I am a Shalom Sista

I’ve been thinking about the concept of peace for a long time.

In my family, peace was the absence of conflict, something you kept by not arguing, not rocking the boat.

In the Christian environment I was born into in college, peace was this magical quality that helped you make decisions. “I had a peace about it.”

Lovely, except that “not rocking the boat” can lead to enabling unhealthiness, and create more relational strain than an honest approach.

And for me, decision making is inherently un-peaceful. I literally have NEVER “had a peace” about a decision before it is made, because I fear making wrong decisions.

Thankfully, at some point in my twenties, I heard one of my favorite Bible teachers explain peace as the product of trust in God and submission to the Prince of Peace. “AHA!” I thought, “Finally, a peace that seems healthy and attainable for me.” And I still think true peace in my spirit comes first and foremost when I am trusting God and surrendered to His goodness, regardless of my circumstances.

But that definition of peace is limited to my own experience – I can trust and surrender to God’s goodness myself, but I can’t force it on others.  And as I continued to study my Bible, particularly the Psalms and New Testament Kingdom theology, I increasingly felt the need for a broader definition. A peace we can live out of, but also into.

I found it when I learned the concept of Shalom. The word translated peace in our English Old Testaments means wellness, completeness, safety, flourishing. 

This is what God is doing in our hearts and in the world, bringing Shalom. And this is what God is inviting us to join Him in: experiencing His shalom and carrying shalom into the world.

Continue reading

You are Invited.

As a young believer learning to share her God story, I was taught to describe the process of entering relationship with God as “inviting Jesus into my life.”

As a more mature believer teaching Sunday School and VBS, I’ve used the words, “Ask Jesus into your heart.”

Over these years of wanting more of God, asking Him to break out of what I think of Him and show me where my God view doesn’t match up with who He is in the Bible and reality, I’ve moved away from talking about relationship with God in this way.

I’m not sure I have a great suggestion for replacement words, but I have enough of an issue with the concept of inviting Jesus into my life/heart that I won’t use this wording with my own kids.

Because “I invited Jesus into my life” makes it sound like I initiated the relationship. It can fool me into thinking I made the first move. And however you want to describe the beginning of your relationship with Jesus, God went first.

We see this throughout the pages of Scripture: In the beginning, God… (Genesis 1:1)

This is the story for countless Old Testament Hebrews, some God-seekers like Abraham and Job, others running from God like Jonah and Jacob. Their stories begin  “Now the Lord said to Abram…” And “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah…”

It is no different in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, where fishermen and tax collectors are minding their own business, doing their day jobs, and Jesus walks up and says, “Follow Me.”

I’m studying the story of Levi/Matthew’s calling this week, and I’ve been captivated by the first line:

After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” Luke 5:27

He noticed a tax collector named Levi…

I spent years of my single life hoping to be noticed, longing to be chosen. I spend many of my hidden days, those family days no one sees, still longing to be noticed, wondering if what I do matters.

What does it mean to you that Jesus notices?

He noticed a tax collector named Levi…and He said to Him, ‘Follow Me.'”

The Message paraphrases “follow Me” as “Come along with Me.” Jesus’ notice is not limited to the Spiritual Elite. His attention is not reserved for those who’ve proven themselves, earned His favor.

Jesus’ invitation to live life with Him is given here to the tax collector. The rejected, the despised, the not-good-enough. The outsider.

What does it mean to you that Jesus’ notice of you is not something to be afraid of? That He’s not going to notice you and then find you not good enough?

Levi responds to Jesus’ invitation with a big YES: He walks away from his dishonest livelihood, his identity and his shame, and goes where Jesus goes.

And then Levi throws a big party for Jesus, and invites all his tax collector friends.

This is what we church people want from new believers, right? This is the perfect success story, something we could show  and celebrate on a Sunday morning video, a sinner who walks away from his sin, and introduces Jesus to all of His friends.

For all our strategies and programs, this process is usually a lot longer. It can take new believers years to turn away from their livelihood, identity and shame. And it can take even longer years before people learn (usually through some sort of “training”) how to share Jesus with their friends.

Maybe times have just changed. Maybe that’s just life, and it takes longer sometimes, and that is fine.

Or maybe it takes longer because we see ourselves as the ones inviting Jesus.

We don’t see Him noticing us. Choosing us. Welcoming us even as He knows our sin and shame. Inviting us into life with Him not in spite of these things, but because of His great love.

What does it mean to you that Jesus invites you, just as He invited Levi?

Does it change how you think of God to realize that He initiated relationship with you, that He always goes first?

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world… Ephesians 1:4

You Are Invited IG

 

Talking to kids about their bodies and S-E-X: RESOURCES

As a follow up to my post Thursday about talking to our kids about sex and their bodies, today I’m sharing a podcast and 2 great books that have been super helpful in teaching our kids about sex and their bodies.

Resources for Talking to Kids about Sex

Continue reading

Talking to kids about their bodies and S-E-X

Parenting is a learn-on-the-job adventure, never more so than in figuring out how to talk to your kids about their bodies and sex.

Like nearly every girl of my generation, I was handed a book about sex (probably something terrifying like “Growing Up Is Beautiful”) and taught myself how to use tampons by reading the Kotex box. My sweet Mama did better than her own parents, she had no idea what was happening when she started her period and thought she was dying.

So here I am trying to raise healthy kids – boys! – wanting to do a good job teaching my kids about their bodies and sexuality, wanting openness and to avoid shame. Wanting them to be ready for this age of sexualized rice-a-roni commercials and p0rnography that is available 24-7 at the click of a button.

If we ever get to know if we’ve succeeded in this area, it won’t be until they are older, but we’re trying hard to be proactive in this area. We’ve made a few decisions and found a few resources that have been super helpful. Continue reading

On Knowing When to Speak and When to Be Silent

I have a voice.

Sometimes it can be loud, and I hate being shushed. My voice is one of the things that makes me feel like I am too much for people. Being loud makes me feel like I’m not feminine or soft or “Christian womanly” enough.

I have a voice.

Because of my life, job, different opportunities and even my (sometimes too loud for people) personality, people listen to me.

I have a voice, and I am not afraid to use it.

I want to speak up for the oppressed. I want to draw out the silenced. I want to encourage the discouraged, speak truth into lies, speak life and value over myself, my family, those close to me, and anyone who crosses my path.

I have a voice.

But sometimes I feel silenced. It can feel like a woman has to speak louder than is socially acceptable in order to be heard, and I don’t want to be “that woman.” It feels like my little words have no impact on the lies and fighting and noise in the world. Even in prayer, it can feel like what I want, what I’m asking God to do in my life and in this hurting and broken world, are just words thrown to the wind.

Faith is a necessary element to Christianity. But faith in what? I want to grow in faith that God hears me.

And as I grow in certainty that He hears me, I want to grow in claiming Him as my first audience. I want to go first  to Him with my fears, concerns, joys, and worries. Before I let something rattle around in my head for days and weeks, before I pour out complaints and fears to a friend, before I share a praise or celebration online, I want God to hear my voice.

Give ear to my words, O LordConsider my groaning.
Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray.
In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.

Psalm 5: 1-3 (NASB)

In a world that is loud, how do we practice silence? How do we avoid contributing to the noise and strife and outrage-fueled peaceless-ness?

In a world that silences us, how do we learn to speak up? To claim our right to consent, own our own preferences, opinions, feelings? How do we claim our right to speak in a world that doesn’t want to hear our voice?

Perhaps this is a purpose for prayer, a reason why we pray.

Not to get what we want, not for answers, but to teach us.

Perhaps prayer is a place where we can practice believing we are heard.

Perhaps if I submit my voice to God first, I will gain confidence in being heard, valued, loved by my heavenly Father.

And perhaps then I will learn when to speak, and when to be silent.

I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

Psalm 116:1-2 (NASB)

When to Speak, When to be Silent quote (1)

Photo in my images is by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

What I wish I’d known about being a Stay-at-Home-Mom

This September I begin my third year sending my kids off to school as I head to work. It was both scary and liberating to enter the work force again, to receive a paycheck (be it ever so small), to feel officially and legally employed after years of working hard for free.

I don’t really miss being home with young kids all day, but I do miss that season of life. And like so many seasons, I feel like I was just really learning how to survive Stay-At-Home-Mom-hood as I left it behind.

Here are 4 things I wished I’d known about being a Stay-at-Home-Mom (or at least learned more quickly, and remembered more readily): Continue reading

The Journey from People-pleasing to God-pleasing (a review of UNSEEN: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to Be Noticed, by Sara Hagerty)

My whole life I’ve cared more about what people think of me than is healthy or helpful. Image management has been my mode as long as I can remember, and I have a pattern of caring more about reputation than I do about reality. In my first days learning to follow Jesus I began to realize how this focus on externals and others’ opinions can infect my faith just as it infects every other relationship and activity.

I write about Jesus, I teach people about Jesus, it is my job to talk to college women about Jesus, weekly and even daily. In these things, I have to keep vigilant watch over my tendency to care more about the outside than the inside. I am called to live my faith out in the open where people can see and invite others to join me, but I need to be very careful that I’m actually living my life with Jesus rather than just talking about Him.

If my first priority is what I can see, what others can see and comment on and measure, I easily lose sight of the things that last, the things that matter, the things God cares about most. I easily lose sight of my heart, which only God truly sees and knows. Matthew 6 teaches me that if my audience is the world, then the praise of the world is the most I’ll ever get. But if God is my first audience, then I get His reward, His notice, His praise.

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding… Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. Matthew 6:1, 6 (The Message)

I have grown hungry to protect out part of my relationship with Jesus for just me and Him. And I’ve prayed and thought and worked to focus and prioritize and value the things I can’t see over what I can see, touch and measure (hence the name of my blog.)

Over the last year in particular I’ve been seeking hidden places, asking God to meet me in ways I don’t share, that aren’t for public consumption.

Imagine my joy when I learned that one of my favorite writers, a fellow blogger and adoptive parent who has consistently pointed me to Jesus, had a new book coming out called, UNSEEN: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed. Continue reading

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for India

I traveled home from India by myself, needing a few extra days before the boys started school.

I have always loved traveling by myself, finding that I hear from the Lord and am able to process in a deeper way while traveling. Also, I love airports. And as any parent knows, after traveling with kids flying solo feels like a dang vacation.

My flight was at 3:30 AM on a Friday morning. I spent Thursday saying goodbye to dear friends in India, giving and receiving gifts, and having last sweet moments with our group of college students. I thought when they left our hotel room at 11 that I was seeing them for the last time. But as I arrived downstairs, I saw big grins on the faces of all the hotel staff and found our whole team waiting to sing me a song and say one last goodbye.

Matt and our friend Abhik dropped me off at the airport at 1AM. I breezed through check in and security, since hardly anyone else was there besides a sweet family who were also traveling through Qatar to Chicago (on their way to Seattle, so they had a longer trip ahead of them: small children.)

That left me with a couple of hours to kill in the Kolkata airport. Knowing I needed to stay awake, and wanting to take the time to think and process over the past 3 weeks, I opened my journal and thought through all that I’d learned and seen in the 3 cities I’d visited. The universities, slums, gardens, rock quarries, malls, the wide variety of places we visited. I wrote about the friends I made, the welcome I received, the things I’d learned. I wrote about the weather and the food and the beautiful people of Kolkata, where we spent the bulk of our time.

Then I thought back to our first days, with the Hope Venture. I thought about what it meant to me, returning to a place of privilege and comfort, after seeing such sorrow and hardship, but also hope and help. I thought about the precious Indian friends I made who do not turn their eyes away from the hurting and broken in their neighborhoods and city. And I asked myself what I could do in my own neighborhood and city for the hurting and broken.

Here is the prayer I wrote that morning. Continue reading

A Story of India: Finding Jesus at the Home of Hope

We spent our first week in India with a team from an amazing organization called The Hope Venture. After praying for and supporting The Hope Venture’s humanitarian work for years, it was amazing to be able to see several projects up close and personal.

We got to meet kids who are able to go to school because of the supplies they receive through the Back Pack Program: It is AMAZING to see what a difference this program makes, especially knowing it is entirely funded by $10 dollar donations!

We visited a vocational training center, where precious women come daily for courses teaching them to sew. This allows them to sew for their children (fabric is much more affordable than finished clothing), as well as eventually sewing for others and helping to provide for and support their families.

Rock Quarry outside of Bangalore, India. People live and work here for next to nothing.

A highlight of our time was visiting a feeding center at a rock quarry. This was one of the bleakest places I have ever been, I can not imagine having a quarry be my workplace and home.

When the Hope Venture partners who run the feeding center arrived, we saw children, faces lit with joy, streaming in from every direction. We participated in the program for the evening (character-based stories and singing), helped to feed the children, and every one of us left a large chunk of our hearts.

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But the memory I’ll carry with me from my time in India until I die was at the Home of Hope. Here’s how The Hope Venture describes this beautiful, heart wrenching place:

Imagine walking or driving through the streets of your neighborhood and seeing hundreds of destitute people abandoned on the streets left to die. Raja, a rickshaw driver, decided that he could no longer sit by and watch these people suffer. He had to do something to help them. He began bringing them into his home. He started to mend their wounds, clean their forsaken bodies, and give them their dignity and hope back.

But he needed a place for those he was rescuing and so he began the Home of Hope in Bangaluru, India. The Hope Venture is proud to partner with this trusted man in any way we can. We want to help those that are suffering reclaim dignity and honor. (www.thehopeventure.org/project/home-of-hope)

Of all the things we expected to do and see in India, the Home of Hope made me the most nervous. I am not afraid of much, I can talk to anyone, and I have seen darkness and poverty, but y’all? There is a reason I am not a doctor or nurse. Just being a mom comes with more physical wounds and body fluids than I can handle sometimes. And I have a front row seat to lots of mental health issues, but I have no experience at all with the kind of mental illness that lands people vulnerable and alone on the streets. I’d been asking God to really let me see people, to not turn away, to break my heart for what breaks His. But I was SCARED. Continue reading

6 Things I Learned from India

Last month I had the privilege and blessing to spend 3 weeks in India with Matt and 8 college students. We visited 3 cities, met hundreds of beautiful people, ate some of the best (and spiciest) food I have ever tasted, and experienced more life in 3 weeks than I could have dreamed. I loved the portions of India I got to see and experience (there is SO MUCH MORE.)

I love India’s beautiful people, especially their smiles, eyes full of joy.

I love the unity in diversity: everything is recognizably Indian, yet each person you meet has vastly different beliefs, thoughts, and stories.

I love that everything in India is turned up a notch: You like people? 1000s of people! You like bright colors? Everyone you meet is swathed in colorful array! You like spicy food? Here it is so hot you will breath fire!

I loved the hospitality we experienced: Welcomed and warmly greeted everywhere we went. We had tea in the home of the director of a company we toured, and when we were finished we tried to take our cups into the kitchen. This CEO literally RAN at us to gather up all the cups he could carry, insisting we sit down and make ourselves comfortable.

I loved meeting people of many different faiths. And I loved seeing my own faith beautifully lived out so far from where I have experienced it, in such a different context but the SAME Jesus.

Often when people travel, they say they were changed, and India for sure changed each of us. But what does that really mean? HOW did India change me? Continue reading