A Letter to My Birthday Girl

My Darling Girl,

Thirteen years ago, when you were placed on my chest, warm, wet, and full of life I did not see this moment. I only saw my first born baby girl with perfect bow-shaped lips and tiny fingers and toes. I felt the intense rush of motherly love burn fierce and hot in my chest to the point that for just a moment, I could not breathe. I held you tightly and inhaled baby smells and at that moment, we became a family. But I did not see how quickly the years would rush by me. One on top of another, faster and faster. Birthdays and bounce houses, hair bows and Converse, first crushes, contacts, braces, hormones. An avalanche of life lived between sleepless nights, made possible only by Jesus and copious amounts of coffee. I did not see the moment where I am now, watching you balance on this thresh hold before us. Between womanhood and childhood, you stand. Oh, linger just a little longer, sweet girl and let me share a little of my heart for you, with you.

In a few short years you will more than likely be ready to tumble out of our little tree and into the world. We’re doing our best to prepare your heart and spirit for the journey ahead. We try to live out our faith by example, to pour truth into your spirit to be used as a roadmap and the Word into your heart to light your way when the path is dark and hard to see. I pray that no matter where that path leads you that Jesus remains the captain of your soul and the very anchor to which you cling.

My hope is that you also would remember that your dress size, your bank account, and your address are all just numbers that change and fluctuate with the seasons of your life but who you are in Christ is as certain as the rising of the sun. The fact that you were made exquisitely in the image of Him who created all, will never change. Your worth is summed up not in monetary treasure, physical ability, or beauty but in the simple fact that you are of great worth to Him. Pay no heed to the voices of this world, that pull and scream and try to tell you what beauty and success look like. Strive instead to abide by the identity that you have in Jesus which comes with a great peace that no one or nothing can diminish.

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I pray that you will be challenged, provoked, and stirred throughout your life. That complacency would never be your friend and that you will remember that life owes you nothing. Precious things, things of substance and great value must be sought after, worked for, and dug out. I pray that God will surround you with Godly friends and those that will also sharpen and provoke your faith, strengthen your walk and remind you that our ultimate goal in this life is to become like Christ.

Which leads me to this final thought on your birthday – When we become like Christ we love like Him. Compassion and dignity should be second nature to us. Remember the advice given in James, “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” Be even quicker to forgive. Prefer your brothers and sisters. Bear the burdens of those around you. Respect boundaries and set your own. Always say what you mean and mean what you say. Live out the Word of God and above all, stand for truth, even if it appears you stand alone. Because you are never alone. When you stand for truth, all of heavens army backs you. And ultimately, truly loving others like Christ means speaking the truth with all grace and kindness. You won’t always be liked or popular but neither was Jesus. You’re in good company. fayepaselfie

As I watch you now, feeling your way through adolescence, I stand in amazement at the young woman you have become. What a gift you are! Your beautiful tender heart, your inquisitive mind, your tenacious spirit. My girl, so full of passion and determination, I am proud to be your mother. Never forget how much you are loved. You may tumble out of the nest but always remember that wherever Daddy and I are there is a safe place to land. Happy birthday to my teenager.

sunkissed

 

The Coconut Chronicles: The Death of Empathy

“Hi! My name’s Isabelle! Do you wanna be my friend?”

I heard this sentence offered up by each of the Coconuts countless times during our monster road trip last month to a plethora of different kids they met. And no matter the size, age, gender, religious background, family party persuasion, every one of the kids asked, cheerfully said, “Yes!” And off they would run together to play, laugh, whisper secrets, and become new best friends. I was continually amazed as I watched these kiddos without walls around their hearts and fences around their minds act as though they had all known each other since birth.

“Oh they’re so cute!” The adults would casually say to each other all the while sizing each other up, peeking over our own walls and carefully constructed fences that time and past hurts had deeply embedded. Then we would go about taking pictures, posting to social media, all the while making careful small talk about the weather. We certainly wouldn’t want to have a meaningful conversation. We might have to give something of ourselves.

A society of islands. That’s what we’ve become. Amazon, Wal-Mart, and food delivery services have replaced the need to leave the house for any reason. Technology has killed the days of long front porch talks. Now we communicate through text and emoticons. Modern day cave dwellers pecking out cliff drawings. If someone happens to ring the doorbell and it’s not UPS or FEDEX we peer warily through the blinds, annoyed that another human being might actually need something. I watched my kids play. Uninhibited. Full of joy. Wild abandon. But most of all, simply engaging in each other.

20160430_114224Over the course of our trip we spent four days in Skid Row in Los Angeles with a man whose desire to reach the lost supersedes the inconvenience of unwashed bodies and addictions that others run from. The Asuza  Lighthouse Mission is a beacon in the darkness there. Pastor Gabe Wang and his wife are sold out, taking the mantle of his mother who started the mission and carrying the burden for those people. You can learn more about them and the work they do here:  http://azusalighthousemission.org/

Skid Row is 7 miles from the lights of Hollywood but it might as well be 7,000 miles. Although progressives love to talk about helping the needy, most of the Hollywood crowd wouldn’t be caught dead near this place. A more important question however is, where is the church?  Where are the “called out ones?” The hands and feet of Jesus?

 

 

My kids wanted to help in every way possible. They wanted to talk to the people and serve them. I watched rough men and women soften and melt when a little hand pressed a sandwich into theirs and a little voice said, “Jesus loves you. I’m going to pray for you.” As we ministered there I watched the people respond to love and to connection with another human being. I’m not naïve enough to believe that if we would just put down our phones we could end homelessness, but I do believe we could make a difference. Many of the people out there just need to know that someone cares. I wonder where some of them would be today if someone would have noticed their depression, their hurt, and done something. I was reminded that these people were once someone’s baby girl or boy. Someone’s friend and someone’s neighbor.

Maybe I’m being unfair. After all, many out there on the streets are the hardest type of addicts filling a void with drugs and alcohol. But don’t we all have a void we’re filling? Whether someone is an alcoholic or a workaholic there’s a deeper issue being masked. Without Christ we are all headed for a Skid Row. Either in this life or the one to come. So back to my question. Where is the church? We don’t have to get on a plane to LA or even drive downtown to find someone to reach. There’s probably someone just a short walk or drive away. Perhaps it’s a neighbor or the checker at the grocery store that needs a touch from a real person. Aren’t we our brother’s keeper?

Technology is emotionally crippling us. Tiny little screens and selfie sticks, have taught us that we don’t really need each other and is simply furthering the selfishness that is today’s humanity. It is killing our empathy. Oh yeah, we’ll “share” that moving Twitter quote or Facebook post from a popular pastor or celebrity but won’t open our front door when our neighbor comes knocking with needs. Matthew 18:2-4 says, “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I don’t care how much scripture you know, where you preached your last conference, or how saved and sanctified you think you are, if you don’t have this down then you ain’t getting’ in. Because little children just love and believe. They don’t have an agenda. They just want to be friends. Our kids don’t need any more gadgets and neither do we. We just need to care about the person next to us.

Hi! My name’s Katherine. Do you wanna be my friend?