On Cyber Monday, I posted a picture on Instagram of a few of the Gifts of Hope merchandise I was considering buying. They were having a sale that day only, 25% off. We have given Gifts of Hope before, for those in need to receive. Last year we bought chickens, rabbits, a bicycle, a well, and more, but never purchased the “merchandise”. I knew I wanted to buy something because every purchase directly supports the livelihood of the craftsman who made the gift, and I wanted to tell you about it. I couldn’t tell you to buy something I’ve never bought myself, now could I?
“Each gift is meticulously handcrafted by an individual who depends on its sale for survival. In fact, they’re more than just gifts, they’re livelihoods. For every purchase, a family is fed, school fees are paid, shores are bought and so much more.” — World Help
I don’t need a better reason to make a purchase. It’s no secret that I love World Help and believe they are doing an extraordinary work giving hope and help around the world. I’ve seen first hand, the lives that have been transformed. But, let’s be honest. I wasn’t sure about the quality of the products I would receive. I like to touch and feel before I buy anything, and of course I couldn’t. I decided to order the Rwandan bracelet, and the Rwandan messenger bag. I received the box from World Help in the mail, and wasn’t sure what it was. It came so much quicker than I expected. I opened the shipping package and pulled out a box so simply and excellently wrapped in a raffia bow. I then realized what it was.
If there is a gift to be opened, the toddler will be the first to volunteer. Seeing her unwrap it, almost made me cry. Yes, I can be that sensitive. What moved me was what the box contained and what it meant for the craftsman who created its contents. Emmanuel Ndahayo sewed the messenger bag I received. He and his sister live in Africa, were both orphaned, and struggled for years to survive. Emmanuel, now 28, recently completed a tailoring degree that has given him a stable source of income. Though he once feared lack, now he has hope and confidence he can provide for his own children.
World Help has tailoring programs in Africa, and their purpose is to empower individuals, and give them a chance to grow and learn to allow them to use their talent to help sustain their lives. And if I can play a small part in it by not only purchasing items, but telling you about them so you have the opportunity, too, then I will. And I don’t know why I doubted. I’ve never seen anything World Help has done, done less than excellent. The packaging and the products I received were no different; the bag is made of bright colorful fabric of good quality, and the bracelet, which is the white one pictured above, is beautiful and sturdy. I look forward to buying more products as gifts.
“Each purchase creates opportunity, cultivates potential, and restores dignity.”
They truly are Gifts of Hope.
Regret can debilitate us more than fear.
Thinking about the past and what could’ve, should’ve, or would’ve been drains our hope for our future. When we blame ourselves for loss we’ve experienced, and dwell on how different things would be and how much more we would have “If only…” we bring shame upon ourselves.
Our adversary is a “kick-you-while-you’re-down” kind of enemy. But God is NOT a “make-your-bed-now-lie-in-it” kind of Father. He is our Advocate, and promises He will cause, “all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose,” even our own mistakes. (Romans 8:28)
On an especially difficult day filled with despair, when feelings of failure began to overpower, God spoke these words strong into my heart.
If you are looking into your past for any other reason than to learn from your mistakes or re-count the faithfulness of God, then you are headed down a road that has depression and regret written all over it.
Be careful when you are retrospective — don’t stay there too long. Take what you can use that gives life, that’s worthy of praise, that gives God glory, that doesn’t weigh you down, but impels you and compels you further into your purpose.
Leave the rest, and lay aside every unnecessary weight.
There is a reason the past is behind you, and the race is before you. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher, the Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith. Run after Him. God’s calling you. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
The past cannot be changed or undone, but God will heal, redeem, and restore.
And if we should strive to seek answers, let our striving be to seek the answers in God.
In Christ we find purpose for the pain, strength for struggle, and faith for the fight.
Though we fall, let’s not dwell on the mistakes we’ve made, but what He’s done to redeem us from them.
Though we are at fault, let’s not dwell on our wrongdoing, but what He has done to make us righteous.
Though we are weak, let’s not dwell on our frailty, but His strength made perfect in it.
Though we lack, let’s not dwell on our inadequacy, but His adequacy.
Though we are flawed, let’s not dwell on being perfect, but allow Him to perfect us.
Though we fail, let’s not dwell on what we failed to accomplish, but His accomplishment on the cross, and that He meant it when He declared, “It is finished.”
Though our past is filled with brokenness, it’s not about the broken pieces, but that Jesus makes us whole.
It’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance and His blood cleanses us of all sin.
His grace abounds, and His love covers a multitude of sin.
“…I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10-14 CEB)
Thanksgiving Day, after we ate and had a short story-time and devotion, I wanted a family photo. Just one good one. Sounds easy, right? My ideas seem so much better in my head. I heard a couple of moans and groans, “Can we finally go now?” The kiddos were anxious to leave for a visit with extended family for dessert.
We had our two live Christmas trees outside, letting the branches fall out before we brought them in. So, I thought they would make a good back-drop. The sun was setting, and the lighting was a bit challenging. It took me a while to get the settings right on the camera, and the camera positioned correctly on the tripod.
My husband came out in almost the same outfit I was wearing. “Oh, no!” I exclaimed. “No matchy-matchy. Please change.” He protested, but still changed for me. He’s a good man, but this was NOT a good start.
Meanwhile, I’m testing the settings on the camera, with a beautiful, but less than thrilled subject, and my boy is whirling around us on his four wheeler.
It took a little while, but my husband finally came out after changing. We tried a few family shots together. I’d set the self-timer and squeeze in to my spot, each time telling everyone where to stand and what to do. A couple dozen photos and fake-smiles later, I wasn’t satisfied.
I decided to move the tripod, and shuffle my family to the other side of the trees. A few more shots later, and I didn’t have one photo I liked. I did have a grumpy family getting grumpier by the moment. Frustrated and frozen, they were ready to be done.
Finally, my eldest daughter said it, “This isn’t really us.” (Us trying to pose as a perfect model family for a photo.) “Our family is crazy. Let’s just do a fun one,” she urged.
I didn’t think of it until then, but I remembered the “interval timer shooting” setting on my camera, which works like a photo-booth would. So, I set the number of pictures to take, and the number of seconds between each one.
I’d press OK, run to my family, and we’d all strike a pose. That changed everything. Giving up on perfection, letting every one be themselves, and loosening control — let loose the joy. We had more fun that last five minutes than we had the whole day. We laughed, acted silly, made lots of kisses, the real smiles came, and we captured moments I will treasure.
Out of the mouth of one of my babes came the truth. We aren’t the perfect family. We are spicy, and crazy. We are loud. We aren’t the most disciplined bunch. We are late to church almost every Sunday — the family in the car almost always waiting on me. We play pranks, and make lots of messes. Well, I’m usually refereeing and cleaning the messes.
Even in prayer times. When we pray together in a family circle, it becomes some sort of crazy, comical event. Every. Time. But, I’ve felt God’s Presence the sweetest in those times. The Sadducees and Pharisees would be appalled. But Jesus? I can almost hear Him laughing, too. He loves the laughter and the rejoicing, even at prayer time. “Let them laugh. My people have forgotten how to laugh,” He’s whispered. “Laughter is a gift.”
And joy is strength.
This goal-oriented mama forgets that, a lot. Our family prayer-times turn laughter-sessions, when we have them, have done more to bond our family together than most anything else.
What I am still slow of learning is, I think I’m in control, but I’m not. My desire to control outcomes is wrapped up in a performance mentality and perfectionism. I have to let go — daily. Even though I worry that I’m getting it all wrong and ruining my children, the real problem is my pride, and wanting to show the world a model perfect family. It’s exhausting, really.
I wanted that perfect family picture to share, and was trying to put everyone in a little box, telling exactly what to wear, where to stand, and what to do. The result — a cold, miserable, and frustrated family with the pictures to prove it.
Then, Mama let go.
And we had a few minutes of crazy, silly, joy together. Not only did we make memories, but we captured them, too. I have more than one good family photo that’s getting hung up, and this mama is thankful.
Christ perfects us.
“It was a perfect sacrifice
by a Perfect Person
to perfect some
very imperfect people.”
Hebrews 10:14 MSG
P.S. Linking this post with my friend Crystal, today.
I know it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I started a series in October, and then just stopped. I have plenty of content in drafts, so it’s not that I didn’t have any ideas of what to write. Actually, I have more than enough to cross the 31-day finish line.
I don’t have one simple reason why I fell off the blogoshere. To be honest, I’ve not wanted to talk about it. Partly because of the lack of clarity of what I’ve been dealing with, and partly because I’ve felt so foolish. Things have just been hard. Don’t get me wrong. I have no justification to complain. I have a good life. I am blessed.
But sometimes we fight battles we cannot see, and ones we cannot explain.
And sometimes, we get tired of fighting, and rather escape. I think that’s been me. It’s been an intensely personal struggle. I know that most of the battle has been in my mind, or an incessant attack against it. I can’t explain it…soul chaos.
I’m not completely through whatever it’s been these last two months, but I’m moving forward anyway.
Sometimes, we have to make the decision to begin again, even when we don’t feel ready. If we wait for the perfect circumstance in order to start, we may never.
I hear God’s Spirit speaking, and He keeps saying, “Change your thoughts.” He’s such a good Counselor and Comforter, Teacher and Guide. He’s reminding me – as we think, so we are. It’s a sobering truth.
So, my prescription has been; input truth, read and hear the Word, read good books, listen to speakers, podcasts, and preachers. It’s raising me back up, friends.
I’ve journaled many of my struggles. Will I dare share? We shall see. Only if it might help you in your relationship with God, with those He’s given you to love, and with yourself.
And the Making of Home series? It will be intermittent this month, and will include Christmas, of course. It’s my favorite time of year, for so many beautiful reasons. There are a multitude of things I want to write about, and I think it may be an indefinite series on my blog.
For now, here’s a picture of my family. It was taken Thanksgiving Day. There’s a story with it — click here. Hope to see you around these parts. Merry Christmas!
I told the story of our home. The one about the small home we opted to build, though we had plans for a bigger one. Here, here, and here.
Reflecting on those memories, re-living the emotions I felt, imagining what could have been, might have been, and seeing my present reality has stirred up both negative and positive thoughts and feelings. I don’t settle into the negative. I have to be intentional about filling my mind and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. [Phil 4:8]
I have to work it at. I suppose we all do, but it seems like it comes more natural for some people.
I also tend to be very introspective and retrospective, and perhaps, to a fault.
I look back and see the road I’ve traveled that will forever be unchanged, and if I am not careful, suffocate with regret. I stand in my present place and purpose to seeking joy in the moments that just are. And I look ahead, mostly hopeful, sometimes paralyzed with fear, uncertain of the road that is still unclear, unseen, un-walked, un-lived.
I have more answers than I have questions.
There is no shortage of voices shouting claims, theories, philosophies, ideas.
But I need the right answers, for me, for us, in this season, now.
God’s been speaking strong to my heart, “Seek Wisdom.”
As I sit at the table at dinner, astonished at the disrespect I hear fall from freely the lips of my teenager, my soul hurts, my heart sinks heavy, and my mind wonders. It seems like I’ve tried everything. And I’m still making a home, and I still don’t know how.
And I hear it clear again, “Seek Wisdom.”
I’m lacking. I seek knowledge, there is no doubt. I am a student and a disciple, a reader and a learner. But, if God, by His Spirit, is leading me to seek wisdom — then I must be lacking. I am not even sure I understand what the difference between knowledge and wisdom is. But I know there is a distinction.
I can look up both words in the dictionary and find their meanings.
facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education
the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment
But to truly understand, I must find Wisdom.
Apply my whole-self in the quest for it.
Cry out for insight. Raise my voice for understanding.
Seek Wisdom as I would for silver.
Search for Wisdom as for hidden treasure.
When I do, I will find the knowledge of our All-Knowing God.
For it’s the Lord who gives Wisdom.
From His own mouth understanding.
And so in seeking Wisdom, I find Him,
where I still believe every answer is found.
Even in making of a home.
Especially in making of a home.
“Through skillful and godly Wisdom a house, a life, a home, a family is built, and by understanding it is established on a sound and good foundation…”
Proverbs 24:3 AMP
There may be a few of these real-time posts. You know, the ones where I tell you I didn’t get to write the post I wanted, and then I let you in on my world to tell, or actually show you why.
Remember the “ish” I added to the 31 for #31days?? Yes, well, that was for wiggle room. I had posts planned for Sunday, and today. But, my husband and son were away on a hunting trip all weekend. The last 3 days I spent entertaining our 3 year old. I’ve pretty much been her full time playmate. It’s amazing how much I rely on her siblings to play with her. And, when I might have had a chance, my 8th grader hijacked my computer for a science project, after I blow dried her hair.
And since it’s “Making of a Home: UNVEILED” there you have it.
I’m still learning to let go of lofty expectations of my I-can-do-it-all self, and release self imposed deadlines that stress me out, draw out my ugliness, and cause me to forget what’s most important. And not just in blogging, but in making a home, and in life.
I committed to this series, on the condition I didn’t turn it into a burden. I have to hold myself to it. Like when I told my husband last night when he finally made it home after being gone 3 days, “I’m not writing tonight. I’m hanging out with you.”
I get to make my own rules. It’s my blog. And it’s not that I don’t care about being consistent, or writing. It’s that I do. And that’s why there’s a tension in choosing in where I give my yes.
Choosing “yes” always means choosing “no” too. And where I decide to give my yes and no, also proves what’s most important to me. We all know, or at least should, where our time and money — that’s what matters most to us.
I’m not always so good at it, but I purpose to always answer the question, “Mom, will you play with me?” with a, “yes.” My toddler, well, she has more energy than the whole family combined. She’s adventurous. She’s courageous. She’s the Energizer Bunny. And she hates me on the computer, talking on the phone, doing laundry or dishes. Seriously. As much as I don’t like calling PBS to babysit, I sometimes have to. She doesn’t nap, but sleeps, and when she’s finally asleep, I’m pretty much ready to be, too.
Then of course, we have to eat. And everyone should be wearing a fresh pair of clean underwear — every day, right?
I get a lot of things wrong in this making of a home, endeavor.
But being “available” is what I want to get right. I want my husband and kids to be able to say, “She made herself available to us, even though there were other things she could have been doing. She made us priority, even when she was writing a 31 day series on her blog.”
I want that.
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