National College-Bound “Scouting” Day

Hey, friends! Scott here.

Did you know there will be 10 million college freshmen entering a U.S. college this fall? Whew! What an incredibly important time to pray and help these young men and women connect with people who love Jesus on their campus.

I and about 15 others are crammed into a meeting room at Cru headquarters for National College-Bound “Scouting” Day.

Using Facebook, we and many others with Cru throughout the country are scouting out incoming college freshman who are Christians, so that we can offer to connect them with an upper-classmen that is involved with Cru.

Would you pray for us to be successful in finding as many incoming Christian freshman as possible, so they can get plugged into with other believers with Cru the first week of classes?

In addition to praying, here’s another way you can help:

If you know an incoming college freshman who might like to be connected on campus, here’s a quick and easy way you can help! Find out if Cru is on their campus and then let us know by filling out the form located at http://www.cru.org/helpstudents.html

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We are so hopeful for many, many college students to respond to the very good news of Jesus this fall!

10 years later

Ten years ago, Scott drove to Ft. Collins, Colorado in his brown pickup. He didn’t know anyone but me and a handful of my friends. 

He’d taken vacation from his IT job to check out this Christian missions group at our biennial conference, and ask God whether he was to join as a missionary. 

He and I talked with two Cru HR folks over lunch at a table at this same Qdoba. God was stirring. 

And today, ten years, we are here eating lunch. Tears of gratitude to God who is fully capable of changing the world all Himself, yet He chooses to involve us. 

To involve you.  

Hope for Other Broken-Hearted Families

June 20, 2017

On a rainy day in early December, Scott and I walked down the labor and delivery floor hall, passing oversized photos of smiling babies on the walls. Our hearts and our overnight hospital bag weighed heavy. Our baby’s 13-week heartbeat was gone and we had come to be induced and deliver him.

Dani stood waiting for us at the end of the hallway. When we approached, I began crying. She hugged me with such tenderness, more like a treasured friend than a patient.

Today, almost seven months later, Dani (below, holding bear) again stood waiting for me at the end of the hallway. This time, I hefted a cardboard box filled with gifts. Scott carried two boxes behind me, with kids in tow. And just like before, tears filled my eyes when I neared Dani, and spilled over when we hugged.

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Joy and sorrow mixed, as our family presented the first of 36 weighted Comfort Cubs and “Quietly” instrumental CDs to Dani’s nursing team (some pictured below) to give to other bereaved mamas and their families who lose a baby, whether a few ounces or 10 pounds.

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I was given one of these bears the day Scott and I met our tiny Gabriel, then held and said goodbye to him. The weight of it caught me off guard as it felt more like a baby than mere a stuffed animal. I sobbed.

The letter, written by a mom who’d lost a full-term baby, ministered incredibly to my heart. She wrote about the weight of that moment and of the significance of my child. As I read about her hope in Jesus I almost immediately pictured a different scene—a mom who wasn’t yet a believer in Jesus, holding a bear and the letter. I knew God was stirring something.

My due date was to have been May 22nd, so Scott and I decided a way we’d honor the life God gave us in Gabriel would be to raise money to buy 24 bears and CDs (the CD is one that brought me great comfort these last months).

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We were stunned when God doubled that, moving 52 individuals and families to give enough to purchase 48 bears and CDs—enough that we’re giving 36 to my beloved Florida Hospital and 12 to St. Elizabeth’s in Lincoln, my hometown hospital.

Last night I stayed up late fluffing each bear and tying around its neck my letter of comfort and the hope of Jesus. As I did, I asked God for insight in how to pray for the mom who would hold that specific bear. Oh, the things that came to mind and the subsequent tears.

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We’d love for you to pray with us for the 48 moms and their families who will have had to say excruciating goodbyes to their baby(ies) the day they receive these bears.

And pray with us amidst the incredible loss and ache that many, many would place their trust in Jesus as a result of His work of comfort in their life? (P.S. If you’d like to know more about the cubs, the CDs or talk more, please comment below and we’ll connect.)

Opportunity to give hope to others as we approach Gabriel’s due date Monday

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I’m not one for stuffed animals, but when Joy offered this bear to me, I gratefully reached out and received it.

A moment later, my brain registered the fact that the bear wasn’t a fluffy, win-at-the-fair animal. It was unusually heavy, almost like lifting a gallon of milk assumed empty, but actually full.

I sobbed.

A weighted bear.

It was in the first hours after Joy’s incredible team of nurses settled me into the hospital room, given me hugs and space and time I needed before I was induced to deliver Gabriel, carried 15 precious weeks.

With Scott next to me, we talked with Joy and soon found that her compassionate care stemmed from a love for God. She told us about a gift she had for us, given by a woman who’d lost a full-term baby.

Joy returned to the room a bit later with the weighted bear. I became the 4th in a line of women touched by loss and the gift that placed weight into empty arms and acknowledged the weight of a precious life lost.

My bear and precious letter was from Erin Ashley, a mama who’d lost a baby girl at birth. She’d received her bear from Lindsey, a mama who held then said goodbye to two baby girls. Lindsey received her bear from her nurse who’d experienced loss.

“Dear friend,” the letter began, “My heart is burdened for you as I write this letter, knowing that in this moment you are experiencing a depth of pain and trauma that so few parents will ever experience.”

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“To have weight means to have significance, and everything about this moment–and your little child, and the story God is writing in your life–is weighty. It’s significant.”

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Last November, Erin Ashley (center) and her family presented 12 Comfort Cubs to Joy (right) labor and delivery’s head nurse at Florida Hospital-Altamonte.

One month later, on December 6, 2017, I received one of those bears.

This week I learned that there is only 1 bear left, meaning 11 of us mamas (and families) have lost a baby in just 6 months at this hospital in this little part of the globe. My heart drops with that news, knowing that my story of delivery of a tiny baby in miscarriage at a hospital is rare. Wow, what would that number have been if we also knew how many miscarriages happened outside those hospital walls in those months?

An Opportunity for You

Gabriel’s due date would have been this Monday, May 22nd. Our family longed to celebrate his tiny life by celebrating other tiny lives and comforting moms and their families and pointing to Jesus, our very great hope.

So, here’s an idea. How about we, together, put more Comfort Cubs and an instrumental CD, below, (listen here) that’s ministered to me incredibly–into the arms of those who face loss this next year?

Here’s how you can give, if you want to come alongside us. 

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Like being on a pit crew (May newsletter)

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“My Mac laptop is so slow. I’m think I might need to get a new one. Is there anything you can do?” Cristina asked us.

Cristina is a young woman who serves with Cru’s hispanic ministry, Destino. This ministry was born out of a dream that Latinos could come together to worship Jesus without sacrificing the unique expression of their cultural heritage.

She arrived in Plano, Texas to attend a conference for all Cru missionaries whose passion is to reach ethnic minorities with the gospel.

As a service to these staff members, my (Scott) team flew there to make ourselves available to fix any computer/phone problems they were having.

I glanced over at Javier (photo, above), who is a certified Mac technician sitting at the desk with me. “Here, I’ll see what I can do,” he said, reaching for her computer.

Cristina’s Mac is 6 years old and has several failing parts, but not a total loss. While she attended the conference sessions, Javier worked on her computer. Cristina’s laptop went from almost unusable to performing like it was brand new!

Over the next few days my team upgraded computer parts on laptops, removed computer viruses, and replaced smartphone batteries as well as offered one-on-one training about how to use various software programs.

It’s a bit like a pit-crew team. We help our missionaries like Cristina with her computer, getting her fixed up and back on the track to do what God’s called her to.

Technology is a wonderful, wonderful tool to help life and ministry work much more efficiently. We all get stuck sometimes and need a little help!

Thinking about Revelation 7:9, I look forward to the day when you have the privilege of worshiping the Lord side by side with Cristina, and representations from every tribe, tongue and nation.

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The Expulsive Power of a Greater Affection

I’m on a journey of emotional eating and have been for years. There are times I’ve walked over to join someone else walking the path, or motioned over for them to join me.

But most the time, I’ve chosen to journey alone. Often, tired from lugging huge suitcases around. I keep hoping to “arrive” (whatever that looks like) sans all baggage and throw a huge party with banners and confetti and then! invite friends and announce, “Look where I am! Ta-da!”

That seems so very silly–even ludicrous to actually say out loud–but that’s what my flesh thinks would be good.

I’m so thankful that Jesus is stronger than my flesh. As the song “Thy Mercy my God” remembers, “Dissolved by the mercy, I fall to the ground and weep to the praise of the Mercy I’ve found.” (More on that in another post.)

It’s God’s incredible mercy that dissolves me in the most wondrous way, at times. Like recently. He is stirring in me a desire to stop living solo and ask friends to sojourn with me.

I’ve had seasons of wanting to read the latest book or try the latest “fix” but something’s shifted in my soul in the last handful of years. I have a keen awareness that if I could’ve changed things on my own by now, I would have.

(Oh, that Mercy doesn’t allow self-sufficiency to fix ourselves! I think I finally see this as a gift!)

Rather, what I’m hungry for is a bigger view of Him (thanks for putting that to words in my kitchen, Meredith).

My gut (no pun intended) says that’s the core of real, lasting change and freedom. As I consider His character, His attributes and what He’s done for me…oh! How that affects my heart. He becomes more the Greater Affection.

And herein lies a huge piece of the puzzle for me: The Expulsive Power of a New (I’d say Greater) Affection.

Thank you, Thomas Chalmers, for your sermon with that name. You were born 200 years ago, but I think we’d be contemporary sojourners if you lived today.

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Tim Keller writes:

Thomas Chalmers, the well-known Scottish preacher, in his famous sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” says it all: Seldom do any of our habits or flaws disappear by a process of extinction through reasoning or “by the mere force of mental determination.” Reason and willpower are not enough.

“But what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed…The only way to dispossess [the heart] of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”

A young man, for example, may “cease to idolize pleasure, but it is only because the idol of wealth has become the stronger and gotten the ascendancy” and is enabling him to discipline himself for prosperous business. “Even the love of money ceases to have the mastery over the heart” if it’s drawn into another world of ideology and politics, “and he is now lorded over by the love of power.”

But “there is not one of these [identity] transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object may be conquered, but… its desire for having some one object” of absolute love “is unconquerable.”

It is only when admitted “into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Jesus Christ [that] the spirit of adoption is poured out upon us. It is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominate affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way that deliverance is possible.”

So it isn’t enough to hold out a “mirror of its imperfections” to your soul. It’s not enough to lecture your conscience. Rather, you must “try every legitimate method of finding access to your hearts for the love of him who is greater than the world.”

Until you’re melted by the amazing sight, knowledge, and sense of Jesus taking the fire for you, you can’t have that transformation of identity. You can’t just decide, “I think I’m going to change my identity.” It can’t be done. It has to be an experience of love.

What do you think?

A letter to “You”

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I was going about a normal Monday. You sprung from my inbox and landed on me.

My heart felt accosted. Such an internal battle about unsubscribing from the weekly Baby Center updates. I can’t bring myself to do it. (Some weeks you don’t pounce from that update. Some weeks, like this one, you do. Seemingly no rhyme or reason to how you work.)

Keeping things, like these emails, is what my heart pulls me to do, even when I feel the American/Western culture pull to toss and move on. But it’s not like I can toss you and move on. You’d still show up.

My beloved boy-blue Ergo lays dusty on a closet shelf. And my pregnancy journal hides in a side table drawer where I’m fully aware that it’s there.

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Seeing these things is hard but there’s something about them that’s powerful proof that Gabriel was real.

I was going about a normal Sunday. As the breeze blew warmly outside of church, a friend shared the brittle news that he’d become a grandfather. That news took long moments to translate. His grandson had been born early. Two pounds. Alive and fighting well. He is a gestational-twin of sorts to our little Gabriel, due the same week.

Unexpectedly, you blew in as a cold front. Freshly aware that life is beautiful and so thankful for baby J, and–at the same time–choked with my own desire to continue to hold life in my body.

I was going about a normal Monday night. Scott and I winding down for the evening, talking about our upcoming 10-year anniversary of meeting, this April, and all life has encompassed in that time.

“Two continents…” one of us said, then words stopped like the air in a hose suddenly stepped on. Not sure who said it but it sent us into silence.

You made entrance into our room like a tiny, deflated balloon, pushed under the door. With each moment—minutes?—that we sat in silence you grew larger and larger and you filled the space, pushing against my heart.

“Where are you?” Scott gently asked.

You popped into a million pieces and tears free-fell.

4 babies,” I responded.

I was going about a normal Wednesday. Bedtime routine with the kids. A bit of light was still visible through the blinds. Joshua’s face turned sad. I pulled his big preschooler/little man frame onto my lap.

“What’s wrong, buddy?”

“I thought we had a baby.”

“Oh, buddy. I know. I know.” He buried his face in my shoulder.

You show up, dark and heavy. Uninvited.

It’d still be too much and too mean and too unfair if you just showed up to stalk me. And fling yourself on me at expected times.

Landmark days I brace myself, sure that’s when you will attack.

But most of the time, those aren’t the times.

Instead, you come so unexpectedly.

And the worst? You attack Scott and the kids, too. I hate watching you attack them.

Oh, Grief.

You’re like a wild creature, indeed.

“If I have learned anything about grief in the past two years, it is that grief is a wild creature. Grief will resist every attempt to tame it, to control it, or to keep it tidy and well-behaved. Rather than managing it, grief asks instead that we tend it, listen to it, question it. One of the surest ways to calm it is to give it some space in which to speak—or to holler, or weep.” –Jan Richardson (Thank you, Judy, for sending this.)

And so I give you space, Grief. Fearfully, apprehensively I give you space today.

Everything in me wants to run from you. You are wild.

But you, Grief, are leashed and held by the hand of the One in whom I trust.