart on the things of this world instead of on you. Forgive me for not caring. Give me a heart that is one with you, that breaks for the things that make you weep, a heart that is focused on eternity. Amen.

Dream kitchens and hungry babes

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Though I don’t watch much TV to begin with, HGTV is a semi-regular channel on our TV. I like to dream of my perfect house, get ideas for DIY projects around my current home and laugh at the little things home buyers get so worked up about, as if the knobs on the kitchen cabinets are really worth not buying a house because of.

However, recently, a gnawing in my gut has started as I watch these shows about people buying a vacation house, remodeling their home to be more sophisticated and modern, and searching for a house with a master bedroom the size of my entire house, 3 car garages or kitchens that a restaurant gourmet cook could only dream of having.

Instead of dreaming about what I want, these shows now make me think of the third world countries where people live in one room shacks that may or may not have something covering their windows, much less a large bay window over-looking a lake. What gives me the right to sit here in my air conditioned house, which apparently is small at less than 1400 sq ft for our family of 4 according to HGTV, with a fridge, freezer and cabinets stocked full of food while a mom on the other side of the world sits outside of her shack because she can at least have some air flow in the stifling heat, rocking her babe who hasn’t eaten in days? Why am I able to go to my small but fully functional kitchen to get a glass of filtered water while that other mom has to choose between her child dying of thirst or giving him muddy water that may or may not have fecal matter or other contaminants in it? While my kids nap I get the luxury of a quiet house to either get some chores done or sit and watch TV. Meanwhile, the other mom doesn’t have to worry about folding clothes because the only items they own are the ones they are wearing, but she does have to worry about if today will be the day her child dies from malnutrition.

And yet, while people die every. single. day, we sit here and continue to think about our dream kitchens, lose ourselves in HGTV and shows like The Bachelor and spend our money on ourselves because we’ve worked hard and we’ve earned it.

Y’all, we are a blessed nation and God says that He blesses us in order that we may bless others. I weep as I write this because I am so guilty of being so caught up in my own life, my own house, my own kids, that I forget that I can do something for that mom on the other side of the world. I don’t know how to help, but maybe it starts with shutting off the good ol’ boob tube and actually looking for a way to help. (Side note-while I talk about the mom on the other side of the world, there are plenty of people here in our own country, state, city that need our help). Instead of using social media to look at what other people are doing today, perhaps I use it to find an organization that is intimately involved with providing help for those who are in need, and I link up with them. It may be giving money, which if we’re honest, can be freed up in our budget if we are willing to sacrifice one or two wants of our own, or donating needed items, spreading the word and information, or perhaps it’s volunteering even one hour of our time each month.

Far be it from me to think that I am too busy or strapped too tight financially to tell the mom of a dying child that my life is more important than hers, that my kids matter more than her babes.

 

Gentle and Quiet Spirit

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If I were to describe myself, the word ‘gentle’ would not be my first choice, nor would the phrase ‘quiet spirit’  come to mind (though I can be quiet as far as not talking much, a quiet spirit is entirely different). However, during a bible study I did last year, I came across 1 Peter 3:4.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

This verse stuck to me, ingrained itself in my brain, burrowed under my skin, and has latched onto my heart. I haven’t been able to shake it. I wasn’t exactly drawn to the verse because I liked it. I’ll be honest with you, while this bible verse may be telling me how I’m supposed to be, it sure as heck ain’t me and to be even more honest with you, I haven’t wanted it to be me. This kind of woman sounds so blah, boring, weak.

I pretty much ace the whole ‘don’t put all your efforts into looking good because that isn’t where true beauty comes from’. I’m lucky to get a shower without the kids seriously maiming each other, let alone spend even another few minutes doing something worthwhile with my hair and face, so it’s rare to find any extra adornment there.

But what about this “gentle and quiet spirit” the bible talks of. What exactly does that mean? As I looked up the original, greek word used for ‘gentle’ and found it is the same word used in 1 Kings 19:11-12.

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (italics mine)

And that is where God was found. Not in the power of the wind, nor the earthquake or even the fire. He was in the gentle whisper. While His very presence is one of power and commands our awe, He need not showcase himself with dramatic revelation. He is ‘I Am’ simply because He is God, not because of how he appears.

“God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14

Now on to the next word that I haven’t been a huge fan of: ‘quiet’. The original, greek word used here can also be derived from the greek word which means ‘firm, immovable, steadfast’ (according to the Blue Letter Bible at blbclassic.org).

Now, I get it. Instead of hearing this verse tell me I’m supposed to be blah, boring and weak, this verse in 1 Peter is telling me something entirely different. To have the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” is calling me out to be a woman of quiet strength and dignity, unshakable peace, firm in my beliefs, passionate and steadfast in God’s truth. This verse does not tell me to lay down and be a doormat, but rather to rise up and change the world for Jesus. Not by showcasing my beliefs in anger or by disrespecting and putting others down, but by being a peaceful anchor for my family to hold on to when life’s storms blow us around, by offering forgiveness to those who hurt me instead of avenging my pride, by not letting the words of others break me because my strength and identity come from God, by standing up for what Jesus taught and how he lived even when it is the unpopular stance to take. No, this verse is not about a woman who just smiles and nods, but rather about a woman standing with her God, messy and dirty from the trials of her life, but who’s unfading beauty shines forth as she stands tall in the presence of her Saviour.

Motherhood and Presidency

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As moms, we often try to find shortcuts to motherhood. Some are good  or indifferent (I don’t bother wasting time putting shoes on my toddler before leaving the house because she just takes them off in the car anyway. Time saved? One minute. Sanity saved? A whole boat load). Some are not so good (I have bribed my toddler to eat her lunch by getting bites of cookie in between each bite of her meal).

One of my shortcuts is nursing my youngest to sleep before his afternoon nap. He’s pretty much guaranteed to go to sleep this way and I get a bit of time to look up stupid stuff on the internet and facebook. It’s a win-win situation for us all. Although I would like to point out that if he does not in fact fall asleep while nursing, I can usually get him to sleep with out it. And if I can’t, well then I bring him back out into the den and let him play with some toys while I lay on the floor and cry because all I want is a BREAK!

Anyway, so on one of my recent bouts of doing nothing worthwhile while nursing my son to sleep, I came across pictures of President Obama pre- and post-term. Wow. Talk about aging (no offense Mr. President-do we still call past presidents Mr.?-but pictures don’t lie). I then looked up pictures of other presidents when they first entered the Oval Office and when they departed. Good Lord, what a change.

And then it dawned on me, these are men who have led our nation for anywhere from 4-8 years. I have led my kids for less than 3 1/2 years and pictures of me pre-kids and post-kids don’t tell lies either. This mama has aged! But oh, how funny it is to realize the similarity between mothers and presidents. We’re kind of the same, huh? Rock on mamas, you have earned every grey hair, droopy body part and wrinkle/laugh/stress line! At least we have something cute to show for it. Maybe this will make you feel better.

15barackobama

bushclinton

roosevelt

lincoln

 

Saying goodbye to home

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I was blessed to grow up just 15 minutes away from my grandparents (on my mom’s side), who lived on a small farm in the country. Granted by the time my brother and I were born and old enough to remember any animals, the only critters there were rabbits and that didn’t last long. If you ask my mom, she doesn’t remember there being any animals, though she did have rabbits when she was growing up (along with a cow or two, possibly some other animals), but I’m going to stick by my memories of rabbits. There were also 2 huge gardens on either side of the 2 acre property and a small strawberry patch. The rest of the property was dotted with an old, small, pieced together barn (that held the aforementioned cow(s)), an old dog house, a small shed connected to a larger pole barn, an outhouse looking shed that held old coal, a large lean to where tractors were parked, a brick 2 car garage, another metal shed that held mostly fire wood, and of course, the two story farmhouse.

A small, murky swampy pond sat just on the other side of the back property line and it held many adventures for my brother and I, our cousins, along with friends and the neighbor boy down the road. On a side note, this is the boy who once said I could never shoot him and not miss. Luckily for him, it was just a BB gun, because I did shoot him….and I didn’t miss. My grandpa kept everything. Some may have called him a hoarder, but he was simply a man who survived the depression and was ready for another one. If the apocalypse came, I knew where I was going to go. That being said, out of his “junk” we made rafts out of inner tubes, wooden pallets and hockey sticks with the ends sawed off. Oh the fun we had pushing ourselves through that murky wonder.

The plethora of buildings provided us with places to climb, hide, explore, and play in. Hours on end were spent climbing tractors; walking through the barn with the very old hay, imagining a cow kept there; sorting through the old hardware, farm and garden tools, and odds and ends and climbing over the furniture and riding mower in the garage. In later years, my mom and I would dream of how we would refinish all the old stuff and open our own business.

Then of course there was the house. I recall playing Lincoln logs on the stair landing; having sleep overs in my grandmas room upstairs (and her portable potty chair that she kept upstairs since the only real bathroom was downstairs); trying to get the color to come in on my great grandmas old boob tube (it was a black and white tv….it took us awhile to learn what that meant); practicing my piano skills in the den (one of my aunts painted it an avocado green when she was younger); traipsing down to the basement and being awed by all the canned goods in the root cellar room, the unlighted corner that held who knows what and was covered in cob webs, helping with laundry in their ancient washer and then hanging the clothes out to dry, shuffling food around in the two deep freezers, and sneaking pop.

The gardens held a variety of vegetables and in later years, flowers too. My brother and I loved running through the corn field, though looking back, it was really just a few rows of corn. But when you’re small, the full grown corn stalks were taller than us and seemed to provide yards of mazes for us. Green beans needed picking, but that also meant munching away on fresh beans as we picked off the ends, dirt and all. There’s nothing better than a homegrown carrot and I loved eating the tomatoes like an apple with a little sugar sprinkled on. I would catch moths and other small bugs to feed the ants. I’d watch them tear apart their meals and carry them down into their holes, then I’d dig around and try to find the moth part. I never did. To this day it’s still a mystery as to how the ants ate, broke down or hid/stored each insect that quickly. There was an electric wire that ran around the perimeter of the main garden (the other garden grew pumpkins and other squash in the fall, and gave us our own pumpkin patch) and my brother and I would laugh hysterically as we dared each other to touch the fence and jolt ourselves. I would catch moths and other small bugs to feed the ants. I’d watch them tear apart their meals and carry them down into their holes, then I’d dig around and try to find the moth part. I never did. To this day it’s still a mystery as to how the ants ate, broke down or hid/stored each insect that quickly. Two of my old dogs are buried there.

You could watch birds and squirrels at the bird feeders from the kitchen window. We would tunnel into and build forts in the piles of snow after my grandpa plowed in the winter. There was a small hill in the front yard that gave us sledding fun and we’d often head across the street to a larger hill that, if you weren’t careful, would dump you into the creek after careening down. The row of pine trees along the driveway were full grown when I was old enough to notice them, but I marveled at how my mom and her sisters could jump over them when they were kids growing up. Ground hogs and chipmunks were always making holes or digging into the garden and considered nuisances. We enjoyed walking behind my grandparents through the open field that led to a forest with a fox hole that always had animal bones scattered around. I remember walking back there just me and a friend one time and seeing a wolf. We freaked and ran all the way back to the house. Granted it was probably just the fox, but the imagination of a young girl can run wild at times. Deer were plentiful and my Grandpa blessed us with a nice buck every year. Venison, mmm-mmm good!

Oh the memories. I could go on and on. That was home to me. It was home even though we lived in town. It was home when I moved away to college, and then grad school, and then got a job. Whenever I traveled home, that is the house I thought of. After my Grandpa passed away and then my Grandma, my mom moved into that farmhouse and has lived there the past few years.

Until now. The house has been sold; it no longer belongs to our family. I feel like a part of me died when it was sold. That was home. Our family home. My home. Our memories. It drew me back and called to me when I had been gone too long. It was a breath of fresh air, peace and tranquility regardless of what my life held. The memories flood back often and I smile at them, only now there are tears behind the smiles. It’s like an ending of an era that I miss so much.

 

Friends and Family

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img_6003-2I grew up surrounded by family. When I was young and my parents still married, I remember visiting my Dad’s side of the family a few hours away. From what I remember, I had a plethora of cousins. Now that I’m older and can actually count how many I have, it’s not as many as I remember, but still a lot. My mom’s side of the family was smaller, but closer in distance with my grandparents in the same town. We got together often and I have memories and pictures galore of the fun we had.

Now that we’re grown with families and kids of our own, the closest member of my family lives 5 states away. Thankfully I married into a family who lives only one state away with an aunt and uncle in the same town as us!

But I’m used to so much more, and I miss it. I miss them. I miss family that I see on a monthly basis. I miss the playing, the laughing, the holiday meals, the kids playing while the adults talked.

And yet I am blessed with an extended family, a family I call friends. People who have brought meals after my kids were born, people who have prayed for us and with us. People who we have shared meals with. People who my kids love to play with.

Tonight, Halloween, I was reminded of some of these wonderful extended family I have surrounding me. We ate dinner together, the kids at one table with the babies in high chairs and adults scattered amongst the table and couch. We kept an eye on each others’ kids as they ran from room to room playing with the toys (sometimes sharing, sometimes not), encouraged them to say “please” before getting a cracker to tide them over before dinner, mopped up messes made by whichever kid made it, whether our own or not, laughed and took pictures as the kids got into their costumes (and some adults too), and then went out trick or treating. Another mom held my little girl’s hand while I pushed my youngest in the stroller. When my camera ran out of room for pictures, my friends jumped in with theirs to capture the precious moments. As the kids ran around the front yard, getting lost between the cars and going inside and out, we all managed to keep track of them.

They may not be family by blood, but they are family none the less and I am blessed to have them near!

 

 

 

My heart can’t breathe

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Have you ever read or heard something, maybe saw something, and it made your heart hurt? A deep, raw aching that almost feels like your heart has stopped breathing and there’s this wild desperation for something to change? No? Just me? Okay, well, let me tell you, it sucks. It makes me feel so helpless, hopeless.7

This is what the book, “7” by Jen Hatmaker does to me, every time I read it. Every. Single Time. I’m on my third read through right now and why I continue to put myself through the mess that becomes my heart, I’m not sure why exactly. Probably because it combines my passion for helping those in need and the words of Jesus to help those in need. The breathless heart that comes with it is just a casual side affect. Lucky me.

Basically Jen takes 7 different areas of her life (which also includes her family because as a wife and mom, it’s impossible to separate the two) and reduces them for one month each. Cuts out the crap. Gets rid of the excess. In fact the subtitle of the book is “an experimental mutiny against excess”. We’re talking clothes, spending, waste, food, possessions, media, and stress. The end result? A simpler life. Less stuff. More money. More time as a family. Less stress and more peace. The reason behind it all? Starving children. Homeless people. An earth that is disappearing. Landfills that are taking over. Sick and tired of living a life of consumption while the vast majority of people around the world, even in our own country, have nothing, eat nothing, and die with nothing.

Before talking numbers, let me point out this book was published in 2012 so the following numbers have changed and I’m 100% sure they have not changed in a positive direction. It is only getting worse.

Each month’s area tugs at my heart, but the two that leave it breathless are ‘Waste’ and ‘Spending’.

We are a wasteful nation. I am a wasteful person. I’ve been purging our house slowly but surely the past few months (imagine trying to sort through the closets while trying to keep track of two little people who are also cleaning out everything else. and by cleaning, I mean take everything out of and make a mess, then quickly move on to the next drawer, box, container, cupboard, etc.). I normally feel very victorious doing this. We are simplifying our lives people! We have too much stuff and other people could use it. So I take it to the thrift store that’s closest to me and my burden is lightened.

Except.

Except my newly cleaned out closets don’t really stay cleaned out for long. Life continues and we just replace all that stuff we no longer used with more stuff. Stuff that we wanted. Stuff that we would use, at least for now. And eventually I’ll get to the point of purging the house again. And then we’ll replace it all. Perhaps….perhaps the problem isn’t that our house is too small or that we have too much stuff…perhaps the problem is that we’re continuing to buy more and more stuff in the first place. We are a society that says “if you want it, buy it” and “if it breaks, throw it out and buy a new one”. Heck, just about every week I’m guilty of buying too much produce and throwing some out because it goes bad before I can chop it up and eat it (not to mention those plastic bags in the produce section that we’re supposed to use-waste!). No problem, I’ll just go buy more. Kids didn’t like what I made for dinner? Throw it out and make them a grilled cheese. Meanwhile, 25,000 people EVERY SINGLE DAY (again, these numbers are from 4 years ago) are dying from starvation.

Heck, we buy cereal that comes in two packages-a plastic bag and a box to put around it. Throw the bag away and recycle the box. But do we really need two packages? All in the name of advertising (and don’t tell me advertising doesn’t work. it does, we’re all guilty of being lured to something simply because of advertising)? More waste.

More numbers:

Annual U.S. spending on cosmetics: $8 BILLION (yes, with a B)

Basic education for all global children: $6 BILLION

So we could educate the entire world’s children and still have $2 billion left to spend on cosmetics. Kind of makes that 10th color of eye shadow not seem so important, doesn’t it?

burkina-girls-cirAnnual U.S. and European spending on perfume: $12 billion (my heart…it’s losing breath)

Clean water for all global citizens: $9 billion

I. can’t. breath. We could give clean water to the ENTIRE WORLD and still have $3 billion left to spend on perfume. Jesus, please forgive me. I’m actually not a perfume wearer, but I am guilty. I am guilty of being selfish. I put my need for stuff (seriously, we don’t even NEED perfume) above the very LIFE of someone who needs clean water. Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31.

How much do I love myself? Well, enough to make sure I have clean water. Heck, we even have enough water that I let my littles play in a sink with water just to make them happy. I love myself enough that I don’t just wear clothes, but I wear clothes that I like, are comfortable, and don’t have stains or holes in them. I love myself enough that I have a bed to sleep in at night (and the occasional nap I sometimes get). I love myself enough that I buy healthy food, lots of produce (again, that I often let go bad because I don’t feel like chopping or peeling) and eat more food than I need. I love myself enough that I drive my own vehicle while my husband has his own. Our children have enough clothes that I don’t have to do their laundry for almost 2 weeks. Our house not only provides a roof over our head, but we have the luxery of running the AC low enough to keep us cool, have TWO living areas, a kitchen that is stocked full, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We currently have 4 lap tops. That’s right-FOUR! Not only do we have walls around us, but we have decorations on those walls. Not only is the floor covered in toys, but there are more in the other living area, the kids’ bedroom, and up on the shelf out of the way.

I’m losing my breath again.

So what do I do with this book? What do I do after reading it? Do I recycle more, donate more stuff, stop buying so much, make sure we eat all the fruits and veggies I buy (okay, let’s me honest, it’s always the veggies that go bad)? Do I give all our stuff away, sell our house and move into a one room apartment with my entire family? The above verse doesn’t say to stop loving yourself, it simply says “love your neighbor as yourself“. Okay, so what does that mean?

That’s what I’m doing this time around. I’m finding out how to love my neighbor. Maybe instead of just donating some extra stuff to a random thrift store, I find someonespecific or some organization that really needs it. A single mom who works 3 jobs just to afford a small apartment for her and her children, but the apartment is bare; a homeless couple who need a tent that doesn’t leak when it rains. Maybe instead of just giving money to a homeless resource center, I cook a meal and serve the men, women and children who come through there. Maybe instead of trying to entertain my kids with their toys that they are so bored with, we gather some up and bring it to some kids who don’t have any (It’s never too young to teach my little people about Jesus’ command to love our neighbor!). Maybe instead of letting the extra produce go bad, I put together healthy meals and donate them to an organization that provides food for low income families on the weekends, when their kids don’t get fed at school.

As far as spending and waste, do we really need a brand spankin’ new shirt? Could we shop second hand? Do we really need to buy that wall art or nick knack? Couldn’t we find a more noble cause for that money? Do we really have to use plastic bags for all our produce? What about ziplock bags for our kids’ school lunch food? Perhaps we invest in some reusable plastic containers, even if we have to hand wash them each day to fill for the next day?

I can feel my breath coming back. Slowly. I can do something. I can make a change, not just in my life, but in someone else’s. I can be the change that people need.

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