Thursday, December 7, 2017

FORTY-THREE


Happy Birthday to the greatest human I know.
You love, serve, and give all of you all the time.

I love hearing about your day because it’s never about what you accomplished.  When you recount your steps, it always includes the people you encountered, helped out, and made laugh. 

You may be praying with the Mayor one minute and stuffing envelopes with the support staff the next.  You may be picking up a guest speaker one day and driving a bus for the student ministry the next.  You may be standing on stage one day and behind the scenes setting up tables the next.

You take time to speak and to listen.
You take time to care and to love.
You take time to be part of the solution, no matter what the problem.

You do you better than anyone I know and everyone around you is better for it.

Today, on your birthday, we celebrate not just the day you were born, but the life that you live and the difference that you make.  I am so proud of the person you are and honored to call you mine.


Happy Birthday!!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A GIFT WORTH CELEBRATING


This girl.
There is no one else like her.

She is beautiful.
She is funny.
She is kind.

This girl.
The daughter I didn’t know to ask for.

She is thoughtful.
She is caring.
She is mine.

Brittany, you stepped into our lives over 5 years ago.
You immediately stole our hearts and eventually moved into our home.
Our family of 4 was missing someone and we knew we weren't complete.
But then you moved in and helped us see that you were the missing piece.
Our family is better for having you in our lives and in our home.
Thank you for letting us love you and claim you as our own.
You are a gift we didn't know to ask for but are so grateful we received.
Happy Birthday, sweet girl!  We are proud of all you've achieved!

Friday, September 1, 2017

BEAUTY IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and there is not a cloud in sight.  I sat this morning, drinking my coffee, watching squirrels chase each other in my backyard.  They are playing in the trees by the lake and they are so full of life.  The finches were out, flying in and out of the dead limbs of the redbud tree and a fox ran the shoreline, stopping long enough for me to have a moment before running off.  It looks like the perfect day… in my world.

But 582 miles away, friends, family members, and other fellow humans are living in a state of chaos.  The overcast skies have dropped over 51 inches of rain in a matter of days and people are in serious trouble.  Their homes and towns are flooded and people are sitting on top of their cars and roofs… waiting.

Waiting to be notice.
Waiting to be seen.
Waiting to be rescued.

Texas has a hurricane named Harvey sitting on top of it and as painful and heartbreaking as it is to view it from afar, it’s simply amazing to watch the States actually Unite.  It’s amazing to watch fellow human beings set aside their own comfort and safety and to run to the aid of those worse off than them.  The rescued and the rescuers aren’t thinking about skin color or sexual orientation.  They aren’t concerned about religion or political party.  They lay all of that aside and choose to be human… and it’s simply beautiful.

Humans helping humans.
Humans loving humans.
Humans being humans.

It makes my heart so happy to watch people on mission to seek out and save others.
It thrills my heart to watch businesses, neighbors, and churches open their doors to those who are tired and weary, to those whose lives have been turned upside down, to those who can no longer pretend they aren't messy, to those who just need a place to rest.

Humans giving each other permission to be human.  Humans pouring out Jesus love to other humans the way they were designed and purposed.  Luke tells us that "the Son of Man came to find [seek out] lost people and save them" and then John reminds us that "in the same way the Father sent Me [Jesus], I am now sending you."  I am watching fellow humans risk their lives to meet physical needs of other humans and my heart is conflicted.

The eye of hurricane Harvey has given the people in Texas a different view.  They see needs, they see hurt, they see loss, they see pain.  And they run toward it, not away from it.  They are busy making space and they welcome those affected with open arms.  And the people are running to them.


But those of us who claim to know Jesus. Those of us who claim to have been changed because of His sacrifice.  When the the sun is shining and the skies are blue, we don't see that people are waiting to be noticed, to be seen, to be rescued.  We forget that we are suppose to lay aside our own safety and comfort and run to the aid of those who are lost. As believers, we represent a Rescuer who doesn't see skin color, sexual orientation, religion, or political party.  Jesus sees hearts.  Christians are suppose to display the character of God to the world.  Love, grace, and mercy should be how we are defined.  So when we don't lean in, make space, seek out, run to, and/or welcome, we don't look like Jesus.

"If you deny the value of ANY human being, you deny the sacrifice of Jesus."
{Erwin McManus}

We too have been given different lenses to view people and circumstances.  We are suppose to see needs, hurt, loss, and pain.  We are suppose to be busy making space.  We are suppose to live and act in such a way that the hurting run to us because they know they will be safe.  And yet, they don't.  The world isn't running to us, they are running away from us.  The messy and hurting don't see our churches as a safe place to be human.  If they are brave enough to sneak into our world, hoping to find the hope and healing we say we have experienced, they usually end up leaving feeling helpless and hopeless.

When we don't seek out and welcome the hurting, we forget that we too are human.  We forget that we too are messy.  We forget that being tired and weary is ok.  But what's not ok is pretending that we have it all together.  Acting like we aren't struggling.  Denying that our marriages are falling apart.  The church building is suppose to be a place that everyone who has been bruised, scratched, or beat up during the week can limp, crawl or be carried to and the church (the body of Christ) is suppose to love and grace you to Jesus.  The ground is level at the foot of the Cross and the feet of Jesus is where you find hope and healing.

Are waiting to be noticed, to be seen, to be rescued?
Are you looking for a place to find hope, healing, and rest?
Jesus sees you.  Jesus notices you.  Jesus died to rescue you.


But the Lord said, “My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by my power.” So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can stay in me.
{2 Corinthians 12:9}

Monday, July 3, 2017

I'M TIRED OF CARING FOR MILES


“I’m tired of caring for Miles.”

I actually spoke those words out loud yesterday to our Small Group.  Keith and I have the privilege of teaching a group of Young Married couples every Sunday morning and yesterday we knew God wanted us to share with them what was going on in our lives.  And I didn’t want to.  Sharing our life and struggles with them has never been hard, but we are tired and our lives feel extra messy.  I don’t mind sharing my messy life with people, but I prefer to do it after God works.  After God restores.  After God redeems.  But God was asking us to share our hearts in the midst of being weary and that just felt like a big ask.

“Eight years.”

These two words have been running through my head all month.  We just celebrated Miles' 8th birthday and his birthdays always throw me into a funk.  I celebrate knowing someone is remembering.  I celebrate a physical age, but developmentally, emotionally, and mentally, we are nowhere near that number.  And it’s just hard.  Every year that goes by, I find myself grieving where I thought we’d be.  I read posts from years past and realize we haven’t come as far as I thought we had or hoped we would.  But this year, it seemed heavier.  I couldn’t help but wonder if I can do this for eight more years?  And then eight more?  And eight more after that? 

“We’re caregivers.”

Keith spoke those words to me last week as I stood in the ocean washing sand off of me.  I had just finished playing in the sand with our friends’ children and I told Keith I forgot how fun it is to play with kids that can play back.  Playing with Miles is work.  Keeping Miles safe is work.  Keeping others safe from Miles is work.  And because he has no self-care skills and is not potty trained, caring for his physical needs is a lot of work.  The role of caregiver can be exhausting.  And lonely.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good…”

God has been speaking these words over me the last month.  He has been whispering them to my heart because He knows I am tired.  And weary.  He has been reminding me that “…in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”  But that is so hard when you are walking through something that could last the rest of your life on this earth.  

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh…”

God is using this verse found in Galatians 5 to bring clarity to my weariness.  When I say I am tired of caring for Miles, what I actually mean is I am tired of what caring for Miles requires of me.  It requires a daily dying to self.  A daily crucifying of flesh.  A daily decision to lay my life down so Jesus can shine.  Crucifixion was a slow and painful way to die.  So when we are told to be crucified with Christ, when we are told to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, we need to be prepared for that death to be slow and painful.

"I never want to be the me before Miles."

Those words are just as true today as the day I first spoke them.  Caring for Miles is the hardest thing I've ever done and it is the greatest privilege of my life.  Nothing has ever challenged me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and Eternity more than the gift of Miles who has the gift of Autism.

"So, how are you doing?"

I wish I could sit with you over a cup of coffee and ask you that question.  I wonder today what has you feeling tired and weary?  What has you feeling defeated?  What "gift" has God given you that feels too big and too heavy?  Don't give up.  Don't give in.  Don't lose heart.  Keep your eyes and heart fixed on Jesus.

"Don't you know? Haven't you heard? The Eternal, the Everlasting God, the Creator of the whole world never gets weary or tired. His wisdom is beyond understanding. God strengthens the weary. Even young people get tired, then stumble and fall. But those who trust in the Lord will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run - never winded, never weary. They will walk - never tired, never faint."
{Isaiah 40:28-31}

Monday, February 27, 2017

LIVE A LIFE THAT OUTLIVES YOU

 

There is a story in Eric Metaxas’ book, Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness, about a teenage girl named Joan.  Most of us know her as Joan of Arc, but most of us don’t actually know her story.  I recently sat around with some new friends talking about different bios from the book and I couldn’t help but share my takeaway from the life of this teenage farm girl.

God spoke very specifically to Joan and she was brave enough to obey.  As God spoke, she took a step of obedience, and God did what He said He was going to do.  As I read her story of meeting with royalty, leading the French army, and often going against the advise of her family, I couldn’t help but think of my teenager.

Ever since Alex gave his life to Jesus, I have wrestled.

The Holy Spirit dwells in Alex.
The Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in Alex.
The Holy Spirit has the ability to speak to, in, and through Alex.

How will Alex Harmon ever learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit if my Mom voice is the loudest voice in his life?

The Holy Spirit gives Alex access to God the Father.
The Holy Spirit dispenses God’s love into Alex’s heart.
The Holy Spirit reveals the mystery of God to Alex.

Even when my Mom voice is pointing Alex to Jesus, I often need to quiet down because through the Holy Spirit, he has direct access to God!

Like Joan of Arc, I want Alex to hear the still, small voice of God and I want him to be brave enough to obey it!  Which is why I wrestle.  I have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s voice in my life so I can partner with Him in parenting Alex Harmon.  I want to help point him to Jesus, not be an obstacle for him to trip over as the Holy Spirit tries to lead him.

If you follow Joan’s life to the very end, you find a young woman who dedicated her life to obeying the voice of God.  It cost her everything.  She was burned at the stake, only later to be recognized as innocent.  While reading the end of her story, my mind raced to a story in the Bible about a man named John.  He was often referred to as John the Baptist or John the Baptizer.  He spent his life preparing for the coming of Jesus.  He spoke truth about who Jesus was and baptized believers in the Jordan River.  John committed his whole life to pointing people to Jesus.  In Matthew 11, we find John in prison, about to be beheaded.

John sends word to Jesus saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Basically, John is asking Jesus…
Do you know where I am?
Do you know what is about to happen to me?
Are you coming for me?

And Jesus sends word back to John, “…the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

When I read that this past year as I was studying John the Baptist, that reply made me weep.  And I had the same reaction reading the end of Joan of Arc’s life.

Basically, Jesus said…
“John, I know exactly where you are.  I know exactly what’s about to happen to you.  Yes I am the One you have paved the way for.   I heal the sick and the lame, make the deaf hear and the dead alive, but I am not coming for you.  I am the rescuer and yet I am not going to rescue you.  But don’t lose faith.”

John the Baptist.
I can’t wait to meet him one day.

I want to know what it was like always being the one to go before Jesus, but never be with Jesus.  I want to know what it was like to send his closest friends to follow Jesus, knowing he would be alone.  He knew Jesus from his mother’s womb, so when he sent word asking if He was the one, I wonder what he was feeling.  I wonder why Jesus sent word back with John’s disciples before he told the crowd “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”  Why didn’t John get to know that’s how Jesus felt before he died?

The reason I feel so connected to John and the reason Jesus’ reply hits me so hard is because I feel like Jesus is speaking those exact same words to my heart.

“Jackie, I know what your life looks like.  I know that adding Miles to your family was hard.  I know that caring for him is difficult.  I know that changing diapers the rest of your life isn’t something you want to do.  But I am not coming for you.  I am not changing your circumstances.  I am the rescuer and yet I’m not going to rescue you.   But don’t lose faith.”

Hearing Jesus speak those words to my heart hurts every single time.
But it has changed me.
My prayers are forever different.

I no longer pray that Miles emotionally progresses out of the terrible two’s/three’s.
I no longer pray that Miles gets fully potty-trained.
My prayer is that, no matter what, that I will not lose faith because of Jesus.


When you live your life for Jesus, your life outlives you.

What circumstances are you walking through that makes you question the goodness of God?  What situation in your life are you asking God to change?  What do you need Him to rescue you from?

What if it never happens?
What if He doesn’t come through the way you think He should?
Will you still trust Him?  Will you still obey?
  
“And blessed is he who takes no offense at Me and finds no cause for stumbling in or through Me and is not hindered from seeing the Truth.”
{Matthew 11:6} 

Monday, January 16, 2017

I HAD A DREAM...


I had a dream…
and it didn’t involve losing babies.
I had a dream…
and it didn’t involve special needs.
I had a dream…
and it didn’t involve pain and grieving.
I had a dream…
but it wasn’t God’s best for me.

I grieved lost dreams…
and begged God to give me new ones.
I grieved lost dreams…
and was left to wait and see.
I grieved lost dreams…
and the pain was suffocating.
I grieved lost dreams…
and I wondered if God had forgotten me.

I have new dreams…
and my children helped to shape them.
I have new dreams…
because special needs changed me.
I have new dreams…
because the pain and hard finally broke me.
I have new dreams…
and it’s because of God’s love and pursuit of me.

I don’t know what you are walking through today but please know that God loves and adores you.  He is absolutely crazy about you!  If your life and circumstances have forced you to grieve lost dreams, I am so very sorry.  But God.  He is so good and He is so faithful.  Ask Him to breathe new dreams into your heart and you will be amazed at what He can do with your broken dreams and your fragile heart.  

"I say to you today, my friends,
that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment,
I still have a dream."
-Martin Luther King Jr