Say “You-hoo!”

When our girls were little, one of their favorite games to play was hide-and-seek. They would tell me or my husband Brent to hide our eyes and count to 30, then they would scurry off to hide, giggling and tripping over each other. Nearly every time, the girls would hide in the same spot over and over again—behind the sofa, in their bedroom closet, under a blanket on the floor of the bonus room.


Though we knew just where they were hidden, Brent or I would play along. We’d say in a loud, exaggerated voice, “Where could Ella be?” or “I can’t find Lucy anywhere!” After a few minutes, we’d find them. “A-ha! There you are!” we’d shout, triumphantly.


When we would switch places, with mom and dad doing the hiding and the girls doing the seeking, they would count to 30, then start their search. I can remember many times when we’d be hiding in our spots, waiting to be found. Then we’d hear a little voice squeak out a plaintive cry, “Mommy…Daddy…” Even though we had only been concealed from sight for less than five minutes, they would begin to get nervous. We’d know they were really about to go berserk and notify the authorities when they’d call out, “Mommy, say yoo-hoo!” They’d want us to reveal our complex hiding locations—under the kitchen table or behind a door—with the comforting call of two, simple syllables. They needed to hear our voices and follow the sound to discover where we were. So we would call out yoo-hoo. Then they would scurry to us, relief and victory displayed on their sweet, little faces.


As we enter a new year, I see so many of us searching for something which seems completely hidden. Often our search is futile and aimless, so we desperately want to hear a voice directing us where to look. It’s like the prayer of the afflicted person in Psalm 102: “Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you.”


As we begin 2022, let’s all tune our ears for the yoo-hoos of Scripture and the Author of words like: “Seek and you will find…” and “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” There are also you-hoos which tell us we’re neither alone not forgotten, whether we’re deliberately hiding in a seemingly inaccessible spot of our own choosing or one where we find ourselves by surprise. Either way, we are being pursued by a loving Father who is revealing His location multiple times every day, if only we are willing to listen and seek Him out.

Bearing with one another

Last week I was honored to speak at a Mother/Daughter Tea at a church in town. It was a lovely event with tea and coffee and cupcakes and lavender sachets. I came away believing that we really should institute a regular afternoon tea time.


I shared a story with these dear women about my dental struggles.Several years ago my dental hygienist pointed out some worn down spots and asked me if I grind my teeth. I’d been having ear aches that weren’t infections, and once I started thinking about it I realized that my jaw was always sore. She asked me if I was under any particular stress. At the time, we were in year three of what would eventually be four years of trying to bring our adopted son home from Africa, so yeah…I was stressed.


During that time, I had unknowingly directed my stress and frustration and worry on my poor mouth. I was clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth, causing damage to my gums. I would go on to have gum graph surgery and my dentist recommended I use clear plastic aligners (instead of braces) to correct my misshapen bite.


I’ve been through dozens of this plastic teeth movers now and from one aligner to the next, you can hardly tell there’s any change. It’s a tiny tweak, slight modification. But over the many months, the minor modifications add up to a new bite that will cause less stress on my gums and help me keep my teeth.


At this point in my talk, the women I shared this with were probably beginning to regret inviting me to their Tea. But I went on to explain that in relationships with each other, we can create bad habits. Dysfunction doesn’t usually happen overnight. It’s a slow teeth-grinding, jaw-clenching process. And this can be the case with mother/daughter relationships. An irritation or misunderstanding becomes a habit of slamming doors and shouting names. It’s hard when these habits become formed, but they don’t have to remain forever. That kind of stubbornness is a sin and God will always be on the side of breaking those sinful patterns, especially when they disrupt our families.


So we must look to Scripture for guidance. In the book of Ephesians, we see what the Apostle Paul thought was most important to say to fellow Christians while he was in prison in Rome. Ephesians 4:2-3 gives us some essential truths.


“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (NIV)


In other words, be humble and gentle as Jesus was when he washed his disciples’ feet, choosing the posture of a servant over the attitude of a bully. Tolerate the differences you see in each other because you choose to love in an unconditional way. Then work diligently, with expectations of restoration, to become one as you join together in harmony to sing a beautiful hymn of goodwill.


If we can do these things in our relationships with each other, we can take those small steps toward healing. It will take patience, and sometimes there will be setbacks, but the sweetest fruit often take the longest to ripen.

Greatest Love

I love my 4 kids. I really do. I think they’re charming and delightful. I thoroughly enjoy their adorable personalities and unique quirks. They are precious gifts from the Lord. Seriously. I really mean it.


But sometimes when I see it’s minutes away from the appointed time for them to come home from school, I wish I could buy another hour and turn the clock back a bit.


It’s not that I don’t like having them around (see “I love my 4 kids” paragraph above). It’s just that I may be on a roll, getting things done and I see that the school day is nearly over and I realize I need to “Mom” again.


When my kids first arrive home after a long day at school—that witching hour when everyone is hungry and grouchy and tired and stressed out at the same time—I have to divide myself into pieces so that I can feel and suffer and care along with them and take on a little of their struggles.


If one kid is having trouble learning his sight words, then it becomes my trouble, too.

If another kid is having problems with friends, then it becomes my problem, too.


Now, there is a line to be drawn when it comes to involvement with your kids. It is possible for me to take on my kids’ problems to the extent that I impair their ability to problem-solve and strategize. But loving someone means sometimes setting aside our own interests and agenda to focus on another’s. At my house, it means caring about which team is going to win the European soccer championship title and who’s going to prom with whom and listening to highly detailed stories about lunchroom hijinks.


I’m reminded of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in John 15. He’s trying to explain to them how much he loves them. It’s a tall task because His love for them is so enormous. Then he turns this discussion of love distribution over to his followers. He says, “I demand that you love each other as much as I love you.”


Well, that sounds impossible! We know what Jesus does next in the story. He dies a gruesome death on the cross. How can we be expected to love in that way? Jesus goes on to say, “And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends.” (TLB)


I don’t know about you, but I don’t get a lot of opportunities to die for the people I love. So how do I obey this seemingly impossible command? Jesus tells his disciples to love each other in an extraordinary, life-giving, missional, selfless way. He asks that we show love in proportion to the degree He showed love to us, to pursue others with heaps of abundant grace and often undeserved kindness.


If given the opportunity, I would lay down my life for the 4 knuckle-heads who call me Mom. Assuming that situation doesn’t ever materialize, I will try to lay down the time and attention I’d rather devote to other pursuits and focus on them, so I can show them a great love.


I get such satisfaction from a full tank of gas. At the gas pump, I see the numbers whizzing higher, each click tells me that I’ve added another gallon of driving my kids around town. After replacing the gasoline nozzle, I start up the engine and watch the needle slide to the FULL position. One less thing to think about. One less thing on my to-do list.

I feel a similar satisfaction after a bulk-buying trip to Sam’s Club. I stock up on paper products—cumbersome packages of toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues—that I cram into our hall closet. I buy enormous containers of laundry detergent and fabric softener and other household items we use every day. It feels good knowing they are there and they are full.

When I disconnect my cell phone from the charger in the morning after it’s charged all night, I notice that tiny battery icon in the corner. I like seeing that it’s all black and accompanied by a miniature 100%.

There’s just something comforting about knowing that the things we need are in abundant supply. It’s a relief.

There was a woman in the Bible who must’ve known that kind of relief or at least a desire for it. We call her the Samaritan Woman because we don’t know her name, only where she lived.

She was going to the well to draw water and she met Jesus. He asked her for a drink and they started talking. They spoke about wells and husbands and where’s the best mountain for worship.

Some scholars say that the woman was there at noon instead of early in the morning because she was shunned by all the other women of the town. This woman had a bad reputation. She had been married 5 times and now lived with another man who wasn’t her husband.

I suppose she was worn down by the time she met Jesus. Life hadn’t turned out like she had hoped. Love hadn’t lasted. Memories were painful. Her future didn’t look much better. But still she had to draw water. She needed it to drink and cook and clean. She needed it to survive. So she grabbed a robe and wrapped a scarf around her head and went out into the midday heat.

When she questioned Jesus’ boldness in speaking to a woman alone in public, He tells her that she’s asking the wrong question. Instead she should be asking Him for Living Water. Like I often do, the woman was only thinking about the immediate, physical needs. She asked Jesus how He’d get the water without a bucket and where this living water came from and why did He think His water would be better than this well—the one Jacob gave them? So many questions but still not the right ones.

Then Jesus said, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (NLT)

Her mind must have been spinning. An endless supply? Water for eternity? Never to thirst again? Sign me up!

She pleaded for Jesus to give her this water. Then Jesus told her that He knows—knows about her past and her present. He knew all about all of it and yet He still told her the big secret that was meant to be told to everyone. Jesus was the One, the Messiah.  He had come to be the never-ending, overflowing source of Life.

In spite of my prayer life or Bible study methods or my own righteousness, I can look at the gauge indicating how much He’s willing to pour into me and see the needle pointing to FULL. I will eventually run out of laundry detergent and toilet paper, but there will always be an infinite stockpile of His love for me.

10 months home

When I was in college I went on a couple of mission trips to Romania to teach English using the Bible. Like any overseas trip, it was eye-opening. So much is different: the food, the customs, the language.

I remember that one time when, unbeknownst to us, our shower was leaking through the bathroom floor in our flat and down through the ceiling in the flat below us. The landlord came knocking to tell us what was happening but our Romanian language skills were abysmal. We had no idea what he was saying. Like so many Europeans, he was fluent in more than one language—but none that we understood. In the end, he had to speak Romanian to a non-English speaking friend who translated his words into French. A few of us had studied French in high school, so we cobbled together his meaning: your shower is leaking, you dumb Americans.

The longer we were there, the less difficult the language barrier became. We learned to point, pantomime, and draw pictures to communicate. We also learned some important phrases, like “Unde este toaleta?” (Where is the bathroom?) But mostly, we learned to be comfortable with the confusion. And we learned that in spite of our differences, there was much more we had in common.

Bringing someone into our home who speaks a different language has been difficult at times, especially at the beginning. As of today, our African-born son Ezra has been in the U.S. for 10 months. He can understand nearly everything we say. Although he usually likes us to repeat it for clarity.

Me: After we take them to school, we’re going to the store so grab your shoes.

Ezra: Mama, what?

Me: (Slowly, emphasizing every syllable) After we take them to school, we’re going to the store so grab your shoes.

Ezra: Oh. Shoes. Yessee, ma’am.

It may take a few times but he can get it.

When I stayed home from church with his sick older brother on Sunday, Ezra was able to tell me the Bible story they learned in Sunday School. It was like I was a contestant on a game show.

Ezra: “Um, a boat. Jesus was sleeping. Rain and crashing waves sound effects. Jesus say, ‘Be Still!’”

Me: Jesus calms the storm!

But there’s so much more to communicating with Ezra than words and phrases and idioms and explaining why he shouldn’t use his middle finger to point at things. We are still attempting to speak the language of trust and forever and unconditional love to his wary heart.

There are times when I am reminded of where Ezra has been and how he spent the first 5 years of his life. Those occasions come less often than they did when he first came home so I sometimes forget that he still needs so many reassurances.

This morning was one of those times. Ezra said something unkind to his sister in the car and I said, “Be nice to your sister.” To me, it was a restrained, insignificant rebuke. Full disclosure, I may have had my 7:30 am on a weekday voice which I use to say things like: “Let’s go! We’re late! Where’s your lunchbox?” But I honestly didn’t think it was a full-on Mom Scolding. For whatever reason—Ezra’s head cold or my strained tone—he took it to mean that I was mad.

He gave me the cold shoulder while we completed our carpooling duties. Then he stayed in the car after I pulled into the garage, refusing to leave. I left him there to stew for a bit.

When he finally came in the house, he sat at his place at the kitchen table, laid his head down, and exploded into snotty sobs. “Mama, no love me!” he cried.

“Ezra,” I said, “What is the matter?”

I scooped him up and carried him to the sofa. I wrapped him in a blanket and held him in the way I have held all of my babies—his body curved into a J and his head resting against my left arm. He cried with his whole being as I pulled a dozen tissues from the Kleenex box to wipe his eyes and help him blow his nose.

He wouldn’t talk. He would only cry. So I started to throw out possible scenarios:

Ezra, if you brought a lion in our house and the lion ran to my closet and ripped up all of my clothes so that they were in pieces all over my room, I would still love you.

If a policeman came to our door and told me that you stole all the soccer balls in Murfreesboro, I would still love you.

If you never learn your colors or your letters or your numbers or how to tie your shoes, I will still love you.

If you fuss at your sisters and brother and daddy and me every day for 100 years, I will still love you.

If you tell me you don’t love me, I will still love you.

Nothing you could do or say would make me stop loving you because I will love you forever, ever, ever.

In between hiccuppy breaths, he agreed to a cup of hot chocolate with no less than 12 marshmallows and we moved on with our day.

Before Ezra, I don’t think I ever considered how life would be if I felt completely unloved. Sure, I’ve questioned the extent of affection from certain people but I’ve never known an utter lack of love. Now I am learning some truths about unconditional love. Love is a verb, an action, an effort. It is also a noun, a thing, a gift.

Love, the noun, has more weight with the addition of our son. Love, the verb, requires constant motion. Love, the word, bears repeating over and over and over.