The Beauty of Community

church is peopleA single mom rested her head against the door jam, not knowing what her next step should be. The fridge was empty; the cabinets were bare. The last bite of bread was almost gone and her and her little boy would soon be hungry. She breathed a quick prayer and headed out to church, not knowing how they would survive through the week.

Church is not a place; church is people.

The tiny community church she attended contained a handful of faithful women and from the moment this single mama stepped foot inside the door of the church, she knew that she was loved and accepted. While the loving atmosphere of the church gave her a sense of community, she did not feel capable of admitting her shortcomings to the group. She had learned to pray in this very space and now her faith in the Lord to provide would have to be enough.

Where two or three are gathered…

One of the women in this church was gifted with an uncanny sense of knowing when others were in need. Perhaps it was her own upbringing of living with next to nothing or maybe it was her spiritual calling, either way, her spirit sensed that the single mama’s heart was burdened. This same sensitivity also provided her with the knowledge that the single mama just might be embarrassed to be approached about her needs; she didn’t seem ready to fully open her hurting heart. So the wise woman smiled and gave her a shoulder hug, wishing her a wonderful week.

Loving others sometimes requires giving them time to heal.

But the next day, the faithful leader headed to the grocery store. With 9 children of her own, the woman knew how to make money stretch to feed a family. So after her weekly shopping was completed, she took a portion of her grocery budget and bought groceries for the little family of two- the single mama and her sweet boy. Then after unloading her own family’s groceries, she headed towards the tiny apartment of the single mom where she piled everything on the porch, rang the doorbell, and left as quickly as she could.

The Lord rewards the secret work.

Decades later, the wise mentor became ill. The single mom had an opportunity to chat with her one day. She learned that the dear lady had one fear:  “Who will pray for my children if something happens to me?” And the single mama vowed that day that she would be the one to pray for the 9 children. By name.  Every day.  The wise woman went to be with Jesus not too many years later and the single mama moved to another state.

Each time I reflect on this story, I’m overcome with the beauty-the beauty of community in a tapestry of lives God so graciously weaves. The beauty He creates when two women choose to take everyday moments and act in His love.

Thank you, Bonnie, for praying for me- one of those 9 children- every day.

Rachel

Check out this simple jelly bean Easter poem to share the love of Jesus with your community.

When Silence is Not Golden

Silence

I remember the first time I heard Mary’s story.
I had a knot in my stomach and angry, hot tears streamed down my face.
I couldn’t believe that someone could hurt a child like that.
And that others knew but did nothing to protect her.

I’d rather not talk about it–
sexual abuse.

I’d rather not know that according to CDC statistics:
–Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men report experiencing rape.
–A 2011 survey of high school students found that 11.8% of girls and 4.5% of boys reported being sexual abused.

Or that according to the National Center for Victims of Crimes:
–1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
–Children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.

Sexual abuse is not something I have experienced first hand, but statistically many of you reading this have.
Many.
And many of you who have shared your story (or not) have been met with silence.
And silence has a way of speaking volumes.

As a former English teacher, I love words.
Words create and convey and communicate meaning beyond their literality.

For instance, when someone asks me where “Lydia’s real mom lives?”
The question has adoption-parent-child-relationship-implications, that communicate much more than just a simple question of location.
I am her real mom.

An empty, silent crib shouts painful echoes of heartache.
A frozen “I’m sorry” has the potential to thaw the marriage battle. Or not.

Word choice is important. But so are pauses. So is silence.

Because silence is not always golden.

“If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would’ve lived in the land of silence.” ~Psalm 94:17

And so we tell our children, over and over…
If you hear someone being hurtful to someone else, it is your responsibility to stick up for the wounded, to encourage, to come along side–

Because silence has the power to unintentionally condone cruelty.

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know…” ~William Wilberforce

I just recently finished reading Mary Demuth’s new book, Not Marked.
I read it because I care about Mary, because I want to understand as best I can how to support the friends I have who were sexually abused, and also because I want to prevent our children from experiencing that same kind of pain.

As a mama, I so appreciated Mary’s wisdom about ways to protect our children from sexual abuse because as she states, “every crime needs these two elements.  A perpetrator has to want to abuse, and there needs to be a victim in proximity” (Not Marked  pg. 223).

She goes on to share several suggestions that may help parents protect their children, “while still letting them be children” (pg. 226).

#1) Know Your Child–

“The best defense in protecting your kids is knowing them well.  Know their nuances; become a student of their behavior…If your child has a sudden shift in behavior, take it seriously” (pgs. 226-227).
Mary goes on to list many common symptoms of sexual abuse that a parent should take note of.

#2) Be Vigilant But Not Immobilized–

“Be cautious about adults seeking alone time with your child.  Watch your children and who they hang out with…Remember that abusers seldom look like criminals…(but) don’t become so immobilized that you never let your kids be kids.  You don’t want to raise fear-based kids (pgs. 227-228).

#3) Teach Your Kids About Sex–

” …you’ll need to talk about sex with your kids at an early age– in an age appropriate manner…The more comfortable you are talking about it, the more comfortable your kids will be in bringing you any concerns” (pgs. 228-229).

#4) Entrust Your Kids To Jesus–

“Although I have warned (my kids) about stranger danger and how to flee, and we’ve talked about inappropriate touch, I have also learned to entrust my kids to Jesus…We can lean toward controlling our kids, micromanaging their worlds.  While we should protect our kids, we’re also role models, demonstrating a life lived in adventure, not fear” (pgs. 229-230).

#5) Our Greatest Gift–

“The greatest gift we can give our kids is our relationship with Jesus, modeling to them what we do when we’re injured or hurt.  Our own willingness to run to Him with our pain will show our kids how to work through their own difficulties as they grow up.  Contagious family life is not about appearing perfect,…It’s about a bunch of messy people living together, broken, but running to Jesus to find help” (pg. 231).

As we read these words and consider this heartache…

Some of us are processing as parents wanting to protect children.
Or friends wanting to come alongside those we care about.
Or spouses who daily watch a loved one struggle through the aftermath of sexual abuse.
But many reading right now, have experienced these wounds personally.

If you are reading this today, a victim of sexual abuse, my heart breaks over your pain and heartache.
I am so sorry.

I’d like to share with you Mary’s Prayer for a Sexual Abuse Victim.
And if we can pray for you today, we’d like to do that.

We’d also like to share 3 copies of Not Marked with our readers.
We are praying this book can be a source of encouragement and hope.
In it, Mary doesn’t gloss over the pain and struggle, she doesn’t minimize the heartache, but she offers real suggestions (not platitudes) for healing and progress and she proclaims the freedom of living– not marked, but with true hope.

“For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” ~Eph. 2:10 NLT

With Love,
Kara @ The Chuppies

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Do I Love My Kids More Than I Love Jesus?

via Worth James Goddard on flickr

via Worth James Goddard on flickr

A tiny casket lowered into the sullen dirt and the sky, swollen with grief.

The parents stood to the side, watching their baby girl being buried in a box and my scarf was soaked with tears. I kept stealing glances at my friend, wondering how she was still standing. Wondering how to comfort her, because there is no comfort any human can offer for the loss of a child.

I still have their daughter’s picture on my fridge and I tear up when I look at her delicate face, this baby born with a rare genetic disease to a couple that tried eight years for a child.

“If it has to be something, give me cancer or let me lose my house but please don’t take my kids,” I pray at night. “Please God, don’t make me go through that–”

Getting pregnant was hard for us too. We were told we would probably never have children because of my anorexia, and then a pastor prayed over us on national television for a son within the year–and we conceived a son within the year. And now we have two boys.

But I’ve also lost two babies, while they were in the womb, and it’s near-wrecked me. Those miscarriages bore stillborn faith and for awhile it was all I could do to just keep going.

I didn’t know, before having kids, the agony of giving birth to your heart and not being able to protect it.

via ILinca Vânău

via ILinca Vânău

The excruciating pain of sending your vulnerable little heart–with his puppy-dog backpack–into a world full of sin.

And the truth is? I don’t know if I love Jesus more than I love my children.

I don’t know if I love Jesus enough to say, “Anything Lord–whatever your plan is, whatever it is you want to use my children for, whatever your will is for this family–please do it.”

I’ve heard of parents giving God the glory when their children die and I want to be that person and yet–I also believe in grief, because what is the resurrection without death? And what is praise without sorrow? Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

Some things in life are just really, really hard. And we’re not supposed to be able to comprehend the pain of losing our children–it’s supposed to be heart-wrenching, because otherwise God sacrificing his own son wouldn’t mean much.

I recently returned from Uganda and Rwanda, where I met women who’d lost multiple children, and I met children who’d lost their mothers and fathers, and death was a reality for everyone there.

But God was a greater reality.

He rose off the face of every person I met, he rose triumphant and joyful, he rose with the promise of an eternity filled with life.

Jesus says to love him more than we love our sons and daughters.

Jesus says a lot of hard things and I’m a sinner saved by grace and it’s all I can do some days to repent. But I want to want to love him more than anything in this world. I want God to be a greater reality for me than death.

via Irena Selaković

via Irena Selaković

And I know that I don’t serve a heartless savior. When I commit my children to him in prayer while seated at the scratched wooden kitchen table, my sons watching Thomas the Train in the background, I don’t commit them to just anyone. I commit them to their Maker.

And when I pray that Jesus would be glorified both in my family’s living and dying, I know God weeps–not only out of joy for the surrender of our hearts, but out of pain–knowing how hard it is to give up a child.

“I just wish I could be there to show her around heaven,” my friend said to me following the funeral of her baby girl, her eyes blurry with tears. “It’s such a big place–I just worry she’ll get lost.”

Oh friends, these mother hearts–they’re meant to ache with the thought of loss.

But this earth, is but a glance, and then, we have forever to spend with Christ and our children. Hallelujah.

Blessings,

Emily Wierenga

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My son, be attentive to my words…(and a free printable)

I’m kind of crazy about praying straight from the Word of God.

Most of the time, when you visit my home, you’ll find any number of sticky notes, printables, or framed prayers, in nearly every room of the house.

There’s one small, yellow, sticky note that’s been on my husband’s closet door for close to six years now. There’s another sticky note on my bathroom mirror, a framed piece that’s my prayer verse for 2014 hanging right outside my boys’ room, and my prayer calendar for my boys hanging beside my desk in the homeschool room.

I’ve taken the directive from Deuteronomy 6:9 seriously, and I wouldn’t have it any other way…Working toward a culture of prayer in my home—to raise boys who don’t know anything other than asking God for everything they need (<<—Tweet that!)

I'm working toward a culture of prayer in my home—to raise boys who don't know anything other than asking God for everything they need.

It’s taken some time, but my sons are starting to get it. For example, just the other day, I dropped a cutting board on my toe. A heavy one. Pointy side down. On my toe.

I spent two hours just trying not to be physically sick from the pain. It was all I could do to get lunch on the table and sit down…head between my hands, glasses thrown on the table, toe throbbing so hard I didn’t know if I’d be able to eat.

He started to sing the Johnny Appleseed song.

We do sometimes, when we want to be silly, or sing instead of speak our prayers. He loves to make up alternate endings to it (“the sun, and the rain, and the appleseed, the Lord’s been good to me…and my pinto beans…”). But instead of finishing the whole song, he sang the first few words (O, the Lord’s been good to me…”), stopped, got all serious, and totally changed the direction of his prayer…

“Jesus, please help mama not to be sick. Heal her toe. Amen.”

And even though I could barely speak from the pain, my heart melted right there at the table, because my little boy’s heart was soft enough to know that mama needed Jesus to help her. Maybe it’s because he hears me crying out to Jesus nearly every day. Maybe it’s because he sees so many of my prayers hanging around the house. Or maybe it’s because God’s working in his heart.

But I know this…

It means he’s listening. Seeing. Taking it to heart.

Would you take the challenge to create a culture of prayer in your home? If so, pray with me:

Lord, thank you in advance for changing me and growing me in my faith so I can create a culture of prayer in our home. Teach me how, and make these seeds of faith grow long and strong in my family’s heart. Help me lead the charge. In Jesus Name. 

Take some practical steps toward your new goal…

1. Set your watch, or the alarm on your phone to begin a habit of praying on the hours. This will go a long way toward helping you remember that you have access to God in the moments of your day.

2. To get yourself even more in the habit of prayer, take the Praying for Boys 5-day prayer challenge.

3. Print out the free graphic below, and hang it in your boys’ room, or in a place where you frequently pray. Make it a habit to pray the verses from Proverbs 4:20-27 every day.

A free download of Proverbs 4:20-27. Perfect for the mom of boys.

 Brooke McGlothlin is co-founder of the MOB Society, where mothers of boys find delight in the chaos of raising boys. Be sure to check out Brooke’s new book, Praying for Boys: Asking God for the Things They Need Most.

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