Through the Eyes of a Child

Slow my heartbeat, Lord, today… until I have seen You with child eyes.

Slow my heartbeat, Lord, today… until I have seen You with child eyes.

Three times in my life I have had a vision of heaven. All three times, my eyes took in the scene around me as if I were a child. A child with unrestrained, abandoned faith. Nothing between me and Jesus. No agenda. No shame or guilt. No need to prove myself or be anything but me.  

On one occasion, I was in a meadow of tall grass. The warm breeze bent the blades and the bright sun bathed me in shifting light through the leaves of a sprawling oak. I lay on my back, gazing upward. Though I did not see the Lord’s face, I felt His presence. He was there. Close. An uncontained joy bubbled up in my heart like the giddiness of a child. So full, I nearly burst with it. As a little girl would in a field of grass, I encircled my arms about me and kicked my legs in complete abandon.

Then, enraptured with that joy, I asked Him, “What can I do for you now?”

I do not remember an answer… because the moment was not for the question. But for the joy of being with Him.

Ahh, but to live, not just through a glimpse, but my everyday through the eyes of that child. The one that is in me still, in all of us, hungry for more of Him. To throw off the burdens, the temptations, the things that wear us down and pause in our pressured pursuit of naught. To see life… to see Him… with reckless abandon.

I recently came across a quote from G.K. Chesterton that resonated with my heart. He was speaking on the joy of a child and the joy of our God…

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gone tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

My prayer today is that I would see the treasures around me… those that are new, and those that have grown too common for me to care. That I would see them, not as a sinner grown old, but with the appetite, the devotion, the reckless abandon of a child. To ask-- not with another task to check off or rung to climb-- but with the pure delight of being with Him. “Oh Lord, what can I do for you now?”

Slow my heartbeat, Lord, today… until I have seen You with child eyes.

“…Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” Luke 10:21

 

The End

The fight was nearing its end. And we were losing.

The fight was nearing its end. And we were losing.

For six months, we had been in the hospital. In the NICU. Christmas was just around the corner. Snow fell on Morristown square. And baby Meagan had undergone a surgery as a last-ditch effort to save her life. But the surgery had failed. She was on maximum life support, and the doctors had come to the end of their abilities. They ushered us into their office and told us they could do nothing more for her. That Meagan would not make it through the weekend. They wanted us to prepare for the worst. The worst. Imminent death. The loss of our child.

The fight was nearing its end. And we were losing.

My life was out of control. So, I tried to find some control wherever I could. I fixated on the machines and found hope in small increments of change, then defeat in the reverse. I studied the schedule of doctors and nurses, hoping for the ones that would bring life, those who became our favorites and our forever friends. I took notes on the medications, the doses, the ups and downs of her progress searching for some pattern, some upward change for the better. Anything to hold on to. But it was fleeting. Control was a façade. I had none.

As I drove to the hospital one morning over that dreaded weekend that I thought would be our last, I turned to my mom and said, “I need to pray something. Something I haven’t been able to pray. Until now. Would that be okay?” And I began…

Lord Jesus, I understand the truth now. I understand that she is your little lamb. And that You love her even more than I do. As her mommy, this is so hard for me, because I love her with everything in me... everything I am. But You… You love her even more. And because of that, I give her to You, Jesus. I trust her into your hands. She is yours. And whatever happens with her… if You choose to take her, or let her stay… I trust You. I let go…

The hands opened. The one's clutching everything I held dear. Opened in abandoned trust for a love so much greater. The tears poured down my face. Healing tears. Trusting tears. For I was not in control... but He was. He who loved her... and loved me... even more.

When I got to the hospital and sat at her bedside, everything had changed. It didn’t matter what the machines said. What the noise said. It didn’t matter what doctor was on call, or what nurse was treating her. It didn’t matter that all things pointed to death. Oblivious to the swirling chaos, I sat with her... I held her little hand in mine and sang.

A few days later, on Christmas Eve, Jesus healed her.

My baby came home. But it could have gone either way. We never know.

If you, my friend, are in a place of suffering today, sorrow that feels so out of control. If you are struggling to find purpose in the pain, joy in the heartache, I tell you this from the depths of my heart: He loves you even more... even more than you could ever fathom.

And I'll tell you this...

As much as I would never want to relive one moment, one day in the NICU… when my soul, my very being, broke so completely…

I never walked closer to Jesus than in those hours.

Watch Her Arm!

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I tend to be a skeptic… or at least lean toward it. When someone tells me a story… an incident… especially the miraculous or mind-boggling type, my brain automatically searches for the obvious. For the not-so-miraculous that maybe they missed or overlooked. The explanation. The natural likelihood.

I’ve always identified with the disciple, Thomas, in the Bible. He needed to touch the wounds on Jesus to believe it was truly Him.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the miraculous, and in a very big God. I have faith in Him. But I have less faith in us and in our ability to interpret Him. Our tendency to over-spiritualize everything. Maybe the light turned green right at that moment because… well, it’s on a timer! You know what I mean.

Knowing this about me, my skeptical side, will help you understand why the next part is… well… mind-blowing.

Back to the NICU… for I have so many lessons there. This one, in particular, was one of the biggest. One month in, my daughter, Meagan, had lost the ability to move her arm. I had seen it days before, known it deep down as a mom knows things. I told the nurse and the doctors and they offered excuses. “No, Mrs. Gatto, she is not moving her arm because it’s tired.” (tired?) or “It has an IV board strapped to it and it just looks like she can’t move it.” (really?) or “Well, we can’t pull the line from that arm because it’s too hard to get another in.” (Oh)

Three days later, they pulled the line. But it was too late. The damage had been done and her arm was paralyzed. A team of neurologists confirmed it. No movement. And never will there be.

Over the next month as the atrophy set in, the discussions increased. Should we leave her arm or amputate it?

My baby’s arm? You want to cut it off? No!

But nothing changed, and it only deteriorated with each day. Shrinking. Dying.

Life took a new turn toward the incomprehensible. My daughter’s situation worsened. Not only with her arm, but because of the line that had done the harm, the dominoes fell. The damage inside her body became as evident as the damage outside. Her systems shut down. Her lungs collapsed. And she was back on life support.

One roller coaster lift up… one plummet down.

It was during those bleak days my husband found me face down on the kitchen floor. I had given up. I could not go on. The pain was too deep. The heartache too consuming. He lifted me off the ground and handed me the scripture pack (Remember the one I spoke of twice before?) Peter said, “You need Him now more than ever.” But I was angry with God. Angrier than I had ever been. All those prayers. All those times crying out. And where was He? Why was He so silent?

But I took a card anyway. And read… “Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you.” (Psalm 50:15). The same message. The third time.

The phone call said Meagan had taken a turn for the worse. I had better get to the hospital right away. Another day. The same pain. The same heartache. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.

I sat by her bedside and screamed out to God in my heart. It was a wretched cry. A defeated cry. One difficult to come back from.

You promise us in your Word that you won’t put us through more than we can handle without giving a way out. Well, I can’t handle it anymore! I am at my end. I cannot go through this one more day. WHERE ARE YOU???

 And then He spoke. As clear as I could ever hear. A voice, not my own, inside my chest. He said…

Watch her arm.

Watch her arm? Her arm? Her arm hasn’t moved in two months. Nothing. It is dead. And you want me to sit here and watch her arm? Fine. I’ll watch it. Because I have NOTHING ELSE TO DO!

So, I sat. And watched. One minute. Two. Ten minutes passed. Ten minutes… and the miracle happened. That baby lifted her arm off the bed. I straightened… and rationalized. She must have moved her body and her arm moved with it. It only looked like she moved it on its own. Then it happened again. And again. And I watched before my very eyes God breathe life into my daughter’s arm.  

Life from nothing. Life from death.

The power of God poured out in an earthly vessel. A miracle.

But the miracle for me resided also in the intimacy unveiled. The doubting Thomas within me that says: Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. You see, had He not spoken first, I would have trusted in science more than miracles. I would have said the nerves were finally regenerating. It was part of the process. But no. He told me before it happened so I would know for sure it was Him.

Jesus found Thomas after His death and stood before him. “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus found me that day and said, I know your doubt. I know your uncertainty. But watch her arm, my child, for I am about to do something great.

His love, so infinite and so finite, in one breath. The God of the universe whispering to the heart of a broken soul.

Then He said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)

Where are you today? Are the miracles real around you? Or are you struggling to see? Are you doubting His presence or His love for you? Are you turning away? Or filled with doubt? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed! Hang on to Him. Believe even when you cannot see.

 

His Favorite

My son, Zach, used to have a t-shirt that read: Jesus Loves You… But I’m His Favorite. Deep down, I felt that to be true, for myself. Surely, God had the whole world to love, but I was one of His favorites ;). We were tight. After all, He had seen me out of many tough spots. For sure, I had my own special place in His heart. I could struggle and fail, but in the end, everything would work out… not just according to Him, but also according to me.

Some would call this optimism… others narcissism ;).

My childhood (into adulthood) lenses had an abrupt splintering when I hit my first tragedy. When our firstborn struggled to live. I was not prepared. It would seem many of my life lessons were learned around that plastic isolette (incubator, we called it).

For the most part, Meagan had been born healthy. Small (2 Lbs. 15 oz.), but healthy. Once she was over the initial hump, the doctors said she merely needed time to grow. I remember sitting at her bedside feeling quite content with the direction things were going. Hard, yes. But she just needed time. A little time and she would be home.

During one of those afternoons, a new baby was wheeled in next to us. He had tubes and wires everywhere. It seemed he had an IV port on every hand and foot. Even across his head. My heart was sad for him, and I prayed a silent prayer. But I’ll be honest, it was a selfish sympathy I gave. One that said, “You poor thing. That’s so hard that you have to suffer like that. We are good, though, and nothing like that will happen to us. We are safe. We are going home. All we have to do is grow. But, you poor thing. I hope you get better.”

A distancing. A separation from the pain. From entering into where it hurts. A bubble of protection I thought could not be broken.

A few days later, Peter hung a scripture card on the side of Meagan’s isolette. It read: He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:29). I secretly thought, That’s nice, but we’re good.

The next morning, the hospital called me before I was up. Things had changed overnight. Taken a turn for the worse. Meagan had contracted some intestinal bacteria that was destroying her gut. Destroying her body from the inside out.

When I got to the hospital, I barely recognized her. She was ashen and lifeless. Not the thriving little baby I had left just the night before. Everything changed. She would need surgery, they told me… life-threatening surgery for a two-and-a-half-pound baby. The odds were not good. Fifty-fifty she would even come out alive.

In a moment’s time, I was staring down through the glass of the isolette, my baby had a shaven head and five IV ports across her tiny scalp. And we were on our knees for her life.

My lesson was hard that day, but one I desperately needed to learn.

I was not, am not, above anything. Not IVs, not Necrotizing Enterocolitis, not Cancer, not Death. Nothing.

All of us suffer. Not because He doesn’t love us, but because we live in a broken world. A world so outside of His original plan. And in that world pain comes… through others (abuse, violence), through a creation affected by the fall (natural disaster, disease), and through ourselves (selfishness, denial).

Yes, Jesus loves me. He gave His life for me. He also said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” It is inevitable. We all face it. And it comes when we least expect it. But Jesus also said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:13)

Wherever you are today, whatever you face, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)

 

Call Upon Me (part two)

In the midst of a crisis—everything comes into perspective.

And the things of the world no longer matter.

My sister wrote this for me on a plaque in July of 1995. The month my baby girl was born. And the month I drove home from the hospital without her. Her NICU stay had just begun.

I remember driving through the square in Morristown, NJ, watching the shoppers scurry about. I remember thinking, “How can they not stop? How can they not care that my child is struggling to live? That I am in so much pain? It all seemed cold. Distant. And though I had loved ones around me, I felt very much alone.

I stayed with my mom those first few weeks. I couldn’t face the apartment. The empty crib. The clothing laid out and ready. I needed time to heal.

If you’ve ever experienced life in the NICU, you know it is another world. Surreal. A roller coaster, up and down, carrying you along through clouds of hope and devastation.

All you can do is take another step. Another breath. And wait.

Before I was released from the hospital, the doctors fought to regulate my blood pressure. It remained dangerously high after the pre-eclampsia. And it made them nervous. I saw it on their faces every time they checked and rechecked the numbers. A furrowed brow. Deep lines. Hard tapping pencil on clipboard. Then they would check my pressure by hand because maybe the instruments were wrong. But they weren’t.

The anxiety spilled out in frustration with the nurse’s comments. “Just roll onto your left side and stay there until I come back. You hear?” As if I would rebel. Or that it was entirely my fault my blood pressure would not come down. She stormed out behind the flutter of white coats.

I said that verse over and over again. The one Peter made me memorize when I first got sick. The one I had pulled from the scripture pack in our apartment only two days before. The day Meagan was born. The day everything changed.

Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you. And you will glorify Me (Psalm 50:15).

I rolled onto my left side and waited.

The next part is real. As real as the first. I can only give witness. That is my job. Whether or not you believe it, that is His.

I lay on my left side. Waiting.

A fragrant smell wafted into the room. I thought it must have come from the vents. Food, maybe? Really good food. Or something else. Something comforting. But I could not put my finger on it. Then a shadow. An arm? Possibly. It fell on me. First on my toes. Then it traveled to my head and back. And then it was gone. Just like that. I saw no one. Just the shadow. As though the sun had traveled east to west and back again. All in one breath. One timely breath.

The nurse returned. She positioned me on my back and took my blood pressure. Of course, you are ahead of me. You already know the answer. It was normal. Perfectly normal. She nearly jumped for joy. Ten minutes on my side? Was that it? Was that all it took?

I wanted to tell her. She needed to know about the shadow. About God’s unrelenting love and grace. About how he watches over his kids even when we think surely we must be alone. I needed to tell her because this might be the only time she would hear.

“This is amazing!” she said.

“I know,” I said.

That was all. And she danced from the room.

I had failed Him.

Call upon Me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you. And you will glorify Me.  

But I didn’t give Him the glory. I didn’t. I failed Him. He had done His part. I had failed mine. I had kept silent.

The next day, I left the hospital. My arms empty. My little one would stay… for awhile. How long? I had no idea. Days? Weeks? Months. Six months, maybe, before we would be done. Who would have thought?

I sat at my mom’s table. In the kitchen. With nothing left to give. Spent. Hurting. Empty. When I looked up, I noticed she had a similar pack of scripture cards on her table as I had had on mine. I toyed with the case in my fingers. Then opened it. I drew out a random card from the center. I read:

Call upon Me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you. And you will glorify Me.

* * *

Before Jesus was crucified on the cross, He prayed to the Father:

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them … so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me… O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You ...  and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:22-26)

Maybe the glory is not mine to give.

Maybe the glory is not in the doing.

Maybe the glory is in the knowing

Call Upon Me (Part One)

When you can't write your own story... where do you turn?

When you can't write your own story... where do you turn?

I always wanted to be a mommy when I grew up. Not a fireman, or an astronaut, or even a doctor like my first-grade classmates. Just a mommy.

At twenty-eight, my dream came true. I was pregnant with our first child. Twenty weeks into the pregnancy, I knew my blessing was a baby girl! A girl! And I would name her Meagan. I would finally enter into my most anticipated joy and the greatest blessing of my life.

That would be if we could write the story. Labor wouldn’t hurt. The baby wouldn’t stop breathing. The wrapped bundle would snuggle into our arms and come home in three days. Not six months. Not with the battle wounds of scars that told the tale of a life nearly lost. No. Not our story. Not that way.

But what if we can’t write it? What if it goes another way? A way that brings us to our knees. Tears out our heart. And leaves us with nothing left to cling to… but Jesus.

It had been a heat wave. The worst NJ had seen in years… decades. I felt miserable and canceled all my appointments for the week. I woke one morning early, 4 am, with the worst headache I had ever experienced. On top of that, I was edgy—like I needed to climb out of my skin. I couldn’t settle. Couldn’t stop the pounding in my head. By 6 am, I woke Peter and told him I needed to get out of the apartment. Anywhere. My parent’s house, I decided. I needed to go there.

Before we left the apartment that morning, Peter handed me a pack of scripture cards sitting on the counter. He said, “Pick one. Say it over and over again. It will help get your mind off your headache.” So I picked. More to get him off my back in that moment, than to find comfort in God’s word. I picked, and I read:

Call upon Me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me (Psalm 50:15).

I never knew what that day would bring. The day I needed to call upon Him. The day of trouble. How I would visit the doctor that afternoon. How he would tell me that my baby… my baby who still had 8 weeks until full-term… would need to be born that night. How I would teeter on the edge of a coma and my little girl would be delivered by emergency C-section, weighing only 2 pounds, 15 ounces. How she would enter this world fighting for her life… six months of fighting in a Neonatal Unit. How she would endure needles and tubes, surgeries and beeping noises. Harsh lights and severe touch. How I would drive home, alone, without my baby. And wonder why the world kept going.

Was that how it ought to be? How being a mommy ought to be? Is that how it would have been if I could write it myself? Only I can’t. None of us can. Instead, we hold on. Hold on to His promise. His sovereignty. His goodness. Because even in that, even in the doubt and the pain, He is good.

This was His note to me. His personal note. Before it all began. Before I would walk through the fire. And this is His note to you...

Call upon Me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.

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The Switch!

I’ve shared this story before, but it’s one I need to be reminded of often.

It was the morning of our fall kick-off for our horse ministry at the ranch in Mexico. I had spent hours throughout the week preparing and training my new batch of leaders. I had decided, too, that this was the year, the day, the hour that we made the switch.

Our piloted program the year before had focused on our churched kids. Every Saturday morning we sent vans to our church and picked up 20-30 kids to spend the afternoon with us and the horses. This year, we were making the switch. Not that churched kids didn’t need to hear about God’s love, but the clear mission of the ministry was to reach the children in the nearby colonia, Marquez de Leon. To reach those kids in an area of great need who had little to no chance of hearing the Good News. 

I woke that morning, anxious. Had we communicated enough with the village families?  Had we prepared our leaders sufficiently for the change… will their hearts be open to kids who might not behave or react the same as our children from church? How will the new kids respond to the program? Would they even come? And would they mix well with the kids who came each week? Maybe we’ll start out slow. Keep the kids from church coming and add maybe a handful of kids from the village. Little by little make the change.

My devotion that morning was from Jesus Calling.  It said, “Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out.” As I stood watching the vans depart from the ranch, one to the church and one to the village, as my new leaders gathered around with anticipation to pray and wait, as the horses were prepared and readied, those words echoed in my heart… Leave the outcome to Me

As the van from the church returned twenty minutes later, God said, “Leave the outcome to Me.”

Because He knew. He knew how I would feel when the doors to the van opened and no one came out. No one from the church had come. No one. There was some holiday I had not counted on and none of our usual 20 or 30 kids that made up the ministry, that made it worthwhile for my leaders to give up their free day, got off that van… not a single child.

I could hear the audible gasp of the leaders behind me. I could hear their questions, their perplexity, their disappointment. But I could hear God louder. Leave the outcome to Me.

The second van arrived. The one from the village. And it arrived in grandeur… like the nets in Peter’s fishing boat. The ones he cast out even when it made no sense. Twenty-five kids in a 15-passenger van! (Travel takes on new meaning in Mexico ;). Village kids flooded out and were met by the loving hands of my team and the unconditional love of the horses. We were amazed! Shocked even! But God wasn’t. He had been carrying out His plan all along. I just needed to rest in it! And I stood in awe at our loving God who prepared my heart in gentleness but an hour before.

God's outcome was far greater than I could ever imagine!

Where are you today? Do you question the events going on around you? The trials, the hardships, the unknowns? He knows your heart, your struggle, your prayer. He knows it intimately. And He will meet your need in His time and in His way. Trust in that. Rest in that. And leave the outcome to Him!

I’d love to hear from you! To read your ideas and thoughts. For that reason, if you leave a comment on my blog or Facebook I’ll put your name in a drawing for a free book give away. If you share my blog on your page, I’ll put your name in twice. November’s free book is:

Kim Meeder is the founder of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in Oregon-- A ranch of rescued dreams. She and her husband Troy were our inspiration for our own horse ministry in Mexico. Their ranch pairs broken kids with rescued horses. Blind Hope is a true story about a young woman who reaches out to save a dog in need, and soon realizes that the dog was rescuing her.

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Of Course I'm Right!

I’ve been a parent for almost a quarter of a century (sounds more impressive that way!) and I’ve gotten lots of parenting tips throughout the years from many different sources.  Books, TV, friends, my own parents … of course scripture.  Some I’ve followed wholeheartedly.  Some for a season.  And some not at all. 

I remember when my boys were young, I was adamantly opposed to guns.  Real, imaginary.  It didn’t matter.  Swords were okay.  But guns… they were just a slippery slope to violence.  Right?  Well, for those of us who have boys… it doesn’t matter if you take the toy guns away, they will find a way to reproduce them!  Sticks, crescent-shaped rocks, Legos… you name it.  The imagination is limitless.  By the time I made it to number five child, it didn’t matter anymore.  And I must add, they are all well-adjusted and not prone to violence despite the use of cap guns, pellet guns, paint guns, and air rifles ;).

We learn early on in our parenting to "win the battles," then later to "choose the battles wisely to win the war." And all along our poor husbands are unaware that for hours each day we (the moms/wives) are honing and perfecting our skills in debate!

As missionaries AND homeschoolers through most of our kids’ growing days, we were always together.  Mostly together in the car driving for miles on end. Sometimes in a 15-passenger van that gave a little more elbow room, but usually in a 7-passenger SUV, scrunched together with pillows for napping and a dog in the middle.  

The road stretched out before us and, for Peter and I, it became the best time to talk.  And with that, occasionally ;), a time to argue.  Friendly crossfire.  Hot debates.  And a few knockdown, drag out matches.  And many times we didn’t even realize how quiet the car had become when we got really personal! 

Ears perked up!  And they listened.  They listened to everything.  And one day someone passed on to me the best parenting advice I ever received… the one thing that stuck, even when we broke it: 

As parents, it is better to be united than to be right.

That one can set you on a tailspin ;).  How often we want … NEED… to be right!  I know I do.  It is my Achilles’ heal.  The thorn in my side. 

The day someone shared that truth with me was the day I realized that it was better for us, Peter and I, to be united together, especially before our children, than it was for either one of us to be right, to win the battle, to prove our point. That was the moment things changed for me. 

Sounds simple enough.  But it’s not.  Some days it takes a Holy Spirit-enabled humility to step down, to walk away, to annihilate the drive to win.  Even with silly things like which way is the best way home or how to prepare the roast. To relinquish my need to be right for the higher calling… unity.  And lots of days I fail. 

But this is my goal.  This is my desire.  And it’s worth fighting for.  For the battles... And to win the war :).  Because, for my children, to see us united, bound together in one spirit despite our differences, invests a far greater treasure in their lives than to know which parent can out-talk the other!

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).

I would love to hear from you.  Do you struggle with the desire to be right? What helps you?  What is the best parenting advice you've ever heard? 

Share with me! And if you comment or email, I will put your name in a hat to receive a new book. If you share this blog on your Facebook or webpage, I will enter your name twice. This month's title to win is:

Helping Your Daughter Become the Woman God Wants Her to Be.

Helping Your Daughter Become the Woman God Wants Her to Be.

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Who Do We Listen To?

Peter and I were engaged to be married. Ours was a brief courting (a month or two ;) and now we were excitedly awaiting our wedding day. We were in marital counseling with our pastor and he told us that the top four reasons people get divorced are: Money, Sex, Religion, and In-Laws (sorry guys).

Peter and I conflicted on each of these in some way and it brought tension into our newly forming bond.

The hardest, I think, was religion. We couldn’t seem to find a common ground. We were both Christians and loved Jesus. We both wanted to follow Him and serve Him with all of our hearts. But I grew up in a conservative Bible church. He had been saved two years earlier in a small charismatic church in the woods that I lovingly coined a cult ;). And why? Because it was different and I didn’t understand it. They worshiped too long (Two hours before moving on to the sermon) and hung around afterward to pray. Then everyone went to get something to eat. A full day of fellowship… not the hour from start to finish, smile, go home, I was used to. It made me uncomfortable. I didn’t fit in.

So, we argued about it. Not just about how long we needed to spend our Sundays with those strange people ;), but on a deeper level. Which manner of worship was right? Which honored God more? Certainly how I had been doing it, how I had been raised and taught was right. Right? 

On one such evening, we had argued ourselves into such a fit, that I had gone to bed quite mad and quite sure I could never marry this man. We were just too different. Did he even understand me?

At 4am, before the dawn, before the world stirred, I woke to the sound of a mockingbird outside my window. And I listened. With my eyes on the ceiling of my dusky room, I listened.

For those who don’t know the mockingbird, he has a very distinct call. But not because it is his own. He does not sing his own tune. He does not have his own unique voice. Instead, he mimics the sounds of other birds and strings those together to make his song. Thus giving him his name.

I laid in bed and listened. And through the quiet listening the Lord spoke.

He said, “That is you. And Peter. You are taking the songs, the opinions of others around you and stringing them together to find your voice. Stop listening to the views and judgments that clamor for your attention. Stop trying to build yourself and your faith on what others say and do. Stop. And listen to Me.”

“Stop. And listen to Me.”

In a world where the clamor is loud, who am I listening to?

Who are you listening too?

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No Mistakes!

Coco at sunset

Coco at sunset

You’ll hear talk of the ranch from me. I can’t escape it. That’s how it is with things indelible. They become a part of you and never leave you. Rancho el Camino is like that.

The ranch was a God-calling. One of those rare moments when you know He is speaking directly to you and there is no going back or to the side. Only forward. Into something entirely unknown. Radical. Without borders. You move forward because in your heart you know that, with Him, you are in the best place you can be.

Without Him. Who wants to be there?

That’s how it started. Before it was a calling. Just He and I in a cement dorm.

We had been on a short-term trip to Mexico. Peter, myself, and a team of youth group kids from NJ. It was July. And it was hot. I mean really hot. Tip the scales hot with 100 percent humidity. I was seven months pregnant with my youngest and blessed to wear those medical stockings that take hours to get into on a dry day. I was an emotional basket case even before the fever hit.

Our team got ready for the morning—a day of evangelism in a mountain village. When the man in charge heard me tell Peter I couldn’t go, he said, “Buck up. Get out there. No one stays behind.” I cried on my husband’s shoulder until I got to stay behind.

There I sat. Alone. Tired. Hot. In a cement dorm room with bugs as big as my fists. Feeling quite the pitiful sight. Telling God how wrong He was to bring me here. How I wasn’t a missionary. How I wasn’t an evangelist. How I didn’t like being in foreign countries. How I was sick and pregnant, and couldn’t He see how miserable I was?

In that room I wrestled with my failures and my inadequacies. As a wife, and mother, and even deeper, as a believer. I grumbled and thought, how will I ever be used by God? When everyone else is excited about missions and I don’t even want to be here. How can I even call myself a Christian when I feel so spiritually weak? When I’d rather hide. When I’d rather be alone.

It was in that dorm, in that moment, He gave me the scripture that He would use to call us to full-time missions in Mexico. But He gave me something else that day. Something that transcends where I am or what I am doing.

He said, “Child, I did not make you to be someone you are not. I did not make a mistake when I knit you together. You may never be an evangelist or a missionary ;)" (Hah, Ten years, baby ;) - watch out for that one!) He said, "You are uniquely you. Not to be altered or changed by what others think you should be. By your own estimation and judgement. Only to grow closer to Me. To know who you are and who I made you to be. To be transformed by ME.”

I learned in that place, that if I am available to Him, He will use my passions and gifts... those things already a part of who I am and who He made me to be. For me it was my love for horses. My love for art. And now, my love for writing. Who would have guessed that I could be just me and still be used by God! 

Remember, you are exactly who you are supposed to be. No mistakes. You are NOT who your neighbor is, or your friend, or your husband or wife. NOT the one who looks like they have it all together (which they don’t) or the one who seems to juggle everything with perfection (which they can’t). You are you… fearfully and wonderfully made… child of the King.

Be okay with YOU today. With the beautiful way He has made you uniquely you. Bring Him your gifts, your talents, and your passions, and watch Him do the miraculous!

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My Writing Journey

My writing journey began oddly enough. I never aspired to be a writer, nor particularly enjoyed the task. I did it when I had to. Never did I journal or hope to be on the school newspaper. English was not my major in college (rather, Psychology) and only once did I get stuck in a graduate assistantship in the English Department— not by choice.

After 10 years in church work, my husband and I felt a very strong calling to serve in Mexico as missionaries. We packed up our five children, our dog, our travel trailer, and everything we could fit inside and on top, and drove the 4,000 miles from New Jersey to La Paz, Mexico.

There we developed a ranch (Rancho el Camino) that reaches kids in impoverished villages. We served nine years there and many, many stories were birthed. But those early days were painfully difficult. We lived off the grid (no electricity), in the middle of the desert, in a cement structure that had been abandoned for 50 years (Lots of things move into an abandoned house). We lived with a pump for our water and a generator for our lights. We had scorpions and rattlesnakes, cowbells and coyotes. We also had gorgeous sunsets and the brightest canopy of stars at night. Those were the beginning days. Those, as someone once said, were the glory days.

We used horses to share God’s love with the village kids. Amazing how walls are torn down with unconditional love. You would think we would learn better from our animal friends. But those are stories for another day. My writing journey began with a pitchfork in hand and the smell of sweet hay and dust swirling at my feet. The story just came. Unexpectedly.

During our first few months in La Paz, my daughter and I had been riding near the Mexican Charro (rodeo) within the city limits (pre-ranch days). To make things more interesting, we chose a labyrinth of footpaths barely wide enough for us, let alone our horses and journeyed in a tangle through fields of wild desert brush until we had become delightfully lost.

In the middle of the bramble, my eye caught sight of a backpack. Just a backpack without an owner. Not discarded… but dropped or left, maybe. The pack was fairly new and seemingly stuffed with important items… books for school, I imagined. Even on horseback, we couldn’t see over the bushes to look for the pack’s owner. So we continued, hoping whoever had forgotten it would find their way back to it.

A few twists and turns following, our path was suddenly blocked by a very large Mexican man. My horse startled. I waved a pensive hello. The man did not move. Nor did he smile back. His scowl said, “Leave… leave now.”

My daughter and I turned our horses around and rode back faster than we had ridden out. My thoughts gripped my heart. What if there was a child? What if something bad had been happening? What if I had been the only hope of stopping whatever it was?

When we reached the road. I noticed a policeman standing by his car. I should tell him, I thought. But what are the words? How do I even say backpack in Spanish? (Mochila, I know now). But then? How would I make any sense that would be understood in my broken Spanish? What if I was making the whole thing up in my mind?

So, I did nothing.

But the scene never left me.

And one day, in the corral, I had a story. Not a story about the Mexican man and the backpack, but one of my own. One that allowed the fear and confusion to have a voice, and the story to end in victory. One that redeemed the oppressed and freed the exploited. Fiction, but oh so real. Because in each of us, there is a freedom waiting. A victory to hold onto. A redemption to unfold.

The story is in all of us. Every day that you wake… every day you have breath in your lungs, you have a choice. To believe in the brokenness that tries to define you. The labels. The titles. The inadequacies. Or to believe in the victory. The truth that is real. The identity that is beyond you. Not determined by who you think you are, but by who you truly are. A child of the King.