What We Most Need to Know About the Life We Live Now

Spoiler alert: The life we live now is not our best life.

No matter the pitch and hype speech, and despite the fact we can and should live the best life we possibly can while we are here (this I believe with my whole heart and why I would even write any of my books, I mean, really)…the earth life will never be our best life. The end.

Our real best life is the one we will have with Jesus in heaven.

But if we are reading this now, we are not yet there. So while we are still here, there are some things I think we need to know.

  1. We are not alone.
  2. We desperately need Jesus.
  3. We don’t have to feel ready to walk through this life strong.

I can’t say it better than what I already said in Put Your Warrior Boots On, Chapter 8, I Am Ready

 

“We’re doing great things, you and me. Doing hard things. Doing things we aren’t proud of (and some we really, really are). We’re loving people well and sometimes treating people less than. Losing our temper, forgetting to take hold of the battle for our mind and watching it slip from us. We’re making progress and then falling back and feeling worse. We’re crazy broken every day, but still holding on to hope in our core because Jesus.

We’re eating food that makes us happy and carrying the weight that makes us sad. We’re ending community over the table, which is the forgotten best thing, and oh, those consuming cell phones. We have pets we love and gardens we tend and places we drive and meals we cook and laundry we wash and schools and jobs we go to.

We have private pains in our hearts over loves who’ve gone to heaven and people who hurt us here on earth. We have broken relationships and friends who get it and send the text just in time.

We’re doing well with God and then before we mean to, leaving God out of things completely. Praying like mad or going days without prayer at all. We have worries, so many, even when we know we shouldn’t. We have bursts of faith that surprise us.

We have weak bodies, strong bodies, old bodies we don’t recognize anymore. We’re winning things, losing things, holding on to things too long, and letting go of things too soon. We’re crying because we are sad, crying because something turned out better than we hoped.

This is the life we live now.

One day we will start our real best life and all get better.

My friends, sorting through this hard and beautiful and imperfect life means we are human and we are not yet with Jesus. It doesn’t mean we aren’t ready to walk Jesus strong, despite the world’s mess. For the believer in Jesus Christ, we are ready, right now, through the imperfect, despite ourselves. Now is the time to lace up the boots and walk strong. We have important things to get done.

This is really the deal of life: not feeling ready but choosing to walk anyway; important things needing to get done that will require us going ahead by the power of God. As believers in Christ, it is how our whole life will be. So the good news is we can stop wasting time wishing for the magical moment we feel ready to take life on—to put on the warrior boots and walk strong. Life with the reality that our feelings never dictate what we do is a foreign concept to most of us, but it’s the way of holy release.

Jesus never asks us to feel ready; He asks us to be ready. His way is readiness of the mind, heart, and soul.

I don’t know the circumstances in your life that make you feel not ready. I suspect they are truly hard, likely some harder than mine. I won’t pretend to have the pat answer to help your particular heart pain feel better—there are things so dark and hard in this world that only God knows the depth. I won’t throw out Christian clichés and ask you to just trust God because it sounds good. I ask you to trust God because there is no other option.

What I can tell you today is that our circumstances do not need to be made right for us to walk this life out strong. We don’t need to understand them or make them make sense. Most of us have tried this route and wound up in exhaustion. We don’t need to brave ourselves into ready because brave is off the table. We just have to make the decision right now that walking Jesus strong in warrior boots is what we want and living the life declarations we’ve talked about is what we will do. We need no other information to make this decision than what we already know.

Because of Jesus, no matter what, you’ve got this…I’ve got this… even when we feel like we don’t. Even in our weakness, there is work to be done. We are ready to walk in warrior boots because we choose to walk this life out strong. We determine in our hearts that it will not be about the circumstances, but the commitments. These are things a health crisis cannot change. These are things even the deepest, darkest of loss cannot take from us. These are things by the help of the Holy Spirit we can fully be and do.

I’m praying for you today, that Jesus will come near—that He will persuade you by the power of the Holy Spirit that He has created you to walk strong, once and for all. I believe this, to my core. You aren’t ready for this and neither am I, but we are. Not because we have rallied ourselves to death or taken the “how to survive hard things” class at church or even because we have read this book. Because God. Because the Bible, which is everything we need for life and godliness. Everything. Every thing. God knew your hard last year. He knew your dark hole. He knew you could walk strong anyway.

So then, what to do in our limited, don’t feel ready life? Go on anyway. Look at God anyway. Don’t feel; believe.”

Enough said.

I love you, warrior in the making. I love Jesus most.

Always His,

Order Put Your Warrior Boots On!

You Can Be a Spiritual Warrior

Does it feel like the world has gone crazy and you’re just along for the ride?

From bombings to bullying, the world has us on pins and needles—afraid for our children, fearful for ourselves, worried that we won’t have enough strength to stand our ground. But you don’t have to start brave to stay strong.

A Time to Speak

img_3944*As promised, this is the conclusion to the blog post I wrote last week. Fair warning: it’s lengthy. But I hope you’ll read every word. I believe it’s vital to both the struggles we face in the midst of ongoing cultural issues of today, answering some questions you likely have…and the vocal faith Jesus expects us as His followers to have. P.S. Press on. I love you.

After you have taken the step of faith, you must talk your faith. Those who are not afraid to announce their convictions to the world and defend them will have true stability. A universal law underlies the declaration, “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10 kjv).  ~Brengle, Take Time to Be Holy

I hadn’t planned to be back, full time on social media until January.

But then she changed my mind.

“Hi. You don’t know me, but I have a question for you. I hear so many of the “liberal” female Christian ministry leaders speaking out all the time about things, but the more “conservative” voices have grown quiet. It’s hard because I wonder where all the leaders I relate to have gone and why they seem afraid to speak up for some reason. Thanks for listening.”

Her comment wasn’t even on my social media feed. It was on a friend’s feed that I happened to be scrolling by in my nightly mindless scrolling. But I saw her comment and it struck me, in that way that something feels like right between the eyes. That was 9 months ago. It hasn’t left my mind since.

It was enough to change my mind about my plans and intentions, to take an extended online break from my short and blissful September-October reprieve, since after 1 book and another on the way, there’s been so much writing.

She was enough to change my mind.

I pictured her, alone in her apartment or maybe her cute house with her dog or baby on the hip or leaning against the brick outline of the coffee shop window on that city street for just a few, waiting on a friend who was late to meet…pressed enough inside to reach out to someone she admired online and leave a message to ask in the only way she knew how for someone with a bigger microphone than her to please be her representative.

I knew then: I must speak up. If I’m honest, I think Jesus carved the conviction deep in my heart and that kind of thing lingers.

(An important aside: Let me quickly address the label (conservative/liberal) issue and tell you: I didn’t come up with them, I don’t like them, and I don’t find them particularly helpful. But I also understand that in this moment with the important theological issues hinging on certain schools of thought and the leaders which adopt them, churches and people must be diligent in knowing core beliefs of who they read, listen to, and follow and should. Further, because of my Biblically conservative convictions such as these of which I clearly and previously wrote, I am considered in the conservative camp. (Though conservatives don’t quite know what to do with me as I am rather fiesty, unbridled, and tattooed.)

I wrote last week to the remnant – to remind us that we are not alone…that our conviction does not conflict with love but rather, depends upon it…and most of all…to encourage us to remain faithful to Jesus and follow Him to the very end.

The last piece of this encouragement to us is that now is the time to speak. I know we may have wondered. I know we may have thought it was for the usual ones or the loud ones or the bold ones or the ones with the most to say. But it’s the time for all of us, the ones who have the quietest voices, the ones who usually don’t get involved and just want everyone to get along, too. Jesus wants all of us to speak about who He is, what He’s done, how much He loves us, how much He loves them.

To remain silent about Jesus and the convictions following Him brings to our life is to weaken our ability to stand strong in hard times. Exercising a vocal faith is not an option we pick at the point of salvation; it is part of the package of our choice for God. When we chose God we didn’t choose a life of mere social activism. We chose the life of the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20). We don’t get to prefer to let someone else say it, do it, live it, disciple them, bring them to Jesus. It’s our life, responsibility, privilege.

“But it’s really volatile out there right now and I don’t want to add to it.” When it comes to politics, oh friend, I agree. When it’s for the sake of needing someone to hear our opinion, we best get over that, sleep on it, most often leave it alone. You don’t know how many nights I’ve done just that, and I know, you, too. Speaking up for Jesus should carry a different tone, driven from and done with a different heart, one that others will notice, even if they still disagree. Bold and combative are not the same. Motive and character will determine which way we land. Jesus has not called us to fight each other. But He has called us to fight for the Kingdom of God.

“But I don’t know what to say and how to say it.” For so many of us, this is the case. Often it is the latter, the how we don’t know, because we care so much and know the stakes are so high to either draw to or away from our Lord, and we take this seriously. It is why prayer is so important before speaking out – prayer, in heaps and masses, and sometimes, we stop there because God knows. But let us not let the not knowing be the excuse that keeps us from the going on record for our faith, for God knows that, too. God doesn’t need perfect orators. He needs faithful servants preaching the Gospel message with life and lips. All of us can do that.

“But I want to be known for what I’m for not for what I’m against.” I’ve heard this said a lot, as of late. I like the idea behind it – this thorough preaching with our life that we don’t have to be against anything because we are so known for what we are for there is no need for further discussion. This is just the problem. (Hold on. Remember I love you. This may get tense.) We, the lazy Christians aren’t known for the for things very well. We haven’t been preaching consistent Jesus messages that draw the world in. We haven’t been very attractive. So when we open our mouths and start preaching now, all that comes out is noise. So this may take awhile, my friends. We will have to be dedicated and patient. I’ll talk to you much more about this in Put Your Warrior Boots On but for now I want you to know that the solution is not to clam up. It is to start, from this point forward, preaching a solid Jesus first and only message with a loving heart of grounded, Biblical conviction and a proven track record of personal holiness and solid people investment so that when we develop the clout over time, people won’t be able to say we are preaching “against” anything. They will know what we are preaching for and automatically our tone will sound different.

“But what about the quote I love from St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words”? Isn’t this telling us the opposite of what you are saying? Didn’t Jesus model this, as well?” I love this quote. It’s beautiful. It’s true. Lifestyle evangelism is something I’ve written about for years. Feel free to look back in my archives. It’s all there.

In the sense that we are to live what we believe, first and foremost, and not vapidly or judgmentally gab on and on about God without substance of life, this quote is key and by the way, biblical. Friends. Isn’t this issue way past settled, I hope?

But this does not mean we don’t speak at all, so let us not misunderstand. Jesus was far from a silent Savior. He was not unnecessarily wordy but He was also not quiet, and He certainly never shied away from fighting for Kingdom things. The times He remained silent were times when He gave up fighting for His own rights, not for the Kingdom of God. When He “spoke not a Word” (Matt. 27:14) it was in reference to his silence before His accusers. Never doubt that when it came to where He stood for Christ, everyone knew.

We aren’t God. We won’t do this, perfectly. But we, the remnant, the faithful followers of Jesus Christ until the end, must exercise a vocal faith. Jesus is our life. We gave up our right to stay silent about Him when we gave our life to Him.

I don’t know what this looks like for you in your everyday life, friend. I can’t give you a perfect formula for a discussion you are considering diving into right now on your Facebook wall. But moving forward, as part of your faithful following of Jesus Christ is your vocal witness for Him, know this:

We’ve got to be honest with ourselves.“Sometimes, in order to sincerely resist the infighting of the Church and the hot button culture conflict – in our claims to not want to be known as a person against something but rather, for something – we unwittingly leave Jesus hanging. Yes, the road narrows when we go on record for our faith. True, everyone won’t like it and some, in order to jab below the belt, will call it judgmental and fighting against. But with the heart intent to be for God, it is the right and only choice to make. And we have to be strong enough to weather the unwarranted accusation and live with our truth.” ~Put Your Warrior Boots On

Let nothing be an excuse for weak witness. Let us not hide behind sin and call it subtlety and personal style. Jesus is worth more than that.

We’ve got to understand the why. It’s not charity work to go on record for what we believe; it’s the anchoring grace of God. When we speak up for God, a courage inside of us is called out and the fear place inside is overcome. Over time, this chipping away changes us for the good. Not only do we go on record for us, but we go on record in order to strengthen the body. We go on record for the young woman who reached out on social media to ask for someone to speak up and share our beliefs, so she would not feel alone. Isn’t this the point of community — to lock eyes and lift arms and humanly communicate the best we can me too? We speak up for the body of Christ to be strengthened and not fall away, just like we need people to speak up so we won’t fall away, either. I can’t help but believe that Jesus blesses those who step out and step up, first, in all faith things, including our speaking out.

We’ve got to want God the most, first. There is one reason wanting God the most is the most important thing in your life: because everything hinges on it. It is the game changer, because it changes what you fight for, what you are willing to tolerate, what you are willing to change, what you love, what you chase, what you justify, what you stake your life upon, what you spend your life doing for the rest of your life. If we don’t want God the most, we will never go on record for Him. We won’t love Him enough. We will love ourselves more. Self preservation will be more important. This issue has to be settled first and if today, you haven’t done that, I hope and pray you will. (Here’s a resource to help, if you’re interested.)

I will be taking the month of December off from blogging, as I am finishing up my next book, 5 Word Prayers, preparing for my January retreat with 50 beloved friends from 11 states all over the U.S., and enjoying the holidays with family and friends like so many of you.

But know that I am praying for you, praying for your faith to be strengthened, for you to love God more than ever in the coming days, and for Jesus to show up big in your life in 2017 like He so desperately wants to do.

And OH SO FUN...

January 2 I will be back with a brand new blog with much better navigation and fresh, new things JUST FOR YOU! And I will be telling you about a FREE 2-week Bible Study I am offering from January 16-27 just for you about how to go into 2017 ditching the typical resolutions and marching on with new hope and belief in your future! I am so very excited about all this and Put Your Warrior Boots On, coming April 2017!!

I love you. I love Jesus, the most.

Always His,

Lisa

Controversy and What The Church Does Next

image-1

*Disclaimer: I approach this post with great love, thought, prayer and under the accountability of II Corinthians 5:14: “Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us.” p.s. It’s a longer post than normal. But I ask you to read every word.

There’s been a lot going on in Christendom lately, what with the election and differing stances and views by the body of Christ and all. The truth is, the Church has always had differing opinions on things and controversies because of it. I’m not sure why we are reacting now as if it were scary and new.

I think sometimes in our effort to use the Acts early church as a model (with good reason) we mistakenly begin to think it was perfect. Stephen, a “man full of God’s grace and power” enters the scene in Scripture in Acts 6 when the early church is experiencing growing pains and controversy of its own. Lest we think the early church was perfect, we need only remember that it was made up of people. And as we know, people will ruin a perfect thing, every single time.

The body of Christ has been a hot mess with a Savior and a cause since the beginning. Until we meet Jesus, we will hold a Bible in one hand and a flesh desire in the other. It’s the human plight.

But before we settle into this idea that the realities of our flesh keeps us from growth, let’s remember that sanctification – the long obedience work of becoming like Jesus – is to be our beautiful pursuit. Until we stop breathing, may we never rest in a less than Jesus wants us to be position.

Listen. I don’t want us to be scared. I don’t want us to be angry. There is truly no need. No matter how it looks right now, this is a time of recalibration, not fear. These tough times are forcing the Christians to live the Bible we’ve read many times, back up all our many preached words. It’s time and it is good. Hollow spiritual lives won’t point people to the Savior of the world, which by the way, remains the reason we are all here.

Controversy brings out the real stuff. Social media can trigger us. But it can only push out what is already there.

If we are fearful, if we have unresolved baggage, if we are Christian in name only but the depth isn’t there, in controversy it will all come out. (Perhaps the knowledge of this is the root of much of the fear.)

And in the same way, if we are full of the good real stuff – the Holy Spirit completely controlling our life – we will be able to not only maneuver controversial waters but respond to those who differ from us in such a way the stance is known but the love is, too. If we are to have angst at this moment, let it be because we see the realities of how we are not yet like Christ.

Now. I need to tell you a few personal things.

I’ve been on Twitter in recent days. I’ve scrolled Facebook. So many unnecessary, ungodly thoughts have come out and general human decency has been disregarded from my fellow believers in Jesus. There’s absolutely no way we can include Jesus in that. May we tremble in our justifications of flesh behavior, most especially if we claim it is done in any way under His covering. Let us not be fooled into thinking we will not be held accountable for our behaviors at times like these. We will.

I have friends, some Christian famous and some not, whom I disagree with about things important to me. But they are my friends, and I do not fear our theological differences because Jesus is our bond. I have readers of this blog who are atheists and some who believe in gay marriage, as do some of my ministry friends. I will not change my stance for them. I will also treat them with love and respect, as both are non-negotiables in my higher commitment to Jesus.

So I exhort us all, the followers of Jesus, to get on our knees and pray like crazy for Christ’s love to control us moving forward. With His control over our life and lips, the crazy will not overtake.

The truth is, we are all products of our background, environment, education, and personal trains of thought, as well as the depth of our relationship with Jesus, so it is no wonder we won’t always agree. (And yes, the Bible says some will become disillusioned and fall away from the faith.) We shouldn’t fear the disagreements. We should only fear God if we, as His rep, don’t respond to them in a way that honors Him. Trust me, at this moment, I’ve asked Him to take my inventory.

We can stand and not waver on our position while responsibly modeling the grace and kindness of Christ. We must stand for the Bible. We must stand for Truth. We must also treat people well. These are not mutually exclusive.

It is a lie to believe love and grace means accepting and agreeing with all views. It is also a lie to believe holding strong to a standard means you shun or lash out at the person you disagree with. Love and grace are an innate response of a Christ consumed heart. Perhaps if this is not our response we ask Jesus to mine deeper.

And because I am personally weary of the just grace and love claim: grace and love exist in the context of standard and conviction. To suggest that Jesus is all grace and love without standard is to grossly misunderstand and misrepresent Him. (That’s for a different post.)

I believe the Bible, every word. I believe Jesus was more than just a good guy, but was and is the Almighty Savior of the World. I believe a baby is a person at the point of conception. I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I believe in the sanctity of marriage, between a man and a woman. And I also believe many of us as Christians are walking around pious in our God-ish living, which is equally as distasteful to God.

I believe we worry more about pointing out the sin in others than weeping over our own neglect in caring for the poor, orphaned and widowed, things Jesus speaks in Scripture directly about as non-negotiable actions.

I believe we generally don’t treat people like Jesus would. I believe this is because we have replaced intimacy with Him for surface spirituality so we man our daily reactions.

I believe in the importance of unity in the body of Christ, which does not mean we meld our convictions on every issue but we meld our hearts to reach this world for Christ. Right now, they want no part in the perceived circus.

And I believe most of all, that The Great One thrives like always in bringing clarity to chaos, hope to disappointment, and peace in the midst of controversy.

Let’s put our eyes back on Him.

Announcing: My Next 3 Projects!

I’m so excited…in a grateful, honored, still pinch myself that this is what I get to do with my life kind of way.

(p.s.Sometimes writing books still seems like a dream I fell into rather than dreamed up (well, because it was) – one others may be more qualified for but none more passionate about, I can promise you that.)

I’m releasing 3 new books/projects with Harvest House Publishers in 2017, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

 

IMG_1635Currently, I’m in the midst of writing my forthcoming book: Put Your Warrior Boots On: Walking Jesus Strong, Once and For All. In case you haven’t noticed, the world is in kind of a mess. I have been praying and thinking long and hard (like it keeps me up at night sometimes) about how to live in the mess better, and I believe God has given me the how-to. Put Your Warrior Boots On is an equipping and strength-inducing book. It is a what-do-we-do-right-now book. It is a book to help we, the followers of Jesus, live with a better strategy – not one of reaction and hopelessness and fear, but one of real, true strength. I want us to be steady, ready and sure as we walk in this world gone crazy. (p.s. Yes, we can be.) I want us to stop trying to brave ourselves into it. (Seriously can’t wait to talk to you more about THIS and share what I’ve learned about it because I think the shift in perspective may help you as it has me.) I want us to be consistent in our relationship with God instead of riding the spiritual roller coaster, once and for all. I want us to walk in His authority like He’s told us to do – with effectiveness in the world and tunnel vision on heaven. We are here and the world is not getting better and we can’t keep wishing things were different – we have to change up how we live to be solid and sturdy, no matter what comes our way. We need this, right? Man, how we need it.

I want you to know: it is with the softest of hearts and the deepest of love and the strongest of speech I write it. It is proving to be very much like writing I Want God, in the sense that the urgency is a second skin I’m wearing, the revelations from God are swift and piercing, and I find myself eager to hear what He has to tell me, every time I sit down to type. I cannot wait to share more as the release date approaches, as I believe there has never been a more important time to release a book like this. Release date: April 1, 2017

 

IMG_1638My second book is a different kind of book for me, and I’m so excited about it, too. It’s called 5 Word Prayers: A 40-day Devotional, to help kick start our prayer life in a way that is both doable and powerful. (We don’t need to talk about how ABSOLUTELY VITAL prayer is, especially right now in this crazy world, right? Like…prayer is everything. For real.) For years people have been asking me if I would write a devotional book, and for years I’ve thought about it but never moved forward. I’ve long believed that with our prayers, it’s not about word count but about heart intent. The documented prayers of Jesus are short. The older I get the more I realize that prayer is not me saying as many words as I can but listening and being with Him in communion, where our hearts unite. For this reason, this devotional book. This book will not only provide daily 5 word prayers, but it will also include a short devotional written about each prayer to help it really seep down deep. I have lots of love and belief in this book, and I hope you will be as excited as I am about it. Release Date: Fall of 2017

 

IMG_1644And last but absolutely not least…with the release of 5 Word Prayers will be the release of a super fun companion adult coloring book by the same name. I know ya’ll love these things. I know they are flying off the shelves like crazy. And I believe in this case, each coloring page and accompanying prayer will be something not only you can fly your creative flag with, but also meditate on and maybe even frame and hang on your wall as art or give as a gift to someone else. You should know I’m hardcore committed to these coloring pages being beautifully and meaningfully graphic. So I hired the absolute best, most talented freelance artist to draw the sketches. She just so happens to be my baby sister, so she shares my DNA. I still can’t even believe I was able to hire her – she works in an art gallery and draws sketches all day FOR A LIVING, and I begged her to squeeze me in. (Family has its privileges.) So you know…this project is going to be fantastic and is truly a labor of love. Go ahead and plan on it being one of your Christmas gifts for someone in 2017. Release Date: Fall of 2017.

Well, there it is. These are my new projects. I hope you are as eager to get them as I am to get them to you.

So many of you have spread the word about I Want God and as a result, helped change lives. (For real. You should hear the stories.)

So many of you are faithful readers to the messages God has put on my heart to share. I wish you knew how humbling this feels and how much responsibility it brings to my heart, and how seriously I take it.

I think you and I are on the exact same page. I believe we share the same heart.

If you, like me, want to live with a better strategy, want to walk Jesus strong instead of walking tentative, defensive and reactionary, want to be the steady and sure believer of Jesus that He can use in this world in these crazy days to influence the rest of the world…if you, like me, sometimes feel like prayer books make me feel more intimidated about my prayer life, like I don’t measure up, love the idea of 5 powerful prayer words to pray every day for 40 days to better communicate with God…and if sometimes you just like to be a little artsy but are intimidated by Pinterest :)…these books are for you.

Can’t wait to share them.

Love you.

Mean it.

Thanks for letting me share my new projects…and my life…with you.

Finding Your Family Mission

IMG_5585

It’s January.

The husband and I have just finished Francis Chan’s book, You and Me Forever, a marriage book but really not. It’s a wanting God most book- the kind that seeps into bones and positions for holy change.

Chapter 4 has stayed with us, gotten us talking about living with a mission. We are mission-minded people at the core — GIDS (get it dones) our mentor, Monty, calls us. But too often, and this is just real talk, the mission revolves around us. It involves the getting more and going on vacation and working towards something big and fun. The God mission is always there but life often pushes it to second. We minister solo but not as often, together. And we both know: it’s time for more team.

Because there is nothing more powerful than a family on a mission. 

We start with prayer, more of it, because what else when you don’t know where to start? We begin to turn off tvs and phones for one hour every Wednesday night, which seems small compared to the hours of the day, but never feels small in the moment because tvs and phones tend to be persuasive. The first 30 minutes we spend in different parts of the house, alone, hearing from God, solo. When we get back together in a few minutes, bring the words, verses, and phrases God speaks to your heart to share, we tell our 3 kids. We wing this. We don’t have a lot of experience.

Open. Bless others. Light. One. These are some of the words we bring back. And trust. Yes, that one comes up a few times, I notice.

In our coming back together time, on more than one Wednesday night around our family room’s leather ottoman, tears drip onto its top. We are a good family. A solid one. Our kids say grown-up prayers. But we don’t usually pray like this and the walls feel it. We are asking God for why we exist and what He wants us as a group to do – something, I’m convinced He finds precious in a family.

Tell us. Show us, we pray. What are the Whittles supposed to do? We ask Him.

Because when a family finds its mission it finds its pulse and we want ours.

Let me be honest. I’m initially thinking it’s a quote – a Chickfila type mission statement we can hang on the wall and of course, I know just where to hang it. I’ll call my favorite artist. She’ll make me a beautiful print. It’ll be a reminder for years to come, what the Whittles exist to do. Words on canvas. Awesome. Neat.

(I should tell you some back story, quickly. My husband and I have had a dream for awhile, and it started with taking a young man into our home his senior year of high school to live with us a few years ago. We sort of knew at that moment, in the way your gut tells you, that this was part of who we always wanted to be: housing people…missionaries, aging parents, college students, whomever God sent. We’ve had the plan: to build a smaller home with an apartment addition, and we’ve had the land to do it. What we haven’t had was the money. With 3 private school tuitions every month and all the 5 people expenses, our dream has had to wait.)

p.s. God dreams never die. But sometimes they wait.

At the time we start this move towards mission and team, we have issues. Marriage ones, financial ones, and we determine to work at both. (As you know, issues can be great catalysts for change.) We share this with our kids, openly, yet appropriately in the Wednesday night gatherings. I tell them about my personal shopping fast. The hubs tells them about his work modifications. We ask them to pray for us, for strength.

And life goes on like normal. Until June.

I’m left wondering when, if ever, the mission for the wall print will come. My husband and I again pray, this time committing to 40 dedicated days, and in 4 short ones our world turns like a rollercoaster on crack. It’s sudden, but not.

Too many details to share – you’ll have to just trust me that they are huge. God things. Unexpected things that happen without our permission and look like the worst for a few moments but turn out to be inexplicably the best. (The God best things often look bad, yes? And sometimes things blow up before they become beautiful. ) Major changes. Kids exercising faith. Saying yes. Looking with great anticipation to the future. Giving things over to God. Laying things down.

Living our mission.

We now know: our family mission won’t be a slogan to hang on our wall. It will be lived in real life.

~My son, a rising senior in high school who has gone to the same safe, familiar Christian school since kindergarten (please sit with this for a moment) will be moving to a large public school. He’s at peace and already thriving on his new football team. Honestly: thank you, Jesus.

~My daughter will be homeschooled for a year. (Pause. Never in my wildest.) She’s happy about some travel with me and getting really smart in Spanish, which will (ahem) not be taught by yours truly.

~Our family of 5 will be moving from a 3700 square foot house where we have lived for 10 years to a 1500 square foot house built in 1945. My big boys will share a room for the first time since they were toddlers, big hairy man feet and all. Call us nuts. We are all excited.

~We will work to save for one year to pay off our land and begin building the home to house us and anyone God sees fit to send our way. Our finances to God, on a new level. Actively working towards another piece of our family mission and slightly daunted yet exhilarated at the thought.

So if you see me selling furniture online, you will know it’s mere math: 3700 to 1500. Some things don’t fit.

And if you see me posting before and after pics of a 1945 house we are painting, you will know it is my effort to make a new/old home more cozy so give me a cyber hug and tell me it looks amazing.

And if you hear me struggling in the words I choose to share some days because so much change all at once and I’m way human, remind me that it’s always worth the mission. He’s always worth the mission. The end.

And please: we aren’t heroes. Our mission is so much smaller than others. But this is our offering and our yes. This is where we’ve been led at this moment. It’s our family team sacrificing for the bigger mission, being GID’s together. We don’t just want to talk about God. We want to experience God. I don’t just want to write books. I want to write in people’s hearts, starting with my own kids. (We think we mess them up when we make them change. I suspect the truth is we mess them up when we don’t.)

This is not an experiment for a new book. I love people who do cool things like that, but we are not that cool. It’s not for blog posts. I may not even talk about it anymore. This is about wanting God. I want God in my finances. I want God more than a big house. I want God more than I fear change for my children. A mission helps with that.

So in case you can relate to my words and for your family, long to find your own mission:

1) Want one. Everything starts with desire.

2) Pray. Your first and next best step. And then the next, and the next and every best step after that.

3) Respond. Be ready to move in whatever way that looks when the mission becomes clear. (And even when the mission is not exactly.)

Because a family that finds its mission finds God.

Trusting Lord, for it to be so.

(**I’d love to hear about your family mission. Or pray with you to find one. Or hear your encouraging words for our journey. Ain’t too proud to beg. :) Come see me on social media and let’s talk about it, there: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook)

Dear Kids…My New School Year Commitment to You

photo

It came to me, on the eve of this new school year, after sitting as our party of 5 last night and asking for fresh commitments from our kids about grades and character and yes, even daily deodorant wearing.

How often, as parents, we ask and require but do not also always require of ourselves.

And how important it is that this year, I make some fresh commitments, too.

So though I am on the heels of the first school day rush, with 2 failed attempts at hair styling…the last minute mad dash to find the lone school supply we have forgotten…and the obligatory first day of school picture that managed to annoy 2 of my 3…I sit down to make some commitments to my kids who may never read this blog but will surely watch my life.

[May you, the reader who is also a parent with a school aged child, find yourself in some of these commitments, too.]

I will understand your need for sleep and not try to be your friend by letting you stay up too late for your brain to function at its best the next day, even when you beg me.

I will appreciate your need for me to not be in work mode in the evenings when we are both home, which is far less about working and more about being present in your presence.

I will not protest openly about making you lunches, even though it is not my favorite part of the year, because it means you are here, mine, and growing.

I will study you this year like I ask you to study things, making your needs and struggles and dreams my mission to know, too.

I will not close my eyes to your interaction on social media and claim ignorance or lack of time because I know you need me to stay involved and aware as a parent to help you not walk into a mess that winds up holding you captive for much of your life.

I will continue to hold you to a standard of clean language, respect for people, support for your school..without a single care as to what everyone else is doing because I know that small character things now produce big character plays in your future.

I will be aware [for you, my girl] that when you post lots of selfies you may need me to hug you extra hard and remind you, you are beautiful but also, appreciate how it is a fun girl thing that mostly goes bad when it consumes or becomes the litmus test of worth, and that can sneak up on us.

I will seek to be a prayerful balance of encourager and enforcer, with an emphasis on the prayer part.

I will hold the Kleenex when someone says something that hurts you [and they will] and together we will cry our eyes out about how that feels then wake up the next morning with head held high and Jesus as our advocate to take to school with us.

I will fight for you, always, but not because I’m making it about me.

I will believe the best about you, which doesn’t mean I will allow manipulation or withhold tough love.  It just means I will love you deeply while being discerning.

I will keep the title of parent sacred and not forget it is the sweetest, highest honor and requires I grow, too, right along with you.

I will love God most.  Trust me, you want me to.

 And when we end this school year, Lord willing, with you having grown both in size and in knowledge, I will be here, as your mom.

And with His help, I will have grown some, too.