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

Bloodlines & Adoption

This video speaks to my heart and I adore it. In it, John Piper tells the story of his life growing up in the south and his adoption of his daughter, Talitha. Please watch it – it will touch your heart.

I was, because of God’s grace, raised in a home with a mom who got the importance and beauty of diversity, and taught it, and lived it. I pray my heart for people honors her as I try to live this out. And I am grateful I get to fight for the same cause in my life. I ask Him to allow us to be loving parents of children from all races and nations. Because it’s important and it’s right and it’s beautiful and it’s God honoring.

Here’s my favorite quote:

“God did a remarkable work in us. He taught me this. He said, “Look. If you act consistently with your convictions about interracial marriage and the nobility and beauty of diversity, this choice will commit you to this issue until you are dead. And that swung it for me. Love for my wife, love for this little girl, and love for this cause. The cause of Christ-exalting racial harmony and racial diversity, because if I lock in to my family, the issue, this beautiful little woman created in the image of God and say “You are mine” then I won’t ever be able to run away from this, and I wanted to draw that line in the sand…

When I look at her I’m going to see a human being created in the very image of God, and then secondly, down the line, I’m going to see a particular kind of skin or hair. That’s huge. The Bible brings the image of God to bear on this issue and it is massively important. The second way the Bible brings it to bear is it talks about there being one Father of us all.  All the nations came from one Father according to Acts 17, which means we’re all related. You can’t look with disgust or dismay or dishonoring on another human being as if they’re not in the same family. They’re in your family. You try to demean them, you demean your family.

It is fundamentally a cross issue, a blood issue, a gospel issue that is at play here and what is so amazing is how the Gospel, by faith alone, having our sins forgiven, triumphs over these sins that militate against racial harmony and racial diversity.”

Love it.

Giving Grace

As most of you know, my oldest daughter’s name is Grace. It completely fits her, actually. She has singlehandedly taught me more about grace than anything I’ve ever experienced.

The other day we were listening to Christmas music and she heard the line “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove, the glories of His righteousness and wonders of his love…”

She asked me, quietly, “Mommy, why is my name in this song?”

Suddenly I had to try to explain the concept of grace to a 4 year-old. All the Sunday school answers I’ve ever learned ran through my head – unmerited favor (no), sanctification because of His righteousness, not ours (no).  All true but far too complicated.

I said “Gracie – this is talking about how God rules the world with truth and absolute love.” I think that was a pretty accurate answer – I was grateful the Lord gave it to me.

God rules the world with truth and absolute love.

There has been some serious tension and strife in my extended family this past year. Like the historic kind that divides families and tears each other apart until people miss funerals because of it. It’s bad. It’s been really difficult to experience and hurtful on all sides.

And it’s human nature in strife like this to believe the ABSOLUTE worst about the other person, while believing the best of ourselves. We’ve seen that on all sides of this argument. We stop communicating, stop working towards peace. We start presenting the best version of our side to the people on “our team” while demonizing the other side. Suddenly small differences that were before simply topics to avoid become vast valleys that separate and divide us because grace is gone.

But God rules the world with truth and absolute love.

What I think the Holy Spirit is teaching me is that to live out Christ in me, I have to live in truth and grace. I must love.

When I am offended? Realize as a Believer in Christ who is told to forgive, I don’t have the right to live offended. I must love.

When I am hurt? Realize I am constantly, unknowingly, hurting those around me. I must love.

When I am tempted to demonize? Realize I am but a miserable selfish sinner saved by grace who doesn’t deserve an ounce of the grace given to me by Christ. I must love.

My sweet Grace is aptly named, and again she teaches me about grace just by her very existence.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes (ME, a sinner saved by grace) prove, the glories of His righteousness and wonders of his love…

We can show the world, and our families, the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love when we choose to live as Christ.

The best way I can show my daughter the precious concept that her name represents is to prove His righteousness and his wonderful love as I give grace in my relationships with others. God help me. That’s so hard sometimes!

God forgive me for my part in the disunity in our family. Help me to be better – to prove your glory, righteousness, and love better than I have this year. Please work and move and heal and restore. We need You.

I Will Praise Him.

Something amazing happened this week. A friend reached out to me with a pretty strange request. She wanted to come meet with me and pray with me in our home. She knew the Lord was telling her to do this and when she called me, I knew the Lord was telling us to do this. I gathered my sister to join us, and called a couple of women around the country to join with us in spirit. We didn’t know what the Lord was going to do – but we knew He had something to do.

All day I felt a sense of anticipation and excitement.

We gathered and prayed – walking through our house. These precious women lifted each member of my family and our struggles to the Father as they walked. They prayed over our home, over our stuff, over where we sleep and eat and live each day.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

We sang in gratitude. We cried in need of God. We spoke scriptures of truth and power over each area of our life and over the center of our home.

Every crevice of our need, and every inch of our house, was bathed in prayer and lifted before the Father.

It was powerful. It was grace. It was church.

This morning the grace continued. Our Pastor preached from Daniel on the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (the three men who were told to worship a false God, but they refused because they were faithful, so they were thrown into a fiery furnace by an evil king. But the fire did not burn them, and when the king looked in to see why they did not burn, he saw a fourth man in the fire. The king pulled them out, repented, and worshipped God because of what he had seen). It was good to be reminded of the fourth man in the fire – Jesus Himself. Our Pastor wept before us as he talked about how near Jesus is to us when we are waiting, in the fire, for rescue.

God not only sees us in our pain, but he joins us there.

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43

Justin and I both were moved by the service. We can testify to this truth. We have waited, and while we have waited, Jesus has been near. This week, and that prayer time, was another example of His faithfulness and love for us.

I don’t know why this week is different, but I know it is.

I don’t know how it is a turning point, but I believe that it is.

And I don’t know what the Lord’s plans are for us, but I know they are good.

I know we are loved with an everlasting love.

I know we are free and we have power and grace available to us to have victory in what we are facing.

I will praise Him.

This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says. “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banished them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so the they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them; I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.  Jeremiah 32: 37-43

The Lord is Pleased with You

I am loving all of the gratitude posts on Facebook. It is beautifully complementing the things I am reading in One Thousand Gifts and it made me think of something that happened to me earlier this year.

Back in April, on a random Wednesday, I received a text message from my friend Stephanie. It simply said, “The Lord is so pleased with you, Jennifer Wells.” When I got it, tears rushed to my eyes and I sat for a moment rereading it over and over.

The Lord is so pleased with you.

I think it was probably one the most grace-filled moments of my adult life. Stephanie doesn’t know it, but she taught me a lot about the Father that day.

We so often focus on the ways we fail our precious Father, but on that day, I was reminded that I also please Him. I write often about our challenges with our children, mostly to lighten the tension of life with tiny people and relate to other moms. But even during all my moments of frustration, vulnerability, and confusion about being a mom I can tell you this, I am pleased with my girls. In fact, I am delighted by them. They captivate me. I could sit down with you for DAYS and tell you their wonderful, beautiful, unique, and most-special-in-all-the-world characteristics.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

Think about this: we are flawed, evil, kinda crazy people who really can’t even love unselfishly, and yet we can be pleased with and captivated by our children. How much more then can our Father, who is perfect and loves perfectly, be pleased with us?

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3

Since getting that precious text from my friend, I will look around at my friends and family who are quietly choosing faithfulness in a world that is unfaithful, and I will think, “The Lord is pleased with you.”

  • My dad, fighting to change lifetime patterns, pursuing righteousness and right relationships with others. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My husband, faithful and righteous, leading his family and his church to worship the one true King, even after facing some seriously challenging circumstances the past few years. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My mom, adjusting boundaries and opening her heart to trust good people in relationship for the first time in her life. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My daughters, learning to obey and consider others when every instinct in their bodies wants to fight for their own way. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My brother, who fights to press into Christ and lead his family in wisdom and righteousness in a world desperate to corrupt. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My sister, who came off the mountaintop to face life in the valley, and still chooses to trust the one who met with her face-to-face, even though she may not feel Him like she once did. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My sister-in-law, who fights for the souls of children every single day with her compassionate and wise heart. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who just lost the relationship with the man she thought she would marry, and yet she trusts in the Lord who loves her. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who works in an incredibly difficult environment that breaks most people, and yet she goes in faithfully and works as unto the Lord even when it seems impossible. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who has experienced more loss this past two years than anyone should have to face, and yet they choose joy and trust in the God who is near to the brokenhearted. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who faithfully picks up and moves across the country in grace and acceptance and jumps in to friendships to be a light in the lives of others. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who trusted the Lord to leave a career and stay at home with her child(ren), despite the changes that would bring to their lifestyle. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who lives in a world of uncertainty and challenge and yet is a light to those around her as she chooses to trust in the God who holds the world in His hands. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who is waiting for the referral of the child(ren) who will change her life and her home forever – choosing to live out James 1:27. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who has opened her home to a broken and hurting child, who has faced trials that demonstrate just how real the enemy who seeks to destroy actually is, and who is everyday seeing victory as the Lord fights for the heart of her child. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who everyday chooses grace as she navigates challenging relationships within her family and continued financial pressure that would overwhelm most people. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who trusted the Lord with his family and his career and gave praise to the God who is faithful in good times and bad. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who is creative and brilliant and each time I am around them, I want to be more free in who Christ made me to be. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who is single years after when their plan had them married, and yet they are faithful and trusting in the Lord to work it all out for good. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who quietly pleads with the Lord to heal and fix the broken places inside, trusting that He is all-powerful and faithful to finish what He started. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who lived through the terrible thing that threatened to break her heart and spirit, and instead of becoming bitter became a person drenched in grace for the hurting. The Lord is pleased with you.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

I am grateful for the examples of hope, power, grace, peace, joy, and faith lived out by the people around me. You inspire me.

In this season of gratitude, I am grateful for you and for the Lord at work in you.

The Positive Feedback Loop Of Crazy

One of the reasons I have this little blog is to recount the hilarity and insanity that is parenting my children, so we can all commiserate on how bizarre kids are and hopefully feel slightly more normal as we go about our day raising the future leaders of the planet.

I learned in school about the difference between a positive feedback loop and a negative feedback loop in the body (you may all know this – and if so, feel free to skip to the next paragraph). A negative feedback loop is when, in response to a stimulus that throws a system out of balance, a control center triggers an opposite reaction to return the body to normalcy (think of how a thermostat regulates temperature). A positive feedback loop is when, in response to a stimulus that throws a system out of balance, a control center triggers that exact same stimulus and amplifies the original stimulus. A great example of positive feedback is in response to a wound. The body senses a breach in defenses (open wound) and sends more blood to the area in an attempt to clot and close the breach. Which, if your body can clot the wound, works and closes the wound. If the body cannot – you simply send all of your blood to the breach and wah-lah – you go home to Jesus.

Life with a four year-old is much like this, I’ve determined. At least with my four year-old. Except it’s a positive feedback loop of crazy. She reacts to a stimulus by doing something crazy, and when that doesn’t work, she pours on more and more crazy until she explodes into a flaming ball of truly insane crazy.

Each time I request something of my child, she has to choose one of three options:

Option A – Comply with the completely reasonable request made by a parent who loves her (i.e. eat a meal, or take pain medication for the surgery you just had, or brush your teeth).

Option B –  Attempt to negotiate/manipulate/delay obedience by placing some absurd condition on obedience (i.e. “Mommy I’ll take ONE bite but then I want a popsicle” (no), or “I’ll only eat if you feed me” (no), or “I’ll only take the purple medicine, and only if I have a glass of water at 65 degrees in my Ariel cup, and am holding my favorite stuffed animal Eeyo while you give it to me” (takes forever and is crazy).

Option C – Melt down in a fit and have a completely disproportional emotional response to the request (i.e. stomping foot, screaming something crazy and dramatic like “I’ll NEVER take medicine, EVER!”, hitting, running out of room, talking back in disrespect). This response always ends in discipline of some sort.

So, all day long as my four year-old is presented with normal life choices, she has three options. Sane, normal, rational people would almost always choose option A. It’s easier, it takes less time, and since she knows somewhere in that head that her mommy loves her, it’s ultimately for her good.

But anyone raising a four year-old knows that sane and rational does not apply to the four year-old brain. So, our life is a series of our strong-willed little four year-old choosing to manipulate and delay obedience (option B), while inching closer to with every denial to a total meltdown fit (option C).

A positive feedback loop of crazy. Crazy added to more crazy until finally, a crazy meltdown.

It somehow never occurs to her in the heat of the moment that the end result of Option C is ALWAYS discipline, and that option C should be avoided. Despite how bright she is, somehow this eludes her. Sometimes 15 – 20 times a day she chooses Option C and after her discipline, each and every time, we discuss that the reason she is getting in trouble is that she chose to throw a fit, and yet somehow, 30 minutes later, she chooses the fit.

This is, as you can imagine, a tiring process. I am a (slight) control freak who wants badly to be a peacemaker, so it’s a constant mental battle for me to determine where to counter the crazy, and with how much force. My instinct (to offset the control freak part of me) is to allow some negotiation and compromise, but what we have recently learned is that this is feeding her choice to constantly negotiate and hold our family hostage by inching closer to a meltdown, so I have had to begin to be more insistent on her doing things without argument the first time. Until we can “reprogram” her to obey the first time, every time, we are in a very tiring process of reestablishing our authority.

This gets harder when the four year-old is sick, tired, or has consumed too much sugar.

So as you can imagine, when we have a child who has had surgery (sick), because she had sleep apnea (which made her perpetually tired), during Halloween week (the annual celebration of all things sugary) – our positive feedback loop of crazy was, well, monumentally CRAZY.

As parents, I know we all feel slightly better when we hear that other homes are in the same crazy condition as our home. It makes us feel (almost) normal. So when my sweet friend Holly shared this little video with me this week, I sighed a sigh of relief. The positive feedback loop of crazy isn’t exclusive to the Wells home. Yay! We’re normal!

So for all the people stuck with us in the positive feedback loop of crazy, I feel your pain, I empathize, and next time I see you, I’ll buy you a well-deserved glass of wine if you are so inclined. We will survive the four year-old drama, friends, and we will be victorious!

Of course, we’ll likely face it all again when they are teenagers (only amped up a couple dozen times) but that’s another blog for another decade.

(I know for a person who is not a parent, or who only parents angelic cherubs straight from the throneroom of Jesus, this may sound ridiculous. You may be thinking “This is a four year-old, how hard can it be?” or “I would not let this child walk all over me.” My answer to that would be a kind and gentle “Bless your heart”).

Confession of an Heiress

Someone asked me recently how the Lord speaks to me (because it really is different for different people). For me, thoughts, scriptures, things people say, and ideas are threads that one day, usually early in the morning, suddenly string together into a picture that surprises me and opens my eyes to a truth I seem to have forgotten.

This morning my mom sent me a passage of Scripture. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in Heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1Peter 1:3-5

Every morning my mom sends our family, early in the morning, a passage of Scripture that she has prayed on and meditated on for our family. It has been a huge gift from the Lord because this year has been one of considerable challenges and instability, for me in particular. So these verses, regardless of what state (or country) I am in, regardless of how early my call time is or how long my day, regardless of the demands on my time, have been a way for me to remain rooted in the Word of God.

This morning God used mom sending this passage, and this specific part of the passage to thread together a picture of what He’s been trying to say to me lately: into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 

Get ready, because I have some serious confessing I want to do here.

Inheritance.

Do you ever dream, like I do, of someday getting this phone call? The call that someone has left you some money, or discovered something valuable that is yours, or that somehow – miraculously – you have won a modest fortune?

You may laugh – but I have found myself daydreaming of these things. I have even driven my husband crazy on a couple of truly bad days by buying a lottery ticket. I have laughed it off as a joke, and I have even tried to ‘church-it-up’ by thinking of the good things I would do with the money (free adoptions for all my friends!).

But my confession today is that in that moment, my trust has definitely been in the wrong thing, and the Bible doesn’t laugh that off – the Bible treats it as a serious issue of the heart.

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13

I do not come from a wealthy family, and neither does Justin. There is truthfully no real hope of either of us ever getting any form of cash inheritance. And there are days where, while we’re in confession mode, that is a hopeless thought for me. It means that there is no miraculous human cure for the sins that we have committed in the past, and even present, by getting ourselves in debt.

I confess I am a worrier – mainly about money. In fact, I’d confess that most days I worry about our future expenses and wish for some miraculous human windfall that will somehow insure me against the pressures that are coming down the road. I am a planner, and so I know exactly what future pressures are coming – and I worry about how we will rise to meet those challenges. And I pray and ask the Lord for rescue from future pressures so often that to confess it is embarrassing.

Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11

All the while, while asking, I don’t acknowledge what He has already done to provide. We have, despite financial challenges, not missed payments. And that is miraculous. That is manna from heaven, given each day, just as it was to the Israelites 4000 years ago (Exodus 16). God gave a group of people enough food each day, just for that day, and sustained them for 40 years.

But just like the Israelites, I grumble against the manna. I don’t want manna for each day – I want the manna for now until 2025 paid out in one lump sum, thank you very much.

And the truth is – not only is that not how God operates, that is not what is best for my soul.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34

That passage is a red-letter passage. That means Jesus said it – and I LOVE that because Jesus knows us well. He walked in our skin and hung out with us everyday for 30-something years before He preached this particular sermon. And He knew what we were like. He knew we were worrying fools and He knew the things we were worrying about were money and tomorrow. He knew that we needed to “choose each day who we will serve” and He knew there would be days we simply wouldn’t choose the right thing.

So He repeated Himself over and over and over because someday He knew I would battle my mind on this idea over and over and over until the day He takes me home.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. 1 Peter 3:15

It is a choice to set apart Christ as Lord and we can, frankly, choose many things to fill that blank. We can, in our hearts, set apart money as Lord. Or we can, in our hearts, set apart our plans as Lord. Or we can, in our hearts, set apart a relationship as Lord (or our job, or happiness, or any number of things that do not fulfill). And those small decisions to trust in things other than Christ can add up over time and before we know it, we’re like me out buying lottery tickets because we can’t imagine another way out of the mess of our life than a financial windfall.

Inheritance.

This morning, in a scary Holiday Inn bathroom in Austin, I saw the depth of my sin, did some confessing, and my heart and perceptions were changed. I suddenly saw these threads come together into a pretty amazing picture.

In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

Here is the TRUTH that broke through today.

My parents and Justin’s will never give us a cash inheritance (which let’s be honest, is what the world values and what I, so often, have valued (set apart as Lord)). But Justin’s parents led him to Christ at 18, mine led me to Christ in childhood, and my mom sends me Scripture every-stinking-day of my life.

Inheritance.

I have been given, first of all by Christ, and secondly by Godly parents, all the inheritance I need. I have been given an inheritance of righteousness that can never perish, spoil, or fade.

And that inheritance means I can go to the God of the universe when our mortgage is due, and He provides it.

He is even so patient and graceful and loving to me that when I ask for a check in the total amount of our debt, and He only provides our mortgage payment, I grumble against Him and refuse to acknowledge in gratitude his provision of manna for each day (I am SO like those grumbling Israelites in Exodus 16).

What terrible sin, and yet He loves me.

And I don’t acknowledge the heritage of righteousness, the best inheritance possible, Justin and I have been given with Godly parents. A praying mom, an honorable dad, a family that has stayed together. These things are priceless and no cash inheritance could possibly compare.

That’s another terrible sin, and yet He loves me and they love me.

Inheritance.

Today, (and this is the truth) I don’t want the big check or the magic phone call.

I want the daily manna. Because although I’m sure I’m driving the Lord a little batty by asking him for money all of the time – at least I’m talking to Him. Sometimes I wonder, if He delivered the big money phone call – if I’d leave Him behind, all-the-while doing the things I think will serve Him with that cash payment.

Inheritance.

I am an heiress, ladies and gentleman. I have been given an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade.

And today I am humbled by it. And grateful. And I feel like the wealthiest girl in all of the world.