Waiting (the curse word)

I had a dream last night that we were chosen by a birth-mom and we were adopting a newborn little boy. It was incredibly real. Everyday things were in the dream, like how we found out about the birth-mom, how much money we have in our account and how much we needed, how we were going to get a home study expedited, health insurance concerns we are facing, even where our car seat was in storage and how we were going to tell our friends, family, and spread the word through FB and Twitter. It was as if, today, it were really happening.

When I woke up, for a minute, I thought, “Today we get to go to the hospital to get him!” I was overwhelmed with love for this little person.

And then I realized it was a dream and it wasn’t real. Or I guess I should say, I realized it isn’t real yet.

I am a person of action. Once I determine to do something, I do it. And waiting? Oh it’s like a curse word to me. Almost every day of my life I like to do something to move forward towards our dreams. And for some reason, in this area of adoption, we have not been able to move forward. And for the first part of our wait, that drove me crazy. I mean, CRAZY. And I, in turn, drove my husband crazy as I agonized over this.

I prayed and begged the Lord to help me wait. I was tired of trying to figure all of this out and plan when we would be able to move forward. I was exhausted. And for a while, I felt distant from the Lord over this. It was like this topic of adoption became the measuring rod for how I determined if God was good or not. And that was totally wrong. One day, the Holy Spirit convicted me about that. God is good and has a plan whether or not I get to experience adoption firsthand. His plans never fail – mine fail regularly.

And the day I was convicted about my wayward heart, I knew the Lord was telling me to trust Him, and trust Justin.

My husband is a wise man. He is measured. Steady. Consistent. What I say in 1000 words, he says in 5. And for a while, truly, I didn’t let him lead our home like I should have. And over and over, Justin was proved correct in his plans for our family and his decisions (and I was proved incorrect – and that was humbling for this proud girl of action).

So when it came to this adoption thing – for a long time I led. I gave him a “Holy Spirit guilt-trip” every opportunity I had. I showed him every sad picture of every orphanage the world over. Never mind that doors were slamming shut. Never mind that our circumstances were unstable (but for God). I was ready and if he was holy, he should be too. And the Lord convicted me of that. He told me to stand down. To let my husband lead. That when it was time, and when it was God, He would let Justin make the call that we should move forward. That God was going to speak to Justin and when and if He did – we’d be blessed with a child in this way.

So I’ve learned, falteringly, to wait, and at the same time I’ve learned to trust my husband and my Father more.

Today I cried as I told Justin about the dream. Before I told him, I had to confess to the Lord my desire to lay a “Holy Spirit guilt-trip” on him, and I had to carefully tell him as a wife tells her partner and protector, not as someone seeking to manipulate. And he was so kind and caring of my heart when he heard about it. He knows what I desire, and he desires it as well. It was good to tell him – for us to share those moments of waiting together and for me to realize again what I always seem to forget – this really isn’t about me.

I know that when the Lord leads, we’ll together locate the car seat out of storage, pick a name, and head to the hospital (or airport, or CPS office) to pick up the child the Lord has for us.

And until then, I’ll wait.

 

The Revolution of Motherhood

When I became a wife, I advanced as a person. I (slowly) began to consider another person’s feelings, I (slowly) began to realize that my way of thought and action was not always the perfect path, and I (slowly) grew into someone grateful for the protection and release of control that my husband brought into my life. Going from single to married was, and in fact still is, an experience of sanctification, where I am slowly transforming from sinful and selfish to graceful and considerate.

Becoming a mother, however, was a revolution for me. It wasn’t slow, in fact it was instantaneous. And the change in me can only be defined as “a sudden, radical, or complete change”. 2

I became, literally overnight, a creature that I myself didn’t recognize. I transformed from a very practical person into one who was often driven by sentiment. I was overwhelmed with the insecurity and enormity of parenthood. I remember being in the hospital with my oldest daughter Grace on her second day of life, looking at this beautiful frail little human reliant on me for survival, and feeling utterly incompetent for the task. I was humbled. Before I was a mom, I was convinced I would be great at it. Since becoming a mom, I am painfully aware of how far I have to go. I have cried many tears over my girls, begging God to make me more than I am for their sake. I want to be better for them. I want to be rid of the things in me that hurt them – the anger and selfishness and coldness to their needs that often stubbornly remains. I am changed. Even my body changed, from angular and thin to curvy with pounds I cannot seem to ever shed. I was shocked at the power, both during my pregnancies and immediately postpartum, of the hormones that rushed through my system. It was profound, definite, and sudden. I was altered by things completely out of my ability to control. I was vulnerable. My first daughter was sick through most of her first year of life with kidney and esophageal reflux, and I was acutely aware of how little I could do to control her health and welfare. I would pray over my girls’  beds as they went to sleep, begging the Lord to protect them and fight for them through the night. I so often felt powerless, but for God. It made me desperate for Him – fully aware of my dependence. As they grew older, I would watch them on a playground, praying to calm my anxious mother-heart, watching for slights or falls and telling myself the truth that letting go is good for me and them. I have had to learn to hold my children in an open hand and not a clenched fist – daily lessons in trusting my Father’s heart for them. Parts of me have died, replaced by stronger stuff. My friends laugh about even the small, silly ways I changed. I went from a fast, reckless driver to a hands-at-10-and-2, slow, deliberate driver and I went from a person impatient with silliness to regularly shopping on the Disney aisle of Target and actually enjoying it. It was revolutionary.

When we left the hospital with our first child, we were terrified. We had this little person in our backseat, and we didn’t feel up to the task. If the hospital would have allowed it, I would have loaded my nurse Diana into the backseat with me. I was frozen with fear that I could not do this without her. Driving home (so slowly and carefully that we laugh about it now), the world looked different to me. I kept staring around me in shock and exhaustion. Was I really that different? Why did everything look so weird? The actual road to our house looked different, and it took me a moment in my ‘new mother haze’ to realize what had happened.

Here in Texas, we have thousands of different variations of pear trees. And during the 4 days I was in the hospital, the pear trees that lined our street had gone from fully green to fully bloomed with white. It was beautiful, and completely unexpected. In the dark little cave of a hospital room where I met my daughter, I didn’t see the gradual but complete transformation. But it happened, and driving home I experienced it, and I cried because it seemed a metaphor for what I was feeling.

It was like the world was new, and I with it.

My girls’ birthdays are a day apart and this week, as they do every year on their birthdays, the pear trees have begun to bloom. Every year when I see them change I am moved – remembering the change in me now 5 years ago. I tell my girls that all of these trees are their trees – that they bloom on their birthday as a sign from God that they are loved and special. And I believe it is true, and that I share in that blessing. The girls even call the trees “Gracie and Bekah Trees” and they squeal in glee when they see them. And I’m touched by them too. Every year their bloom is like my own personal love-note from the Lord – a reminder that every little death in me is good and only serves to bring life because of our resurrection Savior.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and springs in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Becoming a mother was a revolution. It has been the most difficult, overwhelming, priceless, beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. I am forever altered by it. I am constantly reminded that in my weakness, He is strong. I know now that I need Jesus desperately, and I’m so grateful for that lesson of dependence.

I have loved being a mother. This week, as my girls turn five and three, and as the pear trees bloom transforming the world once again, I am grateful that I was chosen, incompetent as I might be, to be Grace and Rebekah’s mother, by a Father that does not leave us in our sin and selfishness, but transforms us into people of grace and holiness like His Son.

We are all being made new, friends, and that is revolutionary.

*I am always aware as I write a blog like this that many of my friends, despite a desire for marriage and children, have not yet been granted that desire. I pray nothing in this blog would discourage you. A friend once told me that she believed she had gotten married early because the Lord knew she needed the sanctification of marriage to grow. I thought that was a great perspective and that idea resonated. I am fully confident that the Lord who loves us is good, whether He chooses to sanctify us through marriage, through greater lengths of singleness than we would desire, through financial or other difficulty, or through parenthood. I pray that today you would rest in the truth that the Lord has a perfect plan for each of His sons and daughters and that He loves you and has not forgotten you.

A Semi-Silent Pause

For the month of February, I have severely reduced my media intake by cutting out TV, Facebook, and Twitter and reducing internet, music, and iPhone ap use (For those of your familiar with 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I’m doing media month along with Justin, my sister, and some friends). It has been an amazing time of the Lord speaking and revealing Himself, and although I feel a little disconnected from people, I have also made some incredible connections.

For example, tonight I spoke on the phone with a woman from Indiana who is helping start a school in Ethiopia, and who the Lord allowed me to “meet” through my blog. Incredible. I have a feeling as this relationship continues to develop, I’ll be blogging about it (A chance to help love, support and encourage little school kids in Ethiopia? I know about 87% of you will be ALL over it with me). That’s pretty amazing, right?

I’ve found that although I can’t FB stalk people I love – I can pray for them and that helps me feel connected. A friend going through an insanely difficult trial, friends experiencing great difficulty with one of their children, friends adopting from China this week, and another friend adopting a sweet baby girl domestically that was fraught with uncertainty until the Lord moved and opened doors – all chances for me to join with these people in prayer. I’ve tried to pray for friends when they come to my mind and heart and I miss them, instead of logging on a leaving them a wall post, like I would have done pre-media month. I will confess that I have “cheated” a few times and logged on because I didn’t realize how many people I only communicate with through Facebook, even to the point that I don’t have their phone number and email in my contacts. I must get better at transitioning Facebook friends to real friends. Some of you may start getting random phone calls from me in an effort to do that. 🙂

During this month I’ve read so much and studied and gotten clarity on some things, and dreamed of big God things and started to pray for the Lord to do more through me than I could do on my own without Him. I’ve said before that the Lord works in my life by stringing together little threads and this past month has felt more like three months as dozens and dozens of threads have come together to show me that He is working out something amazing just under the surface of my seemingly mundane life.

I’m telling you – the men in the Bible who advocated fasts weren’t just trying to make us miserable – something special happens when we do with less to leave room for God to speak. He is definitely speaking.

And not only to me – He’s speaking to my kids (who have watched a tiny fraction of TV this month compared to “normal”). So they’re playing more and asking more questions and having more fun, really. And I, not being as distracted, am listening to their questions and responding. I have loved it. Grace is really processing the idea of Jesus (she’s like me – such a little processor) and she’s trying to figure Him out. These are a few of the hilarious things she’s said this month:

“Mommy – if Jesus is in my heart but He tries to come out, will he break my throat?”

“Mommy – how can Jesus be in your heart and my heart at the same time?”

“Mommy – how can we hear Jesus talk because He is WAY down in our hearts and our ears are up here?”

Today, she wanted me to show her pictures of our blood and our hearts from my anatomy textbook because we’ve been talking about blood after Bekah cut her leg. I’m the kind of mom who thinks that is fun – so I broke out my book and gave them both a little anatomy lesson. So Grace is looking at a picture of the heart, and she says, “OK, then where is Jesus in this picture?” and looked up at me with those big blue eyes.

“Uhhh. Well honey that’s hard to explain… Anybody hungry?”

Yep – it’s pretty much Stump the Mommy all day everyday at our house. But it’s sweet too. It reminds me that we accept Jesus at the level we understand. She doesn’t have to understand all of this (How can she? God is so big none of us fully can). But in her own little way, she trusts. She believes. She loves Jesus. It makes me so happy and hopeful for her.

It also makes me want to hold her and tell her that I don’t understand all of this God stuff either, sweet girl, but we’ll learn together. I don’t understand what God will do with us in the future, but I know He’s good. I don’t understand how my heart for kids and my heart for Africa and our heart for the Lord all will come together – but I feel assured that they will.

All of this stuff makes me excited for the future. It makes my hope rise. I’m excited to see all of the threads come together into a picture when He allows it. I just hope that after this month, as we add media back into our lives, that we will remember to leave time for silence, for learning, for listening to the Lord and our kids, for prayer, for thinking, and for studying. I don’t want the noise of our world to drown out what really matters.

Because although I do love TV (Downton Abbey, anyone?) and Twitter and Facebook, it’s all so loud and so predominately silly. There are redemptive aspects, of course, but it’s easy for me to allow it to suck away hours and hours and hours in insignificance. And I think that’s the lesson of this month. There are important eternal things I can do with my time if I’ll allow them in. Looking into my kids’ eyes and discussing anything – that’s big. Praying through something hard and interceding with passion – that’s real. Reading eternal truths and attempting to apply them – that can change me.

So I think that’s the lesson of the silent pause I’ve been on in February (and it’s only been about half-silent really – imagine if I was more disciplined to cut out all media!) If any of you want to join us in the rest of our 7 experiments, send me a note. Month one has been fun and it’s been great doing them together to encourage as we go.

Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me

So I have a new person I want to be when I grow up – Dr. Karyn Purvis. She’s a precious, lovely, brilliant child-development guru who wrote The Connected Child and spoke at the Empowered to Connect Conference this weekend that Justin and I attended. She has spent the last 15 years of her life helping adoptive parents and adopted children heal and connect and I just fell in love with her heart for children from hard places.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a poser when it comes to the adoption thing. I love it, know we are called to it, but also know that our time has not yet come. So we go to these conferences and we’re surrounded by people in the trenches who are giving their lives, time, money, energy, and hearts to adopted and foster kids in the room, and there we sit with our two bio kids and a dream. And sometimes I feel a little foolish, frankly. But I also know that there is purpose in waiting, and that our vision for adoption has shifted even in these 3 years we have waited. I know that I am a better mom now than I was even a year ago (partially because of the amazing parenting strategies taught at conferences like the one I attended today). I know that the Lord is realigning my priorities even this week to focus on my family and He continues to shave the rough edges off the crazy woman that is Jen Wells. I know that this past few years, while we’ve waited, I’ve identified pretty unrealistic expectations in my heart of how this will all turn out, and I’ve watched those expectations die. I’ve learned to trust my Father more this past 3 years. I’ve become more of a person my kids can trust. So I can see that this wait has definitely served a purpose.

But still we wait. And we pray. And we read books and blogs. And we attend conferences. And we try desperately to be a light for our friends who have adopted, and be a safe person they can vent to and turn to when they need to take off their capes and be human and frustrated for a second.

He must become greater, I must become less. John 3:30

Now that verse sounds holy, right? But in recent weeks the life of John the Baptist, who made that beautiful statement of faith, has come up time and time again in my personal studies. This guy had spent his life predicting and proclaiming the coming Messiah. And He comes! John gets to baptize Him and hears the voice of God proclaiming that this is His Son. All of this is a huge mountaintop event – John is rare in humankind in that even while he is touching the shoulders of the flesh-bearing manifestation of the Son, He is seeing the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and hearing the voice of God the Father. So in essence – He experienced, with human senses, the Trinity. And that’s pretty amazing.

But then he’s sent to prison. While in prison, He sends Jesus a question – “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Basically John is suffering, and he wants to make sure he’s got it right. And Jesus sends a message back confirming miracles that have been prophesied about the Messiah – but He leaves one really important part of the prophesy out. He leaves out the part where the Messiah sets the prisoner free. And at the end of His message, He sends a note to John, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I’m not an expert on the Bible – but basically if I’m reading this right, Jesus’ message to John says something like this: “I am the Messiah. But I’m not going to free you from prison, my plans for you are different from what you expect. But you’ll be blessed if you still love and trust Me even unto death.”

That is some crazy deep stuff. I’ll be honest, that is hard stuff for me to wrap my mind around. But in so many ways – this idea of living unoffended is the message of people I admire and respect, was the message of this conference, and is the message I think the Lord has been trying to teach me during the last 3 years of my discomfort (it’s hard to call what we’ve experienced a trial after being in the room I was in today with people who have experienced real trials and who are parenting kids who have come from unimaginable trauma). We can choose to not be offended by Jesus in those places of pain and suffering, and because of that choice, we will be blessed. It isn’t natural and it isn’t easy to experience suffering and remain unoffended. It kind of makes you an oddball in this comfort-driven world, actually. But by God’s grace, we can choose to live that way. We can find joy, peace, and grace in the absolute middle of impossibly hard places and we can choose to love Jesus with every pitiful ounce of strength we have left in the midst of trial and pain – and when we do, we are blessed.

Today I sat in a room full of people who have counted the cost, and who have joined widows and orphans in their distress. They get this concept. They live unoffended while they live out James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” That verse took on new meaning to me this weekend. I think in my mind I saw adoption as rescuing orphans from a world of chaos and bringing them into our world of safety and love. But today I was taught that James 1:27 says we’ll visit them in their distress – so more often it is us entering into their pain, their suffering, and their trauma so that we can walk with them to safety and healing. It’s messy and beautiful and holy.

I don’t really know how to wrap this blog up, as I so often like to do. I just know that I want to love and encourage people who are doing their best to be faithful, even in suffering. Jesus said it, and I believe it – “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” God please help us to live unoffended.

Kisses from Katie

Oh my friends – I just finished a book that absolutely shook me up (in the best way possible). Kisses from Katie – the story of a girl who followed the Lord to Uganda at 19 years-old. I had heard about this book, and this girl, for a while. So I came to the story with expectations and assumptions.

And they were blown out of the water.

Katie’s perspective on life and ministry is unbelievable and yet absolutely right in every way. She takes the Bible and Jesus seriously and she is changing lives as she follows Him and says “Yes”. I actually cried reading it (and that’s unexpected for me), I highlighted more than half of it, and followed Justin around reading parts. It’s the kind of book you have to put down and process because it so changes the way you think and relate, and it makes you want to do something meaningful with your life.  She says over and over (and I believe her) that she is an ordinary girl saying yes to an extraordinary God, and He is working extraordinary miracles all around her. It’s not just about justice or mission, although it certain is one of the best books on justice I’ve ever read. It’s about faith and life and possessions and purpose and motherhood and pain and how God intends us to live our days on this earth.

Please get this book.

I struggle to know a passage to share, because truly, so many were absolutely precious and profound, but here’s an example of why this book will forever be one of my favorites:

“I learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person. I can change the world for fourteen little girls and for four hundred school children and for a sick and dying grandmother and for a malnourished, neglected, abused five-year-old. And if one person sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. In fact, it is worth spending my life for. 

Many days, I am still overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need and the incredible number of people who need help. Many days I see the destitute, disease-ridden children lining the streets in the communities I serve and I want to scoop up every single one of them, take them home with me, and feed and clothe and love them. And I look at the life of my Savior, who stopped for one. 

So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian. I can only do what one woman can do, but I will do what I can. Daily, the Jesus who wrecked my life enables me to do so much more than I ever thought possible.” 

And another passage I loved here:

“I do not know my five-year plan, even tomorrow will probably not go as I have planned. I am thrilled and I am terrified, in a good way. Some call it courage; some call it foolish; I call it faith. I choose to get out of the boat. Sometimes I walk straight into His arms. More often, I get scared and look down and stumble. Sometimes I almost completely drown. And through it all, He never lets go of my hand.

Lord may we choose you every moment of every day. We want to be fully committed to You. We want every day to become a day we say “yes” to You. We repent for lukewarmness, from mediocrity, from normalcy. We want to shine so brightly for You that others can’t help but see and feel Your love. Let us look at every encounter as an opportunity to show Your love. Lord, on the days where helping just one more person seems like too much, help me to choose You. on the days when Satan whispers, “You can’t save everyone, why are you trying?” let me choose You. On the days when it would be too easy to pop in a movie for my children instead of reading Scripture with them, let me choose You. When harsh words are easier to find than kind ones, let me choose You. Father, like Paul, I know what I want to do, what I should do, and yet I find myself failing and discouraged. Thank You for Your grace. Thank You that You who sit so high would look low upon people like me and use us as a vessel for You. How blessed we are to even be called servants, to be able to share in Your kingdom and share Your love with others. Thank You for the cross, where You have given us peace and holiness. Father, we long to say Yes to You.”

Here’s the video trailer of the book: 

Brace yourself friends… this one is beyond challenging. I pray we will be changed.

Humility Comes Before Honor

When I was a little kid, I remember joy. One summer, we rode bikes as a family everywhere. The library, our friend Mark and Maryanne’s pool, the store (mom’s bike had a basket the perfect size for a couple of gallons of milk). We rode bikes to the snow cone stand almost every day in the hot summer sun, laughing and racing and enjoying each other.

In my memory it was magical. The summer of bikes – like something out of a Mark Twain novel.  

As an adult, I was surprised to find there was another side to our summer-of-bikes story. The truth was that my parents were in a very difficult financial situation, and they could not afford for mom to have a car. So it was more need than creative parenting that caused my magical summer.

But knowing the truth only makes me admire my parents more. I was an intuitive kid (note the nice way of saying “nosy”) and the fact that I did not pick up on the need behind the story means my mom and dad had an attitude of gratitude despite their financial difficulty. Our home was full of grace, not discontent. My mom could have stayed home, pouting. Or she could have taken every opportunity to complain and grumble about the situation in front of her. But she didn’t. She jumped on her bike and made it an adventure.

You have to understand, this is totally my mom. She turns everything into an adventure. Her faith is precious to witness because she chooses joy, even when things are truly dark. She has no idea the impact that has had on me and on my parenting. This week I read this verse and I thought of my parents.

The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33

My parents have had many seasons in their life of humility. Many times they have faced (and overcome) trials that could appear, to the outside world, like the most humbling difficult thing in the world. But they have feared the Lord and remained faithful despite the trials, choosing not to grumble but to trust.

And because of that,we honor them.

My brother, sister, and I honor my parents. We admire them, look up to them, respect them, and want to be like them. And this week I realized that the humbling times in their lives, and their handling of those times, is a huge part of why I honor them. Even when their world was shaking, they made sure that ours was not. And that love for us, and sacrifice on our behalf, makes me honor them all the more.

Humility comes before honor.

Thank you God for that truth. It makes humility easier to face, right? Because let’s be honest, times of humbling are not fun. They can really stink, in fact. But to know, to KNOW, that there is purpose in these times, and that honor is coming, doesn’t that make it more palatable? I’m so grateful I have seen this picture lived out in my parents.

Here’s the truth: Justin and I have faced some humbling things this past few years, and even now we are making some decisions that are pretty humbling. But I am standing today on the truth of Scripture and believing that honor will someday follow. That maybe, by God’s grace, in the future when my children hear of the struggles we faced in their childhood, they will be shocked to even learn we faced difficulty, because we faced the challenges with joy and trust that God is bigger, and that His plans are perfect.

Jesus, thank you for this truth and for each situation in our world that humbles us. Please shed light on the times that I grumble, and the times that I let our challenges distract me from being a loving fun mom. Please help me to choose joy and choose faith, knowing that all of this serves a purpose in my life. Thank you for mom and dad and their example. Please bless them, Lord. You are good, Jesus, and I thank you that you don’t waste any moment in our lives, especially the hard ones.

‘Schooled’ on Fear

The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:11

Have you ever been around one of those people, those “light” people? The people who radiate peace and joy, grace and wisdom, and when you leave, you are changed? My brother Joe and sister-in-law Lori have a friend named Hillery who is one of those people. For months, my brother told me about her and her husband and how encouraging they were as friends. When I visited this past summer, spending time with Hillery was definitely on the agenda. I love being around “light” people. They don’t hammer you with rules or truth, but somehow they just seem to “get it” in an extraordinary way. They challenge me and excite me and I absolutely love being around them because they’re mirroring Jesus as they walk through the world, reflecting His light.

So I meet Hillery, who has no idea that I’m watching every move she makes like she’s a creature in a fishbowl (I try to contain myself and demonstrate some semblance of normalcy around these people. I do, after all, need to appear somewhat cool). We were talking about school and about the options available to us as our kids enter Kindergarten this year – a simple conversation that should not have been memorable. But I’ve found that when I am around “light” people, they can casually drop wisdom into even the most mundane conversations. I was talking about my struggle as I considered options for Grace’s school and I mentioned the battle I was having against fear as I looked at sending my little girl into different environments I couldn’t control. I was babbling away, explaining the battle going on in my head, when Hillery spoke up.

She said something like this, “I don’t believe in making choices based on fear. Ever. If God isn’t the author of fear, then when I listen to my fears I know I’m not listening to the voice of God.”

It was simple. Grace-filled. Not harsh or corrective or instructive. Just right.

I don’t believe in making choices based on fear. Ever.

She can’t know how many times I’ve played that sentence in my head this past year. How I’ve grasped at that idea as it slips in and out of my hands, wanting to make it my personal philosophy as well but struggling to change a lifetime habit of doing the opposite.

I don’t believe in making choices based on fear. Ever.

My confession is this: I do listen to fear. I think I always have. I’m pretty sure sometimes I give it an equal voice with the Holy Spirit who should have the loudest voice in my spirit – leading me in the way I should go. Now I don’t call it fear. I’m way too smart for that. I call it “discernment” or “wisdom” or I say I have a “check.” I can ‘church it up’ in the most expert ways.

But I know – in my heart – that it’s fear. 

So take the choice of Grace’s school. Fear says oh-so-much on this subject. Fear of influences. Fear of bad educational practices. Fear of failure. Fear of finances. Fear of isolation. Fear of making a terrible mistake. When I listen to fear, there is one tiny right decision and a million-and-a-half wrong decisions that can cause damage. That is the fear-based perception.

But something else speaks loudly on this subject. Perfect love. Grace has a Father who loves her with a perfect love (Jer. 31:3). He is mighty to save (Zeph 3:17). He is her help and her shield (Ps 115:11). He will never leave her or forsake her (Deut 31:6). I could go on and on about the promises available to my sweet little girl because of her loving Father.

So a fear-free attitude says something very different. It says my daughter is in the hands of the One who made her and that no decision is outside of His control. It says it doesn’t truly matter, in the end, the location where Grace goes to school. God’s love and protection can reach into even the darkest environment and the most bleak situation and give light and life. The fear-free perspective reminds me that I can’t make a decision that can 100% insulate her against the struggles of this world. I don’t have that power. There is no “perfect” decision that can cast out all of my fears.

Only one thing has the power to defeat my fears. Perfect love has victory over my fears (1 John 4:18). My perfect Savior demonstrated that when He died for me and then defeated death and rose to live forever. I can’t even justify fearing death as a follower of Christ, because He has even that under His control. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “”Abba,” Father.” Romans 8:15

It’s all about the power of the One who lives inside of us. That’s the “remedy” to fear.

He is the way to be free of this voice of fear in my life.

I am re-reading Grace-Based Parenting (for the 5th or 6th time). I love this book. I cannot recommend it enough – it’s my favorite parenting book. This same idea resonated with me this week as I read it. Take a look at what Dr. Kimmel wrote about fear-based or legalistic parenting vs. grace-based parenting.

The difference with grace-based families is that they don’t bother spending much time putting fences up because they know full well that sin is already present and accounted for inside their family. To these types of parents, sin is not an action or an object that penetrates their defenses; it is a preexisting condition that permeates their being. The graceless home requires kids to be good and gets angry and punishes them when they are bad. The grace-based home assumes kids will struggle with sin and helps them learn how to tap into God’s power to help them get stronger.

It’s not that grace-based homes don’t take their children’s sin seriously. Nor is it that grace-based homes circumvent consequences. It isn’t even that grace-based homes do nothing to protect their children from attacks and temptations that threaten them from the outside. They do all these things, but not for the same reasons. Grace-based homes aren’t trusting in the moral safety of their home or the spiritual environment they’ve created to empower their children to resist sin. . . . They assume that sin is an ongoing dilemma that their children must constantly contend with.

[Children in a grace-based family] are accepted as sinners who desire to become more like Christ rather than be seen as nice Christian kids trying to maintain a good moral code. Grace is committed to bringing children up from their sin; legalism puts them on a high standard and works overtime to keep them from falling down.

Grace understands that the only real solution for our children’s sin is the work of Christ on their behalf. . . .  Legalism uses outside forces to help children maintain their moral walk. Their strength is based on the environment they live in. Grace, on the other hand, sees the strength of children by what is inside them—more specifically, Who is inside them.

Isn’t that good? It isn’t about the environment in which my child is schooled, it is about the inhabitant of her heart and His reign in her life.

And for me – it isn’t about my ability to control and protect, it is about the inhabitant of my heart and His reign in my life.

Jesus create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.

So as we reach the point where we decide what school we will walk our little girl into, with her backpack as big as she is, may fear have no voice in that decision. May we listen to the voice of the One who loves us and who has a perfect plan for our Grace, a plan to prosper her and not to harm her, to give her a hope and a future. And may I drop her off in peace, knowing that my God is bigger, stronger, and more loving than I can grasp.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4