This Michigan mama’s blog was one of the first I ever read, and she’s never stopped being a mentor to me. Karen Ehman and I have prayed for and cheered each other on as we’ve baked bread, raised kids, loved our husbands, and humbly endeavored to surrender to Christ so our homes and lives reflect the good news of the Gospel. Her new book, Reach Out, Gather In: 40 Days to Opening Your Heart and Home, part devotional and part journal, will help you unearth a life of purpose smack dab in the center of your ordinary days. Karen pulls up a chair on the farm’s porch today to teach us how to practice a little in-the-moment ministry, leaning in to sincerely love whomever God sends our way.
Most weekends, my front foyer is a cluttered mess of shoes, deposited there by their owners who are invited—or sometimes impromptu—guests in our home.
Over the years, the assortment of footwear has changed. From baseball cleats to dance slippers to trendy tennis shoes, they lay there heaped in a pile while their owners hang out at our home.
Most recently, the mountain contains shoes from my youngest son’s friends who have come to watch a sporting event in our basement family room or play a rousing game of ping-pong. Often, I am in my home office working so I don’t even realize that Spencer is back home or has anyone with him. However, I will notice the shoe stack as I saunter past it on my way to the kitchen to grab another cup of coffee.
About that time, my son will bound up the stairs to grab some more snacks for his gang of guys. A little surprised to see him, I often utter the same thing when he gives me a quick hug, and a kiss on the cheek. “Oh, hey. You’re home! Who’d you bring with ya?”
Then he rattles off a list of friends: Emilio. Brock. Javarri. Ian. Grant. And the other Grant. (I call them First and Second Grant.)
These boys have become “sorta sons” to me. I love them like family. Even if they make my grocery budget skyrocket. Over the years, I’ve helped them process life as they sit at our table, enjoying a bowl of cheesy corn chowder or finishing off the last piece of the peanut butter apple crisp in the vintage Pyrex pan.
I’d like to say that it’s always a pleasure to have these guys over, but I would be lying. There are times that their presence sort of cramps my style, especially when I’m trying to work in quiet and need to focus.
I don’t like things too boisterous or to be interrupted, which is hard with a pack of teens at your house.
Usually I’m safe if I get up really early on a Saturday morning to work, the guys still soundly sleeping downstairs. That is until Second Grant moved to the school district and became part of the posse.
Second Grant is an early riser. He would often plop himself on the couch next to me early on a Saturday morning and ask, “Hey Mrs. E. What ya working on?” It broke my concentration, but I would try to sweetly answer him. Before long, he made himself a cup of coconut mocha coffee and sat back down on the couch, apparently wanting to chat.
I finally took the hint from God that the soul sitting next to me was more important than any work I had planned. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” Sometimes this means physically dying for someone. Other times it means laying aside your plans for the day to touch another soul for eternity.
So, I shut my laptop and leaned in to listen. I’d always endeavored to naturally weave in the topic of Jesus to our conversations. Usually I was somewhat subtle, but these boys knew they were typically going to get a free sermon from Mama Karen, served up alongside their homemade whole-grain oat waffles topped with whipped butter and pure maple syrup.
I purposed to practice with Second Grant what I call “in-the-moment ministry.” Martyred missionary Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
Deciding to “be all there” is practicing in the moment ministry, zeroing in on the person before you without fretting about all of the other things you could be doing.
In-the-moment ministry means giving the soul you find before you direct eye contact, leaning in to truly listen.
It’s being fully present with both your body and your brain.
After months of spending Saturday mornings with Second Grant, he asked if my husband and I were going to be around the following weekend. Assuming there was some big sporting event the boys wanted to watch at our house, I inquired what kind of snacks they wanted. His reply made my jaw drop and my spirits soar.
“Oh, there’s no game on. I just wanted to let you know that I have accepted Christ and I’m getting baptized that Sunday. I want you and Mr. Ehman to be there if you can.”
I instantly felt incomparable joy, but also a twinge of guilt as I thought back to how many times I’d felt that his desire to talk with me was an interruption of the important work I was trying to do.
But human souls are not an interruption. They are the actual important work of our day.
And you can bet my husband and I were there in the congregation that night as not only Grant but also his brother and his mom were baptized into the faith.
You know, when we get to heaven someday, I like to imagine what the Lord will say to us. I don’t think we are going to be congratulated on our successes in our careers or even applauded for our parenting.
Do you know what I imagine the Lord saying to us? The same thing I say to my son when I notice that he and the shoe pile have arrived at our place.
“Oh, hey. You’re home! Who’d you bring with ya?”
Who’d you bring with ya?
Karen Ehman is a New York Times bestselling author, Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker, and writer for Encouragement for Today, an online devotional that reaches more than 4 million women daily. Married to her college sweetheart, Todd, the mother of three and mother-in-love of two, she enjoys collecting vintage kitchen cookware, cheering for the Detroit Tigers, and feeding the many people who gather around her mid-century dining-room table for a taste of Mama Karen’s cooking.
In Reach Out, Gather In: 40 Days to Opening Your Heart and Home, Karen offers creative and doable ways to feed both the bodies and souls of the people whom God has placed in your life.
Over the course of the book, you will discover biblical inspiration as you also chronicle your own journey in the areas of loving and serving others, both inside your home and on the road. From recipes and decorating ideas to cleaning and decluttering strategies, this beautiful book highlights the why of hospitality—so that your home and life will grow to be a place where the Gospel is displayed, drawing others closer to Christ and making a difference for eternity.
[ Our humble thanks to Bethany House for their partnership in today’s devotion ]