Missional Motherhood: Radical Love

Lydia & Brandon
The financial burden of getting a child ready to go back to school can be straining and stressful on some families.  Brandon (pictured above) grew up in the youth group at Green Street Church and has experienced poverty and the blessings of helping hands.  His heart is tender to the needs of families and wanted to help lighten the back to school burden.

He and his wife coordinated with a local barber to give free haircuts to students as well as raise donations from local churches for school supplies and food.

Donations of school supplies.
Our church, Reunion Christian Community, partnered alongside Brandon to provide all the hot dogs and buns.  I woke up this morning with a heaviness on my heart and desire to serve with my hands rather than just my wallet.

So, personally not knowing anyone, I loaded up the kids and headed over to the barber shop.  I arrived right at 11am and it was too crowded to enter.  I spoke with a lady taking names and patiently waited my turn to speak with Brandon.  I explained who I was and wanted to know if there was an area that we could help serve.  He gladly took a risk and put me & my 4 children on passing out the hot dogs.

Clara even passed out plates, too.
I have to admit, I could have easily sat in the comforts of my own home, put a boundary between myself & those in need, & gave my kids everything that they wanted.  I could have given the excuse that I only had 4 hours of sleep and this heat is just unbearable.  I could have thought, "the church provided the food.  That should be good enough."

But, I don't want to live like that.

I want to live beyond 'good enough'.  I want to live radically.

I want to teach my children what it is to follow in Jesus' footsteps.

I want to serve rather than be served.

I want to love the unlovely.

I want to carry the burdens of others and place them at the feet of Jesus.

I want my children to see Christ in me.

I want to raise my children to be world changers.

I'm proud of my kids today.  I have three, amazing extroverts that jump in and serve passionately.  I have another child whose gentle smile can warm the hardest of hearts.  Together, they make a fierce team for the Lord.

So, on a day that I think is all about teaching my children, they actually taught me by their example of what it means to love radically and without boundaries.

I want to be more like them.

They served well.

I want to be more like Kyle, the barber...

One barber, 80+ kids
And more like Brandon...

I, too, want to love radically.

“..the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

*This post was written on July 31, 2012.  Published today as a reminder to love others radically.*

Sixteen Years and Counting....


We celebrate sixteen years of marriage today.  It seems only fitting to write out some of my fondest memories of our beginnings.

January 2000

On the eve of our wedding day, the groomsmen and Sergio traveled to Tulsa, OK to pick up their tuxedos.  Tulsa was about a 2 hour drive from Tyro, KS, where our wedding was held.  The groomsmen arrived, Sergio did not.  It was the time before cell phones and we were all clueless as to what happened to him.  I sat in the sanctuary waiting for him to show up.

To be honest, I thought he had changed his mind and I was a bit mortified in front of everyone in attendance.  The minister, Dave Bycroft, asked if we should go ahead and eat, but I couldn't and didn't want to begin without Sergio.  So, we all waited for over 2 hours for him to show up.

It came as no surprise that Sergio picked up a homeless man and gave him a ride.  He didn't know the Tulsa area and didn't realize how long out of the way it would take him.  I was relieved to see him.  Although I was a bit upset over his actions, I knew this was who he was.  He loves others well, and this draws my heart to love him deeper.
Taken the night of our rehearsal.  I am smiling while expressing my frustration over his tardiness.  
We were married the next day, March 3rd, 2001.   It was a simple and lovely wedding.  Sergio paid for the entire wedding, even my dress.  Out of respect for others, I will not share online the conditions surrounding this decision.  It was out of Sergio's love, generosity, and protective spirit that he took on this responsibility.  This is who he is.  This is what he still does.

And our wedding turned out beautifully.

I  knew I was marrying the right man.
March 3, 2001
March 3, 2003
The day after our wedding, we were to fly out to Colorado from Tulsa.  Instead of staying in Tulsa, we decided to stay together in our new home located in Joplin, MO.  The next morning, we woke up late which caused a mad rush of trying to get to our flight in time.  While in the shower, I realized that I had not packed for our honeymoon.  I hollered out to Sergio if he wouldn't mind throwing clothes in the suitcase for me.  He told me that he would "handle it" and not to worry.  So, I didn't.

It wasn't until we arrived to our hotel in Denver, CO that I realized what he had done.  My 20 year old husband did NOT pack any outdoor, appropriate clothes for me.  Instead, he emptied the one drawer in our bedroom that only consisted of undergarments.  Nothing else!  I had to wear the same pair of jeans for a week and we took turns wearing his hoodies.  I have no cute pictures from our honeymoon, but we have a ton of fun memories from our first week of marriage.  This is probably my favorite memory of our first year together.
One of our only honeymoon pictures.  2001
We were married in our youth, not knowing what the following years would hold.  I assume our story is like most.  We have experienced great joy, great sadness and grief, great depths of forgiveness, and our love remained present through it all.

We have hurts.

We have pain.

We have hope.  

And we have each other.

Today I am grateful for the man I married.  I have watched him grow into the good man he is today.
Sergio graduated with his MBA from Lipscomb University in December 2015.

Sergio was awarded the 2014 YMCA Volunteer of the Year in Nashville, TN.
Side note: He was working full-time, being a good dad and husband, and also working on his MBA during this time.  

November 2015

Through the thick and thin, it has been an honor to stand by his side.  I have enjoyed our story, especially the fun moments.
Church of the City Rockstar Night.  2016
80s Prom Murder Mystery Party.  October 2016

Who knows.  Sometime in 2014

1920s Murder Mystery Party.  October 2010
Our Family.  2016
Happy 16th Anniversary, Sergio.

My heart still belongs to you.


Love Written Once

December.  It has taken me several years to pause, to remember, and to celebrate this time of year.

December 2007 forever changed the way that I experienced the Christmas season.  It has been hard to rejoice in life and the goodness December brings when grief shows up uninvited while washing dishes, putting on my makeup, folding laundry, or mopping the floors.  Grief loves company, but rarely receives an invitation.  I believe this to be the reason it has become an expert at showing up unexpectedly.

At the time of 2007, I was 9 months pregnant with our daughter.  We were living in Joplin, MO and had just experienced the worst ice storm in Joplin’s history.  For seven days, we were without electricity and as an emotional pregnant woman, I wanted to nest and be comfortable.  I called the electric company every day, several times a day to get someone out to restore our power.  I even threw out the  “I have a 3yr old and I’m 9 months pregnant” card.  It didn’t work.  It seemed that they could care less if I cried or how strongly I believed that my daughter was going to be born frozen.

It seemed like an eternity before our electricity was restored.   I remember that December morning like it was yesterday.  I looked straight into my husband’s eyes and said, “Today can not get any worse than what we have already experienced.”

He gently kissed my forehead and left for work.  It wasn’t until a few hours later that the power came on & I was overwhelmed with joy.

But, my joy only lasted an hour.

The phone rang.

I happily answered, “Hello”, ready to tell whoever was calling that I had the heat on high and our house was a flaming furnace.  But, I had no response.  “Hello” I repeated softly.

“Jackie,” I could tell it was my brother’s voice.

“Jackie,” he voice cracked.  “Tell me it’s not true.  Tell me it’s not true.”

I had no clue what he was talking about.  In those few seconds my mind raced to all sorts of tragedies.

“Randy,” I firmly demanded, “what is wrong?  What happened?”

And through his sobs, I hear, “It’s Dad.  He’s dead, Jackie.  Tell me it’s not true.”

I asked how, what, when, why but he couldn’t speak.

Since my parents divorced when I was young, I had to get the information from my grandma.  She’s in her 70’s now and I believe that she walks hand-in-hand with Jesus daily.  She is a noble, gentle woman who allowed my dad to stay in her home.  But on this day, I hear righteous anger coming from her lips.  She loved her son and did everything that she could for him.

When I was 5 years old, my grandma purchased a home for us to live in.  It was a lovely two-story home with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 living rooms, and a huge yard.  Perfect for our family of six.

It seemed like we were living the good, perfect life for a few years.  My dad was a certified, world renown mechanic for Hyundai.  He had offers to work overseas, but decided to stay near his family.  I have always appreciated that about him.

He and my mom decided to go into business together and open up a family auto repair shop.  He was doing well and needed to hire a few employees.  It was at this time that our family’s downward spiral began.

My dad started spending more time away from our family as he spent more time with his employees.  As he became heavily addicted to drugs, he left no money for us to eat.  And one by one, our  home utilities were shut off.

My mom did her best, but she could not keep the shop running by herself when my dad was sent to jail.  So, she lost the shop.  We would’ve been homeless if it weren’t for my grandma allowing us to live in the home without paying her any rent.

My dad spent a few years in jail.  He missed our birthdays, he never called us, and we never heard “I love you”.  On occasion, my mom would take us to the parking lot across from the downtown jail.   She would make us play in the parking lot so he could watch us from the window in his jail cell.  We would know which window was his by the orange rag waving on the inside of the window.  I use to pretend that it was him saying, “I will see you soon.  I love you.”

For the next few years, we didn’t get to see him much because he was in and out of jail and drug rehab.  During this time, we lived off of what we call “wish sandwiches” which was simply a slice of bread with a packet of ketchup that we stole from McDonald’s.  We would drink rain water as well as use it to flush our toilets.  The local gas station supplied our shower and laundry soap.  We would ask for the bathroom key once a week and quickly clean ourselves and our clothes in the sink for fear that someone would find out what we were doing.

After a couple of years living this way, my mom divorced my dad and went back to school to receive her GED.  She had four kids to take care of and couldn’t wait any longer on him.

I remember the first time that I went to visit his house when I was 14.  He lived in a trailer at the salvage yard where he had also worked.  I spent my entire Saturday afternoon scrubbing his floors, doing his laundry, and washing his dishes until there was no dirt in sight.  I wanted him to know that I loved him and I wanted his affection in return.  I thought that the way I’d have it is if I somehow proved myself and then he’d see that I was capable of living with him.  I was too young to understand that he couldn’t take care of me because in reality he couldn’t take care of himself.

My siblings and I were able to visit on certain weekends.  I enjoyed every moment with him and couldn’t wait to see him.

This only lasted a summer.  For that following Fall, his girlfriend was murdered in his backyard.  My dad was the suspect and it was all over the news.  Being from a small town, everyone knew about my dad.  I was mortified when one of the kids at school talked about my dad as if he were a monster.   Because in my eyes, my dad was everything I “pretended” him to be.

After much investigation, my dad was found innocent due to the confession of his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend.  This put a damper on our visits with dad.

It wasn’t until he moved in with my grandma that we were able to stay the weekends with him.  Though, rarely did we see him.  If he wasn’t working on cars, he was planted in front of his tv in his room.  We spent most of our time with our grandma.

And as you can imagine, this put a wedge in our relationship.  He never attended games where I cheered nor any of my track and cross country meets.  I was told that he came and went to both my high school & college graduation, but I don’t remember seeing him at all.  I became bitter and no longer went to visit him.

When I married my husband, he spent many hours encouraging me to call my dad and even made me go visit him on occasion.  He obviously saw more to my dad than my hurts would allow me to see.

Our firstborn adored my dad.  He didn't mind that he smoked like a chimney while watching tv in his bedroom.  Our son would just love being with him.  He would jump on his grandpa's bed and sit next to him while watching Macgyver.  He had no reason to be distant from him.  He had no hurts.  This was his grandpa and he loved him.

His love for my dad accompanied with the way my husband saw my dad changed my heart.  I loved him, too.

Even though I never heard my dad say that he loved me, down deep, I knew that he did.

That cold, December day back in 2007 changed me.  It changed us all.

Around 2pm, my dad grabbed some tape, a plastic tube, pen, and paper and headed up to a secluded area in the salvage yard where he worked.  With oldies playing in the background, he tapped the tube to the exhaust pipe and pulled it through the passenger side window.  He, then got into car and tapped the air vents, and the crack around the passenger side window.  And while carbon monoxide filled his car, he wrote notes to several people until he forever fell asleep.  The words that I hold close to my heart are these, “please let my kids know that I love them.”

He loved me.  He loved us all.

I may always cry on December 18th.  As the years go by, I have learned to embrace grief as it washes over me and engulfs me to my core.  I can not run from it.  I am not stronger than it.  I must allow to feel it when it comes, step into it in prayer, because I have to believe that in it, I AM NOT ALONE.

My Eternal Father has provided a promise to Joshua that I, too, hold dear and true:

"The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  Deuteronomy 31:8

This is the month that I remember what has been lost, but more importantly, to celebrate in the hope of our Emmanuel.  God is with us.

Our Family Prayer

"Our Father in heaven, we write this prayer that we might live lives worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1) and knowing that the beginning of wisdom is to Fear You (Proverbs 1:7). In your love and faithfulness please hear this prayer for our family and the generations to come.

Our prayer begins that we might KNOW YOU. (Gen 1:1; John 17:3)

In knowing You, Father, that we might be a family who TREASURES YOUR WORD to us. (Deut. 6:4-9; 2 Tim 3:16,17)

Father. having spent time with You in word and in Your Word, that we would be brought to TRUE WORSHIP. (Lev. 9:23,24; Rev. 19:15, 16)

Learning and knowing Your heart and mind as a servant, we pray that our worship of You would lead us to continual ACTS OF SERVICE to you and our fellow man. (Joshua 24:15; Matt. 20:28)

Knowing that it is difficult here, Father, we pray that we would continually WALK IN YOUR SPIRIT. (Exodus 13:21, 22; Rom 8:1-17)

We also pray that we would REMAIN FAITHFUL in all the tasks that You give us and the faith that we have in Jesus our Savior. (1 Kings 13; 1 Tim. 6:11-16)

Father, You know our temptations and our struggles, please in all things here on earth, help us to PURSUE AND TO BE HOLY. (Lev 20:7; 1 Peter 1:14-16)

Lastly, Lord, would You help us to be bold and beautiful CARRIERS OF YOUR GOSPEL. (Jeremiah 20:7-12; Romans 10:14-15)

To You be the Glory FOREVER! Amen!

Two weeks in pictures....

It has been a great, two weeks! 

Snuggles before school are our favorite!

Open Play on Fridays with our homeschool buddies
Homeschool Reading Hour

The wig comes out unexpectedly on a weekly basis.  Obviously, it brings us great joy!
Eliah tried declare this day a "no homeschool day" because of the snow.  Nice try, my ninja buddy!
We spent an incredible weekend in Joplin, MO with old and new friends.  

Dear Joplin....

Dear Joplin,

You love well.  Upon our visit, you immediately greeted us with hugs that squeezed our hearts.   You made us feel like we had never left, as if 5 years was more like yesterday.  

You're always good like that.  

In just 3 days, you took the time to invest in our family.  You made sure our kids were cared for, spoken to, and listen to.  You wiped their tears when they had to say another goodbye.  And as I watched you, I remembered, these are not just our kids, they are your kids, too.

Our time with you this weekend was short, but you made it one of my favorites.     

Thank you for reminding us how to love one another well and how to live together missionally.  Joplin is not just some small town in Missouri (but of course, you already knew that).  Joplin is much bigger than the eyes of community can reach. 

Our hearts love yours,
~The Rizos

Samurai Pants

We are in a wonderful season of pushing on doors. And because of this, anxiety likes to creep into my dreams uninvited. At least this time, I awoke with a new perspective to hold onto....

I was walking through a store similar to Walgreens in my dream last night.

I had a long list of items that seemed non-existent in the store and my kids were all pitching Oscar winning fits.

It was a disaster.

I vaguely remember walking up to the cashier, placing my items onto the counter, and then wondering where the tv section was located.  

So, I asked her.  

She answered, "they are on the next aisle".  

I finished clearing out my cart and putting one child on the counter and told her that I would be right back.  

The line behind me grew longer.  

Their patience was running thin.  

I grabbed a tv and sprinted back to finish paying.

The kids continued crying.  

A beautiful couple walked past me and told me that I needed to get a handle on things.  I needed to be more decisive for the kids' sake.

My defenses went up and I was ready to fight.

I replied, "it's ok.  They are homeschooled."  --whatever that meant?!  I sure showed them!

Someone behind me sighed.  

I wanted to put one of the paper bags over my head and just pretend that I was robot.  Why? Because robots have no feelings.  

But, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the most beautiful, early 1900's buffet being rolled out of the store.  I quickly snatched up the bags and hollered at the kids to hurry up.

Mommy needed that buffet.

I dragged the kids to every antique shop in town, but to no avail.  It was gone.  

While exiting our last store, I spotted something red and shiny tucked away in the corner.

Upon touch, I knew that I had to get them.

When I got home, I presented the gift to Sergio.

He opened it and smiled back at me. 

It didn't take him long before he proudly walked back into the living room, hands on his hips, and wearing his new, Samurai pants.

Joy conquered.  Anxiety defeated.  

When I woke up, I had a new perspective on life:

No matter the unknowns that come our way, I am confident of this: Sergio looks GREAT in red, Samurai pants.