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Thy Kingdom Come

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kingdom is near!
Let us not fear
A babe born in the night
To set the world right
We usher it in
Recused of our sin
As we humbly care
At times with despair
Within sacred spaces
We each run our races
And bow our knee low
To release what we sow
Serving the meek
And also the weak
And the broken
in body
And those who can’t speak.

The kingdom belongs!
To the broken songs
And each desperate cry
And deep heavy sigh
It’s for the least of these
And for he
who always sees
the marginalized
and she, who almost dies
And the saints who are bent
And some who are spent
And those begging for bread
And seeking a place
to lay their weary head
And for he with sunken veins
And she void of future gains.

The kingdom is yours!
If you weep in the night
Raging against
a pitiful plight
It’s in the dim room
Overshadowed by gloom
And enveloped in cords
As the nurse
checks your sores
It’s soaked in quiet despair
In reluctantly shaving off hair
Or gulping down giant pills
And in the signing
of unwanted wills
Or when your spouse
whispers a plea
and begs ever quietly,
please don’t leave me.

The kingdom is here!
For you and for me
WE usher it in
With each faithful win
WE stand at the helm
Of an everlasting realm
Released by the Son on high
Where upon the cross
He bled and die
For when WE obey
We light the way
As we dare to care
And become worn for wear
When we see and submit
The eternal torch is lit
Ourselves we humbly rid
For as our savior
mercifully did.

Thy kingdom come!
Thy will be done
We all have our parts
To woe minds and hearts
Through our actions & love
We point to Christ above
As the spirit swoops in
Convicting of sin
Another sinner is found
All glory abound!
Heaven rejoices with glee
Ushered in
by you and me.
For the kingdom has come
And Thy will be done
Here on earth
And above
Eternally motivated
By a perfect babe’s love.

Merry Christmas 🎄
Written by Jess Ronne / Jessplusthemess

Monday Musings – Pruning for Self-Care

I’ve lightened my workload this summer and that means you get to enjoy guest posts and excerpts from my books. I’ll return this fall with all new Monday Musings, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this post from Lovin with Grit & Grace.

Pruning for Self-Care

When we lived on our rural homestead, I had a brilliant idea—of course I did. I have always taken great pleasure in a nice glass of cold chardonnay, and now that we owned thirty acres of hills, I thought, Why don’t we plant chardonnay grapes and make wine? I immediately hopped on eBay and found what I was looking for—a cluster of grapevines ready to be planted in our red southern dirt. I placed the order and eagerly awaited their arrival—with visions of my basement shelves lined with bottles of chardonnay, made from my own two hands and from the grapes that had come straight from our land. Never mind that no one has ever grown chardonnay grapes in southern US soil, as they are typically grown in climates like Michigan or Northern California because it’s the cooler weather that gives them that crisp buttery taste, or so I’ve been told. But—I was not to be deterred. I was determined to grow grapes and make wine, by golly. The grapes arrived, and Ryan and I put their tender root systems into the ground.

“Wow!” I exclaimed about thirty minutes into attempting to entrench a shovel into the hard red dry dirt that was to become my sweet little chardonnay vines’ new home. “This isn’t easy!” “I told you,” my husband replied. “Tennessee isn’t exactly known for their vineyards, and there’s probably a reason for that.” He winked, slightly annoyed, but he understood that this meant a lot to me, and he’s a trooper like that.

We continued working and within a few hours, those tender vines were planted.
The first year, nothing.
The second year, nothing.
The third year, I was so excited to see tons of growth! Twisty vine leaves going crazy! So crazy that my husband had to tie them up on wires! “Yay! It looks like we might see a few grapes this year!” I said, enthralled over the prospect of finally fulfilling my dream of making homemade wine. “Nope,” my husband replied. “Not this year. This year we’ll have to prune these vines back so that next year we can enjoy our harvest.”
“WHAT?! Why?!” I wailed. “It looks so promising right now!”
“I know, babe, but that’s what we have to do to ensure the best harvest. You have to prune to create room for real growth. If we leave the branches the way they are this year, sure, we’ll see a grape here or there; but if we prune them this year, next year you’ll be able to reap a harvest!” “Fine,” I agreed, disappointed but willing to take him at his Word.

That spring we did indeed prune those branches. It hurt to see all that potential being hauled off to the burn pile, but I was excited to see what the next spring would bring, hopeful that my dreams of winemaking were only a few months away!

Even the best-laid plans can go awry. That fall, I heard, “Jess, they want to schedule a PET scan. They think it might be cancer.” Fear and uncertainty hung in the air as we contemplated our life that had become overwhelming and had led to Ryan’s health issues. For the past six years, he had single-handedly renovated our homestead, a sprawling 6,000 square foot home that was in dire need of everything when we purchased it, in addition to our daily life and work, which were hectic!

We were so overwhelmed we couldn’t see straight. After receiving the news that all was clear on the scan (Praise the Lord!), we knew something had to give, or the next scare might not turn out as positively. It was really that simple; so, we evaluated our lives. What could we say no to? And what needed pruning? After a season of prayer, we knew that it was time to say goodbye to our beautiful homestead in rural Tennessee and goodbye to the grapevines. Goodbye to my dreams of making homemade chardonnay.

We packed up what once was our dream life and by Christmas that year, we found a home near Nashville, and we moved. Although I never got to see a single grape on those grapevines, a student of mine gifted me with something special on my last day of teaching. He and his grandfather made homemade wine from the muscadine grapes—apparently, those do well in the South—and he brought me a bottle.

We pruned what wasn’t working to make room for something that might. We said no to rural life in order to say yes to us. Is there something affecting your mental, physical, or spiritual health? Pick up those shears and prune it. It will sting at first, but it’s worth it. Every ounce of my being was sad to say goodbye to rural life; but in saying goodbye, I said yes to my husband’s and family’s wellbeing.

Want to hear more of our story? Check out my three books below!

 

       

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Love Changes Who We Are: A Letter to Broken Parents

Hi friend! I’m enjoying a bit of a sabbatical this summer and have lightened my workload considerably to spend more time relaxing at the beach.  I hope you enjoy these hand-picked guest posts for Monday Musings on the weeks when I’ll be sinking my toes in the sand.  Just keep livin’.

This post was written and shared by Shannon Guerra.

 

The noise could almost make your heart stop. Your mind tries to process whether it is a scream or a cry, an unnatural wail that sounds like a mythological animal dying, heaving its last gasps of breath.

Then it stops…and you realize the kids are just blowing through blades of grass. Is any other innocent summer pastime as guilty of inducing heart attacks as this one? It’s just grass blades and air. Nothing to be alarmed by.

But that knowledge doesn’t keep you from almost peeing your pants when the sound comes out of nowhere.

Eventually, though, you get used to it. The noise isn’t any less annoying, but it no longer stops you in your tracks and gives you a panic attack.

You recognize what it is. You know it’s not a threat, and you continue on with what you were doing.

Parenting changes us, and the more we surrender to the process, the more He refines us. He is making us more like Him. And simultaneously, paradoxically, He is making each of us, you and me, more like the unique you and me we were always meant to be.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.

– 1 John 3:18-20

He knows what kind of mother and father our kids need. And He knows what kind of kids we needed to (ahem) sanctify us, as well.

Unfortunately, those things that refine us the best tend to be things that grate against us the most.

 

This daily consistency is not my jam. I’m also not great at it naturally. I’m more of a free spirit.

– Lacey Steel, adoptive mom

 

I hate to tell you this, but you probably already know it: The things we each need to learn in parenting and wholeness are probably not going to be things we enjoy learning about.

I love achievement and making progress with things, and reading and education are huge passions of mine. So it makes sense that to sanctify and mature me, God gave me some children who resist those things to extremes. I needed to learn that my success is wrapped up in my own obedience, and not the progress or growth of my kids. (I am still learning. It’s quite the process.)

And you need to learn things, too. So don’t take it as a personal attack when it seems like behaviors or situations push your buttons in just the right pattern. It is SO hard sometimes, yes. But God trusts us to steward these kids and their needs toward our own growth and sanctification, rather than our own preferences and natural bents.

Because, left to the ease of our own natural bents, we become less and less like Him — curling inward, warped and wilted. He made us, though, to stand strong and overcome.

 

If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

– 1 John 4:12b-13

 

Last week a friend asked me, “This has been such a hard season, hasn’t it?” and it has been, for so many of us. It hasn’t been the very hardest for me (the first few years post-adoption still make 2020 look like a walk in the park) but it has definitely brought some of the scariest moments and deepest soul seeking for me – questions about who I am and what I’m worth, how God sees me versus how others see me, lies I’ve believed and boundaries I need to put in place.

It is like how when we learn more in any subject, we realize how very little we actually know about it. Our identities are like that. The more broken we get, the more we can heal, and the more brokenness we identify within us that still needs healing.

Don’t misread me — I don’t mean this in the sense of “God loves you very much and He has a miserable plan for your life,” or that we should pursue the kind of brokenness that comes from foolish or sinful choices.

I mean that life is messy, and if we are going to be involved in parenthood, leadership, ministry, or any other significant mission, it will involve brokenness.

So He honors some of us with a lot of brokenness because He knows we will steward it well.

You know, like He did: Beauty for ashes. Joy for mourning. Forgiveness for sin. Because He is making us like Himself, but not everyone surrenders to the process.

 

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.

– 1 John 4:16-19

 

We have to recognize our junk to be able to start dealing with it, and once we recognize it, we start seeing it everywhere. So if you, like my friend, are asking, “How can I possibly still have this much junk to deal with?” be comforted by the fact that if you are recognizing a lot of it, you are making great progress. We only move toward healing when we’re no longer oblivious to our brokenness.

The further we go in adoption, the more I realize that God called us to it not just for our kids, but for us. Yes, they needed us – they needed homes and healing and protection and a family. But we needed the sanctification. We needed to understand more of His love for us, as we loved them. We needed to see the world deeper and wider, and to understand our own brokenness more fully so we could walk in healing and wholeness.

Because He made us to be overcomers, along with our kids.

 

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

– 1 John 5:4

 

And look at how far we’ve come, how strong we all are now: The broken things are starting to rebuild along better paths, in us and in our kids. The hard things have become the familiar things. What used to seem impossible is now routine.

The scream of the grass blades assaults our ears like a fighter jet grazing our rooftop, but there we are – no big deal, completely unfazed, just picking weeds out of the garden as He makes us more like Him.

 

Shannon Guerra is a wife, prophetic intercessor, and homeschooling mom of eight kids via birth and adoption. Her family lives in Wasilla, Alaska with their cats and a mysteriously increasing flock of poultry. Shannon’s books include Upside Down, Oh My Soul, Work That God Sees, and the ABIDE series. She writes about wholeness, prayer, motherhood, and living deep and wide at www.shannonguerra.com.

Love Is What We Do: A Letter to Fellow Adoptive Parents

Hi friend! I’m enjoying a bit of a sabbatical this summer and have lightened my workload considerably to spend more time relaxing at the beach.  I hope you enjoy these hand-picked guest posts for Monday Musings on the weeks when I’ll be sinking my toes in the sand.  Just keep livin’.

This post was written and shared by Shannon Guerra.

In a patch of the yard, a two-year-old boy plays in a dirt pile with his red plastic shovel. You can’t really see him but you know he’s there because of the haze of dirt suspended eighteen inches off the ground in that general area, floating lazily to the west.

And down the hill, an older boy gathers a bucket of dirt. But no, he’s not doing it for fun, but as a consequence for refusing to do school. He didn’t tell us he didn’t want to school in so many words; that would be easier but it would also mean admitting responsibility and being honest. Instead, he expresses his desire to not do school by pretending to be unable to do very simple things that we know he can do. On this particular day, he pretends not to know what the word “opposite” means, in spite of the definition and examples right in front of him in his language arts assignment. He has known what the word opposite means for many years, but today he doesn’t want to admit it. So instead of doing school, he does the opposite of everything his language arts assignment asked him to do. Ironic, hmm?

 We cannot fix these choices for him. He has had so many terrific days and made such amazing progress in the last year. But progress is scary and consequences are safer. A big world of freedom is unpredictable and uncontrollable, and when the anxiety gets to be too much he reels it in by some type of self-sabotage and makes his world very small again. Small is familiar and safe.

Adoptive parents contact me all the time, and their stories are so precious to me. It is both hard and healing to read them; it is so easy to slide into hopelessness because of how huge some situations are, and yet we need to hear from each other because we need to know we’re not alone.

You, friend, reading this: Looking at that impossible situation with that kid, or that spouse, or those neighbors, or that school, or that social worker. You are not alone.

 Our stories are all different but the themes are the same, and many of our details overlap. The grief over our kids’ choices is so intense. The secondary trauma from their behaviors is so real. And the loss of our expectations, of what we imagined things would be like when we chose adoption or foster care, is something that we have a hard time letting go of. Because if we let go of those expectations, it feels like we failed. It feels like admitting defeat.

 But it’s not admitting defeat. It’s not lowering our standards. It’s not failure.

 It is surrender. It is acknowledging that we are not in control, we are not responsible for someone else’s choices, and we are not the savior of this child or these circumstances.

We need to remind ourselves of this. And when we have a hard time reminding ourselves, we need to remind each other. God has not left us to deal with this alone, He has given us each other to speak life and truth into when we cannot see clearly for ourselves. The haze of dirt is too thick; our own frustrations and worries are too loud.

 So let me remind you of a few things. I’m reminding myself, too:

 You are the expert of your kid. Professionals are only as helpful as they are, well, helpful. You probably already know that, for example, some counseling does more harm than good depending on the counselor’s experience. Many professionals claim to be experts when they only have a book, lab, or office understanding of these issues but no boots-on-the-ground experience with adoption and special needs. Those who don’t have dirt under their fingernails often have no problem piling 23 more tasks, responsibilities, and suggestions into your lap when they get to clock out at the end of the day and deal with normal life and probably even get a full night’s sleep.

 The true experts are the parents who are doing this day in and day out. Sucks though, right? So hear me: Parents, you are doing a better job than you give yourselves credit for, and you are not responsible for your child’s behavior, choices, or progress.

Yes, you influence them. But no, you don’t make their choices for them or decide how they will respond to any number of triggers or events throughout the day. That is not on you.

Healing for all of us will take time. And some of our adopted kids may never want a relationship with us. We cannot force them to do anything, and coming into their lives at such a late date, our influence was so limited.

– adoptive mom

And those extra 23 responsibilities that might be amazing? You know, the supplements, therapies, classes, programs, books you should read, videos you need to watch, skills you need to learn, songs you should sing, and all the other parts of the hokey pokey? It’s not worth squeezing them into your week if, in order to do so, you have to start eating 3-minute meals and taking one-minute showers and skipping going to the bathroom, and sleeping only three hours a night. Oh, wait…many of you are already doing that.

Well. You pick what works for you and your family, but the rest of those 23 tasks can take a hike because you have got to get some rest and eat a decent meal a couple of times a day. You are not doing anyone any favors if you die on the altar of someone else’s well-meaning to-do list. (Seriously, friend, don’t make me use my mom voice.)

The best thing we’ve learned to do in those hard seasons, whether it is with our kids or our spouse or another close relationship, is to pray that we will like them as we are loving them (and to pray that we will be likable, too). Because when they are likable when we are likable, the atmosphere is lighter and the joy isn’t something you have to fight for. It’s easier to get out of bed and face a new day with hope when we like each other.

“Fake it till you make it” isn’t sustainable, and we need real hope to hold on to when we don’t see things improving. So here’s some comfort: When someone is still not likable and we are still loving toward them, we are actually “doing” love that is truer to the definition of it.

Because love is more of a verb than a feeling.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

– Luke 6:32-33

Jesus loved us when we were not likable, too, and His kindness led us to repentance. When we start to learn about loving as He does, it changes us into someone we never could have become had we stayed inside out of the dirt, with our cute shoes and clean fingernails.

 

Shannon Guerra is a wife, prophetic intercessor, and homeschooling mom of eight kids via birth and adoption. Her family lives in Wasilla, Alaska with their cats and a mysteriously increasing flock of poultry. Shannon’s books include Upside Down, Oh My Soul, Work That God Sees, and the ABIDE series. She writes about wholeness, prayer, motherhood, and living deep and wide at www.shannonguerra.com.
Lovin' With Grit and Grace Book Cover

Lovin' with Grit and Grace