Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. Show all posts

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Spoiled Milk & My Soiled Heart.

....and then the homeless man entered our home
and the smell of spoiled milk filled our hearts.

He came to us recommended by a homeless friend of ours.  A carpenter by trade, he'd be able to help us fix Operation Sleep Tight's Shasta Camper. 

Our hopes to hit the road in the Shasta came to a quick holt once the walls were taken down.  Everything behind the walls disintegrated with a light touch.  The bones weren't even bones anymore but more like ashes from an old man's cigar.

And as the rain pours down outside, I can't seem to control my tears.

We have been vocal about Operation Sleep Tight and the great things that have been happening materialistically.  We were given a van for free, the camper was a gift, the hitch was a gift, and families are ready to partner with us to hand out supplies.

But my heart has been heavy.

Why?

Because ministry is not about the material items that we need, but to make known the ONE who loves us so.

It took tears over the Shasta today to open my eyes to what my heart was already begging me to see.

Operation Sleep Tight is not a handout ministry.  It is about developing relationships with our homeless neighbors.

Back in 2011, our son, Josiah, spoke in a church about Operation Sleep Tight.  He was 7 years old at the time.  When his dad asked him why he wanted to give the homeless a sleeping bag, he whispered into the microphone, "I want them to have hope."

That's what Operation Sleep Tight is about.  It is about a man sitting in that crowd listening to our son speak the words of HOPE.

That man is Johnnie.  If you have read my blog in the past, you are familiar with him as "J".

Johnnie received a sleeping bag from Josiah that November night back 2011.  We didn't see him again until Christmas Evening.  My husband saw him sitting on a park bench reading.  Through conversation, he found out that Johnnie is an educated man with his master's degree.  He fell into some hard times and was currently living on the streets.

Through the past couple of years, Johnnie has joined us for dinner, showered, and done his laundry in our home.  He attends church with us and has been studying the Bible with one of our ministers, Rob McRay.

Johnnie was gifted a truck by an old friend of ours back in Joplin.

Johnnie is currently employed.  

Johnnie has signed a lease on an apartment

AND...in September, we stood at the edge of the water and watched Johnnie be baptized.

Josiah, Rob, & Johnnie


Rob, Josiah, Johnnie, & Allen

Isn't this what it is all about?!

It is about giving the hopeless HOPE.

And now, I sit here at the table while my husband works alongside "J" putting up drywall.

"J" is homeless and resides in a camp not too far from us.  

"J" comes recommended by Johnnie because of his carpentry skills.  

"J"'s clothes are dirty and have a scent that resemble spoiled milk.

And just like Johnnie, "J" is the reason for Operation Sleep Tight.
So, we'll leave the Shasta sitting outside tonight all broken and torn.  But, we will not leave "J" feeling alone and unwanted.  I pray he comes to know the One who can take our brokenness and make it beautiful.  Who can take our soiled lives and redeem them gloriously.  Who desires the aroma of our lives no matter the scent of what follows.  

He is God. 

The One & Only who can take our deepest pain and turn it into His glorious ministry.




   


      


    

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Chapstick & God

I walked from the upstairs to the downstairs noticing what looked to be clear slime on every object that stood about "hip high". I began interrogating the kids as if they were felons. "It's only 7:45am...what is going on?! Who did this?" And then, I notice one of my suspects. He began to whimper with lips turned inside out & dark eyes dropping big tears, "I'm so, so, so sorry, Mommy. I wanted to leave my mark so that you can find me when I'm lost." 


His words became ice gently placed on my hot head. And my frustrated heart melted at his familiar words.

“When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me." Jeremiah 29:12-14 (The Message)

God has left his mark all over creation. In His people. In His Spirit.

"But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 4:29

And silly enough, it took chapstick markings from my 4yr old to remind me of God's faithful presence.





Monday, September 2, 2013

Showered in His Goodness



He turned the desert into pools of water 
and the parched ground into flowing springs. 
Psalm 107:35

It is hot out today.  

I can barely stand to be outside.  It seems that I long for Summer when Winter is around and long for the Fall when Summer comes close to an end.  

But, this summer has been drier than I would have expected.  Because not only is it hot outside, but there has been a drought sweltering within my soul.

For two years we have labored hard.  We have wiped each other's tears, bandaged up hearts, and carried each other's burdens.  And yet, the land seems overwhelmingly dry. 

It cracks with every hurt. 

As our mouths open wide to catch a drop of His goodness, we keep our eyes focused on above. 

For we know He is here.

Two months ago, we were led to purchase a 1969 Shasta camper for Operation Sleep Tight.  At that same time, a couple from a town just 45 miles away decided to sell their van. 

We had no vehicle to pull the Shasta camper.  We prayed often.  "Lord, we need a vehicle that can seat our entire family, pull the Shasta camper, and it needs to be free."  I don't mean to sound greedy with this prayer.  It is just what our family needed.  So, for two months, we prayed. 

Nothing. 

That is, until Friday night.

You see, I have this little problem of picking up trash on the side of the road and putting it into our car.  A couple of nights ago, I found a couch on the side of the road and decided to pick it up and put it on the homeschool listserv.  My friend, Jessica, was interested and we were communicating back and forth via email.  During that time, another email came through on her end from a family wanting to give their van away to a homeschool family.  She immediately thought of us and told me to call.  Without hesitation, I did.

This couple is truly one of the most beautiful families in Tennessee.  Around the same time that we purchased the camper, they had decided to sell their van.  However, the sale never happened because they were unable to locate their keys. The van sat for two months.  On Friday night, after a brief discussion, they decided to give it away.  (Thank you, Mike & Stephanie!)

It is exactly what we prayed for.  It seats our entire family, has the capability of pulling the Shasta camper, and it was given to us for free.

We picked it up the very next day.  

As we drove away, I began to cry.

"Thank you, Lord, for sending your sweet rain.  My heart is overflowing.  This is Your vehicle, not ours.  May it do Your work for the glory of Your name."

And it began to rain outside.  Not just a little sprinkle, but a massive downpour.  The winds were strong and we were almost hit by a trampoline.

"I see you, Lord.  You are the Spring of Life.  I am showering in Your goodness."

And I held tightly to the steering wheel.

For it felt like I was driving gold.  



  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

BIG NEWS for Operation Sleep Tight

Back in December, Josiah wanted to continue helping the homeless community in Nashville after all the sleeping bags were passed out.  I honestly didn't know where his heart would take our family.

If this is your first time hearing about Operation Sleep Tight, let me give a quick overview.

*Back in 2011, We had been regularly attending a Wednesday night church service that feeds the homeless community.  Josiah (he was 7yrs old at the time) began asking questions on where & how the homeless sleep during the winter months.   After not being pleased with my answers, he began to dream up Operation Sleep Tight.


*The first year, we discussed a goal of raising enough funds to purchase 10 sleeping bags.  Through the generous gifts of many donors, Josiah personally handed out 56 sleeping bags to the homeless community in Nashville.  When asked why he is doing this, he simply answered, "I want them to have hope."




*The following year, he partnered with 3 other families and together, the kids raised and handed out 148 sleeping bags!  That makes 204 sleeping bags since 2011!!



The lessons learned from Operation Sleep Tight have been life changing.

We have made friends with many that received sleeping bags.



One of which has become a part of our family.

We have visited two separate tent cities and learned about their culture.



Our children are learning through experience that it is better to give than to receive.



I pray we are raising a generation that seeks to change the world for God's glory.

Operation Sleep Tight is the children's ministry with parental supervision.  They raise the funds, receive the bags, and pass out each sleeping bag.



AND NOW FOR THE BIG NEWS....

A few months ago, Josiah mentioned about purchasing a camper and becoming a "mobile site" for the homeless community.  He has dreams of passing out water, lemonade, undergarments, and even putting in a generator to provide a way for the homeless community to charge their cell phones.  His dreams are as big as his heart.

As his mother, I didn't know how far I should allow his dreams to grow.  So, I looked at him and asked him to pray.  And so we did.  It wasn't a daily prayer, but we did pray often.  Josiah and I discussed options and I allowed him to dream out loud.

One of my Facebook friends that I met once here in Nashville liked a company called "Fine Designs Camper Sales".  It popped up on my news feed, so I thought, "why not?!"  and I liked them, too.

I prayed a few times with Josiah and felt the Lord saying that it was time to email this company.  After corresponding and talking to the mother of the company, we decided to purchase a 1969 Shasta camper.  However, our family did not have the funds to purchase it, so we prayed.  Through a HUGE donation from our church, Reunion Christian Community, the camper is PAID IN FULL!

And she is a BEAUTY!


Here are the plans for Operation Sleep Tight's camper:

1.  We will work on painting the outside & inside of the camper.
2.  Since it is already gutted, we will work on building shelves to hold and store supplies.
3.  Sergio and Josiah will work on a survey to ask at least 40 homeless people what their needs are and how Operation Sleep Tight can help.  Once the surveys are compiled, we will review them and raise funds for their needs.
4.  Purchase a mini fridge to keep inside the camper.
5.  We are currently praying for funds to purchase a cheap vehicle that will transport the mobile site to different locations.

We are all very excited to share this news with you all.  We would covet your prayers!

If you would like to partner with Operation Sleep Tight in any way, please feel free to email me at jacqueline.rizo@gmail.com.

If you'd like to donate, you can do so through our church's website and Paypal account.  Simply add "Operation Sleep Tight" into the memo.

Click here to go to the PAYPAL account.

All checks can be sent to:

Operation Sleep Tight
C/O Reunion Christian Community
PO Box 281075
Nashville, TN 37228

Checks payable to Reunion Christian Community with "Operation Sleep Tight" in the memo.

We look forward to documenting the camper renovations and updating you all with our progress.  It is sure to be an adventure and we are excited to see where the Lord takes us & what He teaches us.

"We love because He first loved us."  
1 John 4:19










Saturday, January 26, 2013

Opening the door: Similarities

Most of my life, I have kept my past experiences, choices, and failures locked up from the world. I have kept the skeleton key close to my heart and held it tightly. Occasionally, I would open the door slightly to let a friend see a glimpse of me...the real me. Then, I would quickly close the door out of fear that I'd lose a friend. Be mocked. Or be betrayed.

No one wants to know my story. No one needs to know my past.

Something has changed in me recently.

And tonight, I stepped out of my hidden place.

I allowed "J" to know a little bit about me. You see, we have quite the connection.

We have similar stories. Mine from long ago....and his story as of now.

It's cold outside. I admired the beauty of the icicles on our trees this afternoon while sipping on my hot coffee.

I think "J" feels a little differently about the weather. Although he has the opportunity to sleep in a house that is currently being renovated; there are no utilities turned on.

He sleeps in this freezing weather.

As he humbly shared of his time in the house, my spirit jolted me to a place that I've kept hidden for so long.

I understand his story.

I can't give you an exact year, maybe I was 6 or 7. My grandmother purchased a nice house in a small town outside of Tulsa. She allowed my family to live there and pay her rent. It was a great house for us. It had 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, & den. For a family of 6, it clearly met our needs.

I remember sliding down the stairs with my sister and brothers. I remember playing in the old shed in the backyard and eating fruit straight off of the trees.

There were some great memories in that house.

Times became tough. My dad made some decisions that made it difficult to provide for all of us.

And one by one, the utilities were shut off.

We didn't have much money for food. I distinctly remember bologna and an occasional "sandwich". We use to call our sandwiches " wish sandwiches" because we wished that there was something more in between the bread than just the ketchup that we stole from McDonald's.

One winter seemed to be extra cold. Our 4 bedroom home quickly turned into vacant space as we all curled up in one bedroom downstairs.

Blankets were hung over every window and over the doorways. At one time, we had a heater borrowed from a friend. It kept us semi-warm.

I remember falling asleep while watching my breath as it made little clouds outside of my body.

It seemed colder in our house than it did outside.

One day while at the grocery store, my mom handed the cashier her money to pay for our items. The cashier made a comment about how cold her money was and asked if she kept her purse in the freezer.

My mom has always been so graceful. I don't remember her showing any signs that the cashier's comment bothered her...at least not in front of us kids.

My mom did all she could to raise us well. She is a strong woman.

I remember my mom taking us to a strange building and telling us to wait in the waiting room. She walked into an office and spoke with a man that I'd never seen before.

This was the first time that I ever remember seeing my mom pray. She bowed her head and sobbed. After that, we were escorted into a gym-like area and given coats that fit and I'm not sure what else.

My mom has always been creative with any circumstance thrown at her.

Before conserving water was the environmental-friendly thing to do, my mom was already ahead of her time.

She would stick an ice chest outside to catch the rainwater for our drinks, quick baths, & to flush the toilet.

I remember trying out for the cheerleading squad and getting ready in a gas station bathroom. I was 9 years old. And through it all, I made the squad that year. This was the beginning of keeping my life a secret. It became my way of life.

It's hard to spend the evening with "J" knowing that we will drop him off at his current "home".

It's horribly cold tonight.

Our church community has offered to pay for a hotel room, but he is a humble man. He carries the burden if his hardships of life and is grateful to at least have a "roof" over his head.

But though he is grateful, I'm sure he'll see his breath tonight as he lays his head down to rest.

And knowing that, it gets harder to sleep comfortably in our warm bed.

Jesus says that there will always be the poor. He doesn't tell us to use this as an excuse to not help.

He came to serve and calls us to do the same.

Until He returns to us again, we ought to fight homelessness with extreme love.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.



*I write this as I sit in my 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. From the same seat where I researched ways to conserve water for our garden. And from the same living room that stored sleeping bags for the homeless raised by my 8 year old to provide them a warm bed. It's humbling how He interweaves our past with the present. I find freedom in losing the skeleton key. I will no longer be ashamed.*

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas, a devil tattoo, & the ICU

This year, our Christmas started off like any other Christmas morning.  Our kids woke up at 4:40am anxious to dive into their Christmas presents.  Sergio and I frantically opened up boxes, put in batteries, and played with each child.  At around 10am, we kicked cleaning & cooking into high gear to prepare for our dinner guests.

Oh, our sweet dinner guests.  Let me introduce them to you...

Our friends, "K" & "J", joined us tonight.  We have a deep respect for this couple and our kids absolutely adore them.

We also welcomed two homeless men, "J" & "D", into our home.  We've developed a strong relationship with both men over the past year.

Our final guests were the "L" family.  While eating at Moe's Restaurant one day, Sergio became acquainted with the manager, "E".  After talking for a little bit, Sergio invited his family over to our home for Christmas dinner.  My husband is amazing like that.  He can talk to a stranger and in a matter of minutes, they are friends.  I admire this about him.

When "E" and his family arrived at our home, I was curious about their story.  I immediately noticed on his neck a tattoo that stretched from his shoulder up to his ear.  His neck displayed a picture of a devil with the words "El Diablo" (devil in English) inked into his skin.

Our dinner began shortly after our guests arrived.  I sat at the table in silence.

I admired each guest sitting in my dining room.  For we are the "once was".

Let me explain that a little better.

Each one of us could say one of the following...


"I once was a drunk."

"I once was in prison."

"I once was addicted to porn."

"I once was an adulterer."

"I once was a harlot."

"I once was controlled by my anger."

"I once was a liar."

"I once was ruled by pleasing others."

The list can go on.  For we are a table of sinners; recovering addicts of deception. 

Shortly after our dinner ended, "D", experienced a series of seizures.  I watched my husband care for the 53 yr old, homeless man as if he were his own brother.  I watched "E" step up and genuinely help a man that he did not know.  And as I called 911, I watched "J" take all the kids upstairs to play until the paramedics carried "D" away.  

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. 
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests 
but each of you to the interests of the others. 
-Philippians 2:3-4

The evening is coming to a close and I sit here alone.  All our guests have left, the children are asleep, and Sergio is by "D's" side as he lies in the hands of the ICU doctors & nurses.  

And my mind drifts to Jesus. 

Oh, sweet Jesus, you know us all far too well.  
We most certainly resemble those that are listed in your own genealogy.  
For we are sinners in need of you, Emmanuel.  
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.






















Sunday, December 23, 2012

Oh, how I want to be a better wife....



Sergio & I were married young.  He was only 20 & I was 22.  We dated off & on for less than a year and engaged for only 5 months.  It was a whirlwind of an adventure.  We grew up fast that first year of marriage.  


We had no clue what we were doing.  

Sergio and I were are highly, overly-passionate adults.  


We fought passionately.

We made up passionately.  

We didn't really know how to respect each other.     

The word "submission" was not in my vocabulary.  I was a strong, independent lady who thrived off of freedom.  I learned quickly that this doesn't work well in a marriage.  

From the day we said, "I Do", we promised that the word "divorce" would not be in our marriage vocabulary.  And for the most part, we've stuck to that promise. 


But, it's been difficult.  In our almost 12 years of marriage, we've had our share of difficulty and have matured greatly.  Thankfully, we rarely fall back into our "younger" habits of communicating.  

Except for today.

I became quick to anger, spoke harshly, and went back into my old habits that disrespect my husband.  

My attitude lit a candle of filth that filled up our lovely home.  

It wasn't pretty.  

I was, by far, the ugliest girl in Nashville by my words & actions.  



He deserves so much more.

But, how do I become a better wife?!  

So, like any other question I have, I opened up my Bible, I asked Google.  (It's okay to laugh!) 

I read a million articles on 'How to be the Perfect Wife' (Pah-leaze!), 'How to be a Good Wife', & 'What a Good Wife Does for Her Husband'.  The lists were exhausting, but a few had some good 'food for thought'. 

Here's what I've either learned or been reminded of this afternoon:

  • Fight Right!  Don't let anger take over because it may cause you to speak words that you'll later regret. Even when you don't agree with your husband, you need to respect his opinion/viewpoint.
  • Humility!  When you're wrong, ADMIT it.  You need to learn to respond to arguments and remain rational so you can recognize & apologize when you've made a mistake.
  • Be Understanding!  You may never agree on certain issues.  That's okay.  It's not the end of the world when you can't agree on an issue.  What makes a huge difference is how you resolve and come to a conclusion.  
  • Talk to your husband, not about him!  When in a discussion, speak your frustrations to him respectfully.  Do not mock him or make fun of him.  Do not talk at him, but to him.  Express your needs in a gentle way.  
  • Send "I messages"!  Instead of accusing him of not meeting your needs, focus the conversation on yourself.  For example, "I feel less important when you don't arrive home on time as promised."
  • Listen to him speak before responding!  Listen to what he says and graciously repeat back what he has just said to you so that he knows you are hearing him correctly.  We all have our filters that can alter our view on a situation.  Our counselor from a few years ago called this the "Drive-Thru Method".  You pull up, tell me what you need/want, & I then repeat it back to you EXACTLY as you've said.
  • Avoid passing judgment!  After he is done speaking, offer any solutions that may help in meeting your need.  Be realistic and kind when speaking.
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt!  For the majority, your husband loves you and wants you to succeed.  Don't be quick to think the worst.  He isn't out to get you, but to help you.  Honor him in that. 
This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a good place to start (after reading your Bible, of course!).  


Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go light candles to fill our home up with the mixed scents of love, humility, and apology.  



Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's Hard to Love the Unlovely


Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,
 
for by so doing some people have shown hospitality 
to angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2

It's Sunday afternoon.

We went to church this morning and heard a great message.  I left there with a simple challenge that I've heard often.  "Who am I going to be when I am not at church?"

You've heard that same message, I'm sure.

Are we the same person Monday-Saturday as we are on Sunday morning?

You know, it's easy to sit in a church, hear a message on service, nod your head, & then rush out to our lunch plans.

It's easy to give a few dollars to the homeless man on the corner selling a newspaper.  (Or it's even easier to pretend that you don't see him.)

And it's easier to go through a drive-thru and purchase a meal for a beggar.

"He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor."
Proverbs 22:9

But, it's hard to love the unlovely.  It's hard to make relationships with those who are homeless.  It's challenging.  It's emotionally draining.  Why get involved when the chances of them "succeeding" is extremely low?  (I hope your heart is telling you that you'd do it b/c that's what Jesus would do.  But, is your head aligned with your heart?)

What if you receive a call from a man who is needing a hot, fresh shower and a place to do laundry?

Do you bring him into your home?  What about your own privacy?  What about your kids?  What about your "Sabbath" with your family?  What about your stuff?  What about....what about....what about??!!

For the sake of privacy, I will not share his name, but I'd like to tell you a story about "J".  Our family has known "J" for over a year now.  My husband met him while our son, Josiah, was passing out sleeping bags to the homeless last December.  "J" is not your average (if there is an average) homeless man.  He has his master's degree, ran his own business, and then fell into some very difficult times.  He has worked alongside a ministry that has helped others who are without a home.

Our children love him.  He is a dark, African American man that stands over 6ft tall and is as slender as can be.  I describe him for you because our children see him as a friend.  In a small way, he has become part of our family.  I want you to see him as part of our family and not just a homeless man.

I have had my own hesitations about letting him into our home.  I have questioned and entertained all the "what ifs".  But, in reality, I know "J".  Do I trust him?  No, not completely and I will stand on my guard.

After much discussion and a few phone calls, Sergio and I decide that it's okay for him to join our family today.  He needed a shower, a place to do laundry, a decent meal, & just a place to see family in action.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will
be able to test and approve what God's will is-
his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Romans 12:2


There's a fine line between being wise and being a fool.

"Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity, because
the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, 
but understand what the Lord's will is."
Ephesians 5:15-17

As soon as Sergio brought "J" over, our son, Eliah, greeted him with the warmest greeting.  "Hi Mr. "J"!  Want to play catch with me?"

While "J" took his first, hot shower in days, I sat downstairs watching our kids play football in the front yard. They don't know what it's like to live a hard life.  I'm not even sure that I can grasp it myself.  I've lived without utilities growing up, lived off of welfare & food stamps, but my family always had a roof over our heads.  I've always had someone to love & someone to love me back.  I've never walked this earth alone, cold, and hungry.

I watched Josiah outside playing with the neighbor boys and I'm grateful for his heart.  If he wouldn't have started Operation Sleep Tight, I'm not sure if we would know "J" or the many others that we've come to love.

"J" is more than just a homeless man.  He is a professional landscaper.  He is a college graduate.  He is a friend.  He is a brother.  And he is part of our family.

I am grateful for "J".  He reminded me today of Jesus.  If I put up a strong wall between my family & the world, I would miss opportunities to share Christ's love with others.  I would raise my children to only love people "like us".  And I would not relinquish control of my day to the Lord.  Essentially, I would live my day for only me.

It was hard to see "J" leave tonight.  Our kids rushed out of their beds to tell him goodbye.  They love him with a deep, genuine love that I wish I knew.  I want to be more childlike in my love with less fear & more joy.

As my husband was getting some food for him to take, I looked around my pantry for things that didn't need silverware or electricity.  We threw in a few apples, bananas, crackers, & fruit bars.  He has a place to stay tonight.  It's an empty house that was provided in return that he keep watch over it.  It has no utilities & I'm not sure if it has furniture.

It's a hard life.

My heart hurts for "J".

Just like I tell my kids on a daily basis, "God gave you hands to serve and a heart to love."  I pray that I, too, can remember this and live it out.

For Monday is coming around the corner & I want to worship Jesus the same on Mondays as I do Sundays.

"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart,
not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God
loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to
make all grace abound to you, so that always
having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance
for every good deed.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8








Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"It hurt my heart, Mom"

Here recently, I've been overwhelmed with house renovations and parenting our four children (ages 8, 4, 3, 22 months).  It seems that if I'm ahead in one area of my life, I'm behind in the rest.  I've felt strongly about finishing our home, but in the process, I've become easily frustrated with my kids.  The fighting seems constant, the tears are hourly, and their desire to be held seems stronger now than ever. 

So, I decided to read the book "Grace Based Parenting" by Dr. Tim Kimmel (because I need some help).  I highly recommend the book.

Grace based parenting is parenting through a filter that meets the 3 inner needs of your child.  They are the need for security, the need for significance, and the need for strength.  We parent this way by giving our children three valuable gifts: love, purpose, and hope.

"If we've done our job adequately, 
our children should leave our homes with 
a love that is secure,
a purpose that is significant, 
and a hope that is strong." (p25)

I want this for my children.  I want my relationship with the living God to be personal and evident to my children. In order to meet the inner needs of my children, I must refocus my time with God, slow down in midst of renovations, and listen to both what God is saying as well as what my children are telling me.

I was recently faced with a time where my oldest, Josiah, needed me to parent his deep, inner needs.  
 
It was last Tuesday when I walked into my son's homeschool co-op program to pick him up and saw the downcast on his face.  His shoulders were heavy and his eyes were watery.  We hugged and I waited to talk to him until we reached our van.

"Josiah, why do you seem sad today?" I asked.

"It's just that there is this boy who won't let anyone be my friend.  We were in the lunch room and he was making everyone go on his side and telling them to leave me alone."

"Oh, Josiah.  I'm so sorry, honey.  How did that make you feel?"

"It hurt my heart, Mom.  But I didn't want my friend, "J", to break his friendship with the other boy.  They've been friends for a long time and I'm the new kid.  "J" told me that we can still be friends when the other kid is not around.  I'm okay with that."

He teared up.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to fix the problem by calling the boy's mom and calling the school, but I refrained after talking it all through with my husband.  Josiah needs to work through this problem at school and we need him to know that we support him, we will protect him, and teach him that there is hope.  If the problem escalates, then we will take further action.

That night, I put the other kids to bed and stayed up late with Josiah.  I didn't want to forget about Josiah's day and leave his heart still hurting.

"Josiah," I said, "I'm sorry that you had a hard time today during lunch.  I don't know the reasons why that boy acted the way he did, but I do know that we have to make sure our response is appropriate.  What do you think your response should be?"

He responded with, "I need to continue to love him even when he is mean."

"You're right, Josiah!"  I always admire his compassionate heart.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time 
we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  Gal 6:9

"Mom, I think we should pray for him.  Maybe he has a bully in his life or something.  I don't know him very well, but maybe if I do then I can be his friend and help him to be nice to everyone."

"I think that's a great idea.  Let's pray now."

So, we prayed for this boy at his school that night and every night until school the next Tuesday.

I sent Josiah off to school while praying over him and his day.  I even wrote him a simple note telling him to "be brave" and that he was "a great kid."  I spent the day watching the clock and my stomach knotted up when it was lunch time.  "Jesus, protect my son.  Help him to shine your love, your goodness, & your kindness even in the toughest of times. Amen."

I anxiously waited outside of his school until his class was over.  When he saw me, he greeted me with the best hug.

"How was your day?"  I asked.

"Mom, it was great!"

"It was!  Tell me about it."  I replied.

"Remember that boy that I was telling you about?  We played cards together today and I think he wants to be my friend!  He was nice to me."  

"See, Josiah, God answered your prayer!  There will be good days and hard days between friends, but today we rejoice in the good of new friendship!  I'm so happy for you!"

My heart was lifted.

This is the first of many times that one of my children will have their feelings hurt by someone else.  And although I'd love to keep them in a tight bubble sheltered from the world, I know that is not what God intends for me to do as their parent.  It is in these trials that I hope to teach my children about God's grace.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, 
but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are
—yet he did not sin.  
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, 
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb 4:15-16)

I do not have all the answers, nor do I parent perfectly.  For this, I rejoice in the grace given to me by God.  Like the Apostle Paul, I have a humbling list of failures, and "although I am the least of the Lord's people, God's grace was given to me" (Eph. 3:7-9).  

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me;
my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task 
the Lord Jesus has given me
—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24




Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Missional Motherhood: Radical Love

Lydia & Brandon
The financial burden of getting a child ready to go back to school can be straining and stressful on some families.  Brandon (pictured above) grew up in the youth group at Green Street Church and has experienced poverty and the blessings of helping hands.  His heart is tender to the needs of families and wanted to help lighten the back to school burden. 

He and his wife coordinated with a local barber to give free haircuts to students as well as raise donations from local churches for school supplies and food.

Donations of school supplies.
Our church, Reunion Christian Community, partnered alongside Brandon to provide all the hot dogs and buns.  I woke up this morning with a heaviness on my heart and desire to serve with my hands rather than just my wallet. 

So, personally not knowing anyone, I loaded up the kids and headed over to the barber shop.  I arrived right at 11am and it was too crowded to enter.  I spoke with a lady taking names and patiently waited my turn to speak with Brandon.  I explained who I was and wanted to know if there was an area that we could help serve.  He gladly took a risk and put me & my 4 children on passing out the hot dogs.

Clara even passed out plates, too.
I have to admit, I could have easily sat in the comforts of my own home, put a boundary between myself & those in need, & gave my kids everything that they wanted.  I could have given the excuse that I only had 4 hours of sleep and this heat is just unbearable.  I could have thought, "the church provided the food.  That should be good enough." 

But, I don't want to live like that. 

I want to live beyond 'good enough'.  I want to live radically. 

I want to teach my children what it is to follow in Jesus' footsteps. 

I want to serve rather than be served. 

I want to love the unlovely.

I want to carry the burdens of others and place them at the feet of Jesus. 

I want my children to see Christ in me. 

I want to raise my children to be world changers.   


I'm proud of my kids today.  I have three, amazing extroverts that jump in and serve passionately.  I have another child whose gentle smile can warm the hardest of hearts.  Together, they make a fierce team for the Lord. 

So, on a day that I think is all about teaching my children, they actually taught me by their example of what it means to love radically and without boundaries. 

I want to be more like them.

They served well.

I want to be more like Kyle, the barber...

One barber, 80+ kids
And more like Brandon...

 

I, too, want to love radically. 


“..the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)





Monday, June 25, 2012

Kitchen Progress

Our kitchen has been on a standstill for the past few weeks.  I've been a little discouraged with the lack of speed & time that we've not had to complete this one room in our house.

Sergio & I planned on starting and finishing one room at a time.  That was too optimistic.  In reality, we're all over the board.  There are projects going on everywhere around the house.

We've completed a little more than what is shown in these pictures.  I can't wait to show off the cabinet makeovers.  They are truly unbelievable and cost efficient.

The before pictures were taken while the previous owners were still in the home.




We've added our black, side by side fridge & filled up the cabinets with all our kitchen goodies.

 


This wall's to-do list:

  1. Replace our oven.
  2. Open up the wall above the stove to be used as a pass through to the dining room.  
  3. Add beadboard on top of the cream tile.
  4. Change out the outlets. 
  5. Change out the light fixtures.
  6. And of course, add the cabinets.
 
It is much brighter in there.  It's amazing what a few coats of white, oil-based paint can do for a dated kitchen.


Beadboard will line the side of the island where there is currently wood paneling.  Check out the new cabinets hanging out in the family room.  Sergio has worked hard at making a great trim for each of the 25 cabinets. 

We could not have come this far without the help of some of our dear friends.

Thank you to Rob M., David N., Ashley & Liz E., Chris & Lena L., Andy & Crystal M., Stephanie W. and Kent & Melinda R.!!  You all are truly appreciated & loved dearly!!  "Mi casa es su casa!" 



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Free Dresser & a Trip to the ER

Not all items listed as "free" on Craigslist turn out like I plan.

Yesterday, I picked up a free dresser not too far from our house.  I was so excited to replace the dresser in the living room with something larger in scale.

 
While Sergio & I were unloading the dresser, our youngest, Clara (1.5 yrs), hopped in the back.  As she climbed up to the driver's seat, I had a fleeting thought of getting her out before she gets hurt.  Yet, I didn't listen.

In a matter of two minutes, one of our other children opened the driver's side door to join in on the fun.  Clara must have been leaning up against it and fell onto the gravel driveway face first.


You can see the two, small gashes on her forehead.  We didn't know the depth of them because of the amount of blood coming out of both.  We took her immediately to the ER and are thankful for a good report.  Sergio set his alarm a couple of times throughout the night to check on her.

She is acting like her happy self this morning, but will be closely watched for the next 24 hours.

We are so grateful that the fall did not cause extensive trauma to our sweet girl.  Sergio and I heard her head hit the ground and I had to hold back tears when I saw her face.

She's beautiful, strong, independent, and as sweet as can be.

I share this story because no matter how much I enjoy furniture projects, our children are my favorite & greatest priority after serving God & loving Sergio.

Today's mission was to pick up a free 7-8 foot, solid wood, church pew.  However, if they won't hold it for me for another day, then it will have to go to someone else.

I have changed my mission to spending the day loving, playing, & holding our four children.


And I'm sure it's going to be a great day!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Scavenger Hunt for Kids

 
I decided it was time to take a day off from house renovations.  I needed to spend some quality time with our kids.  So, during their nap time, I put together a simple (nothing fancy) scavenger hunt. 

We had so much fun together.  It made me realize how much I've missed playing with them.  I do desire for our house to be complete, but not as much as I strongly desire for my children to grow up knowing & feeling that they are loved.  I want them to know that they are important to me rather than inconveniences during home improvement time.

We began with the first clue found in the envelope:


Each clue was read by our oldest, Josiah.  I explained the Scripture and we talked about where the next clue could be found.

2 Corinthians 5:7 led us to Daddy's glasses:


Matthew 6:19 took us to where Mommy places her car keys:



 Proverbs 17:1 led us to where we fill our cups up with water:


Psalm 37:7 led us over to the couch where we sometimes have to practice being still:


Matthew 7:8 led us over to the door:


Proverbs 12:14 led us outside to the shed where we store our handheld tools:


The kids were thrilled to find out what was in the reward envelope:


We had a great time together at Sonic.  We laughed, played, and entertained the others sitting outside. 

I really need to do this more often!



************************************************************************************************


My camera died at Sonic, so I was unable to take a good picture.  The only one I have is this little one taken with my phone.  If anyone knows how to enlarge it without making it blurry, please share your tip! 



I'd love to hear if you have any fun, homemade games that they enjoy doing with your kids! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Family Room Progress: Painted Paneling & Furniture Arrangement

I can not believe that a month has already past since moving into our new home.  We are still working hard on renovations, but I thought that I would give a few quick pictures of the family room's progress.

Here's a before picture taken before the previous owners moved out: 


Family Room in progress:



The lighting in our family room is not great for pictures, but you get the idea.  The set-up is a bit difficult, but we are enjoying the way it is turning out.  The entertainment center is a temporary fix until I can find the best piece to fit that location.  The bookcases in the corner are also a temporary fix until I can find a vintage bookcase to replace them.


Here's another view (sorry about the poor pictures):



And here is the family room corner today:


 Corner to-do list:

  1. Find an antique dresser for the corner to store gloves, scarves, keys, etc.  
  2. Baskets will go under the dresser to hide my kids' shoes.
  3. Add decor.
  4. Paint exterior door Peacock Tail (see paint chip on door). 
  5. Put sockets back on.
  6. Finish second coat on trim.

Here's another shot:


If it weren't for my dear neighbor, Jane, I would still be indecisive as to what to do with the nook area in our living room.  (Side note: everyone needs a Jane in their life!  She is absolutely beautiful inside & out!)

Nook Area Before (Our friend, Chris, came with us to check out the house before we put in an offer.):


Nook Area After:


So, this is where we are today.  It's nice to check off tasks from our "to-do" list.  We're just taking it one day at a time. 

Today's task is figuring out what to do with our decor that is laying around our piano.