This is my oldest child. My firstborn. The one who taught me how to be a mom and bless her she still is. While she cut her teeth on biscuits I cut mine on the strongest willed little girl God ever made, second only to me. We had a tough beginning and a tougher first six years together. She spent a lot of time trying to convince her dad and me that she was really in charge of the family. I spent much of my time praying for guidance and hoping I was doing this parenting thing "right." I felt outmatched a lot and I went through two versions of Dr. Dobson's Strong Willed Child before the skies parted.
I know my prayers worked because she has grown into a pretty amazing young person, and I didn't do that, He did. This kid has heart. My heavens does she have heart. Last week she told me when she gets to college she wants to major in being a doctor and minor in being a missionary. She said she wants to go to Haiti and work because they don't have many doctors there. She reads books like a person breathes air because there is a need inside her that will burn if she doesn't. She's a tough critic but a fair player. She loves sports of just about any kind, softball, basketball, swimming, shooting. If it's outside in the fresh air you can count her in. And food. This girl likes to eat sushi. I can't relate, but I love her for it.
This girl, the sister in the middle, she makes me laugh for no reason at all but I guess that's fitting considering that's the first thing I did after she was born. She was so easy to have I couldn't help myself. This girls favorite color is glitter, although she claims it's light blue. She says the word carnitas like it's her first boyfriend. She can't stand to be outside in the heat unless water is involved. She could eat a grown man under the table but so far she's the only family member to have a natural six pack, go figure. She's a bottomless pit. She reads too, and is making her way through her sister's collection of books. She's a true friend. She won't tell when someone does her wrong, you have to pry it out of her while she cries that she doesn't want to get them in trouble. But, she's got a memory. Hurt that girl once and she may write you off. She's not rude, or nasty, or mean about it, she'll just politely avoid you like the black plague. She can keep secrets, but NOT surprises. So don't take her Christmas shopping with you.
And this little guy is our youngest. The baby for the moment. He was our unexpected expectation fulfilled. He was the extra kid that God threw in for good measure. When we thought there wouldn't be anymore; that maybe we couldn't have anymore, he showed up. He thinks there's only two food groups, chicken nuggets and carbohydrates. Please don't try to feed him other stuff, it won't work. Every sweet, well-meaning person in three counties has tried to hand feed this kid their "famous" mac-n-cheese, spaghetti, or fried chicken. He ain't interested. Give him a bowl of goldfish and a bottle of water and he's good for the day. Seriously, food is NOT his thing. I soooo don't understand that. He can work any electronic device we've let him touch. Leave him for 5 minutes and he can figure out your laptop, desktop, kindle, phone, iPad, tablet, etc. He loves movies, mostly because his sisters have given him no choice. If he wants to hang with them, which he does, there is going to be a movie on. He loves baseball almost as much as electronics, he just doesn't understand it as well. He wants so badly to hit that ball and watching him try is as close as I've come to ever wanting to play myself.
The tallest girl in the middle is our joy. Raised by two sets of great parents this girl has taught us it's possible to love another child like your own. If we ever wondered about it she answered that with lightning speed. I cannot take one piece of credit for how amazing she turned out but I'm so grateful God put her in our life. Funny, smart, talented, and beautiful on the inside and out. That's our biggest sister. I've quit explaining to people that she's our summer babysitter when they ask if she's our daughter, there just doesn't seem to be a need. I just answer, she's our family. At 19 she's already sought a relationship with Christ on a daily basis. And that astounds me when so many people her age are only focused on themselves. I tried to find a picture of her without all the kids, but that's impossible. If she's around one of them is going to be in her lap or snuggled up next to her. The little ones can't help themselves. And when she asks me questions about her faith I'm humbled that she would want to know and that's she's brave enough to say, "I want more of him."
I love my kids, I'm sure that's pretty plain to see. I'm sure you have people you love too. People you share a home with, or an office with, or a classroom with every day. You are walking this life with them. You see their faces and you know their heart. They are your people. They may share your last name and your address or they may not but that does not make them less your family. They always reside within the confines of your heart. Jesus had such people. Throughout His ministry His disciples, sometimes His family, and many others traveled along with Jesus. They walked life with him, a few, a very few did the cross with Him.
And I believe Jesus worked within a group for a reason. He believed in community and he believed in family. He knew that if His message was going to be delivered then all of us were going to need each other. His first mission team was comprised of people that he had spent three years of His life living, traveling and teaching with. During the forty days after His resurrection and before His ascension into Heaven, Christ tells them,
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8
The disciples were given these words straight from the mouth of Jesus. You know, when they were all just hanging out every day with the risen Savior, eating, talking, listening, learning, and doing life. Jerusalem became their meeting place, their home base, their jumping off point. It was their first area to minister to others on Christ's behalf.
Sometimes as a mom, wife, and daily clock puncher I don't feel like I'm fulfilling Acts 1:8. I look around at my messy house, my loud kids, and my middle aged life and think, "Lord, I'm not doing this mission thing very well." I used to think being a missionary was living on another continent (and it can be!), learning a new language, rarely seeing my family, and losing parts of myself. And while some of those things may be true they aren't universal to all of God's people all of the time.
We must do what we can do when we can do it.
So it has occurred to me, this house, with these children running around, this is my Jerusalem. This is my home base; this is where I start my mission field. This is where Christ trains me on daily basis about love, grace, mercy and my unrelenting pride. This is where I learn and then teach them all I can about who he was and who he still continues to be. No, it's not impressive or spectacular but it's real. These kids will be my most important mission field. If I can't talk to them about Christ as easily as I can pour their morning cereal into a bowl then I haven't done this race well at all. This is not a holy place because I have called it Jerusalem, but it can become holy any time God shows up to work with us. And that can be in our living room, our front yard, the softball field, Chipotle, or Haiti.
There are other people I am called to, other people I do not know. People I know who need to hear about my Christ. People who have been hurt, ignored, unloved, and written out of their family's lives. People who may live two blocks over or two continents over. And while my current station in life doesn't lend itself well to some types of missions that doesn't mean it never will. My Jerusalem is young now, but soon she won't need me as much. And the teaching skills I gained from her will have made my heart ready when God says it's time for Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.
Where is your Jerusalem?
How many people's lives intersect with yours in any given day? It is our responsibility as believers to be their team. To minister to them, right where they are, and right where we are at any given moment. And while sometimes that may seem overwhelming, try to remember somebody was once your guide. Be theirs. Your words don't have to be perfect, they just need to be real. They just need to speak love, His love into their life. Sometimes it's messy. Sometimes you'll feel exposed. That's when you're making progress.
Never stop making progress.
And if you're worried about what others will think or how you will look take a minute to consider how Christ looked when he ministered. He was often the object of ridicule and scorn.
“…rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him.” 1 Peter 2:4
His own hometown spurned His words and the cross was the most humiliating punishment and death he could have born. He was never more exposed than on that Friday.
People did think he was crazy. And maybe he was just a little because I don't know anyone who would willingly suffer on a cross for me or you just because he loved us and wanted us to never be ashamed or scared in the presence of His Father again. I'll take that little bit of crazy any day of the week. So review your doubt and fear for that one last moment and then walk in faith with him anyway. There's no better feeling than being connected to him and remaining in that fellowship. And don't you want others, especially your people to know that?
The world will try to convince that it's not necessary or prudent to live out this mission life. Satan will throw every distraction he can in your direction. You'll be tired after work, school, and supper. You'll be tempted to think you're too busy right now to worry about teaching your family, your Jerusalem, about Christ. You might think, "Isn't that what the church is for?" Well, that's true, that IS what the church is for. But guess what friend?
YOU ARE THE LIVING CHURCH.
And when we allow Satan to help us forget that we are losing our focus. Christ has reminded us of this in John 15:5, 6
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
So remain rooted in Him and His teaching. Push one or two steps farther on those days when you feel there is nothing left in your physical body to teach with. Let your kids be late for bedtime by burrowing into their beds and talking about how Christ worked in your day and theirs. Tell them His miracles as the astonishing events that they were. Let them ask questions you don't know the answer to and let them know that together you can search His word and find them. Let them hear you pray.
Be a friend to the people in your daily circle. Lift them up when you aren't standing so tall yourself. Point them again and again to the one who loves them more than anyone else. Dare to do these things even when you think you can't. And ask God for the wisdom and strength to do them. He always, always provides.
Be a missionary so much in your day to day life that it becomes who you are not what you do.
Now find your Jerusalem. Get busy. I might need some help in Samaria in a few years.
We could be a team.