Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Be a part of something bigger, Part 2

Ok if your day has gone anything like my day so far, your kids woke you up early, spilled their cereal, went to the bathroom on the floor, someone ended up needing to go to the doctor, a grocery store run was a must, dinner made its way in the crockpot, and two different school pickups are about to ensure as I scramble to clean my house for a playdate. These are all fine things, but when this is what every day looks like for me I get bogged down, purposeless, defeated. Don't get me wrong, being a stay at home mom is a gift and a privilege I don't take lightly. But sometimes as women I think we settle in for the mundane because it is a LOT and "has" to be done.
I think there is more. I know there is. There has to be.
Ok, so hopefully you have read part 1 to know the back story. Now on to what is coming next. It's big. It's scary. I can't do it without God. And that is not my daily life. I can sometimes get by without "depending desperately" on him to come through. But not here. Not on this. This is God sized.

We are launching a new Care for Aids center. This will serve 90 people for 9 months until another group of 90 begins for 9 months and then another group of 90...until AIDS is eradicated in that community (It has happened before! 18 centers exist, 3000 graduates, 1000 families currently in the program, 888 lives dedicated to Christ through it!)  It will run through a local church in a village, area, or slum that has been identified as a high risk need for AIDS intervention. The face of this center is all Kenyan. It will be run as if done by the local church, so some American doesn't go in as the face of wealth saving a community and bringing health and hope. No, this is done through the local Kenyan church, empowering it to live and serve the untouchables of its own community. But it requires backing. 24,000$ to launch a new center. Gulp.

We are in. All in. God is going to do it.

Stop right here and throw out any guilt-ridden feelings you have because this task should not induce that. If it does, stop reading and don't think about it again unless God brings it up in your heart. But, if something about this excites you read on, if you- like me- are ready to trade in the mundane for the wild and get your crew on board, then lets go.
We all have extra, we live in excess. We don't think we have extra money, time, or gifts but we do. We have churches, small groups, kids, closets full of clothes, influence, gifts God has given us that are going unused.
What if we cashed in together? We were at first going to do this on our own but God said no. Then as I've written part 1 and already gotten texts, messages and calls from people on how to get involved, I even thought, what if God funds two centers through this? Insane.

Watch this video and see a family transformed by a center and program just like we can be a part of!

I've included ideas below if you are going to jump in with your family. Talk to your spouse, pray about it, bring it up in your small group, pray about it with your kids.  John and I are committed to the full amount, whether we raise it, pay it, sell stuff to get it, whatever, God is going to do it. I know it. But what if you are supposed to be a part? What would so many people miss out on if we just kept this to ourselves and did it quietly and alone? So many people wouldn't get to be on mission with what God is doing, see the struggles and the triumph, be a part of thousands of lives changed. I pray you'll join us if God so leads.
Here are a few practical ideas:
1. Yard sale- get the kids involved. Talk about how many people around the world have no toys, no extra outfit, no bucket full of shoes. Kids are great at putting stickers on things, it is a beautiful activity as a family to purge, downsize your closet and toy box, and do it with a purpose behind it. Donate the proceeds to get this center off the ground. 90 families will immediately be impacted. A community will change. A church will be the feet of Jesus in a new way.
2. Rice and beans nights- we did this every tuesday night for a season of time. It was a time to focus on what others lived off of (namely our son and daughter at that time). We would forgo going out one night and donate that nights dinner cost to a higher purpose. We would set aside 25$ that we would have spent on dinner for that night, thats 100$ a month, 1200$ a year. It focused our prayers and discussion that night of dinner, it got our kids excited about what might happen with that money. It wasn't always roses, there were whiney nights where they were sick of it and didn't want rice again. But sometimes the beauty comes in the "suffering". The sacrifice draws out the value.
3. Small group involvement- (watch out if you are in my group text circles or small group... its coming) what if our small groups got on board? What if we did life together in a new way? What if we came around a purpose together instead of just meeting each week to talk about how to be more like Jesus and we actually did something? Some groups do this really well. Some need direction. Pray about how you could leverage the families in your community. One small group I heard of delivered ziploc bags of rice to neighborhood homes nearby and had a note to "An invitation to 'not eat' dinner with us tonight" and eat how a family in Kenya would eat and then donate a suggested gift of 20$+ to Care for Aids. Opportunities are limitless.
4. Writing letters- if you have kids 3-16+ you can do this as a family. We use the verse "Encourage one another daily as long as it is called today" Memorize it with your kids, and do an activity together to encourage the people of this center and community that are about to enter in to a 9 month overhaul of their health, marriage, spiritual lives, family, learn a new trade, etc. Have your kids draw them pictures, encouraging verses, use stickers, paint whatever. Mail them to me (email me on tab on left for address) and I will get them to Kenya for you! This is a great way to involve our kids in the mission of lifting others up, living out humility and service, and brightening someone's day!
5. Lemonade sale, bake sale, sell African jewelry, etc- Make your community aware, let your kids get some experience in entrepreneurship, ours loved it. They had to take out a "business loan" from us to buy the supplies and make signs and use their kind words and invite customers in. It was a blast!
6. Give as a family- put out a jar as a family. Let the kids do extra chores to fill it up, when you catch your kids doing something kind put money in the jar, let them see you put money in the jar, make verbal choices in front of your kids to forgo something you wanted (coffee, coke, milkshake, getting nails done, whatever) and put that into the jar. See what you come up with at the end of a week, a month, etc.
7. Forward this on- send these two posts to people you know would like to be involved! We all have tons of friends who want to do something for the least of these.
8. GO- see for yourself what is going on over there. Expose your kids, your parents, your friends to this ministry and see how they work on a day to day basis. Stretch your family in a huge way to experience God where he told you he could be found, with the hungry, the sick, the diseased. I hope also we can get a group together for the first graduation from our center and see the first 90 lives changed because a community said Yes to God's prompting.

Now I am not Miss creative so I am sure there are 100 cute ideas to get your kids involved and get on board as a family on this with us. I would love to have you join. Comment with more ideas. Email me and let me know how it is going or if you want to get involved!
Then I pray one day that some of you may go and visit the center you helped plant. I pray you take your kids and say "Look, this is it, this is what God can do when we say yes and give, he gives more, he opens the floodgates, he changes families and saves lives half way around the world because we said yes".  I pray you see the life change that happened from getting on mission as a family, exposing your kids to what can happen when we give God our anything, our gifts, and our hearts. Think of the ripple effect, 90 families, 90 marriages saved, 180 adults presented with Jesus, most likely 180-360 orphans prevented, every nine months, because one center began.

If you are ready to jump in, your giving can go to this link for our center.
John and I are matching all donations 100% until at least one center is funded. We can not wait to see what happens, what God does in your hearts, your stories, your families, your kids hearts. I've already heard stories, gotten texts of already God moments and miracles, this is going to be amazing y'all.
God is huge, we rarely tap into his power and what he wants to unleash in our lives if we just say yes with what he has given us. I think the floodgates just may open...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Be a part of something bigger part 1

A year and a half ago I wrote this post that is so near and dear to my heart for you for casting vision and living on purpose as a family.  Please read that as the back story for this post.  

God has been stirring in our family for a few years now through that exercise how to live on mission and on purpose as a family.  We were giving to our church, sacrificially, and writing that check each month, but our kids rarely saw us write it, give it, or understand the magnitude of that as a family.  We decided we had to move from check-writing to life-living. God had given us these values (generosity/stewardship, gratitude, humility, faith, and relationships). We were teaching them in our home, conversing about them at dinner, praying for them and through them, using them in discipline. But there was still something missing. We had prayed through our 3 buckets of shared passion that would guide our giving and service (the orphan crisis, the unreached, marriage) but they seemed like these three isolated passions that a check would go to each category at random. We started to pray together that God would fuse all of these together, our values, our shared passions, our check writing and our life-living into something we could all get behind as a family. We prayed for a ministry that we could come behind as a family and give to with our money, pray for with our words, serve with our hands, and engage others with our influence.  This is no small task. We were asking something big of God. We were begging for a new chapter in the story of our families to live on purpose and on mission for God while living in suburban america. Adoption was a part of this but not the fulfillment. God had put adoption on the story of our lives and it was a joy to walk forward in that, but it was not the completion of our purpose and mission here. We saw how praying for Maran and Levi, praying for orphans, praying for people with no access to the Bible changed our kids, our perspectives and our hearts. We didn't want to stop there.
So through several "God" moments and connections we were connected to Care For Aids back in 2012 (You can search my Kenya tab on my blog for stories about our experiences with them). We researched, we leaned in hard, we moved slowly, we prayed, we went with our kids, twice. We got to see both sides of this ministry both here and abroad. 
And then this past year God lined it all up for me in my heart after returning from Kenya with our daughter and friends. This was hitting the orphan crisis right in the face, preventing orphans before their family is torn apart by not only the disease of AIDS but the stigma of it, literally keeping parents alive so they can care for their kids, teaching them hygiene, nutrition, and spiritual strength that they could live and leave a God sized legacy for their children. Care for Aids is ministering to the unreached, the untouchables of their communities, the lepers of their society. They are bringing Jesus where there was once no hope, they are showing Christ where there was once witchcraft or superstition, they are infusing the gospel into families that had given up on God. In addition, this was revolutionizing marriages in kenya. Marriage is even more temporary there than it is here. Men are not equipped to be leaders of their home, faithful to their wives, or committed to their children. Throw in the stigma of AIDS and it is an instant death sentence to a marriage. It turns it into a blame game of who gave it to who, I'm done with you, and ostracizes a spouse not only from the family but a community. I got to personally witness the Kenyan staff meet a major marital dispute right in the middle of abuse and address it with love and grace and truth in a way I have never witnessed before. It was beautiful. 
Now I had perspective, I could see what God had been weaving together all along. Our three shared passions, and given us a way to live those out under the umbrella of our family values in a way our kids could wrap their heads around. It was not words around the dinner table anymore for our kids, it was a relationship, an experience, a connection, a memory. 
Our kids were now giving to a mission, a part of a bigger purpose and story, and putting themselves out there to love others well. They even raised almost 1000$ for the ministry themselves. We moved from check-writing to experiencing God in a different way through being a part of a ministry as a family. This wasn't just "John and I's thing" anymore. Our kids' hearts were in it. Reese cries about wanting to go back. Wheeler asks monthly when he will get to go see his friends in Africa again. Maran asks when it will be her turn to go love on the people of Africa. 
It's not an item on our to do list, it is a joy and a privilege to love and serve God with our family in this way. 
And it is also my hope for you. Not that you just follow me and get on board with Care for Aids, although I would love that! But to really seek out what God wants uniquely of your family. To find something to do with your kids, grandkids, friends, whatever. To not only give but eventually go. It may be Care for Aids, and I would love to facilitate that, it may not be, and thats ok. Or it may be this in the in between time until you find your thing...

But I do have a big God sized dream, and you and your family or small group just may be a part of it. We need each other, I need a community to come around this God sized dream. Pray if God is asking you to be involved, and come back tomorrow for part 2, where the rubber meets the road.... lets do this thing.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Firstborn burdens

(Originally a guest blog at www.courtneydefeo.com
I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution person. Otherwise I’ll have a laundry list of “to do’s” and “to do betters” at the beginning of the year that overwhelm me and make me not even want to get started. However I am a goal setter and a planner. If I make that list of unattainable resolutions I know I’ll be a perfectionist about it and anxious on how to make it work. If I then do not hit those goals I will feel defeated and like a failure. It is a vicious cycle in my life that can only find rest in the freedom of the gospel.
kidsI see this play out in the eyes of my seven-year-old. She is in a season of feeling burdened by being a big sister to three siblings who always want to play with her and copy exactly what she’s doing. She’s put the weight on herself to be a good example and she easily gets frustrated with herself. I’ve seen this growing and festering in different ways the last few months.
God has given me a radical shift in approaching her as her mom. I see my response to failure in her response. I see my childhood struggles to reach perfection to make my parents proud and be liked in her current struggle. I see my older sister in her as she held the weight of her somewhat self-induced role of caretaker and protector much to the detriment of herself.

View More: http://aleamoore.pass.us/whitefamilyA few weeks ago I pulled her aside as she was crying after getting frustrated with her sister. She wasn’t crying because her feelings were hurt. She was crying because her response to her frustration with a sibling sent her into shame and guilt and frustration. Her feelings of failure and inadequacy overwhelmed her and she would not even look at me fearing I would only push further condemnation and pressure on her to do the right thing. It was in that moment I decided to shift my discipline to discipling. I knew that was a pivotal and critical moment for me to either point her to Jesus or continue to strengthen her default- to be a robot of people pleasing.  I said a quick prayer and asked God to speak his words to her and not mine because I knew my wisdom was beyond lacking of what was needed here. Thankfully he answered.

I sat her down and snuggled her in and shared my struggle. I told her how easily I get frustrated with myself when I mess up, when I raise my voice at them, when I am impatient or disengaged. I told her about how I will think on my mistake for weeks, letting it spiral me into shame and deep frustration in myself and how this only furthers my sin because I operate out of trying to fix myself and the same problem worsens. I then told her some version of the following.

Did you know God loves you the same amount the moment where you are shouting and pushing your sibling as the moment where you are hugging them and making good choices with kind words?  He looks down and loves you the same in those two moments. Because when he looks at you he sees Jesus in your place and the perfection of His life covering up the sin of yours. God is not some far distance away shaking his head at you sarcastically saying ‘I told you so, you should’ve made a better choice.’ No, he is so close, cheering for you, delighting in you, encouraging you in your heart to find your value and freedom in him, choosing to believe his grace and mercy over Satan offering guilt and shame.

I don’t say this all so you can know that God loves you the same as if you made a good choice so why not go on making bad choices, but that the grace we find at that broken place should point us to our design. We were designed to love like he did. That is why we get so frustrated at ourselves when we mess up. But we shouldn’t let our shame take us down, but instead find the grace that I don’t have to meet the standard of perfection, it has already been met for me in Jesus. That truth should free me up to be who I was created to be.
It should release me from guilt and shame and allow me to lean on Him for strength to battle my sin. Because the more we try to ‘not sin’ we will find ourselves doing it more and more, because our own strength is not enough for that battle. God says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. If we aren’t weak then we aren’t a candidate for Christ’s power, so don’t get frustrated that you are broken and messed up. But in that lean on his grace, ask for his power, and he has promised it will be given to you.

Thank you Jesus for that truth that you reminded me in the midst of my child’s struggle. He spoke to me as I spoke the words to her. I felt myself tear up as I felt a renewed sense of his grace wash over all the places I have been so frustrated with my shortcomings as a mom, wife, and woman of God. I don’t have to be perfect, his power is made perfect when I am at my worst.

God, help us to steer our children right to your heart. Help me as I mother these 4 blessings and teach them about the relentless grace you offer. Help me rest in Christ’s perfection and power and stop striving on my own to reach unrealistic goals. Help me lay my list of ‘to do’s and to do betters’ at your feet and let you infuse your power into making me more of who you created me to be.
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