Little Opportunities Offer Big Possibilities!

In preparation for one of my sermons this month, I was studying a passage in which Jesus comments on the seemingly insignificant actions of a poor widow.  He says to his disciples,

“I can guarantee this truth: This poor widow has given more than all the others. All of them have given what they could spare. But she, in her poverty, has given everything she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44. 

The words of Jesus got me thinking about all the times I’ve chosen not to participate in something because I thought that what I had to contribute would have little or no impact in the grand scheme of things. It seems like the more often I pass up the “little” opportunities to make a difference, the “big” opportunities that I’m waiting for never seem to come along. Sometimes, I look back and wish that I had just done something… anything, so that I would know that I had tried. Have you ever felt the same way? 

The next time you’re faced with a “little” opportunity, consider this story that I found in the June 12, 1994 publication of Our Daily Bread.

There’s a small courthouse in Ohio that stands in a unique location. Because of how the building sits on the property, all of the raindrops that fall on the north side of the building go into Lake Ontario and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, while the rain that falls on the south side flows into the Mississippi River and ultimately ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. At precisely the point of the peak of the roof, even the slightest gust of wind can determine the destiny of a single raindrop…a difference of more than 2,000 miles.

That’s impressive, isn’t it? 

Sometimes the smallest deeds can have the biggest impact.  As a husband and father to a family that has experienced a lot of change and transition this year, I can attest to the significant impact that the kind gestures of others have had along the way.  A church member delivering a warm meal to our door step, a friend offering to babysit the kids so that we could get our old house cleaned out, or a relative showing up unannounced to help us unpack boxes after we moved.  To those who made these kind gestures to our family, your actions may have seemed like “little things.”  But to our family, during this particular season, these acts of kindness have served as “big” reminders that God’s goodness and provision are with us wherever we go.  God’s people will surround us with love and grace in this new place. 

Know this.  As insignificant as we might think certain acts of kindness and generosity may be, when we offer ourselves in service to God’s kingdom work, our lives begin to flow in such a way that tiny raindrops of faith become rivers and oceans of grace that transform countless lives and communities around the world.  So don’t miss the little opportunities.  They offer big possibilities!

In what “little ways” can you share the love of Jesus Christ with someone today?

 

The Power of a Greeting

I don’t know about you, but our parenting journey has included seasons where the fruit of our labor is so easy to see.  And then there are other seasons where that fruit is absent.  Devoid.  Nonexistent.  Wholly missing.  Shriveled up.  And seemingly rotten.  Or at least that’s how it appears on the surface.  In these times, we begin to doubt whether we will ever reach the next milestone, conquer the latest discipline issues, and see growth in our kids.

But we are learning to trust that, even in seasons of drought, God is alive and is working through our efforts as parents and in the hearts of our children.  Because just when we feel like throwing up our hands and giving up (or giving in), inevitably, God gives us a glimmer of hope.  This happened on Sunday.  Praise Jesus!

One of the issues we have struggled with lately is the manner in which our kids greet people in public.  They have been taught a moral baseline regarding our expectations.  When someone greets them, they are expected to give eye contact to that person and to provide a verbal response.  THAT’S IT.  We’re not asking them to run for governor or shake hands and kiss babies all day long!  ANYTHING beyond eye contact and a verbal response is their choice.  A hug.  A handshake.  Further conversation.

But we have been struggling with this, particularly in the morning when we are walking the kids to their classrooms at school.  And every time we do, we smile at the person getting the Heisman, shrug our shoulders, and say, “I’m so sorry.  We’re working on this.”  And then, Kory and I revisit the issue.  Again. 

Last week, though, we had a break through.  

I’ve been taking a Love and Logic class at our school, and it’s been a great refresher for me regarding the power of logical consequences — consequences put into the lives of my children that logically relate to the training issue we’re dealing with.  We’ve known about logical consequences for a while now, but this class has caused me to think them through more critically and to really ponder and pray, “Lord, what is the most logical consequence for this particular area of training?”  

So as Kory and I talked this over, it occurred to us.  It’s a privilege, not a right, to be walked to class.  And it certainly isn’t any fun to walk kids to class when they ignore everyone in their path.  If it’s a privilege, then what would happen if we took that privilege away?  

The next time we had an issue, we decided to find out.  We told our son that we would not be walking him to his classroom anymore until he came to us and told us that he was ready to extend common courtesy to those who greet us in the hallway.  Sounds small, but it had an impact.  Although he took his medicine like a champ, he was devastated.

Almost immediately, we began to see a change.  After two days of not being walked to class, we were noticing him not only responding to the greetings of others, but also going out of his way to be the greeter!  I even had a couple stop me at church on Sunday to compliment my son for the greeting he gave them when we sat down.  Wow.  

On the way home from church, we were listening to the radio.  The song, I Want To Live With Abandon, by the Newsboys, was playing.  

From the backseat, my son asked, “Mommy, what does it mean to live with abandon?”  

“To love Jesus with all your heart and to show the love of Jesus boldly to everyone you meet,” I answered.

He thought for a minute about what I had said, and then he asked, “so you get better?”  

“Yes, you get better.”  

And then he gave me a glimpse of the fruit — “So when I greet people, am I living with abandon?”  

“Yes!  Yes you are!”  I said.  

He was grinning from ear to ear when I caught his gaze in the rearview mirror.  I realized at that moment that my son wants to live with abandon!  We’re just in the process of teaching him how.  And it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

What milestones have you recently had with your children?  What milestones are you desperately hoping for?  

 

  

 

The First Day of School

It’s Officially On! 

For those of you who know us, you know that our family has been in transition through most of 2013. For those of you who don’t and are curious, you can catch a glimpse of our “back story” by clicking on Our Story. Though we have been in our new home and Kory has been serving our new church since the beginning of July, our new reality hasn’t seemed real. Until today. 

Today, another school year began. But this year, we didn’t walk the familiar hallways we have for the past 5 years. We didn’t say hi to friends we missed over the summer. And we didn’t stop by the classrooms of our children’s old teachers to give them hugs. 

Today, Taylor and Zachary began a new school year at a new school. One that we are HOPEFUL we will love. One that we KNOW, over time, will become familiar. One that we are CERTAIN will bring many new friends into our lives. And one that we BELIEVE will offer the very best teachers, at the very best times, for our children. But today…I am homesick. And I am struggling with conflicting emotions that make it difficult to celebrate all the wonderful excitement that a new school year brings. 

Daddy and son at Meet the Teacher for Kindergarten. Where has the time gone?


When we arrived at Meet the Teacher, we visited Zachary’s class first. He was a little apprehensive. Sweet Taylor said, “It’s OK Zachary. I’m a little nervous too.” But when we arrived in her classroom, she was cool, calm, and collected. She even made a new friend!


Why is today, more than any other day since we moved, so significant? I suppose it’s because it is a tangible reminder that when we decided to accept this new ministry position, we didn’t just put ourselves through a difficult transition. We dragged our children through it. Today, that reality has stirred up in me an indescribable compassion for what my children have been and will continue to go through during this season of change, and it makes me sad. I want so badly to protect them. But I know that I have to let them walk into this new environment and figure it out for themselves. Being a parent can be heart-wrenching, can’t it? 

But what troopers they have been! When we were in the midst of trying to sell our old house, Taylor diligently helped me get ready for showings. She even put coffee out for the realtors and prospective buyers. (I don’t think they ever drank it, but she’ll never know.) And when I thanked her for all she was doing, she told me that she knew God was calling us to this new season of ministry and that she just wanted to be helpful. Wow. Tears flowing, even as I type. 

When we moved away from the old neighborhood, and left all of their friends behind, Taylor and Zachary joyfully played with each other while all the children in our new neighborhood were on, what seemed like, extended summer vacations. Taylor and Zachary kept themselves busy, never complained, and waited patiently for all the unpacking to get done — well, they’re still waiting for all the unpacking to get done, but that’s another post for another day. I swear those boxes are multiplying like the rabbits in my backyard! I’ve promised the kids that there are better summers ahead and that by next summer, all the boxes will be gone! 

And even this morning, as we walked into an unfamiliar school, where they have no friends and don’t know a single person, they were joy-filled, excited, oh so brave, and ready to begin a new school year with open hearts and minds. I am so proud of them. And I am so thankful for them. Little do they know, but through their resiliance, they are bringing healing to my broken heart and hope to my soul, and they are reminding ME that everything will be OK. The lessons we learn from our children!

The kids get lockers in the 3rd grade at our new school. Needless to say…she was excited about that! It is now stocked with a dry-erase, a mirror, wall-paper, a shelf, and some lip balm.


 

This was taken before my tears began to flow. I bawled like a baby when I kissed him goodbye and left the room!


After drop off, I attended the Boo Hoo Yahoo coffee for Kindergarten and Senior moms. Two moms spoke to us — one from each grade. When the Senior mom took the podium, she told us that she wasn’t supposed to be there, and that she was supposed to be at another school in the state of Georgia. But 11 years ago, she explained, her husband came home from work, and said that his employer had asked him to move to Texas…in 2 weeks. 

She went on to describe the heartbreak she experienced in the days that followed her husband’s news. But then she talked about God’s goodness and faithfulness, and she told us that all the plans she had conjured up for her family paled in comparison to what God has offered since they moved to Texas and her children began attending this school. She closed by saying that there was no doubt in her mind her family was exactly where it needed to be these last 11 years. 

Well, that hit close to home. Not that we have moved out of state, but we have experienced significant change in 2013 — change that has required us to buy a new house, serve in a new church, and attend a new school. I could relate to her story because I did have long-term plans for my family, and they did not include any of this. 

But as I sat there, taking in all she had to say, there was no doubt, in that moment, I, too, was exactly where I needed to be. Crowded into this chapel, with this group of women, clutching my Starbucks in one hand and my Kleenex in the other, and hearing words of encouragement from a mom who has traveled ahead of me the path I am traveling now. I am so thankful for her words. 

God is good. All the time. And everywhere. No matter where we are. No matter what we’re going through. This is something I have always known, but something I have come to appreciate on a deeper level during this season of life that has involved so much change. We have had to let go of so much in order to embrace something new. But God has provided in the biggest and the smallest of ways. Today, it came in the form of wise words from another mom. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Our first-born at her desk. Her classroom is themed like a Starbucks. It even smells that good!

 

This was taken just before we entered the classroom. I wish I had gotten a picture of his back-pack. It’s as spiky as his hair!

How was your first day of school?