God, Is That You?


Recently, one of my daughters came to me saying that she had finally “heard from God”, something she has been frustrated about over the last couple of years. All around her people were using language like, “I feel the Lord calling me to . . .” and “God is asking me to . . .” and “God wants me to . . .” She hadn’t experienced God in that particular way, and because she was using other people’s phrases as a measuring stick, she felt like something was wrong.

She came to me about sharing a time in her life a few years ago when she made some poor choices, got caught, and has carried a certain amount of shame and pain over it to this day. She would tell you today it is her biggest mistake. Somehow, through her filter and perception, she sensed that God was asking her to not only share this part of her life, but in a very public way, not only among her friends, but her whole school, and possibly on a local radio program. She cried and cried. She did not want to do this, and if any of us recall what being fourteen is like, we understand the deep fear of embarrassment, humiliation, and possibly even social rejection. She agonized. She wanted to please God desperately, but at the same time, did not want to open herself up for mockery and further pain. She looked at me through damp, tortured eyes for encouragement and assurance that it would all work out fine.

The problem was, I did not think it would all work out fine! Her fears were legitimate and reasonable. She most likely would become fodder for the gossip circuit, and find herself on the receiving end of teenage cruelty. She was not healed from this incident, and was still wrestling with forgiving herself and feeling ruined by her choices, despite our reassurances. We heaped grace and love upon this girl, but for a reason I still do not understand, she still has not fully received it. This testimony was not a testimony YET. She was still awaiting healing. And she was filled with anxiety at just the thought of sharing it.

How did I know this was not God asking her to do this? I don’t, not one hundred percent. It sure wasn’t in keeping with the character and nature of the God I know and experience. Her immaturity and brief life experience had left her vulnerable to some not-so-theologically accurate beliefs that circulate among the church about how God speaks to us. I prayed, sought counsel, and re-read some passages of scripture, being careful to keep them in context. I also found some great resources online, looking to explain my conviction to my daughter about the difference between strong emotion and the voice of God. Because we live in such a highly emotionally charged culture, this can get really confusing, and the young in faith (not just in age) can start to think that if they feel something strongly, or can’t get a thought out of their head, then it must be God. This can lead to mistakes that not only cause damage and pain, but give God a really bad rap! I stumbled upon an immensely helpful article in my research, especially this excerpt:

As a child, when I asked my mother for help discerning God’s guidance, she always asked me, “In which scenario are you at peace? Where God guides He gives peace.” 

But you’ve probably noticed that when you’re seeking God’s guidance or needing a word of encouragement from Him often you are NOT at peace! In fact, we may find ourselves so torn and distressed about a difficult situation or decision that we are quite anxious. Anxiety is a sign that you have conflicting emotions, about probably some repressed emotions too, like fear, anger, sadness, or shame. It’s not likely that you’ll hear God’s voice when your emotional pipes are all backed up with negative feelings. So the first need is to address your anxiety and emotions. THEN you may be able to hear God’s voice clearly. 

Another statement I loved: God’s voice has a distinctive quality; it is weighty, calm, and full of authority. It sounds like assurance and peace and rest.

My girl was so wrecked with anxiety and conflicting emotions — fear, shame, regret, desperation to please God — that I doubted she could distinguish God’s voice from the rest. It also concerned me that she thought somehow God would take pleasure or glory in her tossing the pearls of her deepest heartache to date in front of the 2000+ proverbial swine on her public high school campus. At fourteen.

I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is a gentlemen. He takes great delight in calling His people and it is His joy to place a deep desire within us to do His will, which is to love Him and love others as ourselves. It is our pleasure to do His will when we realize the depth of His love and amazing grace. We do not have to be convinced, intimidated or dragged to do it. This is what I saw in her, and this is what I was so deeply wanting to free her from.

Right now, as her mom, I believe that God’s will for her life is simply to trust and follow the lead of her parents. When the day comes when she is filled with peace and assurance about sharing this part of her story, after it is healed and Jesus gets the glory, I expect the Holy Spirit to give her opportunities to share it, with wisdom and discernment and grace. And she will do it because it is her joy to do so.

Excerpt from Soul Shepherding

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Not Just a Stay-at-Home Mom


Today I made my final decision to extend my leave from teaching for another year. I spoke with my principal, got the necessary signatures, turned in my paperwork to HR . . . and that’s that. But let me tell you, that was one of the harder decisions I’ve had to make, and I was vacillating even up until I actually handed in my documents. . . . Because to extend my leave another year is really just a precursor to the ultimate decision to stay home entirely, which means I may not teach for at least ten years, when the kids are in school . . . or ever.

My struggle, I’m sure, is shared by many a mother who desires deeply to care for and nurture her own children, teach and instill values, watch them grow . . . but at the same time has an almost equal eagerness for meaningful work outside of the home, to earn an income no matter how big or small, and to be a part of something that she takes pride in — that is all her own.

In choosing to stay home, I feel a little like the kid who’s been asked to watch everyone’s belongings as they all scamper off to ride the new rollercoaster. It’s an important responsibility, and one that I’ve completely embraced and enjoyed more than I could imagine this past year, but my I-can-do-it-all mentality makes me want to drag everything behind me and jump in the wheeling car, totebags, water bottles, and cameras haphazardly in tow. I realize this analogy is faulty on so many levels (for one, my son is not a backpack), but the essence of it is I want to have both — to stay home AND teach, which isn’t a viable option at the moment.

Even last night, as my husband, also a teacher, was sharing with me his day, I couldn’t help but miss teaching already. And with all seriousness, I lamented, “I feel like my life is over!” He smiled, because I have a propensity (just a slight one) for being overdramatic, but what I mean is, I feel like MY life . . . all that was and is Cecilia’s, is being taken away. This was the case as soon as Caedmon was born; my schedule was no longer my own, my sleep, my body, my free-time . . . and now my work . . . is no longer my own. MY life is now my family’s. And it is completely wonderful . . . and still completely difficult to adjust to my shifting identity.

Whether I see it as a blessing or a curse, or just plain reality, my sister helped remind me of what a calling this is. She said that being a mom should be more than just keeping her family fed and alive. A mom has the capacity to truly mold her family, to nurture and guide her children to understand and seek God’s heart, to instill sound values and ethics to shape an individual who is loving, confident, and a contributing member of society. A mom doesn’t have to stay home in order to take on this all-important role, but if she does, her identity and value have not diminished, as I can’t help but feel. No, I will not be JUST a stay-at-home-mom, because a mom who chooses to stay at home, who directs the time, energy, and creativity once reserved for work, toward her family. . . is noble and significant and irreplaceable.

A friend of mine, a very driven woman who left her flourishing career to be home and whose relationship with her son I can only hope to have with Caedmon one day, shared her thoughts with me, as she now prepares to send her son off to college this coming fall. She told me that yes, I will miss my job, I will miss interacting with other adults in a professional context, I will miss the challenge and gratification that is afforded in advancing my career, but I will not miss any milestones, any teachable moments, any grubby fingers that insist on grabbing my hair, my hand, and my heart. And as all moms say, because it’s true, cherish it, because it all goes by so fast. I appreciate this advice from a mother who is looking back on a journey that I am just beginning.

As I made my final decision, I determined that as much as I love teaching, I love spending time with Caedmon during the day even more. I’m just a novice, but I will strive to be a mom with purpose, who will nurture Caedmon’s soul as much as his intellect and physical body, and pour into this new job even more than I did with my old.

With my extension paperwork signed, sealed, and delivered . . . Caedmon, I’m yours.

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I Need Faith

photo via.
photo via.

Every day I’m humbled by my lack of faith. My husband and I came to Cambodia to work with young women leaving lives of commercial sexual exploitation and abuse. While our titles are Director and Administrator of Rahab’s House for Agape International Missions, our real jobs are to work to train up the Cambodian staff to be able to run the ministry on their own.

We are blessed by amazing staff, each with their own testimony and each with their own reasons for being willing to work with us to love and to serve these young women. The work, probably even more for our staff than for ourselves, is difficult. While many people might think it sounds heroic and romantic to “rescue” young women from trafficking, the reality is that the immediate rescue – helping them to leave from their place of exploitation – is the easy part. The hard work comes in the days and months after as we love them, serve them, and strive to help them to make good decisions.

The work is difficult for several reasons. The young women we work with might be grateful, but more often they are simply young, adolescent, hormonal girls in their teens and twenties who can be angry, manipulative, and demonstrate very poor judgment in the decisions they make for their lives. Many of them have had very little, if any, structure that has helped to shape them into functional adults, and our job as staff is to help them to make good decisions and, more accurately, to try to prevent them from shipwrecking their lives before they can get onto the right track. Perhaps that sounds dismal, but if you are a parent, imagine if you only started to parent your child at seventeen or twenty-three and for the first part of their childhood simply allowed them to raise themselves. What would her capacity be to think clearly about boyfriends, about career choices, about wanting to go out at night to party with her friends?

Each day I am humbled, however, because I see how the staff we work with continue day in and day out to believe that each of our girls can have a good future even when I get skeptical. My husband preached recently on the demon-possessed man that Jesus encountered and miraculously saved. This man was described as having been chained hand and foot, but he was so strong that he tore the chains apart and lived among the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. This man was healed by Jesus without even so much as a fight. In his sermon, my husband made this point: there is no one so far gone who Jesus cannot save.

In the past two weeks we have had to ask two young women to move out of Rahab’s House (because the girls we serve are primarily over the age of eighteen, Rahab’s House in Siem Reap is a voluntary program and the girls must comply with the rules in order to receive housing). We have continued to provide care for them, but the rules they had broken had been too many and too egregious to allow them to continue to live in the house without being unfair to the other residents. I find myself skeptical that they will ever make it – yet our staff continue to work hard for them, continue to advocate for them, and continue to believe that God’s plan for their lives will be realized and the devil’s work will be overcome.

I’m supposed to be mentoring our staff in social work and outreach, but every day I learn far more from them than I am able to teach. I teach them how to use Dropbox and Excel; they teach me how to believe that God’s glory can and will be realized in Cambodia. I teach them how to file paperwork, and they teach me that God can work miracles in the most impossible of individuals. And I teach them how to create budgets and how to develop new programs, and they teach me to believe bigger, to have greater faith, and to simply long for and desire God more and more each day.

This week we celebrated the graduation of one of our residents from our programs. She’s twenty-five, was recently promoted to manager in her job, is involved on the ministry team at her church, and moved into a church ministry facility where she is surrounded by a strong community of other Christians who love her. We are so proud of her and so proud of our staff for the time and love they have poured in to her.

More importantly, we praise God for how He has worked in her life, showing that miracles can happen regardless of age and past trauma. I am humbled each day that God allows me to witness His miracles to see young women who are rescued and find restoration through Christ. And I am all the more humbled each time I see how much more faith I can and should have in our God, who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, even in the lives of these young women who can seem so far gone.

Posted in Adversity, Culture & Media, Social Justice, Theology & Philosophy | 1 Comment

You Better Believe It

mother teresa quote

I am an encourager.

And I hate it.

I try not to be. I try to hold it in, keep it to myself, just nod my head. But I can’t. Something inside me bubbles up when I hear someone struggling and I have to speak truth to them. I can’t help it.

I don’t do it in a passive aggressive way. You know what I am talking about. “Oh my gosh, you are so skinny. I wish I was skinny too.” Or “You are like so beautiful, and I am such a hideous beast.”

I do not give “false compliments”; in fact I do not give compliments. I speak truth.

Now I know what you are thinking. Why is that a bad thing?

Well, I will tell you . . . no one believes me. Everyone thinks I am full of it or ignores the truth I just spent my heart pouring out. And it hurts. It hurts when someone thinks that the words I have chosen, that mean so much to me, fall onto hard soil. It hurts every time. I see their eyes glaze over or their hand go up in a dismissive wave. I want so badly to shake them and tell them, “Listen to me!” (Full disclosure: sometimes I do.)

I also am an awesome cheerleader, which makes people wary. They wonder if you are trying to get something out of them or if you are secretly jealous. But here is the deal with that . . .

The Bible is clear: “Mourn with those that mourn, rejoice with those that are awesome.” That’s the Kristin translation.

It is my great joy to cry with you and be deeply affected by the things in your life. It’s also my great joy to celebrate with you. Do a happy dance! Shout it from the rooftops!

Why is it so hard to accept the truth God sees? Why is it so hard to let other people champion us? Why can so many of us NOT ACCEPT A COMPLIMENT TO SAVE OUR LIVES??

I’m not sure.

False modesty? Insecurity? Pride? Culture?


But I would say identity. When I am struggling, I still know God’s truth. I know that if success never comes, if all my kids go off the deep end, if my husband is no longer there, I will be okay. I do not live, even one day, for the praise of man, but I long for the love of Christ with every breath I take. So much that I want to share it with others. BADLY.

When someone is complimenting you (truthfully), someone is sharing Christ with you. When someone is encouraging you, they are speaking the Father’s heart over you.

Here is my challenge to you: encourage your friends. Even when there isn’t a thing in it for you. Even when they can’t do it back. Even when they don’t accept it. And cherish the encouragement of others.

We are not in competition with each other, we have already won. We have Christ.

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Glimpses of Grace – Gloria Furman (Book Review)


It’s 3am and the baby is crying. You groan, roll over and wriggle yourself out of the sheets. While the baby eats, you’re squinting at your iPhone and looking through Pinterest in an attempt to keep yourself awake. When suddenly, the potty-training toddler starts yelling, “Mommy? . . . MOMMY!??” . . . You rush in to find her pajamas soiled. While attempting to burp the baby, you strip your toddler’s jammies with your free hand, clean her up, put her in fresh jammies and put her back to bed. You feel a warm sensation down your back . . . spit up. You want to be mad and maybe even cry out of frustration, but you leave it there until the baby is back down. You change your top in the dark, then snuggle back into bed as quickly as possible. After it feels like you’ve slept for ten minutes, it’s already 6:30am and it’s time for the baby to eat again. You’re exhausted and the day has only begun.

Read the full article at The Center for Gospel Culture

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