How To Wait Well

It’s 8am. We’re all gathered in the mud room. Snow pants, boots, hats, and gloves fly out of the plastic storage bin, landing in heaps on the ceramic tile floor. We should have been in the car five minutes ago, but my oldest son can’t find one of his gloves. I wait,  anxiously tapping my fingers.

I can feel the tension rising like the first bubbles of boiling water. “Zip up your coat,” I tell my son for the third time. I’m trying my darnedest to be patient, but waiting on two little boys to put on forty thousand pieces of snow gear was not factored into my plans for the morning.

The frustration boils out of me. I know I shouldn’t say anything, but my feelings get the best of me.

Tick-tock! Get those shoes ON. Let’s GO!” I bark.

I instantly regret letting my words fly, reminded that I have lots to learn about patience and waiting.

Waiting is hard. Waiting on small things like little boys gearing up to leave in the mornings is frustrating. But waiting on big things for long seasons? That kind of waiting is excruciating.

Whether we’re waiting for little ones to hurry along, waiting for a miracle, waiting for healing, waiting for a breakthrough, waiting for the pain to end, or waiting for the adventure to begin we all must wait. Most of us hate waiting. But perhaps waiting is the very thing that we need, and maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to wait well. Here are a few things I’m learning about how to wait well.

Wait In Stillness

Waiting well requires waiting in stillness. When we are waiting, we can be tempted to hurry the process along, grab the bull by the horns, do whatever we can to move forward. We don’t like feeling out of control, so we tend to strive anxiously to get past the waiting room.

But what if waiting is really a bold and beautiful invitation to be still with God?

Perhaps we must wait so that we don’t miss God in the miracle. Waiting for God and waiting with God are two different things. Being still gives us an opportunity to learn His heart while we wait for Him to move. We all love God’s miracles; the miracles make us fans. But the waiting in stillness allows us to know Him: His heart, His motives. It’s in the waiting that we build intimacy.

Wait Actively 

Waiting in stillness and waiting actively are two sides of the same coin. Active waiting requires intentionality. Waiting well is not passive. We must actively create margin to be still. We must actively pursue opening our Bibles to let God speak His promises over us. We must actively pray and open our hearts, raw and exposed, to the Lord.

Active waiting means letting God do what only God can do, while we do what we can to cooperate in the process. Many times that simply means showing up to do the very next right thing, whatever that might be: speaking kind words when you want to snap, showing up and working faithfully at your less-than-dream-job, or even seeking counseling or coaching. Waiting is moment-by-moment, and the sum of what we do in those moments determines whether we will reap the rewards of waiting well.

Wait Patiently

I’ve recently been letting Jillian Michaels kick my tail through her Yoga Meltdown workouts–body weight training through power yoga. Jillian coaches users through difficult poses and movements and then closes out each set with having us hold each pose. As I hold each pose, muscles shaking, Jillian continues coaching and talking. I don’t always listen; many times I’m consciously thinking, “Stop talking, Jillian! I’m dying!” (dramatic. I know).

But Jillian knows something about waiting in that uncomfortable, difficult position: the waiting through the pain and discomfort is making me stronger.

The Greek word for patience is “humomone.” It means “to remain under.” Seasons of waiting are seasons of remaining under God’s authority and leadership; remaining under His careful instruction to hold still in the uncomfortable seasons so that we build strength and endurance.

Breathe, my friend. Press into it. You’re getting stronger.

Wait Collectively 

I’m an extrovert that practically uses jazz-hands every time I walk into a room full of people. But when I’m in painful seasons of waiting, my natural tendency is to withdraw from people. If I am not careful to actively press into community when my feelings say to pull back, I can easily be driven into seasons of depression and extreme loneliness.

Pulling away from community when we are waiting for breakthroughs is one of the most detrimental things we can do. God’s spirit resides in His people, and one of the ways He shows us His love, power, and care is through others. When we pull away from everyone, we shut down the ability to receive God’s encouragement, care, and compassion through them.

Wait Expectantly

If we are to wait well, we must wait expectantly; we wait full of hope, expecting God to come through. We wait by the sea, expecting God to do something, even if that sea parting is the last thing we could ever imagine. We can wait expecting God to come through and to lead us. He didn’t bring you this far to leave you in the desert. We do not wait as orphans, but as beloved children under the watchful eye of an all-loving Father.

Your season of waiting will not last forever, however long it may be. Take courage. God is in the waiting.


You’re Welcomed To The Table

Happy Thanksgiving! When it comes to the traditional meal, I’m a stuffing kind of girl. Here is my never-fails, family-favorite recipe from The Comfort of Cooking. My husband and children actually cheer when I make it!

The truth is that as much as I pride myself on being a gourmet cook (y’all, I really love food, and I love creating in the kitchen), it’s the cranberry sauce—jellied, straight from a can– that wins for me. You know, where the lines from can show on the purple glob? Classy, right?

In a few hours, Adam, the kids, and I will be with my family, gathered around a table. 17 of us, the adults outnumbered by the kiddos, will be enjoying our Thanksgiving dinner together. It’s going to be beautifully chaotic and incredibly loud (I come from a long-line of strong, loud women. God bless my husband and brothers-in-law). As loud and chaotic as it is, we will be together, and we will love every minute of it.

I’ve been studying the Old Testament book of Zechariah. It’s been a moving book, portraying God as a God that clothes us in clean garments when our accuser stands to our side naming our guilt. (If you struggle with shame, read Zechariah 3, and be set free.)

This morning I was blown away by what I read in Zechariah 10: 8 – 10. It is such an appropriate section for Thanksgiving! God says that he is working to bring His scattered children home. However far we are from Him, whatever mess we are in, God wants us to be at His table. He delights in bringing us to Himself; in bringing us home.

So today, wherever you are, God sees, and He wants you to make your home with Him; to delight in the feast of His goodness and presence. Nothing you have done exempts you from being able to be at home with Him. You are wanted, and your seat at the table is waiting for you.

Thank you for joining me in these little written journeys. My prayer is that today you would know that you are created with purpose, with dignity, with God-given-delight. I pray that you would pause, and receive His invitation to know and be with Him.



On Prayer & Friendship

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. “Friend”  is a term we throw around loosely, like it’s a common reality. The more that I talk to people about friendship, the more I’m realizing what a gift genuine friendship is.

I want safe friends who I can say anything to, who know my baggage and help me unpack it, who correct my wrong thinking, and champion my best. I want those friends who love my children, and who frequent my table. I want vacation-together friends, laugh until it hurts, but safe-to-cry with when everything hits the fan friends.

And every once in a while I catch a glimpse that those types of friends do exist.

One of the most profound realizations about friendship I have ever had happened in a women’s restroom. I was working in an office, and it was a particularly challenging day. I had been sitting at my desk blinking back tears of frustration and sadness, feeling all kinds of big emotions, and I stepped away to the women’s room to pull myself together. A friend of mine who has an emotional radar as spot-on as a sniper walked in. Without asking me anything she let out a big sigh, and put her arms around me.

I had planned to keep my battle to myself, get my act together, and finish the work day, but she entered my war zone. She asked if she could pray with me, and I swear the ground shook beneath my feet with the power of the words she prayed over me. She declared war against the lies, against the darkness that was shadowing my heart and mind that day. I was emotionally exhausted, and she took up arms to fight for me.

It was a profound moment. A humbling one. And one full of tremendous power, love, and a fierce boldness that I do not take for granted.

When I saw the new Wonder Woman movie I remembered that moment with my friend.  No major spoilers, but there’s a battle scene during WWII where allied forces are exhausted, scared, and haven’t gained ground in months. Wonder Woman, seeing their exhaustion and need,  steps out of the trenches and starts marching across the field taking blow after blow from enemy fire so that they could gain some ground.

When they were at their weakest she stepped in the gap and fought for them, taking hit after hit so they could regain their footing to fight back themselves.

That is what my dear friend did for me that day. She stepped into my battle and fought for me. Without knowing it, she completely changed the way I define friendship, and brought clarity to the type of friend I want to have, and the type of friend that I want to be.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane the night he was arrested, he asked his disciples to pray. That used to seem like a docile request to me, but now I realize that he was asking his friends to step into the war zone with him in the most powerful way they could. Like those men, I often fall asleep on the job. I often neglect the weapon of prayer that I have to wield against the darkness. But time and time again I see that God has called us to arms. He has called us to fight with and for one another in powerful ways that shake the strongholds of Hell and break the chains that bind us.

So today, keep your eyes open. Be alert. And whether the people around you know you’re doing it or not, wage war on their behalf. If you’re the one in the battle, invite trusted people into your trenches and ask them to declare victory over you with the authority of Heaven through their prayers.





Ditch The Label

We’ve all had to rock those awesome white name tags at events. You walk in, and you’re given a white sticker and a Sharpie to write your name so that as you make your way through the crowd other people can identify you. Most of the time we write the name we go by: Haley, Adam, Kristyn, Troy…and if you’re like me, you forget to take it off, wash the laundry, and end up googling “laundry solutions for Dummies.”

But what would you write if you wrote who you really think you are? If you had to write the name that haunts you in the night, the name that is constantly whispered in the recesses of your mind? Maybe you’d write “Coward.” Or maybe “Lonely.” “Loud.” “Shy.”  “Control freak.” “Mental case.” “Depressed.” “Anxious.”

Mine?  “Unwanted.” Since I was a little girl I have believed that I am expendable. Leave-able. Disposable.

Good gracious, I am done with that heavy label. Jesus has ripped off the tag, and boldly declared over me, “That’s not your name.” The strong love and compassion of my Savior has given me the right name tag: “His.” I may spend the rest of my life picking off the sticky residue left on the shirt of my soul from wearing that vicious lie of a name for too long, but the label is destroyed.

So what is your false label? We all believe something about who we are. The great tragedy is that far too often who we believe we are is far from the truth.

Oh, friend. That label…that thing you’ve believed about yourself all this time, that thing that weighs you down and haunts you in the darkness of night…that’s not your name.

Your name is “Beloved.” Your name is “Cherished One.” Your name is “Redeemed.” “Whole.” “Lovely.” “Desired.”

Your name is “Royalty.”

So when shame and lies come to steal your dreams telling you that you can never escape,  run for the truth and declare, “That is not my name!” Run to Jesus, the only one with the authority to tell you who you really are.

Let’s ditch the tags, and let’s run free.

Run Hard. Love Strong.



Save Me

I became a Christian when I was 17 years old. In those early days I would take my Bible and my journal to coffee houses and press in, learning more about who this God is that I had fallen in love with; the God who was radically changing my life. Those first few years of following Jesus were like a greenhouse for me. I was changing and being transformed in big ways, and at light speed. For the first time in my life I was beginning to feel healthy and whole.


But at some point I started to feel numb. I started to get used to the Gospel. I started to subconsciously say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve heard all of this. I know all of this.” I fell into believing that I have a relationship with Jesus, and He saved me (past tense), but I don’t still need saving.

It’s a dangerous road to have found myself  believing that I had become too mature, too wise, too good to still need the Gospel.

I’m thankful that God loves me too much to leave me alone. Through some really difficult and painful circumstances I was reminded that it is only by His grace that I can even approach Him. It is His working in me that had changed me, His mercy that covers my sins.

I. Need. Saving. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. In this moment, and now this one…

I need saving when I lose my patience with my children and yell at them without restraint. I need saving when I say those ugly words to my husband just to hurt him. I need saving when I harbor unforgiveness and resentment towards a friend that has hurt me. I need saving when I get so angry at God and disbelieve that He is far more good than I could ever comprehend.

But the best news, and the power of God, is found in that through Jesus, I have the rescue that I need. Every season, every day, every moment.

Last weekend I heard one of the most powerful messages I have ever heard about shame. You NEED to watch this message. At one point Brad Tate says that as Christians we often say, “God takes our sins away,” and that while that is true, it’s deeper than that; God covers our sins through the blood of Jesus. Whether we are close to God and need 2% grace, or whether we are far from God and need 98%, the blood of Jesus fills the gap and makes us righteous.

I ended up drawing this rough sketch in my journal:FullSizeRender.jpg

The idea here was that God’s holiness is like the horizon line when you are looking at the ocean. What you see from the shoreline looks like a straight, level line. Underneath the water, however, are mountains, valleys, and rough terrain with varied gaps between the peaks and the surface of the water. The water fills in the gaps to the surface, making it level.

Jesus’ blood fills in the deepest gaps of our souls to be made right with God. Jesus has made us perfect and we can live in awe and wonder of the Gospel TODAY because we are made right with God apart from anything we could ever do ourselves.

Oh, God, forgive me for neglecting the power of the Gospel in my day-to-day life. Would you help me to live in humble, awed gratitude? I need saving…today and everyday. Thank you for covering my shame. Thank you for making me new. 

Run Hard. Love Strong.


Get low. Get free.

The beginning of 2017 started with me praying a simple prayer, “God, teach me how to love. How to really love.”

Learning to love means learning to get low. Choosing to serve. Choosing anonymity. Choosing to stop evaluating the value of work based on applause or approval. Choosing to do small things with great love for the people around me.

All my life I have felt a tremendous amount of pressure to excel. I have spent my days striving to be acceptable and pleasing.

That life is exhausting, and has left my soul tired. In my search for the approval and adoration of others, I have been chasing after a mirage in a desert, never arriving, all the while getting thirstier and thirstier.

Chasing satisfaction in the praise of people will always leave us thirsty; we are wasting our energy chasing after something that isn’t even real! We buy into the lie that apart from the praise and adoration of people we are invaluable, unloveable, and invisible.

I place my identify far too often in what I do instead of whose I am. But I am learning that there is tremendous freedom when I let go of the need to earn my place.

The reality is that I am not enough. I will never be enough. But Jesus is enough for me. His enoughness is all I need, and in Him is the freedom to stop striving.

When we stop long enough to look to Jesus and ask Him to satisfy us with His enoughness, we can stop chasing desert mirages and experience rich satisfaction and healthy souls. It is in this place that we experience the freedom to embrace who we are simply because He calls us His.

Out of our satisfaction we begin to learn what real love and service are.

We can rest when we stop trying to earn our place. We can experience the fullness of peace God promises when we accept that He really does mean it when He says that we don’t have to earn His favor or love. We can start to enjoy our work when we don’t tie our worth to it.

Living low allows us to find tremendous fulfillment and joy in both the mundane and the extraordinary. Whether scrubbing dishes, changing diapers, working in a cubicle, or  speaking in front of thousands, we can fully embrace our moments with gratitude and a heart full of love because our activity does not define our value or worth.

We can be free to serve without recognition, and we can accept recognition with humility.

I’m learning that living low is the only real way to be satisfied. On my own I will never be enough, but Jesus is enough for me. He is enough for you. He is enough for us.

Get low. Live low. Stay low. That is where rich life, and soul satisfaction are found.

Run Hard. Love Strong.





The Words That Changed My Life

I love words. Writing words. Reading words. Speaking words. Sharing words.

We can’t touch words. We can’t taste or smell them. Words are intangible, and yet they are so powerful that books have been burned for the words written in them, and people have been burned for the words they have spoken.

Words are dangerous.

Lately I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ words.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again:  as a writer I  pray that my words move people. But Jesus’ words move oceans.

In the early moments of my morning today I sat down at my desk with my coffee, and opened my Bible to the book of John. John was a friend of Jesus, and wrote an eye-witness account of what he had seen. In John 18 we read that Jesus had been betrayed, and soldiers came to take him away. Jesus asked them who they were looking for, and when they told him, Jesus said, “I am he.” Anyone within earshot of Jesus’ words would have instantly recognized that he wasn’t just saying, “I’m the guy you’re looking for,” but was actually saying, “I am the God of the universe. I am the maker of the sea, and the giver of the breath you are breathing.”

Three words spoken by Jesus literally knocked the soldiers off of their feet. When they regained their composure Jesus calmly asked again, “Who are you looking for?” They again told him, and Jesus said, “I am he, so leave these men alone.”

As much as we sometimes prefer the docile version of Jesus (read: Jesus looking angelically to the sky,  and snuggling lambs), Jesus is not weak. When He speaks it is powerful and authoritative.

In his newest book Chase The LionMark Batterson puts it this way:

If you reverse-engineer the history of time, every atom in the universe can trace its origin back to the four words by which God spoke everything into existence: “Let there be light.” According to the Doppler effect, those four words are still creating galaxies at the outer edges of the universe.

My life has been wrecked in the best possible ways as I’ve poured over words spoken by The Logos Himself. 13 years ago I made a decision to follow Jesus and to be baptized. That is when everything changed. God spoke into my darkness and said, “Let there be light.” Since that day His words are still creating newness in the farthest reaches of my soul.

That God loves you, my friend. Whether or not you know or believe that right now does not negate the truth of it. And while I do not pretend to know all of the answers, one thing I do know is that I am undeniably and eternally changed by the Word of God. There is beautiful power in His word.

So that Bible that is sitting on a shelf collecting dust…open it today. If you really want your life to be changed. If you really want the answers to the questions you are asking, start digging in. Ask God to show up and reveal Himself to you. Start with just a few verses if you must. Journal. Ask questions. Join a small group to hash out your thoughts with. The promise is this: God’s word will accomplish powerful things in the hearts of those who are bent on receiving it.

Run Hard. Love Strong.









Has It Felt Like You’re Sinking?

Hello, friends. The summer is over, and I’m sure that you are like me: trying to get back into the swing of fall routines.

The summer was so beautiful in many ways. I tried my darnedest to relish the minutes, days, and weeks that I got to spend with both of my boys.  We went (lived)  outside, we rode bikes, we planted a vegetable garden, we went to the ocean, we read books, we played games, and laughed, and snuggled up close.

But this summer was also painful and full of need and loss and defeat. Adam and I have felt like our heads have been spinning from all that happened in just a single month. Emergency home repairs, vehicles breaking down, savings accounts being drained, and excruciating situations with my mother who is very sick left us looking to Jesus and asking Him to multiply resources, strength, and healing.

This summer has been a reminder that God owes us nothing, but has given us everything. He’s not a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of God. He’s far too good for that; instead He’s interested in who we are becoming, and our knowledge of who He already is (and if you don’t already know Him, He is so good that I just can’t breathe when I really think about it). Just like I want my own kids to grow up to be men of character, integrity, honor, and faithfulness God cultivates character in us as His kids.

But the hard seasons of tilling the soil of hearts, ripping out dead roots, and pruning away diseased parts hurt. This season has sure hurt for me and my husband. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that without doubt, or the possibility of sinking, there is no such thing as trust. Without questions or needs bigger than we can meet ourselves we have no reason to look to God for what only He can provide.

One quiet morning a few weeks ago, before the sun was up, before little feet ran through the halls, I got up, snuck downstairs, poured a cup of dark-roast coffee, and sat down to pray, journal, and read my Bible. At the time I was studying the book of Matthew, and I came across a passage that might be familiar to you:

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” -Matthew 8:23-27

I’ve read this passage so many times since I started following Jesus. It’s such a powerful reminder that when all seems lost, our God is Lord over the mighty waves. We can trust Him, even when our souls start to believe He is sleeping.

But this particular morning was different. Something new jumped out at me that I had never paid much attention to before: it was JESUS’ idea to get in the boat in the first place!

Did you catch that?!

Do you know what that means for you and for me?

It means that sometimes the problems of life, those things we fear the most, the stresses, the turmoils, the pain, the loss…sometimes we can be following Jesus and still end up in the middle of the raging sea!

It means that sometimes the storm is right where we need to be in order to see who Jesus really is–the able one. The One whose words are so mighty that the torrent of the sea obeys! As a writer, I hope my words move people. But Jesus’ words move oceans!

So, friend. Maybe you’re in the middle of a crisis. Maybe the days are long, the weeks are unending. There’s no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, and you’re asking Jesus why He’s asleep in the boat while you are going under.

And maybe, just maybe, you’re right where you need to be in order to witness who God is in the middle of it all. Keep your eyes open. Stay watchful, and press into the truth of who He is.

Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust and was subsequently arrested for her actions, put it this way: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

Wherever you are, I encourage you today to press in and trust the God that isn’t finished with your story yet.

Run Hard. Love Strong.









Silly Putty And The Power of God

Did you ever play with Silly Putty when you were younger? The pinkish-beige putty that came in a red egg-shaped container? I always had high hopes that it would be like Play-Doh…soft, malleable. But Silly Putty is the black sheep of the putty family, and really no fun to mold at all. The most fun I had with Silly Putty was pressing it against the comic strips of newspapers to see it reprint on the the thick gummy goo.

The last month or so I have felt like most everything has been hard. It’s been a season of one-thing-after-another problems, stresses, and disappointments. I’ve felt like I’ve been trying to push forward, but I find myself tangled up in circumstantial Silly Putty.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re right there with me now. Solidarity, sister (or brother, as it may be).

I’ve been trying to process it all. My head feels like it’s spinning from some of the issues that have come up, some relational, some financial, some small but weighty in light of all of the other mess.

It’s those moments of loss, heartache, and disappointment that we are faced with the choice to hold onto what we believed when things were going well, or to forfeit belief and attempt to “go it alone.” It’s the hard seasons that make the difference in who we become as people of faith.

Do we really believe that God is good when life is hard?

Do we really believe that God is our rock and refuge when everything else falls apart?

Do we really believe that He is with us, that He hears us, that He has our best interest at heart?

Habakkuk reached this place. As his nation faced impending invasion and tremendous loss He had a choice to get angry with God, or cry out to Him. He chose the latter when he declared:

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Habakkuk 3:17

This morning I wrote my own little version. It went something like this:

“Though I forgot to prep the coffee pot, and my morning cup is empty.

Though our well holding tank has rusted out and needs replacing.

Though the baby is screaming, and I didn’t sleep last night.

Though the mini-van engine has gone kaput.

Though I can’t get caught up on chores to save my life.

Though a loved one said such hurtful words.

Though the blueprint of what I think my life should look like is far from what my life actually looks like.

I will rejoice in who God is. I will trust in His love for me, and that my security is found in Him alone.”

There are seasons in all of our lives when everything falls apart. The end is far from view, and we march on through what feels like endless Silly Putty. These are the times when God teaches us where our security truly lies. When everything starts crumbling, He is our steady foundation. When we are afraid of catastrophe, He is our fortress and hiding place. He doesn’t change even when our circumstances do. So while we can’t celebrate the brokenness, we can celebrate who He is in the middle of it all.

Psalm 46 is such a powerful chapter that calls for our rest in the middle of Silly Putty moments (worse, actually). You most likely are familiar with the verse that says, “Be still and know that I am God.” But what’s so powerful about that verse is that it’s a commandment in the middle of global catastrophe! The images used in the whole Psalm are ridiculously scary! (Did you see 90’s movie Deep Impact? Yeah…legit Armageddon stuff. Walls of water, mountains crumbling, and the like).

It’s right smack in the middle of chaos and catastrophe that God declares, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Drop. The. Mic.

Wherever you are. Whatever you are dealing with. Whatever chaos is surrounding you. Stop today and consider the bigness of God. Consider His promises that He never changes, and that He is very present with you (even when you can’t see, feel, or hear Him).

Take this moment right now and consider that in the middle of your Silly Putty He is powerfully moving. He is rock steady.

Be encouraged, dear friend. The story isn’t over. Our God is mighty, and the floods of life do not threaten or intimidate His position or authority.

Run Hard. Love Strong.



The #1 Thing You Should Teach Your Children About Compassion

We often ask children the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Our intentions are good; we want to inspire dreams, encourage goal-setting, and cast vision for what their little lives can become. But sometimes we ask this question and inadvertently teach children to believe that until they are “grown ups” they have to wait to do anything significant.

As we seek to instill compassion into our children, the number 1 thing they need to hear from the adults in their lives is that they do not have to wait to make a difference. There is no “magic age” that a child needs to reach before they can impact the world.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Children perceive that the world is not as it should be; injustices exist, and needs are real. But children can also be equipped with a deep-seated belief system that tells them that heroes are also real, and they can be those heroes.

Last summer my then five-year-old son found me crying on our back porch. He asked what was wrong, and I tried to muster up words to explain the Iraqi and Syrian refugee crisis to him.

I will never forget his teary-eyed response to me: “Mom, I want to help them.”

He knocked on the door of compassion, and I could have chosen to say, “That’s so sweet of you, buddy. But the problem is too big, there’s not a lot we can do.” I saw the desperation in his eyes—the hurt he felt for kids like him who can’t go to school, who have no shoes or warm coats—and instead I invited him into the story.

My son spent weeks making beaded bracelets to sell to raise money for refugee relief efforts. He named the project, “The Green Refuge Project” and raised $150. That’s a drop in a bucket for such an incomprehensible social justice issue, but my little boy did something big before he even stepped foot into a kindergarten classroom.

Something miraculous happens in each of us, regardless of age, when we decide to act. Our hearts seem to somehow grow, our courage and resolve strengthen, and our belief that there are things worth fighting for is renewed. Imagine the possibilities if we invite the current generation of children into the bigger story now while their eyes are still bright-eyed and not yet jaded by the brokenness of the world.

Here are five ways that you can engage your children in acts of compassion:

  1. Invite your child to join you in sponsoring a World Vision child.

By sponsoring a child with World Vision, you not only make a huge impact in the life of a child in need, but your own child will be opened up to—literally—to a whole new world. Your child can draw pictures, and write letters to your sponsored child. They can also help you pick up little treats to send your sponsored child (stickers, pencils, notebooks, personal photos, etc.).

  1. Have your child help you pick out food items to donate to a food pantry.

1 out of every 5 children in America does not receive enough food to eat. Your children go to school with other children who may not know where their next meal will come from. Talk to your child about this, and then engage them in being a helper by going to the store to pick up nonperishable items that can be donated to your local food bank, or directly to your school to be distributed to other children in need.

  1. Get crafty for a cause.

Make bracelets, sell lemonade, hold a bake sale, create greeting cards…whatever creative bug your child has, fan the flame and show them how they can use their interests to raise money for something they care about.

  1. Invite your child to join you for service projects.

Compassion, like most character traits, is caught rather than taught. Your children are watching your lead, and when you volunteer to serve you show them you mean what you say about the importance of taking action.

You can take this a step further by inviting your children to participate with you in service. You will not only bond closer to your child, but you will provide them with memories, and cultivate their heart for help and service.

  1. Pray together.

Prayer is critical to instilling compassion in the heart of a child. God is the author of justice and compassion, and it is He who equips us with His heart in order to be His hands in the world. Praying with our children is a powerful way to ask God to use our children to meet needs in the world, as well as a great way to model a life of faith for your children to follow.

As a practical bonus, World Vision has a fabulous new resource called the “Play It Forward Guide” that will help you leverage this summer with your child as an opportunity to change the world.  Be sure to check it out, and watch your child flourish as their compassion for others grows.

The hearts of children are large, and full of dreams. Let them dream of who they will one day become, but teach them that they do not have to wait to be heroes in the bigger story. They are little people, but powerful forces in this world.

Run Hard. Love Strong.