Mission Monday: Lemon-Aid Stand

photo

Proverbs 30: 8-9 “….give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”

Summer is a time to create memories, enjoy time together, and slow down.  Ironically, it is also the perfect time to multi-task.  That is multi-task  with some memory-making, moment-creating opportunities that center not on our own.  Centered around those who can’t possibly focus on making summertime memories because they spend every ounce of their time focusing on survival.

I am uncomfortable being so comfortable.  Chopping organic tomatoes on my granite countertops causes my stomach to feel a bit knotted when I think about the poor and needy all over God’s earth scraping up morsels out of dirt to fill their bellies.  His children!

Internally, I rage when I listen to talk of storing up wealth, saving for retirement, creating comfy cozy lives all while millions of children are starving all over the face of this earth.

And I am one.  It is my own voice that causes the rage to well up.  I don’t want to be so comfortable being comfortable.

My primary mission field is my home.  I have the greatest influence on the 3 little hearts under my care.  Though I may not realize it in the moment by moment, I can impact the world by training up boys to care more for the souls of humanity than for themselves.  I can impact the world by training these little men to love others more than themselves.

I can be with my kids, create memories with them, all while showing them how much God needs them on His mission field.  Together we can do more good.

I must be focused on the long-term not the short.  Training my boys to be mission-minded, we can significantly impact God’s kingdom with the opportunities He’s given me right beneath my nose.

Lord, I pray I will use the blessings you pour onto me to bless others.  Let me never grow so comfortable being comfortable.  Give me no more than I need lest I forget that I need you.

As we move closer to our midway point of the summer, some of our best summer moments have been on our Mission Mondays.

Last week we had a lemonade stand.  Or a Lemon-Aid stand for Blood Water Mission.  Raising money to bring clean water to African communities.  Places where 7 year olds walk miles every day just to bring clean water back to their communities.  Communities where HIV/AIDS is widespread.

Blood Water Missions provides great tools to make this such an exciting way to raise money.  We made t-shirts, applied tattoos, made posters, and set up our stand.  I loved listening to my boys explain to their customers why they were selling lemonade.  I loved watching the little children’s eyes as they heard something they’ve never heard before.  And I pray that each person that visited that stand will have a heart that desires to leave a few comforts behind and do a little more good for humanity.  For God’s world that is in desperate need.

We did see it though.  We saw people so moved by what the boys were doing, they would pay $10 for a small cup of lemonade.  We listened as one little boy said, “We have lots of clean water at our house.” His mom was able to begin a conversation about how blessed we are to have access to water.  Something we take for granted every day.

One of mine began to count the money.  He said, “I just can’t believe how much people are paying for lemonade.”

“People want to feel good about where their money goes.  It’s easy to pay a lot for lemonade to help a good cause when you have the ability to do so.”

“You know, mom.  This is so much better than having a lemonade stand where we keep all the money for ourselves.  I love knowing how many Africans will have water because we sold lemonade.”

Just $1 provides clean water for one year for one African.  The boys raised $80 and were floored at the idea of how that will be used to provide clean water for an entire year for 80 people!

So for us parents in this stage of life,  desiring to be out in the world, used by God to save it.  Rest assured, when we invest in our children, molding their hearts to care for the needs of the world, we are being used by God to save the world.

When the Days Become Heavy

When the moments are painful and not what you asked for.  When joy seems impossible.  When the weight of your problems skews your view of life.  When the trials breathe flames of fire that threaten to destroy your moments.  Look up.  Look to Him.  And seek encouragement.

Bask in the truth of this hymn.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIgFejQVwmw]

When Friendships Move Away

DSC_4882

DSC_4881

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” C.S. Lewis

Summer was coming to a close.  We had just arrived home from a massive grocery trip.  The boys and I were on a mission to unload the groceries as fast as possible.  And eat.

Not much can derail Zachary from food.  Except people.  I’m convinced that a magnetic field surrounds my social butterfly and pulls him with extreme intensity to any new face that enters his range of pull. Loaded down with bags and boxes, I heard his legs pedaling at an insane pace as I wondered why he thought he could stop helping us unload the car.  Whipping my head around to find him, I saw him pedaling and waving simultaneously up the path by our house.

Squinting to see if I could recognize the faces, I quickly realized I had never laid eyes on this family before.  Because I would have remembered.  It was 3 boys that looked the exact ages of my boys!

That’s enough to make me drop my groceries.

Before I knew what had happened, Zachary had intersected them on the path and was in full conversation.  Suddenly, the growling in my stomach disappeared as I walked the path to meet this family.

In a matter of 60 seconds flat we were all excitedly exchanging names, ages, and anything and everything we could think of.  They were new.  And had just moved into the house directly diagonal from us.

“Hi, I’m Renee.  These are my boys.  Jacob, Zachary, and Andrew.”

Excited little voices responded, “Hey, my name is Jacob too!”

“And my name is Andrew too!”

And as fast as each person could get a word in, we all discovered we shared same names, same middle names, ages, interests, toys.  You name it.

3 boys.  9, 5, 2.  Our boys were 8, 6, 3.  Their names: Jacob, Andrew, Dylan.  Our names: Jacob, Zachary, Andrew.  It was eerie.  They met on the path riding the identical bikes our boys were riding.  Within 10 minutes bonds were formed.

Their great-aunt surely thought I was crazy as I began talking  as fast as my brain was moving.  Explaining how we had been praying for friends to move in that our boys could be friends with.  We had no idea God would bring such a PERFECT match for our boys.

20 minutes later these new friends were sitting at our kitchen table eating lunch with us.  Their Jacob said as he left, “Thank you, Mrs. Robinson, for being so nice to us and letting us play with all your toys.”  He had my heart from that point forward.

I only saw a glimpse that day.  But now, one year later, it is confirmed.  God brought my boys the best friends imaginable.  My boys were given the sweet gift of friendship at a young age.

A few weeks into knowing these boys, I truly loved them.  Their Andrew sat at our dinner table and said to Zachary with a completely straight face, “You know.  It’s like we are brothers from another mother.”  Then he picked up his hot dog and continued eating.

One year later we are losing them as they move back to Kentucky to be near family.  We are heartbroken to see them go.

When God blesses us, we need to thank Him profusely and enjoy every single second of it to the fullest.  Never taking it for granted for a single second.

It hurts to say goodbye.  I was grateful to God the day He brought them into our lives.  And I remain grateful to Him today that He allowed us the time, ever so short it was, to be a part of their lives.

True friendship leaves an imprint on our hearts like a footstep on the surface of the moon.

Rearrange My Heart

DSC_2113a

1 John 5:14-15 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

When I was a little girl, I used to love coming home and finding my mom had rearranged my room.  A simple repositioning of a chair and a few pillows.  A few small enhancements to bring excitement back to my little domain.  A little freshen up to change how I viewed my space.  A little act of service spoken in the love language I best recognize.  Suddenly, I longed to spend more time in my “new” room.

Throughout the years I’ve done similar experiments with my boys.  I will do toy box ups and rotate out the toys every few months.  Toys ignored for a year then put out of sight for 6 months are once again treasured when they resurface.  Recently I turned the quilts on the reverse sides and added a couple new pillows.  It was enough to feel like a new room and all 3 boys began wanting to hang out there just a little bit longer.

Can a few small changes cause us to desire to linger a little longer?

I’ve noticed the same thing with any “systems” we implement.  They work well for a time, but after a few weeks or months we become too comfortable with them.  They lose their steam and we find ourselves in a little slump.  Every few months I have to implement a new chore system to spark excitement and bring life to our household work again.

I find this to be true with my spiritual walk as well.  It can’t be systematic.  It must be dynamic.  We serve a God who can and will work through a multitude of mediums to reach our hearts.  We should never approach Him with a complacent heart.

Have you found yourself a little too comfortable in your walk?

One of the first bible studies I took as a new christian was a Beth Moore study.  Here I was a brand new christian, bubbling over with excitement for the Lord.  During the video Beth Moore said something like this,  “We must never enter church with our commonplace shoes on.”  I remember being puzzled by this.  What could she possibly mean?  How could anyone possibly be commonplace when entering God’s house?  Well, 13 years later, I know exactly what Ms. Beth was referring to.  The longer we have walked with God, the more prone we are to wander and become a bit lukewarm.

I find this true in my morning quiet times.  I am a girl who loves a system.  I love organization.  I love task lists.  Tell me how to do it and I’ll knock it out.  But my quiet time with the Lord should never be an item to be marked with a check.  Because the moment I categorize  God with a chore chart, I’m in danger of viewing Him as just another job.

When we lived in Atlanta I attended this incredible bible study for young moms led by the most godly seasoned moms you could imagine.  That time of my life was a huge spiritual growth spurt.  A wise mom shared a daily Bible reading schedule with me that I just loved.  If it is the 30th of the month you read Proverbs 30, Psalm 30 and add 30 to finish the Psalms (30, 60, 90, 120, 150).  If it is the 5th of the month you read Proverbs 5 and Psalm 5, 35, 65, 95, 125)

It was a great system.  But dangerous for me because my quiet times became too rigid and structured.  I was putting God on my schedule rather than letting Him lead the charge.

Sometimes we need a little change-up in our lives.  A little something fresh to revive life.  In my life, I’ve found the first step is always to pray.

If you find yourself falling into a bit of a rut in your walk with the Lord, pray.  Simply pray.  We change.  God doesn’t.  We shift and move from God.  He doesn’t.  Our feelings change.  His don’t.  He is always the same, never moving, never leaving us.  When we find ourselves “feeling” too far from Him, we must pray.  Because He never left.  We moved.

A fresh change in our hearts might be in order.  Can we flip our hearts like we can flip a quilt?  Exposing the side that has been protected from daily use.  Can we toss in prayers like we toss a new pillow on a chair?  Is it as simple as asking God to revive our hearts with a little rearrangement?  I believe it is that simple.  What seems impossible to us is a no-brainer to God.  An honest, humble prayer that pleads for a heart more fully devoted to God, seeking Him in complete awe, is a prayer I imagine God would love to say yes to.

We can slap paint on a chair and add a new pillow.  Our hearts are no chair.  It takes more than some external, cosmetic changes.  That’s why prayer is an absolute necessity.

dsc_3904-e1331411767466a

Making Memories Through Missions

lemonAIDphoto3

The problems of the world are dire.  Catastrophic.  Overwhelming. Though we often feel unable to make a real difference, that simply is not true.  Not only can our actions make a difference, sometimes life or death in another person’s life, but we can imprint the hearts of our children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends when we work together for the greater cause of humankind.

Consider the imprint left on your child’s heart when you involve their hands and feet in the service of one in need.  In a very tangible way, you are teaching them to be like Jesus.  Jesus served.  Jesus gave.  Even his very life.

Summertime is a prime time to create memories.  What if we used our memory making opportunities to serve another?

Last summer Mondays in our home became Mission Mondays.  This summer we are once again turning Mondays into service days.  We are creating memories that revolve around the needs of others.

Here are a few ideas we are working on this summer.

  1. Lemon-Aide Stand– www.bloodwatermission.com – What kid doesn’t love to host a lemonade stand?  I love this project through Blood:Water Mission.  For $10 you can order an entire kit full of supplies for setting up your stand.  Or you can print them out for free.  In turn you donate your proceeds to Blood:Water Mission.  “Blood:Water Mission is a grassroots organization that empowers communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa.”
    “Summertime – a time to make memories, spend time outdoors, get re-acquainted with friends and neighbors and drink lemonade! This summer, Blood:Water Mission invites you to not only make memories but make a difference, too. Over 320 million Africans lack access to clean, safe water – smart, talented, hopeful people like you can make a BIG difference in the lives of our friends in Africa!
    Build a Lemon:Aid stand in your community to quench the thirst of someone in your neighborhood, as well as someone half-way around the world! Then, donate the profits from your Lemon:Aid stand to Blood:Water Mission and provide your friends in Africa with clean, safe water. “
  2. Baby Care Kits– Assemble baby care kits for CWS.  “In areas of extreme poverty or following a natural disaster, Baby Care Kits help young mothers care for their newborn babies.”  Involve your children in shopping for the supplies.  On the day you assemble the kits, pray over each kit.  Encourage your children to continue praying for the recipients long after you have shipped the kits.
  3. Birthday Bookmarks– I love a birthday party.  Imagine being a homeless child and having no one celebrate your birthday.  This project is great for kids because they understand the importance of feeling special on your own special day.  Bright Blessings is an  organization in Charlotte with this goal : “The goal of Bright Blessings is to bring joy, recognition and support to children and families during difficult and sad times in their lives.   Our two core programs, Bless-A-Birthday and Bless-A-Baby,  raises spirits and boosts confidence for homeless children ages tots to teens, and offers help and hope for babies beginning life amidst the struggles of homelessness.  Each program incorporates education, enrichment and critical-care needs for the children we serve– our commitment is to supporting the whole child.”  A project that is easy to do at home with even the littlest ones is creating bookmarks that Bright Blessings will put in the party bags.  “Every month Bright Blessings volunteers assemble and deliver classroom party packages for more than 100 homeless elementary students who will be celebrating their birthdays. This anonymous program helps ensure the privacy of each student’s living situation among peers. Our volunteers deliver the party supplies, gifts and care packages to school social workers who then take the party packs to appropriate teachers so that the children can enjoy their celebration in class with friends.”
  4. Hospice Meal–  Kids love to help in the kitchen so capitalize on their excitement by blessing someone with a meal.
  5. Deliver popsicles to a homeless shelter
  6. Sponsor a Compassion child.  Or if you have one, write them a special letter.
  7. Have a day of prayer for a cause close to your heart.  Prayer is the biggest impactor of change.
  8. Bake a birthday cake for a Women’s Shelter–  A sweet way to make a woman in need feel special even if for just a moment.
  9. Blessing Bags–  Make bags of necessity for the homeless that you keep in your car.  Hand them out as you have the opportunity.

How Perspective Alters the Journey

photo-31B

Warm sun, cool air, shaded trails, and each other.  Seemed near perfect for a 6 mile family bike ride.  After reaching our halfway point and heading back home, I lagged behind with one of my boys who had lost his momentum.

The entire first half of the ride he was focused on one thing and one thing only.  When we stopped at the halfway point, we would have a drink of water and a tasty snack.  His mind thought of little else than the goodness of what awaited him at the turnaround.

As you might imagine, once we headed back, all he could think of was reaching home.  However, at home there was no “reward” waiting for him.  All he could see was the long 3 mile journey ahead.

Whimpering, he said, “I just want to be home.  My legs are tired.  This is too hard.”

“It’s not too hard.  The trail is completely flat.  We can go as slow as you want.  I won’t leave you behind.  Let’s just enjoy the ride.”

His pouting and whimpering increased.  “I can’t enjoy the ride.  I just want to be done with it!”

“Look around you for a minute.  Look at what all you are missing because you are so focused on the negative.  Look at how the sun is hitting those leaves.  Listen to the birds singing a song just for you.  Look at all that God created that is surrounding us.  Look at this gift of time we have together to get to ride by ourselves and talk just you and me.”

“I know, mom.  I’m just tired.  I can’t hear the birds singing….”

“It’s because you are too busy complaining. Stop right here and listen.”

As we stopped, the birds chirped a beautiful tune in perfect harmony.

“It’s like God is singing a song right to you.”

A smile broke out across his face.

“You know, sweetie, the journey really is the best.  The journey is where it all happens.  Just think.  When we get home from the bike ride, we are done.  We are home, right?  The journey will be over.  When you think back to today’s ride, you likely won’t remember how tired your legs were or how hot and thirsty you were.  You will laugh at our reactions when riding by snakes lurking in the grass.  You will remember dad’s silly songs and chuckle.  You will remember jumping off the rocks with Andrew.  You will have fun, funny stories.  From the journey, not the destination.  It all happens on the journey!”

I don’t even know if he was listening anymore.  The more I talked, the more I realized I was speaking for myself as much as I was speaking for him.

Our perspective changes the moment entirely.  Our viewpoint makes all the difference in the world.  How many times have I caught myself irritated about something only to realize the problem was my own perspective, how I looked at the situation.  When I changed my perspective, everything appeared different.

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Journal the Journey

photo-30

photo journal

photo jacob journal

My boys,

View your life as one great read.  One juicy story full of drama, sweetness, sorrow, celebrations, samplings of heaven, and tests of the faithful.  A page-turner for sure, full of twists and turns and a constant wondering of what may be revealed with each turning of the page.

Though we don’t know all the details that fill the pages of this story, there is one thing we are certain of.  When we reach “The End”, we have only begun.  What awaits after this story concludes is a hope and a future far beyond our ability to imagine or comprehend.

While we are here, creating this story, never lose sight of the hope beyond The End.  And make the most of every single page of your story.  With every stroke of the pen, let Christ’s light shine on every single word.  And let Him guide and direct the drafting.

We just closed the chapter on 1st and 3rd grades as well as 3-year-old preschool.  And what a year we had.  So many experiences that have greatly impacted our hearts and grown us in ways we never imagined.

You have served as great examples to me and dad as well as anyone else who has the honor of knowing and loving you.  

My dear Jacob.  Your quiet leadership and strength of conviction astound me.  You inspire me to stand firm for justice and righteousness.  Your teacher chose a verse for you that brought instant tears to my eyes as I knew the Lord had laid it on her heart.  2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  

My precious Zachary.  Your tender heart and your giving spirit are a beauty to witness.  I aspire to be as selfless as you.  You have such a servant heart.  The way you speak words of encouragement and life into all who know you is a true joy to experience.  When your teacher awarded you for working well with others in all situations I couldn’t agree more.  Jesus is so evident in your life.  

My sweet Drew.  Your strong will is a privilege to parent.  I thank God you are as strong as you are because I know He has great plans for that spirit.  I can see God molding you into one fiery warrior for Him.  God uses you in my life every single day to sanctify me.  Thank you for being used by God so readily.  I pray the fire in your heart grows stronger with time and you will use your gifts to serve God’s kingdom in a mighty way.  

So, my 3 precious boys, I am giving you this journal.  Fill the pages of this journal with your stories.  May this summer be one in which your faith grows stronger.  Fill the pages of this journal with all the Lord lays on your heart.  Share your heart with Him here.  Write out your memories and your experiences the Lord brings your way.  Let your imaginations run wild.  I pray this summer brings you much joy as you ponder and explore what God shows you and you journal away these long, lazy summer days.

With all my heart,

Mom