As I was driving into work yesterday, I started thinking about this Christmas season and what our family would do to celebrate this year. For several years now, our family has decided to forego gifts for each other and GIVE our money instead. Some years we would give a collected gift or donation, and other years we would all give to what our nuclear families felt led to give toward. Mostly, our “sacrifices” were financial.

But this year I have a different tug on my heart. As I continue to live among and invest in those who struggle with cyclical poverty and dependence on systems, I grow stronger in my conviction that most people living in America don’t need clothes, food, or STUFF. You guys, our government has literally set up a multitude of options and opportunities for people who are struggling financially in our country. Not to mention all of the non-profit organizations who also help. And can I just tell you, from an insider’s perspective, a very small number of those options actually help our neighbors out of their dependence.

I remember walking into a neighbor’s home last Christmas to drop some kids off after our reading program and stumbling over the gifts under their tree (as in, too-many-to-count). As I stood there, looking at all of these gifts, I thought to myself that I (an upper class, suburban child) didn’t even have that many gifts under the christmas tree growing up. Ironically, I was planning to talk to their mom that day about another opportunity she had (through a non-profit) to receive some gifts for her children for Christmas. But after being blind-sided by what I saw…I hesitated. Do they really need more gifts? I knew I needed to follow through, so I asked if she would be interested and she said “Of course!”…and I just stood there in disbelief. What have we done… 

And before anyone starts thinking that I am generalizing here, I am going to sneak in a disclaimer. This is NOT everyone. And even for this family that I speak of, they alone are not solely responsible for where they are now. There are families in our country who are longing to give their families a Christmas that is meaningful and are so appreciative of whatever help they can receive. I have seen this first hand, our family helped families like this. My intention here is to draw you into the PAUSE that I am feeling…a moment to think about what we are really doing to benefit those we are reaching out to this Christmas.

And this is where my heart stirred on that day in the car…

First, with conviction. I am prone to take the easy road. There are many days when I want to or just plain DO choose to “sacrifice” some money for the sake of saving my time and energy. And sacrifice is a loose term as you can see, because it doesn’t feel that sacrificial when you are giving what you HAVE. It is easy for me to come to Christmas every year and give some gifts to those in need, because it doesn’t require me to get messy…to dive into the deep junk that comes with living at the bottom of the totem pole in our society. And for those of you living in the suburbs…I’ve been there too. It was easier for me to shovel my neighbor’s side-walk as an “act of service” than it was to invite them in for a meal and engage in their lives. If there is anything that I have learned about people – broken, messed up people (which includes me, by the way) – it is that our deepest need is relationship.

Second, with action. What if we, as a family, give the gift of intentional relationship to another family, or neighbor, or co-worker this Christmas. What if our gift actually feels like giving something instead of feeling like we are checking off our “good deed.” What if we give a gift that someone actually needs. If we do this, then we have to be ready to give up more than what we’ve got for the sake of someone else. Which brings me to my final point…

Jesus. Our atonement. Our sacrifice. HE gave up his will for the sake of mankind. He gave up his LIFE – every minute, every moment, every breath – to give a gift to us. Relationship with him. And right before ascended to heaven he gave US a charge and a challenge – to make disciples. Relationship. Giving up time, money, and energy for the sake of others.

I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give this Christmas is the blessing of relationshipOur family can become a family for someone else, our kids can become someone’s joy, our dog can become someone’s companion, our home can become someone’s safe place, our life can become an example for someone to live by, our words can remind someone of who they are and who’s they are. Our family, our person, is a gift to others. And so this begs the question…Am I willing?

Are you willing?

 

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Rake, Shovel ‘n Run!

Posted: November 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

Since breaking off into TWO bible studies (one that meets at the Krause house and the other at the Newlywed’s), we have begun to discuss new traditions, new desires, and new visions with our flocks. It has been really interesting to see how God is shaping and molding these two bible studies very specifically. I don’t think any of us would have imagined that one group would turn into a youth bible study, while the other a family bible study. They each have there own challenges and blessings, but we are so blessed to watch each other love and serve those who are available here and now.

Our small group discussed the desire to add service as a component to our fellowship, so we brainstormed multiple ideas of ways that our entire families could serve together in our neighborhood. We believe that serving together is one of the best ways to grow in God together. We have experienced it personally and have also watched others grow through shared experiences.

Well…not surprisingly, we scheduled a Rake ‘n Run on a day that became our very first snow day. We have now jokingly renamed this day a Rake, Shovel ‘n Run day…without the rakes. We collected our shovels, put some hot cider in a big thermos, and garbed up for the Wintery day! I wish I had more pictures for you, but these two captured my full attention.

J-Bird and Mads playing in the snow for the first time!

J-Bird and Mads playing in the snow for the first time!

I don't even have WORDS for this precious little!!

I don’t even have WORDS for this precious little!!

Oh yes, we dragged our kids with us (even when they had NO snow gear…)! Don’t be deceived, our twenty minutes of wrestling their layers on only counted for about five minutes in the snow…and now I know why people don’t even bother. Ha! At least they are cute!!

If you aren’t already, get your small groups serving together! Not only is it a huge gift to those you are serving, but it is also precious time together as a group.

Merry Thanksgiving to you all!

 

Brave Heart

Posted: October 8, 2014 in Family, Fostering, Life Lessons
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My sweet girl,

I’ve been waiting for you. Praying for you. Longing to hold you in my arms.

We brought you home and you fought, you questioned, you pushed, and you tested. I don’t blame you…you’ve learned that some people can’t be trusted. You’ve given your heart away to people, so many people. But I see you looking for a place to land. I feel you melt in my arms when I rock you to sleep and speak softly to you. You are safe. You are loved. You are longed for. I watch you open your wounded heart with every smile you make. It is amazing to me that you would give love a chance again…

You are brave, little one.

I don’t know that I could love again if I had been hurt and wounded as you have been. But then again, we are made to love and to be loved. There is something built into our souls that seeks the love of others, of something.

Did you know that there is someone who will love you forever and always? Who will follow you wherever you go? Who will care for you, rescue you, protect you, and keep you all the days of your life. Your Daddy in Heaven…He is your’s forever. And you are his. There is no risk in His love…He is all in, all of the time, forever.

I thank Jesus for you, little one. I thank Him everyday that He is softening your heart toward us. I thank Him for the joy we see in you, the ways we are being transformed and renewed as we parent you, and the beautiful challenge we face in winning your heart as we love you unconditionally.

We see you, sweet girl. We hear you. We are with you and for you. And you are BRAVE. 

You’ve got my heart. I love you.

 

Sincerely,

Mama

 

Neighborhood for Peace

Posted: October 1, 2014 in Shepard
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I remember praying about the building on the corner. Word was spreading that it would become a pawn shop…remember this. I have to admit, as soon as we found out I shook my fist! WHY?! What good would ever come from this shady business? Well let me just tell you…

A sign made for the neighborhood prayer walk for peace!

A sign made for the neighborhood prayer walk for peace!

We gathered together with 50 other neighbors on Saturday along with the Neighborhoods for Peace committee to pray for our neighborhood. Surprisingly, this committee spawned from a weekly meeting that has been taking place among our neighbors ever since the pawn shop opened. Fighting for peace, fighting for safety, fighting for healing.

Gathering at Greater Christ Temple before the "march."

Gathering at Greater Christ Temple before the “march.”

What an unbelievable picture of the body of Christ, coming together to stand around something that was meant for evil and believing that God has meant it for good. We are literally watching God’s promises coming to fruition right before our eyes! We would have never been here if it wasn’t for the pawn shop. EVER.

Praying at an open lot on 5th avenue.

Praying at an open lot on 5th avenue.

Praying at the daycare center on the corner of 5th avenue and Sunbury Rd.

Praying at the daycare center on the corner of 5th avenue and Sunbury Rd.

Praying at the community garden.

Praying at the community garden.

Phil asked one of the participants on the walk (a nun from Ohio Dominican Sisters of Peace) if she would have ever imagined this happening in our neighborhood. She replied, “NO! And especially not because of a pawn shop.” The Lord uses the most unusual things to bring attention to Himself.

On the news...once again!

On the news…once again!

Walking down 5th Avenue.

Walking down 5th Avenue.

Young and old...

Young and old…

We had an incredible time, feeling so encouraged by our neighbors’ efforts. We are so hopeful that this momentum will continue as we rally for peace!

Vacating

Posted: September 8, 2014 in Family
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The summer is one of our favorite seasons in our community. Front porches become a meeting place, backyards become a playing ground, and our door stays open for all of the bustle throughout the day. And this year, an addition to our home has caused some extra cute traffic through our home…

Dangerous but OH SO FUN!!

Needless to say, it’s been a fun and BUSY summer. Which is the reason we strategically “Vacate” at the end of August. Doors closed. No business here. Vacant Home.

Glorious.

What was I looking forward to most in trekking out west for a week? NO CARS! You have no idea how difficult it is for a semi-introverted, city-dweller to find some peace and quiet up in here. All this girl needs is some legitimate QUIET every now and then.

And this is where I found it…

Our breathtaking views of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

Our breathtaking views of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

If there is one place where God’s word just pops of the page and comes alive to me it is here, in the mountains. In the quiet. Surrounded by the majestic beauty of my Creator. There is just no denying His hand in the midst of our lives when we see all that surrounds us…valleys and peaks alike.

Morning time in the word with these lovelies.

Morning time in the word with these lovelies.

What an adventure. One that I will cherish forever!

The wildlife was unbelievable!

The wildlife was unbelievable!

A stubborn moose on our path.

A stubborn moose on our path.

Loads of wildflowers still in bloom!

Loads of wildflowers still in bloom!

The whole group at Hurricane Pass.

The whole group at Hurricane Pass.

We are all refreshed after coming home from this trip and are gearing up for the new season coming upon us. FALL! So many exciting things to look forward to in the coming months. Hope you all are finding ways to be purposeful and intentional with your lives this Fall season.

Blessings.

For the Record

Posted: July 25, 2014 in Family, Life Lessons
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My heart is becoming more and more like any other expectant momma’s heart would be in her eighth month of pregnancy. My home is brimming with clothes and high chairs and toys galore. The bed is made and the room tidied. If any one stranger would come into our home they would think there is a child living here. And although my physical body isn’t showing the signs of a little one to come, can I just tell you that my heart makes up for it! Sometimes I’m caught off guard by the tears that come as I pray for this child coming into our lives, blessed by the Lord’s working in my heart to make me ready. It’s like I love this child before I’ve even met him or her…much like any other expecting mom.  

So when I hear well-intentioned people say to me, “I could never do that,” after I’ve shared about becoming a foster parent…my heart screams inside, “Yes you could, YOU DO IT ALREADY!” Let me tell you something I’ve learned over the months as the Lord has been preparing me to become a foster parent…

There is only one stark difference between a foster parent and a parent-parent :).

What is written in the record.

As a foster parent, we are trained to expect temporary. We will not even speak of the words permanent placement until the judge slams the gavel. We have written record that this child may not be with us forever. Which leaves any foster parent with a choice. Do we love this little one with all we’ve got, knowing that we may not have them forever? Or do we care for him without too much love mixed in, to save ourselves from the heartache of what might come someday? We live a stark reality, us foster parents, that we may not have forever with this child.

Now take a new momma on delivery day, as she holds her new little one in her tired arms. This child is hers, forever. There is no judge to rule on her side, no paper trail that leaves question of this child’s permanence, no other momma vying for this child’s attention. This is it!…forever family. But something is missing from this picture…a reminder that this child is a gift, a treasure the Lord has placed in a momma’s arms for the days He has numbered for that child. And if this sweet momma was given the news that she would only have 4 years with this child before he was taken away, she would have a choice to make right there in the hospital room. Do I love this little one with all I’ve got, knowing that I don’t have forever with him? Or do I care for him without too much love mixed in, to save myself from the heartache of what is coming someday? 

Do you see now? We’re the same. Except on record.

So, in response to the statement I hear almost everyday…”Yes you could, you could do this…because most of you do it everyday whether you know it or not.”

This truth – that our children, our family, our spouses, our dearest friends, our life is a gift from the Lord…not something we own – is a reality that I face with my dearest friend tomorrow as we celebrate the life of her husband whose day came earlier than she had ever wanted…just one year ago. But I know she wouldn’t have chosen to love him any other way…even if she would have known her time with him was going to be short.

Love never fails.

“I Am Right Here.”

Posted: June 20, 2014 in Life Lessons
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We have been in the trenches the last few weeks as we stand by and watch our neighbors experience the awful consequences of sin. There are times when we begin to feel like evil overpowers good. That the enemy wins too many matches, and leaves us begging the question, “Where are you God?”

Do you know that His answer is always the same…”I’m right here, I’m doing something for My glory and for their good, for your good. My glory must be displayed, must be made famous. I am right here. Trust me.” 

So we trust and we pray and we get on our knees before the Lord, asking Him to show up and help us to see with our eyes what He could possibly be doing for good in the midst of such turmoil. We’ve been proclaiming His truth, believing that He is the victor, that justice will roll down, that grace is for everyone, that love overpowers evil.

Lord, show us with our own eyes where you are at work here.

And he did.

Just this last weekend, Phil was working in the community garden with a group of high school students from a program down the street. As they were working, he noticed a man coming toward him that he had never seen before. The man came right up to Phil and start talking. “I don’t know why I felt compelled to come here, I don’t even know the area because I just moved here…but I felt like I was supposed to come here to experience love and grace.”

Phil, with a huge smile on his face, said to this man, “Well I think I know why you came here…because this is holy ground. I pray every time I’m out here, that people would know and experience the love and grace of Jesus when they walk by or work on their garden.”

After sitting with this man for an hour, listening to his story, Phil came home and told me what happened. And immediately I heard the Lord whisper in my heart…”See, my daughter, I am right here, I’m doing something for My glory and for their good, for your good. My glory must be displayed, must be made famous. I am right here. Trust me.”

Don’t you just love when the Lord shows up?!