Souvenirs for the Soul: Wild Horses Are Not Lone Rangers

You don’t want to be out there after dark. It turns pitch black and there’re no street lights to guide you back to town.

Homeschooling afforded us some far-reaching field trips.

Some people call them family vacations. But since we traveled during the fall—after the heat settled down, the mosquitoes were hopefully dead, and the masses of other families were back home with their kids tucked away in public/private schools—and since I made sure our kids wrote in their journals, I choose to call them field trips.

In 2001, we planned a month-long trip, visiting several national parks and other western venues. To prepare for this adventure we started the basic academic subjects in early August. Additionally, I ordered travel magazines from the states we would visit. I assigned each of our children to pick an attraction for us to visit. Then they had to research and “teach” us about that place: why it was worth visiting, its history and unique features, and how should we prepare (special shoes, safety measures, precautions).

We learned about Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, and … I can’t remember … maybe Bryce Canyon. But our oldest wanted to us to hunt down wild horses deep in the desert outside Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Did you know wild horses don’t roam alone?

They live in one of two types of herds: a stallion and his harem and foals, or a group of bachelors. (I can just imagine how a bunch of would-be harem owners behave.)

So in Wyoming, we set out on a 23-mile trek, in the heat of a sunny afternoon, carefully traversing dirt roads, while scanning the terrain in search of a herd. Several miles into the trip we spotted one not far off the road. We got as close as we respectfully could, stopped our van, and waited.

In a matter of seconds we knew who the lead mare was—the one that took charge when we drove up. She and a few others trotted across the road in front of us, while she called for the others to follow. We could literally hear her encouragement. It seemed to take a little convincing, but they all eventually crossed over and kept on going—their long tails blowing in the breeze.

We’d been to Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone by this point, but nothing captured my breath like these beautiful creatures. Strong, determined, untethered owners of free-range.

This experience gave me a new understanding of what it means to be “wild.”

You can’t just do what you want, how you want, when you want. Humans, like horses, are meant to live in community. And we are all meant to follow a leader. One leader.

Now this isn’t a lesson on leadership. No, it’s a lesson about the fact that we can be beautifully wild, but we still live in order with others. We need each other. Alone we die; together we thrive. The only way to get along is by refusing to fight for the head spot, and instead regularly choosing to submit to that head.

And who is that head? Have you guessed it yet? It’s not Mom. It’s not even Dad. And it’s never, ever the kids.

God is our Head.

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
(Colossians 1:18, NASB)

July 17 Hearts Moving toward Christ

For our wedding announcements Bob made the design in the above photo. It symbolizes two hearts, uniting into one. The only way for that union to happen is as each of us move toward Jesus (the cross). If one of us chooses to live outside the lordship of Christ, our unity will weaken. But as long as we continued to grow closer to God, we will automatically grow closer to each other.

This is true in all our relationships. Now, I know our children don’t understand how to live under Christ as their head. It’s a hard concept for any of us to grasp. But, I do know this: the best way to parent is to surrender our parenting to the Father.

July 17 Wild Side

How do we do this?

I’m curious what you would say. How do you as a mom surrender to God practically?

For me, it took a lot of listening. Getting past my emotions, be willing to set aside my agenda, and listening. It meant measuring my words, actions, reactions, methods of discipline, and expressions of love against God’s word. It meant apologizing when I needed to, and sometimes adjusting the consequences I had handed out in the middle of a hot and messy moment. And it meant redefining my expectations.

So, trapped and restrained mom, do you long to run wild?

You can. As long as you remember wild does not mean going solo. You need to surround yourself with others like-minded, common-experienced moms. And more importantly, you need to know and follow the voice of the great Head.

Family, the Beautiful

What comes to your mind when you think about Independence Day?

I think about …

  • The brave who’ve fought, and died, for our freedom;
  • The stars and stripes swaying proudly at front doors;
  • Sizzling hot dogs, watermelon drenched grins, and homemade ice cream;
  • Parades, glow sticks, bug spray, and fireworks;
  • And a kaleidoscope of people from sea to shining sea.

July 3

We’ve so much to be grateful for. Don’t we? Abundant resources. Awe-striking landscapes. Amazing people.

We’re not perfect. Not by any means. But we sure are beautiful. Yes, we are!

What a great picture of our families.

We’re not perfect. Far too frequently we display our shameful ugliness: unyielding division, stinky attitudes, embarrassing ineptness, agonizing failures.

But ever so often we need to put all that aside and throw a party. Celebrate what we are together.

Rescued. Redeemed. Renamed.

Merciful. Hopeful. Strong.

Beautiful.

July 3 R&A citizenship

There will be more battles to fight, mountains of litter to discard, sturdier bridges to build, and necessary paths to clear.

But today is a good time to stand. From table-end to table-end, stretch wide and grasp tight. It’s a day to raise our anthem: God bless and guide our home sweet home … our family, the beautiful.

July 3 United.jpg

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Psalm 133:1 (ESV)

 

 

Remarkable Faith

I’m in the middle of a first time experience, and I’m loving it. I have the privilege of serving on Shauna Lettelier’s launch team for her book …

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marvels at the Faith of Unremarkable People

… to be released July 11th. And here’s the cool thing: Shauna has also been a nonbiological mom.

The last Monday of every month this year, I’ve featured a guest blogger. Today I’m doing that a little differently. I thought it would be fun if I interviewed Shauna so she could share directly with you how being a nonbiological mom helped her discover Remarkable Faith. You’ll be touched by her all-too-familiar story and the beautiful way God redeemed a difficult time in her life.

June 26 Shauna Letellier Remarkable Faith is a Braided ...

Tell us about your experience as a nonbiological mom.

We had the privilege of fostering two little girls for 16 months. They came to us when they were 16 months and 2.5 years, joining our three biological boys ages 7, 6, and 5, and making us a family of seven!

What were your greatest struggles in parenting these children?

My greatest struggles were mostly internal and spiritual. I could not understand why it was so hard. If God had called us to it, (and we believed he did), if his heart beats for the orphan and widow in their distress, why on earth was I constantly on the edge of panic and out of patience with everyone in my family. In my estimation I was messing up all the most important things I had hoped to do so well.

Wow, does that ever sound familiar!

I felt like I was parenting en-mass. They became a little group of people I had to shuffle from here to there. I had to run them through the tub one at a time like a machine. I fed and washed them all, and in between the shuffling, bathing and washing, I was sprinting towards the next event, trying to stay ahead of their needs. And if for one second I took my hand off, closed my eyes, failed to plan ahead, a dam of unmet needs would break on me and it would take days to recover from the fatigue, fits, and fallout. I learned to never get behind. It led to living life in a state of low grade panic, with no time or energy for relationships with the children, or others.

What did God teach you in this experience?

God taught me so many things. He will grant what he requires. And so often we think he requires more than he actually does. Does he require moms to make a certain kind of meal? To keep a certain kind of schedule?

Sometimes I wonder if our journey in foster care was more about God teaching and taking care of me than it was about me teaching and taking care of children.

I had worked so hard at something so important. And for various reasons I felt like I had failed. I figured God was probably disappointed with me.

But he showed me through his word that faith is less about doing and more about depending on Him.

June 26 Shauna Letellier Remarkable Faith is Not Performing

How does this experience tie into your book Remarkable Faith?

I wasn’t homeschooling. I wasn’t a single parent. Each of our five kiddos had unique and individual needs, but none that were medically or developmentally urgent. I wasn’t helping refugees overseas. I wasn’t building orphanages.

Many of my friends were doing much harder things and I was barely making it to church. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the free childcare provided by the nursery and Sunday school teachers may have been my main reason for attending church. “Everyone else” was performing remarkable acts of faith and ministry, and I could barely fix supper.

I began to wonder…

If my faith was pleasing to God, wouldn’t this come easier?
My “acts of faith” are nothing compared to so-and-so. Maybe my faith is second-rate?
If I’m feeling so desperate all the time, maybe I don’t have faith.

I picked up my Bible and discovered something remarkable. When Jesus spoke with his chosen disciples about their faith, he said they were faithless and twisted (see Matthew 17:17, NIV). More than once he exclaimed, “O you of little faith!” But there were others in the gospels whose faith Jesus noticed and commended. He saw their faith, remarked about it, and was even astonished by it!

But here’s the funny thing. We don’t know their names. We only know them because of their sickness, tragedy, and sordid histories. Jesus not only knew them by name, he knew their suffering, and saw great faith in the midst of it.

And if he commended these nameless examples of faith, then maybe mine wasn’t a disappointment to him after all. In each story I discovered that perhaps the most remarkable act of faith is to unreservedly carry our inadequacies to Jesus and trust Him to transform our weakness into worship. Remarkable faith is depending on Christ, not performing for him.

The unlikely examples of faith were so fascinating that I retold them in a series of eight biblical vignettes. Each one weaves history, theology, and fictional detail into their biblical accounts to bring a new perspective to those whose faith feels unremarkable. Those eight stories became my book.

June 26 Shauna Letellier_RemarkableFaith book cover

Thank you, Shauna, for taking time in the midst of a crazy launch season to answer my questions.

What an encouragement your words are for us. How comforting to realize that we too can be women of #remarkable faith.

Friends, I rarely find books I recommend, especially on my blog, because I’m picky that they contain rich content and are well-written. I can say with absolute certainty that Remarkable Faith is worth having. To learn how to pre-order click ⇒ Remarkable Faith. If you order before July 10, you’ll also receive a Bible study guide and other free gifts.


June 26 Shauna Head shotShauna Letellier enjoys weaving strands of history, theology, and fictional detail into a fresh retelling of familiar Bible stories. She draws upon her Bachelors degree in Biblical Studies from Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as a variety of Bible commentaries to drape the fabric fiction over the framework of Scripture. Shauna is a self-proclaimed expert second-guesser but finds certainty in knowing Jesus Christ. She blogs about finding rest and relief in Him at ⇒ Shauna Letellier. With her husband Kurt, she has the wild and hilarious privilege of raising their three boys along the banks of the Missouri River where they fish, swim, and rush off to ballgames.

Souvenirs for the Soul: A Glass of Ice-Cold Water

It started as a tiny drug store in a prairie town of 326 people. The new owners took possession in 1931, serving the community which had been devastated by the Great Depression and was just entering the dust bowl years. The owners lived in a small space in the back of the store, separated only by a blanket suspended from the ceiling.

After four-and-a-half years of hardly a customer, they considered selling and moving on to better opportunities. But one smoldering summer day, the wife had a Divine inspiration.

“The people in those cars going up and down the highway must surely be thirsty. What if we put up signs offering a free glass of ice water?” Before they’d finished setting up the signs people were already stopping by for water (and ice cream).

2017 June 19 Hot Traveling

Photo courtesy of Pablo Garcia Saldana @ Unsplash

Handing out free, ice-cold water changed the owners’ lives.

Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD now occupies an entire block, and hosts as many as 20,000 visitors a day. Our family stops there every time we travel down Interstate 90. We just can’t resist a place that has experienced God’s blessings by doing things God’s way. Well, truth be told, I guess we can’t resist their ice cream either.

Once he’d earned enough money to begin traveling, Wall Drug founder, Ted Hustead, had another brilliant idea. While on vacation in London, he hung a huge sign on a wall in a subway station. It humorously informed the locals that Wall Drug was only 5,160 miles away. The sign then offered free information about South Dakota to anyone who wrote them. In short order they began receiving 15-20 letters a day.

Signs began appearing all over the world—sometimes only as large as a road sign—with an arrow pointing in the direction of Wall, SD, and listing the distance to the store. They’ve shown up in places like Paris, Kenya, and even Antarctica. My husband saw one for the first time while touring Greece. It was these signs that drew us to make our first stop while on vacation with our children in 2001.

Since we homeschooled we had decided to take a month-long vacation that September. Temps would be cooler and crowds would be much lighter than traveling during the summer months. As their teacher, I wanted to make every day a learning opportunity. So, in researching our route, I discovered Wall Drug was only a few blocks off the interstate.

When we got there we all made a beeline for that promised free glass of water. We simply had to have a taste of history. Of course, the cooler of water was placed right inside the ice cream parlor where we discovered something even more inviting.

When planning for this trip, I decided to adopt an activity my father had conducted during one of our summer vacations. To minimize teenage sibling arguments, he prepared daily devotions. I did the same, by writing devotions that had to do with what we’d be visiting each day. Well, you might guess what Scripture I used for us to meditate on the day we visited Wall Drug. Yes, Matthew 10:42

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. … And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward”

(Matthew 10:40 and 42, NASB).

Souvenir for the Soul

When we do the simplest of things, meeting the most basic of needs, as representatives of Jesus’ compassion for the vulnerable, we are promised great reward.

Ted Hustead, in telling the story of Wall Drug’s history, said,

Free Ice Water. It brought us Husteads a long way and it taught me my greatest lesson, and that’s that there’s absolutely no place on God’s earth that’s Godforsaken. No matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need!

Sometimes we think we’ll make the biggest impact by doing big things. Well the story of Wall Drug begs to differ. Jesus begs to differ. It’s such a relief to know our greatest impact is made when doing the small things.

June 19 Cup of Cold Water

So maybe that’s the way we can break through the big walls our “unattached” kids have erected. We don’t have to knock down those walls.

We simply need to stand on our tip toes, extend a hand over, and offer a cup of water.

Something as simple as a smile, a light touch to a shoulder, a few words of encouragement (like “I believe in you.”), a moment to listen (with mouth closed while looking straight into their eyes). These refreshing gestures, will go along way in softening their hearts. You may not notice what happens on the other side of those walls, but in years to come you just might get to hear them tell of the little ways you quenched their thirst.

Souvenirs for the Soul: Dangerous or Stunning?

Call me unorthodox, but they didn’t look beautiful to me. Oh, they took my breath away, but they looked…

Dangerous

… like gaping jaws, ready to suck me in, crush me to pieces, and finish me off. I felt threatened by their enormous, jagged wildness. My initial response was to beg the Lord to keep me far away—at a safe altitude as I flew high above them toward my destination in Alaska.

Last week I shared about my experience flying over the Yukon Mountains . I related how I had to quelch the fear that those mountains could destroy me, and choose to marvel at their grandeur instead. I shared how at first they terrified me, until I decided to let them inspire me. Because once I got past my fear, I could see they were …

Stunning

… an endless, pristine display of God’s magnificence.

But you know what? Those mountains were inanimate. They were just sitting there. Somehow despite their lifelessness they had stirred powerful emotions. How is that? Because in reality, a piece of rock of any size can’t wield that kind of power. It has no control over my reactions. My fears were actually prompted by something deeper—more than likely a lack of understanding or experience with those mountains.

Souvenir for the Soul:

The same is true with people’s opinions. We have no control over how people view us. We aren’t capable, nor are we responsible, to dictate what people think. We can seek to better inform others, but in the end …

Whether they think we’re dangerous or stunning is their choice.

A couple of things to consider here.

One, we need to do all we can to be at peace with those around us, and then leave the results with the Lord.* It was the Creator, after all, that caused me to change my feelings about the Yukon Mountains. He is fully capable to change what people think—as long as they’re willing (something we can’t do a thing about either).

June 12 We have no control over how people see us

Two, the opinion we do have control over is our own. How do we view those around us, especially the ones that look dangerous? I’m not talking about an unsafe person who can physically or emotionally harm us. I’m talking about our mother-in-law, or neighbor, or coworker that we tend to avoid because we seem to frequently irritate each other. And, of course, our unattached children might very well fit into the dangerous category, too.

I wonder what would happen if we started viewing the “dangerous” people in our lives as “stunning”.**

Wondrous creations of God. What kind of difference might it make?

If I imagine what it might be like to have my feet on the ground—up close and personal—in the middle of the Yukon Mountains, I have a pretty good idea, my opinion of them would change dramatically. Maybe, the people we fear are like that, too. Maybe we need to take the time to draw closer: feel their soil beneath our feet, meander through their wildness, smell the fragrance of the flowers that grow in their crevices, drink from the waters that spring from their depths. I have a feeling we’d be amazed at their beauty.

June 12 Maybe its time we meander

A word of caution: We can’t crash land in their midst. We have to study guide books, pack water and energy bars, wear appropriate shoes, and examine the landscape to find the safest trails. We have to tread respectfully.

And maybe it would help if they got a closer look at us. Maybe this week might be a good time to extend an invitation. A smile. A compliment. A note in the mail. A cup of coffee at a nearby venue.

They may never change their view of us, but I have a feeling the Creator would like us to seek out our own fresh perspective of them. He’d like us to quelch our idea that someone is dangerous, and deliberately look for what’s stunning.

Without naming anyone, share in the comments three words that describe the stunning beauty of a person you used to think was dangerous.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
*If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:17-21, NIV

**In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12, NASB

 

When You’re Really Not Being Helpful to Your Teen, and How to Fix It

I’m so pleased to introduce you to brand new blogger, and veteran nonbio mom, LuAnn Kern. She’s currently in the middle of teenage messes with her two adoptive daughters. She writes clear and practical truths we can all employ. You’ll be encouraged by her words today. Head on over and check out her blog where she’s shares empowering insights.


I did it again.

My teenage daughter had been complaining for weeks, about some kids in her science class teasing her.

“Why do they have to keep mentioning that I’m adopted? That I’m from Guatemala? Why do they have to keep telling me I’m short? I know I’m short! I’m just sick of it.”

Cue the heart break.

I asked her if she wanted me to step in, talk to the principal. She said no, she’d manage, the school year was almost over. I promised I’d stay out of it; told her I’d pray for her.

But there’s only so much a mama can take,

… seeing her girl in anguish every night. Seeing how this treatment was weighing down on her spirit, was weighing down on mine.

May 29 LuAnn Kern

But I didn’t take it to God. Instead I took it to the principal.

Hit SEND.

He was quick to respond, said he’d talk with the other students. Offered to let her switch classes. I told him we’d get back to him.

Then I had to ‘fess up to my daughter.

“Mother, what did you DO?”

She handled it well, listened to my excuses, my explanations. Only said, “May I go to my room now.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised by such a mature, measured response from her. She may have trouble forgiving her classmates, but she can forgive me. Ah, the grace of a 14-year-old.

I haven’t mentioned it since. Neither has she. I know she’s trying to be independent; always has been. She wants to handle these types of things, but it can be so hard for a middle schooler. Just as hard for a loving mom to not step in and solve her problems. Maybe this is why adolescence is such a tough time for teens and parents. They’re trying to cast their own identity, apart from us.

And we’re needing to recast our identity,

… away from being a problem-solver and toward being a sounding board and a life coach.

We didn’t change her schedule. She still comes home frustrated. Some days are worse than others. She’s learning to navigate her way through it. I’m learning to listen better. To empathize more. To ask “what are you going to do?” instead of suggesting telling her what to do.

And I’m learning to pray harder for her.

Because, after all, isn’t that the best thing we can do for our teens?

May 29 I'm learning to pray harder.

When it comes to parenting our teens, let us rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12.12)


20170529 LuAnn KernLuAnn Kern is a writer and mother raising two teenage daughters who were both born in Guatemala. She knows first-hand that when adolescence hits an adopted child, it hits hard. In addition to a changing body and evolving emotions, adopted teens are searching for independence from not one but two sets of parents. To help share what God’s teaching her and her husband, she hosts the blog Ripples and Rip Tides: Raising Your Adopted Teen.

Arise, Darling! Winter is Over!

We only have one that pops up in our garden each spring. But it only takes one to make me squeal like a three-year-old …

“Look! The daffodil has bloomed!”

Daffodils are one of my favorites. They are the first to bloom around here. With their perky heads and sunny faces, they trumpet promises of warmth and renewal.

2017 May 22 Daffodil

Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden @ Unsplash

God’s promises are like that, too. They trumpet hope like water in the desert, color after a long grey winter, warmth after a bone-deep chill, the beginning of a new productive season. God’s promises are like that because like the flowers we count on to bloom every spring, so God is unchanging and faithful. We can count on His promises because we can count on Him.

Yes, His promises reveal much about His character:

He’s not slow—He’s patient.
He’s bigger than any giant—and He uses the subtlest weapons.
There’s hope beyond our current difficulties—He’s with us in our difficulties.
There’s always a bigger picture—an eternal purpose.

But did you know …

His promises also reveal much about our character?

May 22 God's promises are meaningless unless they've been tested.

For example:

His promise to never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) doesn’t much matter until we’re in a place where He seems to have vanished. We can’t see Him, hear Him, or feel Him. It’s at this point we have to discover if we trust Him even then. It’s at this point we have a choice: to let our trust grow or falter.

What about His promise to prosper us and not harm us, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)? Do we look at our future through the lens of our circumstances today or through His Word?

Then there’s His promise that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). How many times have we allowed death or life, principalities or powers, present circumstances or fear of the future, convince us otherwise?

Oh, and the one we all think we’ve passed when in truth we have failed over and over. Whoever believes in Jesus will have everlasting life (John 3:16). How many times have we acted as if our salvation depended on our performance—as if it’s something to be earned?

And there’s other promises we often fail to believe when tested. I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). He will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19). The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). And how about, He will give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11)?

I find that it’s easy to perk up when we recite God’s promises—that is until those …

promises experience a hard freeze.

And for me, mothering unattached children frequently blew the door wide open to wintry blasts. But you know what? Though I doubted, I clung like crazy to God’s promises.

I’d like to say those promises have evolved over the years. The way they materialized in the end sure looked a lot differently than I expected at the beginning. But the truth is, the promises didn’t change. My understanding of them did. My mind—my heart—is what has been transformed. And I can tell you now, the scent of those promises is much sweeter than I ever imagined.

So what’s popped up in your garden this spring?

Have you considered

… the effort it took for that sprout to push through the soil? Have you pondered what it might be like to endure a long, cold winter, buried in darkness? Do you realize that near death had to happen for new life to grow?

Oh, but you’ve experienced these things haven’t you? Yes, me, too. And that’s why we take the time to stop, gaze, touch, inhale deeply, and praise the Creator as we see His promises blossom into new life before us.

Like Solomon,

Jesus invites us to enter His spring.

May we follow.

 

“Arise, my darling,
    my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
Flowers [daffodils?] appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”

Song of Songs 2:10-13, NIV