Finding Your Family Mission

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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

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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.

The Power of Praying Scripture

Slipping my legs under tiny girl pink sheets, I immediately felt her shakes.

Her body was trembling.  It was the most physical reaction to fear I had ever seen in one of my children.

 

“Momma, I need you” she said through tears, minutes earlier.  While the rest of the house slept, her presence in my room awakened me.

I saw something that scared me, she said, telling me of how her eyes read an image she couldn’t forget. My heart ached for the ways innocent eyes can’t always be protected – angered at the evil that sneaks its way into even Jesus loving homes…and how sometimes I forget I am at war.

I lay with her, for what seemed like hours, and offered as many words.  All my parental verbal prowess and wisdom did nothing for the many sobs escaping her.

It’s interesting, how at the end of our own abilities we finally ask for God.

Please help me,  I whispered silently to Him.  Tell me what to say.

Words came, but this time they weren’t mine.  For the next 20 minutes my mouth spoke Scriptures He brought back to my mind, some not recalled for years.

And I witnessed the most incredible physical reaction to fear became the most incredible physical response to truth, as her body calmed to the place where one wonders if there is still breathing.

I used my weapon; His Word was the sword that had taken the fear down.

How beautiful it is, friends, that we have this ability.  How sad it is when we neglect it: because fear wears here and now clothes, we forget it is a need of the spiritual and must combat it in the same way.  Remember…

1)   The Word is God (John 1) and God is perfection. So His words carry the element of perfection our limited ones can’t equal.

2)   For believers, our heart is meant to recognize Truth and respond to it in a different way than even the most eloquent/wise human words.

3)   We know that at the name of Jesus, everything comes under submission. (Philippians 2:10) We make fear submit when we speak Him/the Word.

4)   Speaking the Word is an act of worship and squeezes out flesh and brings a soothing balm like none other.

The most powerful way to combat tangible, body trembling fear is to speak the Word of God.

Something I plan to ditch my own words to do a lot more often.

*Conversation: How often do you pray Scripture instead of using your own words? How might this break the bonds of fear/change your life if you did?

God, Come off the Paper

My oldest son left for camp last week.  Along with his trunk full of teenaged boy things, he carried my heart and prayers with him.

He left, knowing God already.

But the truth is, even those of us who know God sometimes need to know Him, differently – a work, not new to God, but new in a freshly vulnerable heart.

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?”  {Is.43:19}

And I know…that this is something I need, too – a fresh work, a new look, a remembering of Him.

Because He is so much more than the God I read about on paper.

Today, may He show all of us just how much more… as this becomes our prayer.

God, come off the paper.

Challenge, wreck, show that you are real.

Break away the perceptions of You and be so much more.

May every sense become heightened by Your greatness,

Every conviction be stirred,

Every belief be strengthened,

Every fear be given over,

Every sin be confessed and doubt fade away.

Be bigger than I know, lovelier than I see, sweeter than I remember.

Do something new.

Amen.

It’s almost here!

Occupying my thoughts this morning (and most days, lately) is our upcoming 2nd annual Breath of Heaven Conferences for Women. It is a wonderful conference that God placed heavy on my heart to help establish in 2004, and in 2006 we had our first conference in late March. It was a beautiful conference, with the Holy Spirit of God showing up in a massive way. Priscilla Shirer was one of the featured guests in ’06, and her message on prayer touched my heart in ways I didn’t think existed. (Like many of you, this p.k. “vet” has heard a lot of sermons on prayer through the years!) But God’s message, through Priscilla, was incredible beyond words!

For months, I have been earnestly praying for this year’s conference and asking God for a repeat of 2006! At the ’06 conference, I witnessed the difference between a really neat event and an event where the spirit of God shows up and takes over…and I want the latter to happen again this year. I believe that whether or not that happens hinges on one thing: prayer.

So…I’m asking for yours.

If you would, please pray with me about these specific things…

1) For the Spirit to show up and move among us, changing our hearts. That has to happen in order for the conference to go from a “cool” event to a supernatural work of God.

2) For women TO come and the women WHO come. We anticipate around 1,200 women to be in attendance, and some are coming as far as California.

3) For the featured guests (speakers, worship leaders, leadership team) to be in right spirit and fully empowered by God to do His work.

4) For me…with a varied role that goes from overseer, emcee and session leader, I need God’s strength and wisdom to do my job. The flesh side of me wants to do it well, but I also want to do well so that I am not a distraction to anyone but a minister of God’s message to these women.

The theme of our conference is found in Job 33:4, where it says, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” For those of us who He has given life to for the 2nd time around, we know about that BREATH from God!

I covet your prayers during this busy and hectic time leading up to the conference, and for the October 5th & 6th conference, itself. To read more about the conference go to http://www.bohconference.com/ or go to my website at https://www.lisawhittle.com/ and click on the link.

May God breathe down on us! Less than two weeks and counting!

Lisa