BLESSONS

For those of you who have followed this blog since it began, I am eternally grateful.  Your encouragement has been phenomenal, and I have cherished every exchange. I am so excited to tell you that I have turned this little blog into a book…and until September 13th @ 11:59p.m., you can get FREE SHIPPING if you preorder it!  Just go to our website (http://www.living-legacy-ministries.com/publishing) to order your copy today!  Books will be shipped after October 5th.

Here’s what some of my favorite people said about the book. (I cry every time I read their words):

“This open file of life experiences will be your go to when you need a fresh perspective during the most demanding of days.  You will laugh.  You will cry. You will not feel alone in your journey.”  
Adair Moorefield, fellow sojourner, mother of 2

In the breathless world of iPhone notifications and extracurricular everything, Blessons offers us a moment to stop, to catch our breath, and to remember that this world’s clock has not bound God’s timeless hands. ChristiAnna Coats invites us into her reflections on an ordinary life that feels close to home but helps us to see the God who often goes unnoticed when life stays ordinary and home stays close. If the Christian life is lived forwards but understood backwards (Kierkegaard), this is a book that demonstrates the possibility of hindsight in a world that puts life on fast-forward. In that way, Coats shows us what it means to think like a Christian and thus how to speak like a Christian–not through the mystical way of escape, not through the political way of protest, not through the pious way of perfection, but through the human way of remembering. The God in these pages is a God who is real enough to remember and true enough to transform our memory. I have no doubt that anyone who encounters these testimonies will remember this God as well, even if for the first time.”

-Jeremy Spainhour, fellow reflector, father of 3

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I’m so emotional about this whole endeavor. I cried when I read my ISBN number. I cried when I saw the cover. I don’t know what I’ll do when the actual hold-me-in-my-hands book arrives at my door….

TRAVEL

Dear Moms of teensy tinies who traveled this Christmas,

Let me let you in on a little bitty secret….

IT GETS EASIER!

Traveling with little ones is the ultimate test of a parent’s will and resolve. How important is that family gathering? How will you get there? What will transit behold?

I don’t mean to be a know it all, but I have done it all. Arranged traveling around naps and nursing. We have peed off the side of every road for a 500-mile stretch. We have scooped them out of their beds at 2am, and driven through their sleep time. We’ve left late at night and arrived at the destination upon their waking, losing days of sleep to avoid the torture of entertaining three rowdy confined creatures. Timing is everything with babies and if something is even slightly askew, the whole trip is vulnerable to devastation of epic proportion.

One time we were traveling home on the Fourth of July. Zachary was 3 months old. We had so many diapers and nighttime pull-ups in our vehicle we scarcely had room for our shoes. He had an ear infection (like he ALWAYS did) and was particularly fussy. He had finally settled down and we were making good time in no traffic on a stretch of highway with no curves. All was quiet. All were resting peacefully. Until we saw the patriotic lights behind us. They weren’t fireworks. We were getting pulled freaking over. I desperately tried to convince Michael to call 911 and simply explain the situation. “If the operator is a mom, she will understand. We can probably just pay the ticket by debit over the phone. There really is no need to pull over.” He didn’t think I was serious. But I was. As a heart-attack. My heart-attack. I appreciate our law enforcement and all, but that day…WHEN HE WOKE UP MY SLEEPING BABY….

I have been soooooooooo exhausted as a result of traveling. The packing, planning, organizing, and executing a family vacation is worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Award. I pack outfits by days, in birth order, and sometimes in multiple suitcases for multiple locations. My sister-in-law just executed a 12-day trip in two countries, the detail of which included such intricate things as mailing my mom her van key (long story). Is that incredible? Mama has skill.

We just got home from a Christmas trip, hauling back with us a wrecked vehicle on a rented trailer and loot from FIVE Christmas celebrations. THAT’S RIGHT. FIVE. Times three boys. The amount of remote control boats, Skylanders, and AA batteries we toted is enough to supply radio shack for a year. Luckily my hubby excelled at Tetris as a child, because he had our car packed with zero amount of space wasted. And we could access lunchmeat from the cooler at the first mention of hunger. Our extra cargo has slowed our average travel time by an hour. BUT…not to worry. Our kids are traveling champs.

We started them young. Nolan was 11 weeks when we made our inaugural parental road trip. On an 8-hour trip, he woke once, when we stopped. I fed him, changed him, and he slept the rest of the way. So obviously we thought we could handle anything. The second child was slightly different. The screaming seemed endless, and I would take him out of his seat for no reason. I became able to change a diaper without dislodging him from his seat. The dexterity that resulted is resume worthy. The third one came and at 8 weeks, we drove to the mountains and forgot to strap him in his seat at all. He was tiny. We felt awful. But now he’s five and tracks our miles, alerts us at each state crossing, and never ever complains.

Kids are incredibly resilient. It’s the parents who are less so.

They will fall back into routine after a weird off day. They will still eat their vegetables because you will offer it to them without the threat of a giant gingerbread house lurking nearby. They will not be damaged for life because you lost it on I-95 over a spilled sippy cup of purple Gatorade. Let me test-i-fy.

I PROMISE it gets more fun. I PROMISE it is worth it. I PROMISE they remember. Today’s trip was long, but almost effortless on my part. I am NOT KIDDING. My kids are road warriors. Yes, we let them watch movies, but y’all, only about half the time. We played the alphabet game, three different ways. Nolan read an entire novel. Josiah made me a bracelet. And Zachary, about 15 minutes from home, said he wished he could sit in my lap. Obviously, I became a booster seat. (If you think I would turn that down, you are out your mind.) That was when he said, “Let’s talk about Christmas…”

Though he received infinity gifts this year, I asked what his favorite gift was. Do you know what he said, WITHOUT HESITATION??

“Mom, I think family is the gift.”

His response, pure, thoughtful, and certain, was the sweetest gift I received this season.

Moms, it is worth the effort in the end. Stay strong. They will get bigger and have bigger bladders and bigger attention spans. And you will survive right through this really hard phase and it will be but a blink.

In the meantime, make it bearable for yourself by not setting unrealistic expectations, always packing extra wipes, and unapologetically stopping for coffee, as the crises require.

Sincerely,
A Mom who’s been there

TOGETHER

A few months ago I was talking to a friend of mine. She said this to me:

“You just always seem like you’ve got it together.”

Um-hum.

Fluke.

And then today a co-worker said the exact same thing.

I am beyond befuddlement. I do not know who they see. So let me set the record straight.

No. I. Don’t.

Every single day is a monumental struggle. Last night, for example, Michael made dinner early because sports make life impossible, and then had gone outside to put something something fluid something something necessary something something vehicle, leaving the children with my portion of the dinner. When I walked through the door 20 minutes later, they had obviously eaten it. And then the deprived ones cried of extreme hunger pangs less than an hour later while I was trying to eat my off-brand Cinnamon Life sitting on the toilet overseeing bath time while another complained about homework requirements for a solid hour.

This is my life. NOT together.

Every morning I intend, set my alarm for, and plan to wake up 45 minutes before the rest of the family to have my devotions and quiet time.   Every morning, I program my alarm to say things like, “You need to wash your hair today. GET UP!”, or “You have to pack for your trip to Kentucky, GET UP!!”, or “Nolan has a math test and needs extra protein at breakfast, GET UP and make him an egg!!” Every morning, the coffee maker is programmed to fill the air with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee by 5:30 am. And lately, every morning, I tell the alarm to stop it. And I snooze my way through the 45 minutes of quiet that I desperately needed before the day begins.

And then it does.

Waking up is not only hard on me. Every morning Zachary claims that he has woken up both blind and lame and is unable to proceed with any task. He dramatically army crawls up the stairs, lays prostrate at the top, and waits for mercy from a parent. Josiah lectures us about not having put him to bed early enough the evening prior. And Nolan begins each day with a proposal to restructure the education system to suit his personal needs. Michael and I have an unspoken agreement not to speak before at least a half cup of coffee. We typically stumble towards each other and acknowledge that the day has begun with an armless embrace.

The flurry ensues and though we have been technically awake for 2 solid hours, we are ALWAYS rushed to get out the door. And IF we manage to get out the door without forgetting the reading book that was last read ‘while I was jumping on the trampoline’, it is always later than I had originally intended. Then, while dropping them off, I am writing a check for a fundraiser/school lunch/field trip/school picture that I didn’t order but they sent anyway and that my son cut out and framed before I could tell them I didn’t want their manipulative forty-five dollar ‘proof set’ thank you very much/school carnival. At this point, I typically spill coffee somewhere because I can’t drive, put on makeup, write checks, and manage the coffee simultaneously.

And my whole life smells like a wet soccer cleat. It’s all the vehicles, the closets, the bathrooms, everywhere. There is this demonic spongy layer between the inner and outer lining of the cleat that absorbs sweat and dew and makes a mixture of death that hovers and spreads and lasts. I’ve tried to kill it with every Pinterest plan there is. NO. It is the devil himself manifest in an odor. And if your Pinterest plan worked, it’s because you are desensitized. My nose is my superpower and THE SMELL PERSISTS.

We recently had family pictures made. I have posted them on social media.

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We look like we have it together, don’t we? BUT LET ME BE CLEAR. Behind every single perfect family photo is an argument about adjustable waist corduroy pants. And underwear. And smiling. And all the things that make family pictures family pictures. Remember, we post the HIGHLIGHTS.

No, I don’t have it all together. And I regret projecting that I do. Because moms, let’s stop looking around and finding our faults in other peoples’ momentary glimpses of perceived perfection. Her perfect pig-tailed daughter probably eats her boogers when no one is looking, and her son does not enjoy the Ralph Lauren seersucker shorts with argyle socks…no matter what the picture projects. He doesn’t. She gave him candy to keep him from tantruming in public. I know because I have put my kids in that stuff. And they looked great…

The only thing I have together is a group of girlfriends that really know me and tell me to hang the cleats out the car window, forge the homework packet, and let him go commando to relieve myself of at least one argument. It’s my fellow soldiers  in the trenches that keep it real with me. Next time you see her, and are wondering about how she has it ‘all together’, ask her to have a cup of coffee with you. I bet she tells you about her struggles. I bet she is grateful someone asked. I bet you find a friend and start to bear one another’s burdens. And perhaps you will live out the incredibly cheesy, although true, cliché…

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

 

BABY

There has never been a longer walk than the one I just made from my baby’s kindergarten class to our minivan in the back of the parking lot.  Michael has asked me to please stop calling him a baby, and I cannot.  My mom still calls me her baby, and so I have resolved that my babies are my babies forever.

Last night Zachary said he wasn’t ready to go to kindergarten.  I almost told him he didn’t have to.  I almost quit my job.  I almost decided to have another baby.  The boys suggested it the other day, and I thought about what it feels like to pick up a new born and watch them squirm and stretch and then nestle back into my chest and stomach and then look up at me with reassured eyes and how that is the most exhilarating feeling in all the world and how I cherished every snuggle I was afforded in those early days.

And then I thought about how those early days were eternal days that never ever ended and how I thought everyone who said ‘they are growing so fast!’ was a lunatic because no they weren’t.  They were growing so slowly, and I was feeling every single millisecond of their growth because I was with them always and they were so needy and so dependent and so loud and so messy.  All I ever did was wipe things.  Ever.

The night we brought Zachary home from the hospital was the longest night.  He cried all night long.  We couldn’t figure each other out, and so I woke up my husband.  I almost made him take us back to the hospital because I thought something cannot be okay with a baby that cries this much.  A baby’s cry unsettles me to my innermost being and there is no other focus until the baby is pacified. It was the longest night in the history of the world.

That was five seconds ago.

It was a blink.  You were right and you are not lunatics.

And that is the reason I felt compelled to help a mama in Wal-Mart last week.  I was picking something up for work.  In my work clothes.  With no children.  She had a baby strapped to her chest, a toddler licking things from the ‘please touch me’ section of the checkout aisle, and an older child who was attempting to help, but making more work for the mom in the meantime.  I had been her.  And I sensed she had been me, once in the professional world but taking a moment to embrace this other parallel universe.  I walked over and asked if I could please load the bags in her cart, as she was struggling to work around the baby carrier and give commands to the licking toddler. She looked relieved and grateful and almost in tears.  And I said it before I thought about it.

‘It goes by so fast.’

And she probably thought, ‘No it doesn’t you crazy working mom who got a shower and peaceful drive to work this morning.’

But it does.  It is a blink.  The early years of motherhood are quick and painful.  They are joy and sorrow and struggle and fun and long and fulfilling and exhilarating and endless and so so so so so very fast.  

When I woke Zachary up this morning (he was on the floor because he occasionally insists that it is more comfortable than his bed), he asked me to hold him for a minute.  As I cradled his long heavy body in my overwhelmed arms, I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of his sweet childhood.  Of his innocence. Of his babyhood. Of his potential and possibility. Of his soft skin and his blue eyes and his telling smile. 

And I whispered in my mind, because the words wouldn’t come:

‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.’

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(Quote taken from: Munsch, R. N., & McGraw, S. (n.d.). Love you forever.)

ARMY

When I took a pregnancy test in May of 2005, I was sure the double pink line was faulty. The first person I called was the 1-800 number on the back of the EPT box.

‘Uhm…so there is kinda a really light pink double line. What does that mean?’

‘You have indicated a positive result.’

‘Yes, but the second is really light pink.’

‘Ma’am, you have indicated a positive test.’

‘Are you sure? Am I pregnant????’

‘I can only confirm that you have indicated a positive test. You should contact your physician.’

And in one fell swoop, I became a mom.

Suddenly, not being able to stay awake through lectures at school started to make sense. I thought the exhaustion had been coming from driving 2 hours (one way) to attend full-time graduate school, reading endlessly, and working on my clinical hours were the reason I felt narcoleptic.

Turns out, growing a human takes it out of you.

For the first 9 days, I didn’t eat pizza. Or anything medium rare. I felt an incredible need to eat copious amounts of spinach. I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee. I started taking those terrible pre-natal vitamins (the true culprit of morning sickness). I added to my list of reading, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I started having those crazy pregger dreams where my baby would come out with teeth or as a 2-year old.

Because I lean on the anxious side, my obsessive thought patterns tried to run a bit rampant during those 9 months. Praise be to God who created the earth that I have friends. Poor veteran-mother-Mendy was trapped in the car with me on all those drives to school. She answered all four hours worth of questions. So did my mom. So did my neighbor.

This motherhood journey is tough. I am constantly evaluating my parenting methods. Although the even-tempered ‘calm with explanation’ sometimes is replaced with ‘frantic with threats’ (but only when we’re late for church, of course). And then I’ll feel like such a failure as I explain to a friend,

‘I’m ruining their lives…’

‘No you aren’t. You’re offering varied life experiences so nothing surprises them later on,’ Adair will respond.

or

‘You probably are. Just write this down. It will be much easier for the therapist later on,’ Mendy will say.

Or, on especially daunting weeks…

‘I can’t remember when I last showered,’ I’ll admit.

‘Oh, me either,’ Kelly will reassure.

Thank God I have support. No one should mother alone. The job is too big. The responsibility too great. The sleepless nights, constant demands, endless laundry, insatiable appetites, and the calendar could conspire to take down even the strongest of women.

Not to mention the fact that we stand in the midst of a war that has been waged for their very souls. For crying out loud.

But God made it so that generations are not isolated, and we can call on our mothers before us to guide us and give wise counsel. God made it so that we live in clusters and we can call on our friends to figure out how to count by base tens in 2nd grade math (because what in the world??). God made it so that we would have a helpmate in parenting and so he gave us a husband to handle all of the energy that comes out of their inexhaustible bodies.

God knew we were at war, so he gave us an army.

If you wish me Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday, please know that you are recognizing my entire army of people. I stand on the front lines of this battlefield with a battalion that is prepared to face anything that may come its way. I can’t imagine having to go to this war alone. There is just no way.

Today I honor my fellow soldiers: Thank you. You are in the trenches with me and you lighten my load and share my burden. Thank you. Thank you to the teachers, the prayer warriors, the moms, the dads, the aunts, the great-aunts, the sisters, the cousins, the counselors, the coaches, the brothers, the friends, the grandparents, the church family…the list is endless. Thank you for enlisting in this war and standing with me. Thank you for shoulders to cry on, hands to help me, the reality checks, the perspective checks, the prayers, the calls, the teaching, the laughter, the comfort, the support, the understanding, the love, and the coffee breaks. Thank you so much for the coffee breaks you guys. You are one amazing army.

Be blessed today.

Happy Mother’s Day

GROWING

Michael and I were sitting on the couch having a conversation.  All the kids were home.  And we were having a conversation.  Zachary was in the room with us.  All of a sudden we heard from downstairs,

“Moooooooooooooom!!!!!!  Someone clogged the toilet with SOOOOOO MUCH toilet paper!!”

Zachary stopped what he was doing, looked intently at both of us (somehow), and confessed,
“It was me……..accidentally” (which is an incredibly overused word in our home).

You know that feeling when you find an unexpected $5….nay, a $20 bill in your old coat pocket? This was exactly like that.

Michael and I locked eyes.  Michael’s voice lifted an octave, “Zachary!! Did you wipe your own bottom????!??!?!?!?”

“Yes…” he replied tentatively.

“That is awesome!!!!” we both replied, holding hands and skipping.  Fairy dust fluttered through the air.  Angelic music and confetti filled the room simultaneously.  I remember trumpets.  I’m not sure that even learning to read gets so festive a celebration in our home.

Do you know what this means?  We are henceforth relieved of bathroom duty!!!  We have been in that business for the past 2,976 days.  What will we do with all the extra time, you ask? Write a book. Invent something.  Solve cancer.  The possibilities seem endless.

These days, I say to my kids,  “Kids, get in the car.”  And they do it.  Buckle and all.

They walk.

They walk upstairs.

They cut food.

They brush teeth.

They put on shoes.

They shower.

They zip, button, tie, unlock, lock, open, shut, close, turn off, turn on, cook…..things.

They’re growing up.  We seem to have entered into a new phase of parenting, almost suddenly.  Because my body was used as a jungle gym, a feeding system, a pillow, a home, and a carrier, I spent the first 8 years feeling drained and exhausted.  Meeting the basic physical needs of my kids was an all consuming, all encompassing, incredibly rewarding existence.

And now we have moved into the emotionally challenging phase.  There are constant arguments, explanations, exhortations, cautions, information, directions, discussions, and form completions.

Side note: Filling out forms may not be hard and emotional for some of you ultra-organized types who love to fill in a box, sign, seal, and deliver something.  But for me…it’s pure torture.  OH….with the ‘primary email address, secondary email…’  x 3 boys x 2 schools x 3 sports/season + the doctor’s office + the dentist.  How many places could I possibly have to put my email address???  You know you won’t use it!!  Next season/year/vaccination, you’ll print off a piece of paper and ask me to fill out a form!  PLEASE…take the email OFF OF THE FORM, PROGRAM IT IN YOUR COMPUTER and just email me (CHOOSE EITHER MY PRIMARY OR SECONDARY) for crying out loud!! Keep my records ELECTRONICALLY!  Why is paper even still a thing???

As they grow, we are navigating friendships, wrestling with theology, expecting self-control, and nurturing empathy.  These are difficult concepts and we stumble through most of it.  But in a very real and tangible way, our kids are growing and maturing.  Their little beings embody little minds that have the most amazing, complex thoughts.  They make predictions, assumptions, oppositions and decisions.  They don’t always make the right ones.  But when they make an automatic right decision, after having been wrong so many times before, it amazes me.

Our kids do not have independent access to any electronic device.  We have to enter the password each time they play.  The other day Nolan asked me to play his iPod.  I agreed and he handed it to me.  He immediately turned his head so I could enter the password secretly.  There have been so many times when he tried teasingly to peek, or indiscreetly tried to figure it out.  But this time, he just turned his head away.  This is a small thing, but I almost cried.

I wonder if our heavenly Father is as pleased whenever we deny the flesh?

‘But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.’ Gal. 5:16-25.

When patience blossoms instead of outbursts of anger, peace instead of jealousy, kindness instead of selfish rivalries, goodness instead of hostility, self control instead of sexual immorality, and love instead of murder, we truly are living by the Spirit.  Just as my kids are growing and maturing in front of my very eyes, so should I be ever growing in the Lord.  Ever seeking to put away childish things and grasp for solid food in place of milk (Heb 5:12).  May my thirst for Him be as for water in a desert land.  May my pursuits all lead to knowing Him more intimately and making Him known to others. May I never be complacent in my walk with him, but growing all the more in His grace and knowledge (2 Pet 3:18). Amen.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to retrieve a Monopoly hotel from an unflushed toilet.

They’ve still got some growing to do.

And so do I.

GENEROSITY

If you know my children, you know that my oldest child is spirited. Lively. Animated. At times his impulsivity overrides his conscious and he can be intrusive. Parenting him can be difficult. We both like to be in charge, and there are hard days. And subsequently, he has taught me infinite lessons about mothering, about patience, about expectations, about pride, about life.

And for every single ounce of energy that is in his body, there is every bit as much a generous spirit. It’s a side of him that most don’t see. We spend hours picking out gifts for him to give cousins/teachers/friends. This Christmas season, his generous spirit blessed me so much, moved me to tears, and convicted me of my overwhelmingly selfish nature.

This summer, I felt God speaking to my spirit to give more freely my time, energy, and resources. I like to keep those things for myself, thank you very much. But in prayer, in scripture, in my times of quiet, ‘giving yourself’ just kept surfacing. Like Romans 1 all over my spirit. Like the Parable of the Good Samaritan all up in my face.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

About eight months ago I met a representative of World Relief at a community prayer breakfast. I was there for eggs and sausage, he was there trying to engage the church to stand for the vulnerable. I mean…. I took his card and put it in my console, where I promptly forgot about it. And then in preparing for a sociology lecture several months later, something in my notes about poverty reminded me about this organization, which, in their words:

We believe God has equipped the church – the most diverse social network on the planet – to be at the center of these stories, leveraging time, energy and resources to join the vulnerable in their time of need. We practice principles of transformational development to empower local churches in the United States and around the world so they can serve the vulnerable in their communities. With initiatives in education, health, child development, agriculture, food security, anti-trafficking, immigrant services, micro-enterprise, disaster response and refugee resettlement, we work holistically with the local church to stand for the sick, the widow, the orphan, the alien, the displaced, the devastated, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised.’

So after scouring their website, drooling over them being Jesus, and trying to reconcile the stirring in my spirit, I decided to pitch the idea to my Sunday School class about getting involved with refugee resettlement. They were all over it. Like willing to give up days off, money, stuff, time, and just whatever. These people are legit. So we went through the orientation and the background checks. The day we went to finalize everything we received notice that our family would be here in 12 days. We had to furnish an apartment from scratch and come up with $1000. And we had exactly zero dollars, zero pieces of furniture, and zero time. It was the week of Thanksgiving.

I wish I could put the entire text thread from our class on here. They were rock stars. Some would send “I’ll take care of a couch.” Others would make Snoop Dogg references (Melissa Partin). Others would give lengthy descriptions of what they would send (also Melissa Partin). Long text short…we had a fully furnished apartment within 3 days, except a dining room table and dresser. So I put out a request on Facebook. And then we had a table, and a dresser, and a car, and another car, and then someone randomly gave me $100 ‘for whatever’…. it went on like that. Some kids even gave up their DS. I eventually had to refer people out….because we were full to overflowing…

Nolan, upon seeing that their son had no toys, began donating his own. Every time we have gone to visit the family, Nolan has brought something from his own room to give to them. Every day, he has asked to spend time with him. He has helped their son with his English homework. He has generously and genuinely given of himself, and never complained. He considers it joy. His generous spirit is a constant reminder to me to let go of that to which I cling so tightly. My space. My things. My time. My money. My energy. Myself.

‘Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.’

That line grips me. Sears my spirit. Is etched in my soul and is propelling me to a kind of service that goes further than standing on the serving side of a soup kitchen line, the table serving as the great chasm between us and them. Soup lines are wonderful. Needed. But if there is no supping together when the dinner is served, I think we have missed the point. I think the kind of giving the Bible speaks of is…all of it. A living sacrifice. The kind that is uncomfortable, inconvenient, costly, and selfless. The kind that honestly enters into the lives of those around us. The kind that reforms and reshapes us in the process.

When Nolan gave their son his prized guitar, his smile was more than I could bear. Nolan’s smile. He was so incredibly genuine in his generosity. The lump in my throat was so huge, I couldn’t speak. Lord, that I could be that generous. Lord, that I could give that freely. Lord, that I would be a living sacrifice, holding nothing back from you. Lord, that my heart would be like that of a child, that I might enter your kingdom (Matthew 18:3).

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And a little child shall lead them…