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This week we finished up our "Village Girl" Book Study. As I told a friend, I could sit down with a perfect stranger rattling on for an hour about how beautiful of a thing this group has been to me. My heart has tripled in size.

When planning our last meeting I told myself I was going to take a chill pill before we gathered. For this last meeting I wanted to hear the girls talk more and wanted to provide them with some free time to peg each other with Nerf darts in my front yard after we finished our six week session on kindness and other virtues.

But as the days got closer I knew I had to get one more lesson in, a lesson that they needed...Maybe it was something you and I need to be reminded of too.

A few months ago I observed something common. A girl I'm fond of walked up to a group of girls who were already deep into conversation. This is a tight group of girls I might add. They spend a ton of time together. When they're together they're surely in their comfort zone.

I quickly noticed that the girl who approached them began to pace the outer perimeter looking for a physical opening where she could stand amongst them rather than remaining on the outside. This was unsuccessful. She eventually walked over to two other girls who were talking. She joined that group and all was well (for as long as I watched.)

As I reflected on group one, it became apparent to me that they hadn't intentionally excluded the girl. Their circle was formed so tightly that they likely hadn't noticed her. This happens all too often.

After spectating, this whole great idea of something called a movable part began to form in my head. I later encouraged the girl who had chosen to join another group. By leaving the group that you weren't able to fit into, you acted as a movable part, I cheered her on. You found that there was another place where you fit nicely, but that doesn't mean you should stay just there. Be a movable part rather than a stationary part of a group or circle.

In the days leading up to this last Village Girl meeting, I decided that all girls needed to be reminded of the value in being a movable part and I knew just the way to show them.

I ran to the mall looking for a single glow stick necklace. Instead, Target provided me with a tube full of fifty glow stick bracelets...EVEN BETTER. I used one as a demonstration and handed out the others as a reminder.

Not letting any imagery go to waste, we talked about how a glow stick is still a glow stick when it comes out of the package, but it increases in purpose after being broken and shaken. Much like a glow stick, our own lives are something to behold when we've been broken and yet we become increasingly light-giving in spite of (actually because of) the shaking we endure.

-Back to being a movable part-

I attached a glow bracelet using the connector provided.

Here you have a circle, I told them. This represents the comfortable group of peers we hang out with. An extremely valuable part of this circle is the moveable part, the piece of plastic that joins the circle. You can settle on being a permanent part of a circle or you can choose to be this piece right here.

By being a movable part, you can open up the circle and invite an outsider in.

By being a movable part, you can remove yourself from a circle that has become unhealthy. This can be necessary (at least temporarily) when the group you're in is participating in something like gossip or in unkind treatment of someone inside or outside the group.

By being a movable part you can traverse and become parts of different groups as is fit. You might find someone alone or discouraged. Use your movable part to form a two person circle. As you relate to new people you'll learn new things. You'll become bolder. You'll become more compassionate as you hear about others' experiences. Your life (and the lives of others) will be richer for for your finely-fashioned flexibility.

Being a movable part isn't always the most comfortable choice, but it's the right choice. Jesus had his twelve, but loving on the least and the lost and the far away was his mission. He taught these close friends to do the same.

Come follow me...and I will send you out to fish for people. Mark 1:17

Talk to your kids about the importance of being a movable part. Encourage them to branch out. Teach them the value of being friendly in a world full of people who could use a friend. Make sure your own friendliness reaches out, finding purposeful ways to connect.

May the Lord make your love increase

and overflow for each other

and everyone else. 1 Thessalonians 3.12



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My Target run Saturday turned into a grueling two hour stint. I was on a mission to grab a few things. Here's the list.

I knew each item would be easy to throw in the basket, with the exception of two things: wonder and a dress.

I had no idea what wonder was supposed to be. Autocorrect changed whatever it was I'd needed. For the life of me I couldn't remember.

The other sure to be difficult item I was shopping for was a dress. I don't like wearing dresses (which is likely odd for a preacher's wife.) In addition to finding dresses uncomfortable is my thought that there seems to be a junior section and then a business dress/mumu section. I just can't make myself do any of those.

After shopping for more than two hours I got everything on the list except for a dress and the mystery item, wonder. In place of wonder I got a bag of M&Ms and a package of Snickers that were on sale. It seemed appropriate at the time.

I checked out and rolled the shopping cart back into line before getting behind a small family who insisted upon walking horizontally (where I couldn't get around them.). So I walked behind them out the doors and into the parking lot.

In classic fashion I fumbled for my keys at the car even though I'd placed them in the blue zipper bag in my purse in effort to make them easy to find. My bags were getting heavier and more bundle-some as I searched.

I opened the car door, relieved, only to be slapped in the face by a paper that decided to escape its home in the backseat. The wind obliged the escapee's decision to flee and sent it up and out of my grasp. I had to immediately choose what I'd do.

Would I try to untangle the bags (which were wrapped around my wrist like a maze) so that I could chase the paper down?

Would I run after the paper, bags in tow?

Would I shrug and go about my business as usual, putting the bags in the seat and then leave?

Not having a desirable option I just stood there emphatically and watched the paper gracefully floating beyond my grasp (which I guess means I littered, but try to stick with me here.) It was clear to me that it was out of my reach. No amount of grappling would have enabled me to have stopped its flight.

I was helpless to my circumstances. Something was happening beyond myself, so I did the thing I could...I watched. And I was in awe.

My husband Jason and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary yesterday. He and I have always took time to celebrate one another...on Fridays, in flirty texts and with goodnight kisses. The years are still flying by.

I wrote a note on my daughter's lunch this morning reminding her that she's on the brink of seniordom. It's not a surprise to us.

The other two children are changing quickly even I though I keep excellent records of their height, and their latest goings-on.

Time passes us by even when we chase it, trying to force it to cease, or at least pause.

There comes a time when we realize that we're the only one's we can still. Sometimes our only choice is to watch beauty as it slips through our hands.

Maybe wonder was supposed to be on my list after all.



You is smart. You is kind. You is important.

If you've seen The Help, you remember these lines. Aibileen Clark recited these words of love to the child whom she was responsible for taking care of . The child's own mother was dismissive. A little blond toddler with unkempt hair, the little girl appears to be lacking nurture and words of affirmation from her mama. We would never be that kind of mom.

We want our kids to feel loved and able. So we make mention of the beautiful things we recognize in them. Compliments are easy to give and they don't cost a thing.

Or do they?

Long ago I'd decided that I wouldn't compliment my daughters on their beauty. I didn't want their appearance to be something they focused too much on. I didn't want them comparing themselves to other girls. I didn't want their opinion of themselves to depend on good hair, the perfect waist size or a pretty face. Beauty that has value, we know, comes from the inside.

I did my best not to puff them up about how they looked. God has reminded us all that though man looks at the outward appearance, ... the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

But us mamas? We're good puffers. If we're not filling them with one kind of empty words, we'll often fill them with another. It comes natural to us.

Destruction is natural too.

After my recent observation of a mess up, I'm doing a major clean up on aisle nine.

I have instinctive inventory of the things I admire in my girls. We all do. I'm aware of their character strengths... and I let them know.

In one of my daughters, I see a resilient strength. Her ability to fall down and get back up, seemingly unscathed, is something to behold. I made sure and told her how much I love that about her. Not just once, but every time she tried something and it didn't go as planned. I saw it as a way of seeing victory in loss. I know you didn't get picked..., but the way you just continue to smile and try for the next thing inspires me.

I felt confident in this genius style of parenting until the time she didn't get picked for something she'd worked hard for and then didn't tell me for a day. Even worse she told her dad first before letting me know about this rejection she'd experienced.

In asking her why she didn't confide in me she told me that she didn't want to disappoint me. A "broken-up her" didn't fit into my that's my strong girl narrative. And because of that she waited to find her own strength before telling me.

And so here we have another post that presents a problem more than a clear answer. How do we affirm and encourage our children without making them shaky, without them thinking... I am (a good kid/ a strong kid/ a kind kid) but sometimes I'm not. And when I'm not, it's not ok. I've got a reputation to uphold... I don't want to be a disappointment. My parents can't handle that.

Surely our kids know we love them. We love them in their quirkiness and cranky stages. We love them in their failings, especially then.

Our love for them is independent of what we love about them. We can be open with them about their strengths, but we have to be open with them about their frailty too. We have to let them know, that we know they're weak sometimes. And that that's ok. Time has to be spent without them being the focus of the conversation at all.

And of course we have to recognize our own frailty as parents, making sure that we allow God to inform them of who they are. He does such a better job of it.

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I have hope in Him."

(Lamentations 3:19-24)



You is smart. You is kind. You is important.

If you've seen The Help, you remember these lines. Aibileen Clark recited these words of love to the child whom she was responsible for taking care of . The child's own mother was dismissive. A little blond toddler with unkempt hair, the little girl appears to be lacking nurture and words of affirmation from her mama. We would never be that kind of mom.

IMG_0941.jpg

We want our kids to feel loved and able. So we make mention of the beautiful things we recognize in them. Compliments are easy to give and they don't cost a thing.

Or do they?

Long ago I'd decided that I wouldn't compliment my daughters on their beauty. I didn't want their appearance to be something they focused too much on. I didn't want them comparing themselves to other girls. I didn't want their opinion of themselves to depend on good hair, the perfect waist size or a pretty face. Beauty that has value, we know, comes from the inside.

I did my best not to puff them up about how they looked. God has reminded us all that though man looks at the outward appearance, ... the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

But us mamas? We're good puffers. If we're not filling them with one kind of empty words, we'll often fill them with another. It comes natural to us.

Destruction is natural too.

After my recent observation of a mess up, I'm doing a major clean up on aisle nine.

I have instinctive inventory of the things I admire in my girls. We all do. I'm aware of their character strengths... and I let them know.

In one of my daughters, I see a resilient strength. Her ability to fall down and get back up, seemingly unscathed, is something to behold. I made sure and told her how much I love that about her. Not just once, but every time she tried something and it didn't go as planned. I saw it as a way of seeing victory in loss. I know you didn't get picked..., but the way you just continue to smile and try for the next thing inspires me.

I felt confident in this genius style of parenting until the time she didn't get picked for something she'd worked hard for and then didn't tell me for a day. Even worse she told her dad first before letting me know about this rejection she'd experienced.

In asking her why she didn't confide in me she told me that she didn't want to disappoint me. A "broken-up her" didn't fit into my that's my strong girl narrative. And because of that she waited to find her own strength before telling me.

And so here we have another post that presents a problem more than a clear answer. How do we affirm and encourage our children without making them shaky, without them thinking... I am (a good kid/ a strong kid/ a kind kid) but sometimes I'm not. And when I'm not, it's not ok. I've got a reputation to uphold... I don't want to be a disappointment. My parents can't handle that.

Surely our kids know we love them. We love them in their quirkiness and cranky stages. We love them in their failings, especially then.

Our love for them is independent of what we love about them. We can be open with them about their strengths, but we have to be open with them about their frailty too. We have to let them know, that we know they're weak sometimes. And that that's ok. Time has to be spent without them being the focus of the conversation at all.

And of course we have to recognize our own frailty as parents, making sure that we allow God to inform them of who they are. He does such a better job of it.

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I have hope in Him."

(Lamentations 3:19-24)



The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech...

Psalm 19:1

I received a compliment from my kid about a month ago. It's one I'll hang on to for as long as my mind is in working order.

He told me,

Mom, there's one thing I can say about you. Your love has always been consistent.

I gave a satisfied smile and hugged that guy. I was bursting with maternal pride on the inside but tried to appear calm, and steady like an oak.

I'm not really that way. I can be apathetic. Mostly I'm ridiculously reactive. I'm thinking of times they've gotten smart mouthy or shared ridiculous ideas. Times come to mind when they tell me about something they did several years ago that could have got them killed! My insides twist.

I've learned through the years how to put on my calm face when what I really want to do is look at them like they've lost their mind /instantly correct them/ lose my stuff. My record for not freaking out is improving. They still tell me at least some stuff, anyway, so I think I'm getting better.

I've learned to appear to care about that YouTube video they're showing me when my mind is really focused on what I'm going to fix for dinner.

Since I received the consistent love comment, I've felt a little unworthy. I know my crazy. I'm familiar with my instability.

My love, in its depth, is steady. There's nothing that would ever change my love for them. My attentiveness is sketchy. My opinions are a little abrasive and my reactions are a little tumultuous, especially those inner impulses that beat at my chest to get out. When I don't get the achings of my heart out, a souring or a fear sets in.

I've got a lot of work to do; not only as a parent, but as a child of God.

How am I responding to my daughter who is occasionally determined to think irrationally? How am I reacting to that guy who won't go at the green light? How am I responding to news that something went nowhere near the way I thought it should, and in turn it hurt my husband, or my kid?

How is my heart when nothing seems to go right...or those moments where everything is going right...Am I giving credit where credit is due? How about mundane days? Am I just going through the motions, or am I recognizing on ordinary days too that God is the one who keeps the planets spinning on their course?

I'm so thankful to be warmed by the sun's bright rays. I'm so glad when I feel it's presence arching over me in rhythmic fashion, from horizon to horizon. The sun is consistent. Truly consistent. Even undercover, when clouds disallow us full access. It gives light as we need it. The sun gives direction. We have our bearings in accordance to it. It testifies to the greatness and trustworthiness of God on high.

I'm not so consistent, but becoming more so is a worthy goal. Like the sun may my reactions pour forth speech, declaring the glory of God. Day after day may my heart's meditation beat in steady rhythm...No matter what...God is good. God is good. God is good.



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Have you somehow escaped subjecting yourself to the buzz about the White House Correspondents Dinner?

I tried.

Like a good girl I scrolled past article after article knowing that political posts trigger me. But somehow while I was waiting for the towels in the dryer to finish I had three free minutes and I’d already watched a video of a military mom who surprises her son in the cafeteria. After reading another article on migraines I decided I couldn't help myself. (I'm a glutton for punishment.) I had to know what comedian Michelle Wolf said about White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

One click was enough. Wolf, in a manner foreign to humor, described Sanders as a liar, an "Uncle Tom" and a "disappointment to women" while comparing her to Aunt Lydia on The Handmaid's Tale. I haven't watched it but here's Sarah Sanders (on the left) and then Aunt Lydia on the right. Aunt Lydia might not be happy at the comparison either, but then again she didn't have to sit in front of a crowd and a camera while everything from her appearance to her character was horribly insulted.

Sanders isn't the only one who was criticized. So was President Trump, Kellyanne Conway and Megan Kelly, amongst others. I've only seen clips of a few of these dinners and I cringe every single time. We cross the line a little farther at each dinner. For the record, I have never liked it when any leader has been unnecessarily berated.

Wolf's comments weren't funny. In the clips I watched she was vile. I was embarrassed.

Then she had to make light of abortion. Then I was disgusted. Speaking of Mike Pence she joked,

"He thinks abortion is murder which, first of all, don't knock it 'til you try it — and when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you've got to get that baby out of there."

Please tell me we all agree that joking about "knocking babies out of wombs" is crossing a line.

So who am I talking to? I'm mostly venting so that Jason and the kids don't have to listen to me. You are the captive audience (unless you decide to "x" out of this post.) I'd hardly blame you.

If I had an audience with Ms Wolf, telling her that her comments are despicable would be about as effective as scolding a gentleman I catch torturing a cat. It would likely have little effect.

Michelle Wolf is acting like Michelle Wolf. She's crass.

Here's where my disappointment lies. Why in the world are so many defending such regrettable behavior? Why the need to bring up inappropriate comments that conservative leaders in the public eye have made? (Has our President made terrible remarks? Yes! Did it bother me? Absolutely!)

Would we excuse our kid's poor behavior because another kid their age did something similar first and received little reprimand -as far as we're concerned-? ("Well you know the Johnson's kid exhibited bad behavior and got away with it, so it's only fair that we overlook our Rylie doing something equally reprehensible.") Hopefully we wouldn't. I pray each of us will be ready to condemn wrongdoing when it comes from our own side (especially when it comes from our "own side".)

We, conservatives and liberals alike, can be so loyal to our political party that we condone anything and everything that is said or done by those we support. The divide has become so deep that we want to make sure we don't approach it. Rather we defend our party or else yell insults from our political corner.

Can we recognize wrong for wrong no matter who is practicing it? Could we get out of the bleachers and stop watching the game one sided? Could we approach the truth, whichever position of the divide that may lie?

Here's a litmus test. Would you want the thing thing that is being said (or done) aimed at your sister? Your daughter? If not, it shouldn't be said to anybody.

I pray we'll better speak the truth, consistently.

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer. Proverbs 15:28

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I didn't grow up on the mission field. Or did I ?

I grew up in church, a small one in central Texas where the two-digit attendance was posted in front of the sanctuary on a wooden board right beside the door that led to the nursery.

I learned much of what I know today right down the hall from the nursery in mission organizations led by my mama and other faithful and visionary women. This happened every Wednesday.

My friends and I, when we were old enough, walked down East McClain street from the school to church. From there we traveled to foreign lands that were painstakingly hand drawn on poster board with map colors and markers. We drank Kool-aid and ate assorted cookies that the church ladies provided on napkins.

Through storybooks we became acquainted with the customs in China and African cuisine. We prayed for men and women who were sharing the gospel of Jesus there and asked God that He would make himself known to the lost.

I can remember my mama, who hates driving in the city, making her way several times a year to the Christian bookstore in Arlington to buy more picture books and other resources which would bring South America to us if we couldn't travel there.

Here's the thing. My mom has never traveled to foreign countries to share the gospel. In fact, she's never left Texas for mission work. Her work was done inside white cinderblock walled classrooms. It was her creativity, passion and obedience to scripture that opened my mind to a world outside those walls, not a passport.

My mom isn't the only one who made much of the great commission. There was Ms Annie (and the other too many to mention ladies who served in the Women's Mission Union) whose hearts burned for missions.

I won't forget the first church where my husband Jason and I served. Several ladies three times my age took me into their WMU group. We ate lemon squares and drank tea in Mrs. Ekrut's kitchen while reading missionary names cut out of magazines. We prayed for messengers and other souls we'd never met, lifting up places we'd never been.

Yes, Sunday mornings have tucked the message of the gospel inside my heart. Women like my mama attached wings to that all important message.

I've been blessed to hold hands with orphans in Mexico. I've prayed with a woman who sat on the sidewalk in front of her crumbled house after Hurricane Katrina. I've picked up pieces of glass and concrete rubble from what was left of a church's foundation. I've jumped rope over a repurposed water hose and played games with lima beans in tin cups with beautiful barefoot girls in Kenya.

Each place held a strange beauty that caused my eyes to stretch open wider than before. More visible was the mission field in front of me, in my own town. And all this because women with no passport, but a vision, believed the gospel to be so powerful and wonderful it must be shared to the ends of the earth.

I was reminded of the overwhelming arch of missions this past weekend as Jason and I attended the North Carolina Missions Conference where we were able to thank the North Carolina folks for serving over 320,000 meals to our community after Hurricane Harvey. I was in awe of all the opportunities to serve and witness.

From mobile dentistry in the states to sharing Jesus to the gypsies in Romania, God's name is being made known.

While praising God for these works in an auditorium full of strangers, some, I learned, have gone abroad. Others, just like my Mama and Ms Annie and Mrs. Ekrut, have prayed and taught right where they are... for decades. They trust Jesus meant it when he said, "Go...and teach all nations... ". They have led us in classrooms and written checks, faith is their signature.

Work for the kingdom has largely been built on their backs.

I thank them. I thank the ladies who took me in early on in ministry teaching me the value of lifting up unfamiliar names and countries I still couldn't point out on a map. I thank my mama. Whether we go or stay, may we all be so faithful.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

My Mom:



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Sitting amongst a group of ladies a few years ago, I witnessed one woman making unkind remarks about a man who wasn't there. She continued to disparage the guy until one bold lady shook her head at her and told her the same thing I'd been thinking.

"You're being awful," she remarked, while gently reminding her how long she'd been criticizing this person undeservingly.

To my surprise, "lady one" softened. There were no more ill words spoken about the man. I might add, "lady one" and "lady two", were, and still are, close friends.

I have a lot of things I'd love to share that I don't. We all hold back the truth, now and then, for various reasons. Maybe we don't want to risk hurting someone's feelings. We may be sure that the truth will not be accepted or understood. The truth can throw a kink into relationships or cause us to be rejected.

It may be the truth when I tell my husband I'm sick and tired of him leaving his socks by the couch. It can be honesty that I'm speaking when I tell my daughter that what she's wearing doesn't flatter her figure. What if I tell that person on Facebook (that I don't even know) that the statistic they shared, on what causes the most deaths in the US, is flawed?

Is honesty always the best policy?

We've all heard these two great rules of thumb...

That thing that you're about to say:

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

Experience reminds me to include this...

  • Is there timeliness in your honesty? Is it necessary to share what your sharing...right now? (versus when there is more privacy or maybe when the person you're needing to be honest with isn't exhausted or already defeated)
  • Do you love the person with whom you're sharing the truth? (Or do you just find it important to get the right information out there?)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

1 Corinthians 13:1

Through the years a few adults have corrected (spoken truth to) my children when they were misbehaving. Most times I have been thankful. Other times I've been madder than an old wet hen. Sometimes their timing was off and it seemed their goal was to make a spectacle of my kids more than that they were pointing them in a better direction. A time or two I didn't feel they'd been the least bit kind. Often, something else was missing in their telling of the truth.

An important prerequisite to truth sharing, especially the difficult kind, is investment.

Hopefully we always respond to the truth, but we respond better when the truth we need to hear is coming from those who have poured into our lives. What reason do we have to believe a stranger? What weight should we give to words shared by someone who hasn't seemed to give two flips about us. (It seems as if their goal is simply to be right.)

Truth can feel like a withdrawal. The truth-teller is taking something away (a belief we had, our sense of comfort...our pride). Withdrawals are easier to suffer if there's a balance (of love) left over. Personal investment provides the proper cushion needed for speaking difficult truths.

As Christians we know the greatest truth. We are sinners in need of a perfect and gracious God. By no means should we keep this to ourselves. Instead we should share this valuable information patiently and lovingly.

Jesus is truth. He's also serves as the greatest example of personal investment, pouring out his very life for the sake of ours. Anything he asks of us, any difficult truth he asks us to swallow, he has more than covered with his steadfast love.

We can share the truth. Let's just give a little more of ourselves while doing it.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6



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A sweet friend from church approached me last Wednesday night before prayer meeting. "I just need to tell you", she said. "Your Rylie has gotten so pretty and has grown up so much." She continued to compliment my youngest, bringing up a church presentation where Rylie showed her knowledge of scripture. I made a quick mental note. Don't forget to share with Rylie.

It's always a treat when people take time out to give compliments. Kids (and adults for that matter) seek encouragement.

Lucky for Rylie, she received two sweet doses of affirmation that Wednesday. Last week was Spring Break. It was also the Nederland Heritage Festival, a time when we throw our cash at vendors in exchange for burgers and funnel cakes and a pass for unlimited rides.

This year Rylie decided she needed to purchase a caricature of herself. I'm not sure why. Her brother and his girlfriend had one drawn at the festival the night before and we laughed our heads off at the absurdity of their large chins and nostrils the artist had sketched with bright colored chalk. Middle schoolers can be a caricature in and of themselves without having someone exaggerate their least favorite feature.

Rylie happened upon a different artist. I was relieved when she proudly exited the tent waving her drawing in the air. The artist had sketched she and her friend and they looked as cute as a button (well, maybe as cute as /two/ buttons.) She showed everybody with whom she even had the slightest acquaintance.

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She was so happy with the light in which the artist had seen her that she spent another fifteen bucks the next night on another drawing; this time of her as a perky baker. And again she was proud, confirmed in her identity. I was happy for her. There had been a collective voice whispering her value.

This event plays into something I haven't seemed to be able to get out of my mind lately.

I don't think today's children are suffering from a lack of compliments and pep talks. As a teacher I remember having a list of brag words to use on student worksheets and tests. I was never without a stash of stickers and stamps. High fives, hugs and smiles were limitless. Still, all it usually took to crater a kid's self confidence was one ill word or a small rejection from their peers. Beyond suffering an unkindness, kids (and adults) often feel unloved or like a failure just by how they perceive others view them, sometimes even when their perception is wrong. A big and frequent dose of kindness won't battle feelings of inadequacy on its own.

With recent school shootings and multiple suicides amongst school age children I'm trying to wrap my head around the mindset of those who are deciding that their own life, or the life of another isn't valuable. Mental illness and depression surely factors in such sad thoughts and harrowing decisions being made. As has been suggested, I do believe a history of being bullied or rejected is often a part of such desperate action. Throw in broken families, the horrors of social media and violent video games. We have a host of ways to place blame for the dejection plague.

A common reaction I keep hearing when young lives are needlessly lost is "We need to be more kind." That's true. I think the world will always be in need of more kindness. But "more kindness" won't fill the void that pains so many hearts.

The suicide epidemic is rapidly getting closer to home. Having personal knowledge of a couple of individuals who have either ended or attempted to end their life recently, I can assure you that those people were loved on. Many whose lives have spun into darkness and loneliness have been showered with affection and encouragement.

Healthy homes, therapy and medication, affection, encouragement, less access to social media and displays of violence can be vital, but they aren't the cure to loneliness and hopelessness.

I believe we've lost sight (if we ever had it) of our value. We live in a world where a human life that already exists is only allowed to continue to exist if a pregnant mother so chooses.

Popular opinion dictates value. As much as we hate to admit it, outward beauty, athleticism, intelligence and the things we accumulate are the things we flippantly designate as significant. We're not much better than Hollywood.

We like rule followers and those for whom success comes easily. For those lacking...those who struggle...we can be guilty of tossing morsels of kindness without truly understanding value in those the world hasn't deemed worthy. We offer sympathy as a solution.

We flash a smile or type a quick positive comment on Facebook. We encourage our kids to sit with the kid who sits alone while still sometimes hoping our kid will be accepted by the important kids. We add kindness upon kindness sometimes wearing ourselves out in the process. We forget that the wound of unworthiness is deep and in need of a greater touch.

Last week at the festival I watched the second time Rylie had her sketch done. She already knew what she looked like, still she sat in eager anticipation. "I want to know again. How do you see me?"

We'll never see others (or be seen by others) in perfect light. That's why we need to go and sit before the artist who formed us. He's waiting to show us the beauty and value we have in him. Each of us were so important to Him that he willingly gave his own life out of his deep love for us.

We need to recognize others who desperately clutch their canvas. Rather than paying them a quick compliment to cover an ill-drawn representation or offering to sketch them ourselves, let's point them to The Artist. And then point them back again. Repeat.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7

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A sweet friend from church approached me last Wednesday night before prayer meeting. "I just need to tell you", she said. "Your Rylie has gotten so pretty and has grown up so much." She continued to compliment my youngest bringing up a church presentation where Rylie showed her knowledge of scripture. I made a quick mental note. Don't forget to share with Rylie.

It's always a treat when people take time out to give compliments. Kids (and adults for that matter) seek encouragement.

Lucky for Rylie, she received two sweet doses of affirmation that day. Last week was Spring Break. It was also the Nederland Heritage Festival, a time when we throw our cash at vendors in exchange for burgers and funnel cakes.

This year Rylie decided she needed to purchase a caricature of herself. I'm not sure why. Her brother and his girlfriend had one drawn at the festival the night before and we laughed our heads off at the absurdity of their large chins and nostrils sketched with bright colored chalk. Middle schoolers can be a caricature in and of themselves without having someone exaggerate their least favorite feature.

I was relieved when Rylie scampered proudly out of the tent waving her drawing in the air. The artist had sketched she and her friend and they looked as cute as a button (well, maybe as cute as /two/ buttons.) She showed everybody with whom she even had the slightest acquaintance.

She was so happy with the light in which the artist had seen her that she spent another fifteen bucks the next night on another drawing; this time of her as a perky baker. And again she was proud, confirmed in her identity. I was happy for her. There had been a collective voice whispering her value.

There's just one thing I can't seem to get out of my mind lately.

I don't think today's children are suffering from a lack of compliments and pep talks. As a teacher I remember having a list of brag words to use on student worksheets and tests. I was never without a stash of stickers and stamps. High fives, hugs and smiles were limitless. Still, all it usually took to crater a kid's self confidence was one ill word or a small rejection from their peers. Beyond suffering an unkindness, kids (and adults) often feel unloved or like a failure just by how they perceive others view them, sometimes even when their perception is wrong. A big and frequent dose of kindness won't battle feelings of inadequacy on its own.

With recent school shootings and multiple suicides amongst school age children I'm trying to wrap my head around the mindset of those who are deciding that their own life, or the life of another isn't valuable. Mental illness and depression surely factors in such sad thoughts and harrowing decisions being made. As has been suggested, I do believe a history of being bullied or rejected is often a part of such desperate action. Throw in broken families, the horrors of social media and violent video games. We have a host of ways to place blame.

A common reaction I keep hearing when lives are taken and lost is "We need to be more kind." That's true. I think the world will always be in need of more kindness. But more kindness won't fill the void that aches so many hearts.

The suicide epidemic is rapidly getting closer to home. Having personal knowledge of a couple of individuals who have either ended or attempted to end their life recently, I can assure you that the people I know were loved on. Many whose lives have spun into darkness and loneliness have been showered with affection and encouragement.

Healthy homes, affection and encouragement, protection from bullies, more kindness and less access to social media and displays of violence are vital, but they aren't the cure to the loneliness and sadness that plagues the hordes.

We've lost sight (if we ever had it) of our value. We live in a world where a human life that already exists is only allowed to continue to exist if a pregnant mother so chooses.

Popular opinion dictates value. As much as we hate to admit it, outward beauty, athleticism, intelligence and the things we accumulate are the things we flippantly designate as significant. We like rule followers and those for whom success comes easily. For those lacking...those who struggle...we can be guilty of tossing morsels of kindness without truly assigning these individuals equal value.

We flash a smile and share bags of the outgrown clothes we can't wear anymore. We encourage our kids to sit with the kid who sits alone while still hoping our kid will be accepted by the important kids. I know I can be guilty of such fallen behavior.

Last week at the festival I watched the second time Rylie had her sketch done. Already knowing what she looked like, she sat in eager anticipation. "I want to know again, she must have pondered. "Show me how you see me."

We'll never see others (or be seen by others) in perfect light. That's why we need to go and sit with the artist who formed us. He's waiting to show us the beauty and value we have in him. Each of us were so important to Him that he willingly gave his own life out of his deep love for us.

We all need to go back and sit with the artist and sees us how he sees us. We need to recognize others who desperately clutch their canvas. Rather than paying them a quick compliment for an ill-drawn representation or offering to sketch them ourselves, let's point them to The Artist. And then point them back again. Repeat.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7