Why kids need retreat.

When I caught a glimpse of her within the sea of sweaty kids I knew she was different.  I could see it at a glance.  On drop off day she was tired, anxious, and afraid.  This wasn't her first time here, she was in familiar territory, but still she was hesitant.  The last year had been difficult for her in many ways and this life had beaten her up a bit.  And even though she's only twelve years old I could see it when I left her standing there on the cabin steps, she was soul empty.

Brookhill Ranch 2015 Photo by LB Martin

Brookhill Ranch 2015 Photo by LB Martin

 But not now.

 

Now she was full to overflowing.  Her eyes sparkled and shone with an energy and excitement that new shoes or a date night with mom won't buy.  As I listened to the crowd of kids and counselors unite in song I was struck by the raw emotion that enveloped me as they worshiped their God.  

 "Light a Fire"                           Brookhill Ranch 2015

And I knew what had happened here.

 Retreat.

 Jesus did it.  David did it.  Why do we assume that our kids don't need it too?  Why do we think that they don't have that soul longing parchment that we as adults experience on a regular basis?  Why do we think that God just fills them up every night as they sleep with that insane energy we envy?  The truth is really this:  

 Kids need retreat.  They desperately need to be with God in more ways than just Sunday morning and vacation bible school can provide.  They need to encounter a few burning bushes of their own and on their own.  Here's why:

 -They need to learn to breathe.  Our children are so over scheduled they cannot even take a deep cleansing breath much less learn how to be at ease in the presence of the Savior.  They cannot learn to listen to the sound of their own spirit or the voice of God if we do not teach them how to create that sacred space where they meet with God.  They must be taught to cultivate breathing room in order to fully experience walking with the Savior.  Retreat allows them to quiet the dissonance of their lives and enter the space where He is waiting.  It teaches them that it is not selfish to quarantine your time with God, it is necessary.

 -They need to learn to rest.  I recently had a mother tell me that her boys had only had three weekends at home this past year because of their traveling tournament sports teams.  I have to tell you, I wasn't impressed.  I was deeply saddened to think that these boys had to be exhausted, not to mention their parents.  We must teach our children that it's a good thing to recognize when you are weary both in body and in spirit.  It is even more imperative to teach them that there is rest in the arms of the Savior and that they can find comfort there.  God provides this to us because he loves us, he wants us to seek him when we need rest.  Jesus himself preached, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  (Matthew 11:28)  Retreat allows kids to fully embrace resting in the Savior.  They don't have homework, practice, recitals, or essays due.  They just get to kick back with the King while he lightens their load. 

 -They need to learn to walk alone with God.  In the age of helicopter parents who use Pinterest as some sort of parenting icon this may sound cold and strange but hear me out.  When we follow our children around paving every step they take we are insulating them to the point of danger.  They become unable to solve problems or complete tasks because they have no faith in themselves as the daring creatures God designed them to be.  They need to learn to look at themselves, the problem and say, "I CAN DO THIS.  God has equipped me to withstand anything.  Retreat allows them to stand on their own two feet without the incessant interrupting of a well meaning parent.  It teaches them that they are capable and strong both in body and spirit.

 -They need to prepare to face the world.  Our children are called to be different, to be a light to this world.  But this world can beat them into unrecognizable forms and it can do it with brutal efficiency.  Christ knew this and prayed for them in John 17.  Retreat can reinforce their identity in Christ and solidify their purpose to themselves and those around them.  It allows God to tend to their wounds privately and give them strength.  Retreat can make our kids brave.

 -They need to choose faith for themselves.  We are losing our children from the church for many, many reasons but I believe the greatest reason is that they never take on their own faith.  Our kids can spend the first eighteen years of their life piggybacking off their parents' faith and shucking it like an over sized winter coat when they enter the real world and discover it can get uncomfortable.  And who can blame them?  They have no real vested interest, they have no roots.  If we want the church Jesus planted to grow and thrive we need to help our kids find their own faith in who he was and who he is.  We can give them straw, mortar, and bricks but they have to build their own foundation if we want them to become strong.  Retreat allows them to meet with others their age and exchange ideas about this faith thing.  It gives them the freedom to ask questions they may otherwise be afraid to ask in their normal lives.  It lets them begin to form their own identity within the body of Christ.  This is invaluable for keeping them within the body of Christ.

 We spent all afternoon hearing stories of her week long adventure.  She revealed a need for a new bible that she could read and study on her own without stumbling through unfamiliar language (we happily obliged).  She made new friends and expanded her community of people in faith that are her age.  She got sunburned shoulders and her freckles stuck out.

 But more than anything she came home wanting to know Him more and be in His presence more.  

 

Amen to retreat.

 

*Thank you to Staff at Brookhill Ranch in Hot Spring, AR.  Please note I was not reimbursed by them in any way.  These are my thought and opinions.

*Thanks to Seth Haines for teaching us all what retreat is at #FaithCulture2015. 

 

 

 

 

Love & Refrigerators


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Dear Little One, 
There will times in your life when you feel unloved.  It's possible that you will even remember times before you lived with us when you felt that way.  Maybe you will even think we don't love you sometimes too, especially when we discipline you or tell you "no" about something.  Or perhaps there is going to be an event in your life that dad & I can't protect you from that will make you question the very humanity of people.  That happens everyday all around us.  Bad things do happen to the greatest people, I wish that weren't true, but dear one, it is.  As long as we wait for Christ to return Satan will wage his war against God's beloved.  And truthfully, the fact that you are even a member of our family is a testament to this.  There will be some reasons your family could not keep you and they will be valid but the facts can never diminish the loss you have already suffered.  And there may be a part of you that will wonder if you are loved.  Please listen to your momma when I tell you what love can be for you.

It looks like over thirty families giving us items for a huge yard sale so we could start your adoption OVER with a new adoption agency when our first one could no longer help us.  
It resembles your momma's last piece of pride being scraped away as she asks her girlfriends for fundraising help. (don't worry, momma doesn't miss her pride)

Love looks like a refrigerator that a friend delivered for your sale from over an hour away. (it was the first thing we sold:) 

It smells like ladies baking cookies, pies, cakes, brownies, and bread for our bake sale.  And then people paying triple the marked prices to help cover your fees.  And when we ran out, then went back in their kitchens and made more for our second day.

It looks like kids cleaning out toy chests and giving away their own things so the "baby" could come home.

Love looks like yours sisters giving up new clothes, Friday lunches, and family movie dates and depositing that money in your adoption account and not because we asked them to, because they wanted to.

It looks like a young man & his family dropping off items on his way out of town to his grandfather's funeral.

It's pregnant ladies working all day and then going home exhausted yet still pushing through and sorting out closets so they could donate to your sale.

Love feels like a vacation day someone took just to work your fundraiser because they knew we were shorthanded.

It is our local radio announcers talking about your fundraiser on air everyday to help us get the word out to our community and then coming by to spend some money themselves.

It looks like friends showing up at 6am with smiles, messy hair and coffee cups in hand to set up over 1500 square feet of goods. And not just on one day, but two.

It acts like a young married couple celebrating their anniversary by running around in the pouring rain to pick up tables, bags, and merchandise for your fundraiser.

Love for you is grandparents cooking for volunteers, picking up your siblings while we worked, baking for your sale, and praying for it's success.

Love sometimes looked like a check and sometimes it felt like a hug.   People blessed you through us.  Do not doubt that.

Love is seeing random strangers handing us $5 bills when they found out our fundraiser was for you.  People we had never met gave us money just for you.

Love looks like friends organizing hundreds of pieces of clothing and bargaining over knick knacks knowing that every dollar was one more closer to you.

Love sounds like people laughing.  We laughed together so much over those two days.  We have the most wonderful stories to tell you about.

Love is people continuing to bring us items to sell, even into our second day,  so that we always had something to put out.

Love for you is people rounding up their sales total and paying extra, just because they wanted to.

Love is people praying for you all the time because they want you to be safe, healthy, and happy.

Love is people working the sale together and helping each other and no one complaining about anything for two solid days.  Nothing.  They just reached in and did whatever needed to be done.

Love for you is a whole community of people coming together to help mom & dad do something they could never have done themselves.  We just couldn't do it alone.  We really thought we could but God has taught us better than that.  We can never do it without him.  And he's using his people to show us that his love can look a lot like his children.

Little one, sometimes people think love is just a feeling.  It is not.  Love is a choice.  And all these people have chosen to love you.  They have chosen to live out 1 Corinthians in the choices they have made regarding you.  There is no glory in sorting used clothing or bartering with people over prices.  There is no trophy they got for participating.    Those who blessed you with their love chose to do so of their own free will.  They are doing their very best to get you home as fast as they can.  They gave their money, their time, their skills, and their own personal possessions up just for you.  Mom can never give back to these people what they have given up for you and they don't expect her to.  That's how real love works.  

You are loved immeasurably by a whole community of people over 8,147 miles away from your homeland.  That says a lot about the people who will surround you as you grow up.

But there is someone who loves you more than they do.  A man who loves you more than mom & dad do too.  And his love looks different than anyone else's has or ever will.  On those very tough days this world throws at you remember Christ also chose to love you.  But his love was so BIG that he gave his life to protect yours eternally.  You were so precious to him that he chose to die on Calvary rather than let you face this life without hope of being with him in the next one.  

So when Satan tries to convince you that no one cares and that you are unloved remember that's not true.  

Love is a choice. Christ chose to love you.  

And God is sending his people to surround you & love you too.

*To our family and friends in our Hope, AR community thank you is not a big enough set of words.  There aren't words big enough for what has occurred during our fundraiser.   We believe Paul says it better:
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  
1 Thessalonians 1:2,3


Jerusalem



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.