Thank You Vanessa

A few years back an unmarried brother in Christ blogged about the importance of people in different seasons of life sharing their lives with one another. He shared about how he enjoyed time in the homes of families just as much as he enjoyed hanging out with his single friends. I’ve pondered this through the years because it’s easy for me to think that people without children might find time with us a drag; or perhaps our single friends might find our marriage as irritating as salt in a wound; or maybe couples with one or two children will find our family dynamics chaotic; or….maybe I’m overthinking it.

A few months ago God did something He is so good at doing: intersecting lives. On my first night volunteering at my favorite pregnancy resource center, after a year’s absence, I met Vanessa. She was a recent college graduate and was clearly in a holding pattern with life. She wasn’t being idle, however; she was ministering and serving and studying and kneeling at the Throne of Grace with every spare moment she had. Conversation flowed well between us and as the weeks rolled by we became friends.

Then she asked me something that blew me away! She wanted to start coming over a couple times a week just to be a part of our family life. She had been praying for a chance to witness a large family in action and she viewed my family as that answer. I welcomed her in and since that first Monday visit the children refer to her as “our Ms. Vanessa.” She became my teacher assistant during school, prepping crafts, sharpening pencils, supervising little fingers; she helped me in the kitchen; she read and sang and danced with the children and soothed the baby; she even babysat a couple of times.

But what blessed me more than anything was that Vanessa found value in my life, enough value to open up and share her life with me. She shared her bucket list with me; her hopes and dreams and fears and big decisions. In sharing with me, she helped me remember my experiences and thoughts I had recorded in journals and then forgotten. And she soaked in all of the details about our daily life but didn’t find them mundane in the least. Even our lunch menu intrigued her! Looking back on our time together I can see such beauty in what God did. He brought two of His daughters together, in very different seasons of life, to help them see the necessity of being exactly where they are in life. Each step we take is necessary for the next step to be taken.

I wish our chapter with Vanessa could have been much, much longer but I am humbled that we were able to open our doors and share our life with her for any length of time at all. And going forward I’ll try to overthink things a little less: may we always be ready to share the season we are in.

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In the Midst of the Fray

For some reason, this resonated with me: “…and they withdrew by themselves…but the crowds learned about it and followed…”

This is at the beginning of Luke’s account of the feeding of the five thousand. The apostles were eager to tell Jesus all about their missionary adventures so they sought a quiet place to fellowship and unwind. Jesus was consistent in the discipline of quietness and I think He was seeking to instill that trait in His disciples as well. However, the multitudes weren’t interested in that; they wanted more audience with Jesus and so they followed Him.

I long for a consistent routine of quietness in my day and my week. I would like time to be still, to be alone, to think and pray and reflect and read and write, to hear my own thoughts, to breathe in deeply without being touched or pulled on or having screams ringing in my ears. So, I wake up early only to have the dog whining to go out followed by my quiet reverie disturbed by a child wailing outside my door. Later on, I attempt to linger in the bathroom only to hear crashes and bangs and come out to find a huge mess all over the floor. In the afternoon, I settle down on the couch with a book or writing project and am followed by the dog nudging my arm and nap-fighters popping out of bed. And all throughout my day, there’s a constant mediating, question-answering, boundary-setting regimen happening.

But the story doesn’t continue with Jesus throwing up His hands in exasperation and shouting, “Go away! All of you! Can’t you see I’m trying to rest?!” (His disciples were more than willing to do this for Him and I would have agreed with them). Instead, He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed them. And after that, one of the most well-known miracles happened- all of them were fed their fill with a meager 5 loaves and 2 fish. Whoa!!!!!

What can a mama (or anyone else who interacts with people every day) glean from this? There are no regrets in responding with kindness and wisdom. Calm the clamor with instruction about God and His word; touch the hurting; and fill the hungry with God’s provision. And the amazing thing is that the provision will come from my meager stores of energy, time, patience and love because I’m not in the fray alone. Jesus is ready to welcome, teach, heal and fill when I am not. When I want to say, “Go away!” He will help me embrace instead.

And the reprieves will come in time.

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Looking for God

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” ~Hebrews 11:1-2

We live in a world where the apparently impossible has become possible. How do you think Columbus would have responded to a GPS or Davy Crockett to an IPhone? We have ultrasounds and MRIs and microwaves and frozen lasagna and programmable wash machines and robots that clean our floors and cars with AC…pioneers in covered wagons teleported into the future would stand with mouths agape at the conveniences we now feel entitled to have.

But they had something we struggle to grasp: faith in an unseen God. I think that in spite of our vast knowledge and our ability to seemingly create miracles through science, we find it difficult to fathom that there is Someone who is still in control of everything. The ancients (and the pioneers) had the skill of self-sufficiency along with the ability to acknowledge God. This certainly does not mean they were all genuine believers, repentant and saved by grace alone, but there was an openness to faith in those centuries that we are lacking in ours.

I don’t know about you, but when I read about Gladys Aylward and other heroes of the faith, I stand in awe! “Wow! Such faith!” I often think. “I would like God to work mightily in my life like that.” Instead, I can only see the questions I wrestle with as the tragedy and evil and every day frustrations threaten to consume me. But “faith is being sure of what we hope for.” Jesus said ask and it will be given, seek and we will shall find, knock and the door will be opened.

Even in an age of gadgets, instant answers and medical wonders, we can still have faith. Faith to believe that God is in control when we are jolted by the realization that we are not; faith to knock on unopened doors; and faith to seek God when people say He doesn’t exist.

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Reflection

I was chatting with a friend last night about the necessity of putting away the phone for a spell. She and I had both done so in some form this past week and we remarked on what a relief it was to our brains to simply be present and to be quiet.

In Luke 6:12, Jesus went out alone to pray to His Father. He prayed all night. Now, I’m assuming that most of us do not have the fortitude to pray all night, but I think we can find ways to be mentally still and reflective for an extended length of time- either for a day or throughout a week.

Prior to phones and the Internet quiet was woven into our day. Radios would have to be intentionally turned on; phone calls could wait; people had to stop by; errands could be run in silence. Think back even further to the farm days or the pioneer days- silence unless you were working with family or listening to the sounds of nature around you: the wind across the prairie, birds chatting, bugs buzzing… imagine the communication with God that could happen then!

Now we are bombarded with the demands of instant communication; reams of information is hurled at us from social media, the Internet, podcasts and YouTube; conversations can happen around the clock no matter where we are and we feel obligated to read, respond and repeat to all of it right away. It becomes a burden.

As summer vibes trickle into the atmosphere, I’m going to remember the old days, the pioneer days and Jesus’s mountainside retreat and seek quiet whenever I can. My children need me present; my husband and I need time for conversation; and my spirit needs to hear Jesus.

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Just Himself

One of the first things I heard the midwife say as she lifted up our newest boy was , “hey Cheeks!” And that hasn’t really changed about our little midget man. He is plump from head to toe and struts around like Napoleon. His short, bowled legs do not prevent him from climbing to the height he desires nor does his pigeon-toed walk deter him from tailing his four older siblings. As long as he has his boots on his feet and his snuggle blanket in his hand, he considers himself invincible.

Recently we have begun to catch glimpses of what his busy brain is thinking through his growing vocabulary. He likes to be asked questions about himself to which he either answers with a vigorous head shake and an emphatic “no!” or a grin with a lilting, “noooo.” We are drilling him in all those important polite words like “please” and “thank you,” and every. so. often. he gives that impish grin of his and says one without prompting, waiting for all the cheers that will come in response. He sings silly songs of his own composing and then laughs hysterically when he is finished. It’s a riot and soon he has all of us laughing right along with him. But my favorite word routine of his comes when I tuck him into bed at night. I always say, “I love you more, Simi” and he replies, “I love you more-ee, Mama.”

The last few months and weeks leading up to his birthday have been trying. He is pushing all of the boundaries and testing every limit. He takes pleasure in chasing Shilo around with a stick in hand; he bites anyone who offends him; he throws the food he doesn’t want; he screams when the boundaries don’t move; he vents his big feelings by raging through the house and tearing down whatever stands in his way. At the end of the hardest days with him, I like to tiptoe into his room and peek at him sleeping sweetly in his bed. I need to see him in his calmest state and feel my heart swell with love for him without any prompting. One of the greatest responsibilities of parenting is to grip onto love when anyone else would let go.

Year two is a milestone year for little people. In our home, potty-training begins (and lasts all year) and about halfway through little chores are assigned. When school begins in the fall, Simeon will have more activities to do including recognizing his letters. But most of all, his personality his personality will blossom even more. I can’t wait to hear his thoughts about life as his vocabulary explodes, watch him play with his baby brother as they both grow and mature, and see him gain more self-control over his very big emotions.

My heartfelt prayer for this roly-poly boy is that he will “grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

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The Assault on Motherhood (Part 2)

My first taste of the grueling demands of motherhood came with a puppy. This wasn’t your typical adopt-a-puppy situation. I helped deliver this one at the vet clinic where I worked and since she was an orphan, I took her home to raise her. That first night was a bit of a reality check for my college-student self as I set my alarm for every two hours and groggily prepared bottle after bottle. I had to change bedding and make sure the temperature was just right for her in her little bed. I had to manage work and classes in a sleep-deprived state and arrange my social life around her feeding schedule. If I couldn’t bring her with me, I needed to find puppy-care. It was a much different experience from all of my other pet adoptions.

The cost was worth it when she began her “firsts”: her ears opening and then her eyes; her first wobbly steps; her first attempts to play and bark and try solid food. What really got my attention, though, was when I was shopping one day and heard a newborn baby cry. My heart skipped a beat and I immediately thought of my “baby” at home. “Wow!” I pondered. “This must be what it feels like to be a mom!” Motherhood changes a person: to invest so much into a life and forever be connected to that life no matter where you are or how many years go by. Obviously, raising a puppy is one thing; raising a baby is another. But I think we often fail to laud the rewards of motherhood and instead become bogged down by the costs.

While they are usually not a party, pregnancy and childbirth are often bemoaned as reasons for not becoming a mother. Women avoid motherhood because they don’t want their bodies or lives to change. Because they are difficult, society allows the beginning steps of motherhood to set the tone of the mother-child relationship and paint it negatively. What would happen in our world if we collectively began to celebrate the conception and birth of mothers? Would mothers find themselves more connected to their children from day one? Would they stand more in awe of their of bodies and feel empowered to advocate for themselves in their role as mothers? Would mothers feel more invested in their homes and families as they recognize how integral they are to the foundation of society?

This distorted view of the motherhood journey carries over into mainstream medical practice. Pregnancy is generally treated as a condition and childbirth as a medical procedure. Mothers have to search hard to find a medical provider who will view them as a participant rather than a patient; in the birth process and not merely at the birth. I cannot tell you how many birth stories I have read or heard firsthand that began with the mother’s hopes for her birth and concluded with her being at the mercy of her OB. It shouldn’t be this way. Mothers need to be encouraged to trust their bodies and supported as they learn about the strength they never knew they had. The strength and knowledge that is cultivated during pregnancy and childbirth will translate into the years of mothering ahead.

The ranks of motherhood are filled with diverse descriptions: teens and adults, single and married and widowed, surprised and planned, longed for and unwanted, scared and excited…what connects them all is that, whether or not their pregnancy was desired, their bodies have given everything to sustain the life within. Maybe, just maybe, if there is a cultural shift in our view of pregnancy and childbirth, every mother will feel ready to embrace who she is and who she is becoming. This transformation continues well after the birth.

In part 3, I will explore the fourth trimester and its significance on the motherhood journey. I hope to share ideas on how it can be an enriching time for mothers- something to be anticipated rather than dreaded- and how our society can be supportive of it.

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The Assault on Motherhood (Part 1)

Ever since I could toddle and talk, I wanted to be a mommy. I wanted to hold babies even if they were nearly as big as me. I was infatuated with feeding them and changing them and wrapping them up in blankets; as I grew from tot to little girl I loved all the baby gear- the strollers and beds and infant seats and clothes and bottles and all those amazing things that come with babies.

Once I was old enough to babysit, I learned that caring for babies and children is much more involved than snuggling them with a bottle. I became somewhat adept at entertaining them and even teaching them simple lessons which, years later, blossomed into a teaching career. Looking back I see that my entire life centered on caring for children in varying avenues: from playmate to babysitter to youth leader to teacher. But was I prepared for motherhood?

As a little girl playing with baby dolls with my friend, I never pondered the nuances of motherhood. To me, being a mom meant having all the babies I could possibly want and getting to enjoy all the fun things needed to take care of those babies. Of course, maturity tempered my naïveté about the responsibilities of child rearing, but it wasn’t until I began having children of my own that I began recognizing the gravity of having souls so closely connected to mine.

In six years, I have birthed six babies and now my oldest is an avid reader and pondering thoughts of a spiritual nature. During my pregnancy with him and during his very early years, I was much like that naive little girl, thinking motherhood consisted primarily of baby schedules and baby care and finally having all the baby gear I could want. But as toddler transitioned into preschooler and preschooler into a vivacious young boy with many younger siblings the complexities of mothering unveiled before me. And now I see how much I didn’t know when I first became a mom, beginning with childbirth (or maybe even before that).

To date I have had 3 traditional hospital births and 3 home births. Our first home birth ignited my passion to learn all I could about pregnancy and childbirth. It felt like I was encountering all of it for the first time even though I had already delivered 3 babies! It was as if my body and I were only then beginning our acquaintance; after the first home birth I couldn’t stop reading and learning and continued through the second and third births (and am still reading). And with each book I read I’m able to connect my own birthing experiences. My experiences and the discoveries I have made throughout them have altered my opinion about our society’s attitude towards motherhood.

There has been a recurring theme in all of the books I’ve read, a theme which, I believe, is not isolated to childbirth alone. All of the authors have agreed in their writings that the mother’s role in motherhood is being trivialized through our society’s approach to childbirth. “Surely not!” you might say. “Look at the hospital’s elaborate birth centers and all the insistence on prenatal care.” It’s true that the trivializing is subtle; it is there just the same. In part II of this blog, I will explain how our society undermines mothers by:

  • Portraying pregnancy and childbirth as conditions that must be treated and overcome.
  • Making her a bystander at her own birth
  • Ignoring the fourth trimester

It is my developing belief that our attitude towards pregnancy and childbirth, where the mother herself is conceived and birthed, greatly impacts the motherhood journey itself. When it is esteemed, celebrated and explored, the mother flourishes and is able to strive for her greatest potential. When it is trivialized, she questions her abilities as someone who can deliver and nurture the future.

I look forward to continuing this discussion in my next post.

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My Blogging Schedule

Hi Everyone!

I want to thank all of you for subscribing to my blog and faithfully following along.

I have made some changes to my blog which include 3 new pages: my Thirty-One shop page, my Thriftshop page, and one dedicated to pictures and those little moments in life that beg to be shared.

Since I am expanding my blog, I have created a weekly routine for when it will be updated. I want to share this routine with you so that you can mark your planners, set phone reminders or check your email to ensure you don’t miss anything. 🙂 Here it is:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: the shops will be updated with either new inventory, new activities or new announcements.
  • Wednesday: my standard blog post will go up
  • Weekly: a photo post or a book review (these will be surprises so be sure to check those pages for updates.

Of course, a blog isn’t quite as fun if there’s no interaction so please comment on my posts, text me with your orders and participate in any of the activities I post on my pages. I’ll be sure to reply back!

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Lessons From Wildflowers

I have some raggedy wildflower plants in my yard. They are raggedy by no fault of their own, really. I’ve moved them from pots to the ground; they’ve been buffeted by storms, chilled by sudden temperature drops and then shocked with blistering heat- all in a matter of days. They get bumped by the dog and yanked on by the children. As raggedy as they might be, it’s surprising they’re still in my yard. So why are they? They have the most stunning blooms!

Some of these plants are half brown and green, a testimony to all they have been through. But they keep blooming and blooming and blooming. Their flowers are brilliant and multicolored. I eagerly look for more each new day. And I take to heart the lessons these hardy little plants, easily mistaken for weeds, teach me: when to keep blooming.

Life can be rough, volatile and seemingly unfair. We can be moved from one location to another only to settle in and be moved again. Circumstances can beat us up; people can treat us harshly. We may not always feel like we are getting the treatment we deserve or the tending we think we need. But our responsibility as human beings with a divine Creator is to keep fulfilling our calling. What that looks like for each of us may be different, but the calling we have in common is to live joyfully, gratefully and with kindness to all mankind. When we do that, the world will be a much more beautiful place.

You and I may not look like much or feel like much on some days; in those moments, remember the wildflowers and keep blooming in whatever way you can. It will be beautiful.

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A Lesson in Sourdough

I was kneading bread dough the other day and a sentence from the recipe kept repeating in my head: “keep kneading, it’s good for you.” Kneading involves pounding, turning over, folding, squeezing, pounding, turning it over again. More flour is added as needed and the process continues. It’s rigorous on the hands, fingers and forearms- but most of all it takes time.

Time is a running theme with sourdough. The longer the rises, the better the bread. And it takes practice. I’m just now learning how to make sourdough bread so I try to make 4 loaves a week. Each time the loaf rises a little higher and the bread is a little more to my liking. But it takes time and effort.

So back to the kneading. The bread maker must keep kneading her dough until it’s just the right texture. That final texture is what will make the last rise a success and present you with an excellent loaf of bread. I’d like to think of my life as dough in the Creator’s hands. Since He is the Bread of Life, He knows what bread perfection looks and feels like. He allows the circumstances of life to knead the rough edges out of my character in order to present me perfect before His throne one day. But kneading isn’t just for smoothing out the dough. It also mixes all of the ingredients together for excellence. The kneading that occurs in my life is a mixing of all of my experiences and lessons in a way that helps me integrate them into understanding.

A lot can be learned over the bread bowl with fingers busily kneading away! I wonder what is to be learned next!

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Boundaries…Are They Really Necessary?

With six children ages six and under, my husband and I have put certain boundaries in place. Some are for safety: don’t cross the street without permission; don’t go outside without an adult supervising; don’t play with knives or run with scissors, etc. Some are for a peaceful home: stay in your own room until Poppa and Mama get up in the morning; knock on a closed door- don’t just barge in; don’t disturb someone who has requested to be alone. And some are for our own mental health: no one comes into Poppa and Mama’s bedroom without invitation. These boundaries are a reminder for children and parents alike that there is a responsible authority in the home.

There are times when the children press against the boundaries. They fuss about them and test them; they remind each other about them while personally ignoring them. My husband and I often wonder if maintaining the boundaries is worth the effort. But when we do maintain them and the children do respect them, the health, safety and peace for all is absolutely worth it- and we keep going. In the long run, we know that our children will need to be able to respect boundaries all their lives.

I have noticed a growing conversation about putting in place personal boundaries. This can be in relationships (marriage, parent-child, friends, relatives), in use of time (a balance of work and leisure), or in thought processes (putting a stop to toxic thinking, for example). People are accepting that boundaries are necessary and even good, for they help maintain healthy distance between what is destructive and what helps us thrive. Yet at the very same time there is a major shift away from the boundaries that have guarded the conscience of our land: those moral boundaries instituted by God.

Have you noticed as I have, how those boundaries that have governed our society for centuries are disappearing? Gender is one example. Suddenly, we are being told that there really is no such thing as male or female; we are told it’s all just a mindset and people can be whatever they feel. Sexual orientation is another. As long as there is love, we are told, it’s ok: adults with children, with multiple shared partners, with partners of the same sex, it is all acceptable. The sanctity of life is yet another boundary that has been eroded for decades but in recent years has made a more rapid decline. Ending life in the womb was once nonexistent in common speech, but now it’s ok to leave a baby to die in a hospital linen closet if it survives an abortion. As long as the head is the last thing to be born, a mother can choose to end her baby’s life even while birthing him.

Knowing that we are made in the image of the Almighty God, is it any wonder that the boundaries He has instated for our wellbeing would be under attack by those who wish to forget Him? Gender, marriage, and life itself are just a few of the tangible reminders of mankind’s connection to the Creator. When we are secure in our biological identity, have stable families and count sacred the essence of life, we flourish in who we are meant to be- as individuals and as a society. When we are told that our gender is fluid, sex is permissible with anyone at any time, and the value of life at any stage is conditional, we wander into dangerous territory.

It is time for us to begin fortifying once more the boundaries that safeguard our moral conscience. Our nation, our future and our very lives depend upon it. There are some boundaries that are simply non-negotiable and those are the ones that remind us that our ultimate authority is the Almighty God. One day we will all answer to Him.

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Be Like Christ

In last week’s sermon, the pastor drew attention to the often overlooked detail of Christ’s sinlessness. He pointed out how we humans are skilled at excusing, even justifying, our sin: “I lost my cool with the kids- but I’ve had 3 nights of interrupted sleep!” “I stubbed my toe! Of course some choice words would slip out.” “If you had had the day I had you would understand why I couldn’t take anymore.” I’m sure we could all add our own quotes to that list. And then the pastor drew our attention to what Jesus endured during His earthly journey.

Let’s take a closer look at a few examples. He went 40 days and 40 nights without food or water and then was tempted. He had the perfect “out” for capitulating to the tempter. But did He? No. He was almost continually surrounded by bumbling, annoying, accusing, devious, demanding, selfish, dense human beings. He could easily have yelled at them and said, “Enough! Don’t you know who I am? And yet you treat me as if I’m nothing more than a genie in a bottle. Stop touching me!” But did He? No.

And then there was the Cross and the torture leading up to it. The betrayal. The mocking. The spitting and scourging and crown of thorns. Who would have blamed Him for cursing everyone involved and moving on with His life? But did He? No.

The Bible tells us that Jesus understands our sinful condition. He was tempted in every way that we are but He did not sin. Sinful thoughts did not even enter His heart or mind; and that is the standard to which we are held. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” 1Thessalonians 4:7. For those who are Christ-followers, we are to not only follow Him but to be like Him.

This is not meant to discourage but to inspire. Why? Because what is impossible for man is possible for God. It was Christ’s sacrifice that now enables us to live a holy life. He knows we are but dust and He equips us to resist temptation and bring glory to His name. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23

I think the hardest part of very hard days is feeling like I could have handled them so much better. But then I pause: did I want to do better so that I could feel better about myself? Or did I want Jesus to be glorified in my day? I truly think that my proverbial stubbed toes, skinned knees and bruised ego are to serve as daily reminders that I really cannot do holy on my own strength. For holiness to be holy it must remain untainted by human fingerprints; it is imperative that it comes from God and God alone.

As we approach the holy days of Passion Week, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, let us put aside our own meager attempts to be like Christ and surrender instead to the sanctification process He promises to His own.

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No One Quite Like Shilo

Has it already been three years since this adorable boy entered the world? Everything about him has felt like an anomaly- from how big my stomach grew during his pregnancy to the 41 weeks and 5 days I had to wait before going into labor to his being my first home birth to how rapidly he grew.

One reason why I like to do birthday blogs for the children is because it allows me to think about that one child and his/her inner workings. What makes this child unique? How does this child influence our family? Why do we smile when this particular little one enters the room? So all day long I’ve been pondering about Shilo.

Everything about him is truly unique. His hair can’t make up its mind about the way it wants to grow. He likes to comb it himself and say, “I’m making my handsome, Mama”. His smile is gentle and soft when he is drawn into a hug with Poppa or Mama. He explores new items with his fingertips and then smells them next. He brings me flowers every day (usually with the roots attached). And as much as he desires to be “braver” and “stronger,” he dotes on his baby brother like no one else can. He can’t help but figure out how everything works even though his curiosity frequently gets him into trouble. Somehow he balances strength and gentleness, exploration and mental prowess, without even trying: loving on babies yet being able to fight bad guys; singing worship songs and lifting things for Mama; mastering complicated puzzles and wrestling with his big brother.

Something about Shilo brings comfort to his siblings. They can’t play “family” without him and usually want to know where he is if he isn’t around. On the occasions when he gets to go on an outing alone with Poppa or Mama, he is showered with hugs and kisses upon leaving and returning. He is skilled at annoying his siblings and instigating squabbles with his tongue, but he is also ready to show concern and help his sisters whenever he can.

As his mama, this little boy tries my patience beyond measure. I would love for Jesus to give me a sneak peek into his future so that I can get an idea of how his curiosity and stubbornness will work for God’s glory. Simultaneously, I am overwhelmed by how much I adore him and am awed by how he draws our family together. We are who we are as a family because he is in it. It’s a pleasure to chat with him, read stories to him, teach him, and walk with him. No one views the world quite like Shilo does- scanning for details that others would normally miss. I am a more flexible, more patient, gentler person because he is in my world.

Happy third birthday, handsome Shilo! Continue being braver and stronger every day and keep seeing the wonder in the life God has entrusted to you. You are a miracle!

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Learning From My Responses

There have been instances when I have told someone about my businesses and the feedback was sharp and abrupt. I’ve pondered my reactions to these replies, dissecting them and analyzing why they left me feeling affronted. My thought process went something like this:

  1. I know I do not want people to show false interest in my businesses so I know that ⬇️
  2. I do not feel affronted when people respectfully decline, therefore ⬇️
  3. It must be the tactless word choice that has left me feeling minimized and ashamed for sharing my businesses with them.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m blogging about my thought processes and my ruffled feathers. I’m sharing because my reflecting didn’t stop there; my train of thought began exploring how these experiences can cause me to be a better communicator in an era when miscommunication happens all too easily and frequently.

As a whole, America is a polite society. Save for the outliers and bullies amongst us, we want everyone to feel included and we don’t make it our goal to offend. In fact, I think it’s safe to say we will go out of our way to make sure we don’t hurt another person’s feelings even to the point where we are the ones whose feelings are inconvenienced.

The events of the past year have magnified this politeness. Many of us are now afraid to speak without qualifying and clarifying and pre-apologizing for any unintended offense our speaking may cause. And to make social matters even more strenuous, we have been removed from most routine social engagements so we are out of practice with regular verbal communication. It is easy to worry that our rusty speaking skills may leave a trail of stepped on toes or feelings rubbed the wrong way.

At the end of the day, I just want to be myself and share my thoughts: not with malicious intent but with sincerity; not to critique but to generate conversation; not to make others feel small but to show camaraderie on this journey called life. I don’t want to have to scrutinize each word as with a magnifying glass before I say it; I would like to speak out of the integrity of my heart and the experience of my life. How is that done in such a sensitive world?

I believe the key is taking note of my responses to others. Am I left feeling minimized? Ashamed? Torn down? Discouraged? Exasperated? Hurt? Betrayed? Abandoned? Or do I feel understood? Heard? Bolstered? Befriended? Soothed? Hopeful? Renewed? Refreshed? In my communication with others, my reactions, feedback, tones, body language and words should reflect a genuine interest in the other person’s perspective and experiences. As tempting as it might be to return harshness with harshness or cutting remark with a biting retort, this will not make me feel more secure in my personal identity. Instead, it is better for me to cultivate a habit of communicating that I can fall back on in every situation: positive or negative. And when I initiate conversation with those around me I want to structure my comments to bring out the best in others.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

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The Memory Weaver

It seems appropriate that I would finish reading another Jane KirkPatrick title on my birthday. Kirkpatrick is skilled in historical fiction, primarily in the history of the settling of the Pacific Northwest and the convergence of the white settlers with the Native American tribes in those states. The Memory Weaver is no exception.

Eliza Spalding was a child survivor of the massacre at the Whitman mission in Oregon. She and many others were taken hostage and held for 39 days. As the sole interpreter between the hostages, Indians and negotiators she was put into many impossible situations that scarred her memories and made living her future life painful. Yet as life unfolded she was able to make peace with her past, travel old roads and create new memories.

Kirkpatrick has the wonderful ability to make history relevant to the present and to enable the reader to relate to the figures of the past. While I am not a pioneer, will never cross The Dalles, travel on horseback across state lines or build a log cabin with my own hands, my heart beats with the same desires as the protagonist, Eliza Spalding. She reflected,

These moments when I did not try to “make” my husband do this or that, didn’t interfere with my children learning in their ways different from my own, were kindling for the warming fires I built each day.

In that quote, I felt the kindred in our spirits. The desire to partner in our lives with the ones journeying the closest on our paths. In all the twists and turns, tragedy and victory of the years she had traveled, this heroine had learned the simplest, but most important of lessons: to support her family in becoming who they were meant to be and not to force them to be who she thought they needed to be.

A few pages later, she mused:

Maybe each of us needs to feel a little extraordinary, to believe we’ve used well the talents we were given to live meaningful lives.

Yes! I thought. Exactly! We humans crave the extraordinary, wanting so much to know that there is something about us that makes us more than just one among billions. We want to know that we have made a mark on history, even in the smallest way. Finally she concludes:

I am the mother raising children to be resilient, trustworthy, able to keep going when they want to quit, kind and generous. What greater meaning can one life have?

I read the author’s notes about her research and in them she revealed how much information she had gotten from the descendants of Eliza Spalding. I think we take for granted the impact of one life upon generations and subsequently, the world. As I savor the second half of my birthday, I realize that I have gotten swept up in the daily drudgery of raising small children. I have allowed the fatigue, the daunting mountains of laundry and dirty dishes, the taunting tumbleweeds of pet hair and the Groundhog Day issues of whining and squabbling and toddler food tossing to make me feel pointless.

But I’m not pointless. In the midst of all that mess, lies the patient spirit, the consistent instruction, and the determined love that can be cultivated in my heart and passed on to future generations. Just as Eliza Spalding didn’t see it all clearly until she was in her twilight years, I will be a work in progress until then too. But it’s encouraging to know that as long as I keep journeying, I’ll eventually reach my destination too. And oh the memories I’ll be able to weave together when I get there.

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The Tired Mama

If there’s a tired mama in your circle of acquaintances, be gentle with her.

It’s very possible she considers two consecutive hours of sleep a decent night’s rest.

She may get her words mixed up or lose her train of thought in the middle of a sentence.

She might have 80 text messages to answer, forget to check her voicemails, and rarely return a phone call.

Her children might eat boxed mac and cheese two lunches in a row and frozen pizza two dinners in a row.

It’s possible you don’t agree with how she disciplines: too loud one day and too lenient the next.

Likely she will cry at the drop of a hat or at the fifth spill in a row.

There’s a chance she compares herself to all the women she thinks aren’t tired and sees how they do it all: perfect self-care routine, immaculate houses, balanced personal and spiritual life…and…well…everything she just isn’t able to do right now.

I’m certain she wonders about how God views her: does He see a harried, frazzled mess or does He see a daughter trying to do her best?

Some might say she’s too easily overwhelmed or she’s bitten off more than she can chew. But she probably is the way she is because she is simply a tired mama.

When days roll into nights that roll into days again and there’s no pause or break or chance to breathe, a mama gets tired. I really don’t think it means she doesn’t love what she does or adore who she’s all about every single day. It probably just means she’s genuinely tired- physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Don’t ask her lots of questions or try to solve her problems. Don’t tell her what she needs to do to get rest. Try to not be miffed if her answers are brief.

Instead, listen. Acknowledge her exhaustion. Assure her you’re there if she needs anything. Surprise her. Let her know that it will all work out and one day she will sleep again. Speak kindly. Go gently with her.

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An Open Letter To My Sons

Dear Sons,

In the midst of keeping you alive each day, it’s easy for me to forget that one day you will be men. Right now my days are filled with teaching you your letters and numbers, emphasizing basic hygiene and the importance of wearing clothes, and keeping you from playing with sharp and pointed objects to which you all gravitate. There are days when I have to laugh or I most certainly would cry at your destructive, albeit completely boyish antics: climbing on anything above ground, taking things apart, dumping things out, bringing dirt wherever you can, and being LOUD. Loud seems to be the only volume you know.

Yet I see clearly that being a mom of sons is a high calling and even greater blessing. I see your need to test boundaries and climb to great heights. This is how you learn your strength and grow stronger; this is how you gain the courage to lead and the confidence to go where no man has gone before. You have an innate desire to fight and protect and do what is difficult. You want to know how things work and why they work that way. Home is the training ground for becoming the men God designed you to be. I pray for the wisdom to let you test those limits and make those discoveries without being lawless and savage in the process. I pray for the patience to accept the accidents and messes and broken things that just come with the territory.

My sons, I am all too aware of the dangers awaiting you in the great, wide world you are so eager to conquer. But of all the dangers out there, I most want to prepare you for those who will seek to mock your integrity, deride your godliness and despise your manhood. Our world has become hostile to true men: those who seek to fulfill their God-ordained roles as provider, protector and leader. They will undermine your leadership, defile your reputation and urge you to compromise your moral convictions. They are threatened by who you are and what you represent; that is, your stature points to God and is a reminder that He is the ultimate authority.

How does a mother prepare her sons for such a toxic world? Some would say I should raise you to be docile, ready to say and do whatever society demands. Others would say I should tame you and make you shoulder-shruggers in the face of moral compromise. Some would recommend I frown on your fighting spirit and others would advise me to temper your explorations. All of these recommendations are designed to make you fit in rather than stand out; to condition you to be followers instead of leaders. But that is not what God is calling me to do.

His Word admonishes me to raise you to be bold, to be brave, to speak, to stand up, to bow the knee to no one but God, to pursue justice, to love mercy, to desire clean hands and a pure heart. A man who holds these standards will not be loved by the world, may in fact be hated and harassed, but he will be in favor with God. You, my sons, are not seeking to love the world, but to reach the world with Christ’s love. It will take strength to be the men God has designed you to be.

Tonight I heard one of you singing bedtime songs to your baby brother. And yesterday I saw one of you bowing your head, squeezing your eyes as tightly closed as they could go and your busy little hands were folded and still. You are always presenting me with flowers, impressing me with your muscles, and quick to show concern when you can tell I’m not feeling well. In these moments I see the perfect blending of tenderness and strength, energy and restraint, compassion and determination.

Sons, this world does not deserve you but God has placed you here for such a time as this. My mother’s heart will ache when you are beaten down; my mother bear will roar when you encounter injustice; but my faith in God will not waver nor my prayers diminish as you rise up and keep going.

I respect each one of you as you already endeavor to be the best men your little boy hearts can be,

Mama

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Observations of a mom

I was looking through home videos with our youngest daughter and was struck with how much of our way of life has changed in such a brief amount of time. Shortly after that the children and I were reading Curious George together; the inquisitive little monkey was on his way to his town’s centennial celebration. I realized that our children may never experience a gathering of citizens mutually celebrating together. I suddenly realized that in the space of less than 12 months the fabric of our nation has changed.

Mardi Gras, not something I celebrate but I do recognize it as an iconic event, will not occur this year. We have accepted lonely Thanksgivings, cancelled Christmases, empty concert halls, abandoned elderly, depressed teenagers, anxious children, ruined small businesses, fearful citizens, and isolated neighbors as our new normal. It’s a refreshing change to see someone’s full face or to hug a friend without hesitation. Shaking hands, once considered proper social etiquette is frowned upon, as is friends gathering together in a home.

What saddens me about these changes is that our nation’s children won’t remember anything else. We will have to tell them about Fourth of July celebrations and Christmas concerts and county fairs. They won’t know how to interact with people in close proximity to them and will assume that virtual is how everything is done. They won’t know about play groups or going with a big church group to get ice cream together or field trips with friends to the museum. Large families will be isolated from seeing grandparents and family reunions will be a thing of the past.

I got together with some other moms today and it was SO GOOD and SO NEEDED for all of us. For a little while we could forget about the chaos and division and confusion in our land and just be moms sharing about life. As I headed home I thought, “THIS is what we need more of. We need to get back to community and discussion. We need to get back to living.”

I don’t have the answers. I’m simply a mom processing the rapid flow of events over the past year. I see division, despair, and resignation all around me. I see what made America unique: the traditions, the camaraderie, the icons, becoming history. I see our youngest generation growing up isolated, fearful and disconnected. Have we really thought this through? Are we really going about this the right way? I miss our way of life; I miss liberty.

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What Makes A Baby…A Baby?

There is something so special about a baby; the face of just about every adult who encounters a baby softens a little. Babies can get us to do the silliest things: our voices go higher. We repeat the same sound or antic over and over and over again. We forget the topic of conversation as we watch those little eyes following us.

But what is it about a baby that has this planet-wide effect? Is it the wonder of knowing their bodies have all the organs and systems working and in place that we have, just in miniature: their hearts are beating; their intestines produce waste (very routinely); their livers produce bile; their thyroid glands release hormones? Is it their active little faces practicing our expressions: frowning, smiling, grimacing, puckering? Is it their busy arms and legs kicking and reaching or their tiny hands and feet grabbing, curling and stretching?

I don’t quite know what it is about a baby that is mesmerizing, intoxicating and wonderful. I do know that I’ll do anything to get one more smile from him. Nothing hurts worse than knowing he is hurting. There’s no cozier place than snuggling up with that sleeping baby in my arms. Don’t we all share that sentiment?

Today I learned of a 14-week old baby who was killed. He had everything I just described above: an active face; limbs constantly wriggling; a fully intact, fully functioning body- just in miniature. He felt every torturous moment of his dismemberment because his nervous system was fully developed, and he fought desperately to move away from the instruments of his murder as adrenaline coursed through his tiny body.

Fellow citizens, we are members of a society that condones, even justifies murder. We have redefined it as choice; accepted it as healthcare; lauded it as empowerment; and profited from it for research. But desensitizing our collective conscience only serves to unravel the moral fabric of our society. We have qualified the value of a human life and have agreed that human rights are not endowed and are no longer inalienable. The ripping away of what was given to us by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God has begun at the beginning of life and it will not stop until there is nothing left to safeguard.

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Are We Sitting On Our Hands?

I recently learned of a woman without a home. A close friend of mine met her and listened to her story. It’s a heart-wrenching one; almost more so because all of the avenues for assistance are closed to her. Why? Because she has too much money in savings. You see, unfortunate circumstances have placed her in her current situation in spite of her living well and being responsible. She simply can’t afford $1,000 a month to rent a room.

This situation caused me to revisit my thoughts on the role of the church in the community. The Bible makes it clear that the Body of Christ should be His hands and feet in the world. Yes, it means we should be declaring the gospel wherever we are, but I also think it means sharing His love in a way that meets physical and emotional needs and not only spiritual ones; in fact, in the process of meeting those tangible needs, we are often able to address the ones less visible.

I am afraid that the western church has become too comfortable. The state has been more than willing to take over our God-entrusted responsibilities and we have allowed it. We hide behind “separation of church and state” or we tout legalities as reasons for not getting our hands dirty. We assume someone else will take care of it when we don’t want to or assuage our unsettled consciences by saying we would do something if God told us directly to do it. We have become very good at sitting in our pew and nodding our heads and going home to our routines.

I was thinking about the number of churches in an average American city and considered the potential within them. What would happen if ALL Christians helped the homeless in their communities? Took in children in need? Provided shelter for those fleeing abuse? Cleaned up our streets? Offered tutoring programs? Created job opportunities? Offered counseling services? Established pregnancy resource centers? Imagine if those churches that are already doing some of these things mentored the ones who are not! Consider the resources, gifts and skills that are idling and the impact they would have if they were kicked into gear!

James tells us that faith without works is dead. This does not mean we can earn our salvation; salvation is by God’s grace alone; it is impossible to earn salvation. What it does mean is that if we have faith nothing can stop us from declaring it by doing all the good we can; in doing so our faith is bolstered. I want to challenge you to start praying today about what God wants YOU to do in YOUR community. Don’t let COVID stop you; don’t let the state stop you; don’t let naysayers stop you. If God is prompting you to reach out and make a difference, do it! and then see what happens!

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Some Thoughts and Some Changes

Have you seen 1917? I do advise caution before watching it since there is strong language and graphic images. However, it does offer a reminder that history has happened; what we have was purchased at a steep price- a price I’m not so sure we would be willing to pay today.

I’m attempting to keep a finger on the pulse of our nation and it is irregular at best. It would seem that there are those who laud the ideals of the past and there are those who prefer contemporary ones. We are engaged in a tug-of-war of values: tolerance versus morality; cancel culture versus freedom of speech; equality versus liberty. It is as if there are two different Americas within our borders; two different languages; two different ways of thinking. And to uphold what we hold most close to heart requires standing up, not to a foreign empire, not to a terrorist, but to our fellow citizens. And this presents a quandary: do we stand up and risk further division or do we remain quiet and risk losing our liberties or silencing our conscience?

Reflecting on history also makes me wonder if we have made comfort an idol. I think our society is willing to sacrifice ethics on the altar of entertainment while choosing to worship convenience at the price of principles. We don’t want to believe that wrong is happening- unless it interferes with our state of ease. We don’t want to investigate unless our routines are interrupted. Learning about the London Plague of 1665 I realized that the annals of the past have more heartache, devastation and injustice written in them than they have victory and success and justice.

I think that we are in the process of writing a grim chapter in America’s history book. Will tomorrow’s students wonder about how a virus with a 99% recovery rate brought us to our knees in fear, how we grumbled about our sports’ seasons being delayed and our favorite shows being cancelled, how we were frustrated that we couldn’t get same-day deliveries from Amazon and take-out and drive-thru became the only restaurant options? And all the while our range of motion became gradually smaller: what we could say, what we could do, where we could go, who we could see, what we could research, what we could think, what we could believe…all became determined by those in government?

I’m not about to tell you what to do, but here’s what I plan to do as things change all around me:

I plan to pray. I will plead with God for the hearts of my countrymen to be surrendered to Him. I will ask Him to keep my heart sensitive to His prompting for He knows what my next steps need to be.

I plan to memorize Scripture so that Christ’s words will be the first on my lips.

I plan to read. I want my thinking to be shaped by the wisdom of old, the imagination of geniuses and the experiences of my books friends- not by popular opinion and mainstream media. Current events are just happening and are our contemporaries; history has already happened and makes the best teacher.

I plan to share. As I pray and read and learn I am going to share my thoughts.

I plan to reach out to my community. Nothing can replace the tangible connection between individuals. Social media is not an equivalent substitute for face-to-face conversations, heartfelt discussions about ideas, warm hugs, surprise meals left at a neighbor’s door, spontaneous visits for tea and talks, waves and smiles as we go about our day.

We are at a point where we have to choose if we are going to be forever distanced from one another or if we are going to salvage what matters most to us. I am not ready to slip into a coma of apathy; I plan to live freely and breathe deeply of the oxygen of liberty. So here’s to writing letters, reading books, making phone calls and front porch chats with neighbors. People have done it in the past why can’t we do it now?

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Parallels With Middle Earth

Every holiday season my husband and I watch one of the Tolkien movies. We used to make it our goal to watch the entire LOTR trilogy before January first, but alas! reality has adjusted that goal to simply one of the three. This season was no different and the one we completed was The Two Towers. While watching it I considered how much the human experience resembles a journey through Middle Earth.

I think many of us admire the elves, the Riders of Rohan, Aragorn and perhaps even the strength and ax-prowess of Gimli the Dwarf. But I have a feeling that the ones we identify with are the hobbits. We would like to be known for our gifts and talents and to be able to react accurately under intense pressure, but we are all too aware of our small stature in this great, wide world, our bumbling ways and just our every day-ness, if you will. These factors can deter us from leaving our comfortable corners and stepping out the front door.

But it’s really in our routine that we can gain our strength- strength of heart and mind. The routines and comforts of home grounded them and allowed them to take on the adventure while still holding on to their sense of self. They were on speaking terms with warriors, rubbed shoulders with elves, defied the vilest of evil and never stopped being hobbits who loved a good book and a warm hearth. Ironically, it was by being themselves that they had the greatest impact on those around them.

What stands out about the hobbits was that they pushed themselves, not to be who they weren’t, but to become who they were supposed to be. It was on the journey that the hobbits discovered their resilience, their courage and their fidelity, not only to their comrades, but to the cause. Yes, they liked second breakfasts and enjoyed a good riddle and the delicious tobacco leaf only the Shire could produce; those things never changed. However, they also realized that they did care about more than just their hobbit holes and that they wanted to make a difference for all who called Middle Earth home. The hobbits desired victory over evil more than the comforts of home; the comforts of home gave them the courage to participate in the war that threatened what they loved.

What about us? We might not have the bow prowess of an elf or be able to lead an outnumbered army into battle, but can we actually identify with the hobbits? I believe I can. There are days when I find the world a daunting place. I don’t see how my little corner of the world is having any impact anywhere; I’m not fighting legal battles in court or pounding the pavement in prayer or raising thousands of dollars for a cause. I just cook and clean and teach and do it all over again day after day after day.

Yet I think that is important too. It’s in the day after day after day that my mind has time to resolve what it believes; my heart can develop resilience; and my body can get ready. I don’t know when an opportunity will arise when I will be called to open the door and take that first step on a very long journey. I don’t know when I will have an impact on someone who is already on their journey. I don’t know when the shadows of darkness will start to cross my threshold and I’ll have to fight.

We are on the cusp of a new year and the unknown looms over us. Let’s be encouraged to be who we are and excited about who we will become.

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Why 2020?

A childhood friend of mine is walking the road of cancer with her young son. She openly admits that this is not what she would have chosen for her family; she says it’s hard and painful and bewildering at times. But she smiles and speaks with confident joy about the work that she knows God is accomplishing for His glory. I am both convicted and inspired by her testimony.

Had I been allowed to select the events for the year, I would not have chosen lockdowns or masks or a nation in turmoil; I would not have selected natural disasters or the death of a loved one or depression; I would not have asked for my church to close or for illness and injury to strike my family. Instead, I would have reached for flowers and rainbows, smiles and laughs, cozy family time, babies and heaps of ice cream. I would have added business success and a smooth routine in my home, and most certainly amiable children who are eager to do whatever I ask them. And I would have included ample time for me to sit and read and write to my heart’s content.

As the prophet of old wrote in Lamentations: “…My groans are many and my heart is faint.” I could give you a list of personal reasons why this year “stinks, stank, stunk.” I vividly remember welcoming it in and most of me won’t be grieving when I bid it farewell. But I wonder if this is the attitude Jesus wants me to have; after all, if He is Lord of my life then doesn’t that mean He has allowed the events of each day to happen for my good? I can understand why the world at large is fed up with 2020 but does that mean I must respond in like manner? Perhaps I should take a different approach.

Perhaps I should make a list of all the ways I have been blessed this year; perhaps I should take note of how I am leaning into God as I am confronted with my weaknesses; perhaps I should ponder how I can only witness God move mountains if they are in front of me; perhaps I should admit that coming through hardship does make me stronger; perhaps I should acknowledge that I only want to accept good from God and not trouble, yet the most growth happens during the trouble.

And so, with these reflections in mind, as I pull out my 2021 planner and reach for my pen, I want to humbly thank the Lord for the year 2020. In the throes of its unique chaos, He proved Himself faithful; He didn’t shield me from pain or confrontation with my wretchedness but He proved that He loves me in the midst of it; when I felt overwhelmed, lost and confused He reminded me of His constancy.

Why 2020? I needed to experience God in the intensity of life. I needed to despair and be rescued by Him. I needed to be afraid and be soothed by Him. I needed to mourn and be comforted by Him. I needed to fall and be picked up by Him. I needed to think I had nothing left and discover that I still have everything.

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Finding the Familiar

Everything has changed. The world we lived in at the beginning of 2020 is not the world we live in today. It’s not just COVID; it’s racial tension; it’s natural disasters; it’s election chaos; it’s personal loss; it’s disorientation from the tidal wave of change. I don’t know about you but I’ve experienced new levels of anxiety, anger and depression which turn into a vicious cycle of anxiety, anger and depression.

Recognizing that I have not been coping well with these “big feelings,” as we refer to them in our home, I decided we needed an unplanned Thanksgiving break. The first two days of it were spent in beautiful parks, absorbing the pristine weather. As my eyes soaked in the vibrant palate of colors and my skin absorbed the sun absorbed the sunlight and breeze, I could feel a reconnection with myself. I think it’s because my senses were able to focus on a calm, familiar distraction outside of myself and my emotions.

This leads me to recommend that in this time of upheaval we need to find what’s familiar and focus on that.

  • The familiar of family and friends: it’s true that it’s difficult to spend time with our loved ones in the ways we used to, but we can still be there for one another. Sending mail and packages back and forth, snapping random photos from the day for each other or starting a group text thread can rebuild the sense of community we all long for. I know it can be hard to manage home life and screen time but children can be included in the communication. I’ll tell my children who I’m taking pictures for or who I’m texting so they feel a sense of connection with long distance loved ones too.
  • The familiar of routine: our family has had to create routines and then new routines as the year progressed. It takes about two weeks of consistent practice for a routine to become habit. In those days when everything seems out of whack it is essential to have a daily routine to fall back on. Children (and adults) simply know what comes next and doing it doesn’t require too much additional effort. Even cycling through the same monthly menu can be comforting.
  • The familiar of a safe space: special things that are in the same location wherever you live; soothing music; favorite aromas; natural light streaming through windows; plants that rest the eye; these are all necessities for creating a place where you can be you- no matter what is happening. It’s a haven, a respite, an oasis for the soul.
  • The familiar of trial: this year has held a lot of difficulty. But trials, while unique in their own way, are not new to the human experience. I’m sure we can all look back and recount trial after painful trial after exhausting trial. Some might be repeats and others might be fresh; but the commonality is that we have made it through and learned something each time. Fall back on that knowledge and know that once again there will be a way through. Which leads me to my final point.
  • The familiar of God: In the midst of uncertainty God might feel very far away. When things don’t make sense, it is easy to think that God must not know what’s going on either or that maybe He doesn’t care or maybe He is out to get us. I have been telling myself that I need to look for evidence of His promises because His Word doesn’t lie. If He says those who mourn will be comforted, then they will. If He says the wicked will perish, then they will. If He says He knows the way of the righteous, then He does. Dive into God’s Word and wait for it to take root; it will.

Whether you’re parenting through a pandemic or prepping to move or mourning the loss of a loved one or dealing with family turmoil or finding your way in a foreign land, there is always something familiar that can help you stay grounded. I think we are all being confronted with the impermanence of this life and it can shake us up a bit; but there is eternity waiting for us and glimpses of the eternal can be found in what’s familiar.

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The Election Doesn’t Change Everything

If my fellow citizens are anything like me, our nerves are probably on edge and are stomachs jittery as we await the election results. I don’t know about you, but I don’t so much mind my candidate losing as I do blatant fraud and manipulation winning. Winning and losing are part of the election thrill; criminality should not be.

As I try to come to terms with the struggle and the anticipation, I know that what I hold most dear to my heart do not have to be lost if my candidate does. The values we laud can still be passed on to our children; our home can still be a respite in a wearied world; marriage and family can still be first; and yes, patriotism can still be taught. Why?

Because Jesus lives and He is sovereign. America is as much a vessel for His glory as Israel was (and still is). History declares His plan and His movement within mankind’s proceedings. Whatever the outcome, disappointing or not, He remains unhindered in accomplishing His perfect will.

I will cling to that now and four years from now.

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I Am a Woman

I shared a post about abortion yesterday. I hesitated to do so because the image disrupted the stream of cheery home life I prefer to post. I was also concerned it would appear too political; I’m trying to avoid politics these days. I held an internal dialogue with myself and it went something like this:

“People might not be prepared for the disturbing image after seeing all of the happy posts on my timeline.” “But the contrast might be good. It will be a startling reminder of what’s going on.”

“But it might be offensive.” “Just because we are not seeing it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. We need to be offended at times in order to be motivated to act.”

“I don’t want to get into politics.” “Murder isn’t a political issue. It’s a moral one.”

“I suppose if I post anything controversial it needs to be about this topic.” “Yes! The babies are counting on me to speak up for them!”

Today’s woman is demanding equality and justice and empowerment for women. I am here to say that I am a woman and I desire equality, believe in justice and appreciate empowerment, but not at the expense of the preborn individual.

I am a woman and it is my body until another body is within mine. I am a woman and I will value that life above my own.

I am a woman and I don’t believe it is justice for the person who is able to speak to take the life of one who cannot.

I am a woman and I believe true empowerment is found in choosing to keep life even when it is difficult. Empowerment is giving my life for yours when no one else will.

I believe that a beating heart is proof of life and I am still a woman.

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I Remember when I was Five.

I learned to ride a bike when I was five. I got my very own pet, a little bunny I named Strawberry Plum Curious Banana, when I was five. I learned how to swim and how to read; and when I was five I got my beloved baby doll, Cookie Brenda (I named her too). Five was a special age for me and now you are five years old too.

You have grown from a baby with elf ears and Marshwiggle feet into a graceful little girl who can comfortably hold her baby brother, confidently make a cucumber and tomato salad in the kitchen and tidy up the house with gusto. You can write your name beautifully, are a beloved pen pal to several people and are developing a flair for photography and drawing.

While the melodramatic streak that you debuted at birth is far from absent, you also have an uncanny ability to read people’s emotions and show empathy beyond your mere five years. We have shared conversations that almost had me forgetting I was chatting with a child until you were quickly diverted by a thought about food or a new smell (you enjoy new scents, by the way). You want to be all grown up until you don’t- desiring to be my essential helper and my little girl at the same time. You want to be a support, a big sister and an engaged listener but also nurtured and snuggled and entertained.

What will your memories of this year be? Will you remember learning to read and write? Will you remember your fervent prayers at breakfast or being tucked in tight at bedtime? Will you remember me braiding your hair or playing Elenor with you? Will you fondly recall being Child of the Day or our monthly dates? Will you connect our conversations with the values you will one day claim as your own? I wonder what memories you will cherish that I was unaware of while they were being made.

May your fifth year be the year you determine to love Jesus more than life itself. And may you always know that I will never cease to thank Jesus for gifting me with you as my daughter.

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The Road Home

We came to Texas to bid my husband’s brother a final farewell. In the eulogy, my husband wove an intricate narrative of his brother’s life. He drew his listeners into the story, bonding us with this person whose journey on earth had ended. And it got me to thinking: thinking about the intricacies within a human story, thinking about how we are all connected, thinking about the small decisions that make great impact, thinking about God’s fingerprints on every page of mankind’s chronicles.

After the memorial service we began the process of packing up my mother-in-law to bring her home with us. Many memories were revisited and favorite stories recalled as treasured items were found and packed up. Once again I realized how every person has a history, an interweaving of many different lives. In the midst of the packing we took time to visit with some of our closest friends. Those were times of refreshment and I came away from them thankful for the connections that have been made and maintained.

Now, as we journey home, I’m thinking about the road ahead. We have overcome numerous hurdles on this TX trip, not to mention the series of traumatic events that caused us to come in the first place. Gazing at the horizon I am filled with trepidation: new relationships to forge, new routines and expectations to navigate, new journeys to make. But now I have the lessons learned from the past two weeks to take with me into the future.

Stepping into tomorrow I want to cultivate a peaceful home that offers stability for all who live there. I want to quit comparing myself to others and instead apply to my own life the things I like and admire in others. I want to be ready to love the ones loved by my loved ones. I want to be ready to offer even the smallest of kindnesses because God can multiply their impact for His glory.

On this road home I know that God’s eye is upon us- always- and I want to carry that knowledge with me as I move forward.

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A Call to Courage

Today was my 6 week postpartum checkup. These routine visits with my midwives were eagerly anticipated by me and I am sad that today’s was my final one. We sit and chat about the intricacies of being female and at the end of each visit I feel empowered and humbled by the fact that I am a woman. Today was no different as we discussed those wonderful chemicals called hormones and how they impact our emotions.

It turns out that every month the female body does an emotional cleansing (or “soul cleanse” as one of my midwives describes it) during which all of the pent up emotions from the month are released; hence, those “crying for no reason” moments. I learned that emotions are also stored in the cervix and uterus and any violation of these places can lead to emotional harm. These details are profound to me albeit not surprising.

Later in the day I sat in my rocking chair with my youngest two babies and pondered what I had learned today. I rocked and snuggled and smelled the baby heads nestled so close to me; I looked around at the sick toddler on the couch, the toys and books scattered here and there. I thought about the laundry needing to be folded and the dishes in the sink and all that needed doing before bedtime. And I thought about Aslan’s words: “Courage, dear heart.”

If someone asked me what I do for a living, I think I would say, “I’m a mom.” And if they replied, “well yeah, but do you do anything else?” I hope I would say, “I blog, keep my home decently tidy and operate my two small shops on the side. But none of those matter in comparison to being a mom. Their lives began in my body and my body continues to nourish their bodies, cultivate their minds, nurture their hearts and plead for their souls.” But such a response requires courage. In today’s world, motherhood is often another bullet point in a long list of accomplishments and to-do’s; but our bodies are designed for this! Every week in our monthly cycle, every organ in our body, is a part of the life-giving process.

It takes courage to look the world in the face and say, “I’m all in as a mom. I was designed for this.”

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Grief in Real Life

The cycle of life is a beautiful one, a swift one, a predictable one. We anticipate births, applaud milestones and ponder aging. But there’s an aspect of this cycle that we generally avoid discussing: the end. It’s inescapable and mysterious. We don’t know how or when it’s going to be our turn; we just know one day it will be- or the turn of someone we love.

I have had very few encounters with the final chapters of life. Death has only brushed my life a handful of times, taking pets mostly, but a couple of the people I’ve bid the final farewell were deeply loved. The sorrow lingers and sometimes I still get swept away in thought as I recall memories with them. My husband, however, has endured the pain of great loss far too many times in a brief span of time, the most recent being last week. This time I am seeing grief in a new way.

Just as the birth of a child breathes freshness into life, grief can do the same. We are more aware of the fragility in living and the necessity to seize every moment with the people we love. We go back for the “just one more hug and kiss” our children beg for every night; we are talking with family and friends instead of only shooting texts; and the minor irritants are just that, minor. In an instant priorities are reordered.

Yet the exhilaration of birth is matched in intensity only by the gut wrenching agony of grief. At birth you anticipate the memories to be made with this new individual; at death you are punched with the awareness that there will be no more memories made. At birth you savor each word used to announce the arrival; at death each word used to announce the passing cuts like a knife. When a baby is born, you are eager for the remarks from well-wishers; but consolation comments often only deepen the pain with their insensitivity.

And so we cling to Jesus as we figure out how to move forward without feeling like we are leaving our brother behind. We are savoring the newness of our new son, celebrating his miraculous life while grieving the precious life ended all too soon. And through it all we look to the Sovereign God, the Author of Life, the Beginning and the End.

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Our Village

In less than a month our family has been visited by both birth and death. With great rejoicing we welcomed our newest son and with immense grief we are bidding farewell to another beloved family member. To have such intense emotions nearly simultaneously feels like we are riding the waves and being pummeled by the surf at the same time. It’s hard to stay afloat.

But in all of this- the highs and the lows- we have been surrounded by our village: the people who have brought us meals, purchased groceries, cared for our children, cleaned our house, did our yard work, prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. Our village consists of family, neighbors who have become friends, and friends who have become family.

The kindness bestowed on us through these faithful human beings has taught me three lessons:

  • God is tangible through His people. When we pray for God’s blessing or His provision or His presence, we might be envisioning something supernatural. But I’ve discovered that He frequently answers those prayers through people; He touches my life through them.
  • We can all do something. It’s plausible to think that someone else will meet the need, bridge the gap, or offer that word of comfort and so we remain on the sidelines. That might be true but it doesn’t hurt to do something anyway. It’s possible you will be the only one doing a kindness or you might be multiplying the kindness done. Either way, it never hurts to reach out in some small way.
  • To have a village we need to be one. These days it’s getting all too easy to be isolated. But now more than ever before we need to stay connected. We need to make that effort to have a conversation, to pick up the phone and talk, to have an outdoor BBQ, or spend time in prayer for that list of requests in your Bible. Never underestimate your place in your village.

In a time of pandemics and divisive politics it might seem safer and more peaceful to pull away from everyone. I know because I did that a time or two myself since March. But this month has shown me that I need people; I have renewed inspiration to give back to my community and to be there when someone else needs to know they have a village too.

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Half a Dozen Years

It is the eve of your sixth birthday. This birthday is especially poignant to me because your third little brother joined our family not 12 days ago. Your new brother resembles your newborn self in many ways, even wearing some of the same clothes you did. It almost feels like I am reliving those infant weeks with you – only this time I know a little more about mothering a baby. And that is something which defines our relationship.

I have been a mother to 6 newborns, but never to a 6-year old. When it comes to you, Son, I am a first-time mom in everything. You are the first one I gave birth to; the first one I potty-trained; the first one I taught to read; the first one to reveal my strengths and weaknesses as a mother. When I look into your face, I see such innocence and such resilience. I know that much of my mothering has been trial and error and it will probably continue to be that way since we continue to explore uncharted waters together. But I also know that God is shaping you into the young man He wants you to be.

Your fifth year was a transformative one; not only did you grow physically and cognitively, you also matured immensely in character. It seemed like suddenly you went from a reactive little boy to an independent thinker. You are in much more control of your emotions; you thoughtfully plan what you want to play each day; you show concern for others; you desire to challenge yourself in new ways and with new skills; you are pondering Jesus and His role in your life. You and I can have long conversations now, can share a good laugh together, and enjoy retelling our favorite memories. Some of my favorite times with you are when we are having our reading, writing and math lessons. I like seeing how you process new information and apply it in practical ways. And then seeing you hop on your first pedal bike and take off without training wheels! What an amazing victory for such a cautious boy. I was filled with pride for you.

Gregory-Hans, when I saw you for the first time six years ago I loved you simply because you were my baby. As the years have swiftly swept by and grown you in their passing, I recognize that I respect you for the individual you are and are becoming. Continue absorbing life with such fervor; hold on to your yearning for courage; seek peace and pursue it; depart from evil and do good; recognize that God placed you on the earth for such a time as this.

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Learning to Wait

My due date has come and gone. We are at the point where all we can think about is trying not to think about Baby’s arrival. I’ve been experiencing prodromal labor which means our emotions have been adjusting from excitement to skepticism; we are trying to take it all in stride and with a sense of humor but there will be such relief when our baby is finally here. This time of waiting has taught me a few things in the 3 weeks that I’ve been within the delivery window.

1. Like birth, there is no formula for life. It’s nice to know exactly what’s going to happen next and when it’s going to occur. But birth, and life in general, doesn’t work that way. There’s a process, for sure, but only God knows the details, the purpose and the timing of that process. Peace comes in letting go of having to do it my way and accepting that I don’t have to know the why behind everything. I can simply accept that this is how things are for the present and it’s good (albeit not very comfortable).

2. Perspective matters. We live in a microwave age. Everything is instant- from food to information to shopping. It’s gotta happen right now and if it doesn’t, something is wrong. There is nothing like waiting on a baby to shake up that trend. Sure, there are ways to kickstart labor or speed things up but doing so takes away some of the beauty of not being in control. It feels like Baby will never come, but I know that’s not true; likewise, there are days when the temporal seems more real than the eternal. I must remember that even though my emotions are very real, they are not always reality.

3. Embrace life as it comes. Life is usually predictable. I usually accomplish my agenda for the day. Routine is usually established and kept. But sometimes there’s a bend in the road, the unexpected happens and life as we know it has suddenly been altered. At first I recoil from the change; I reach for remnants of the familiar in order to piece it back together. But this week my eyes were opened to see that this is the divine mystery of life; our revolution around the sun propels our growth. To resist leads only to despair. The caterpillar may not wish to enter the cocoon but to resist would mean a destiny without wings.

As I wait for what I know will come, I am reminding myself of these lessons and others that God has been showing me and am eager to learn more.

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What Time Is It?

My children are fascinated with the concept of time. They want to know if the book we are reading is going to be a long book or if the movie we are watching is a long movie (longer is always better in both cases); they want me to set the timer for chores or for time on the swing; they are very aware of weekly routines: Sundays and Wednesdays are new CD night (for their bedtime music) and Fridays are Poppa and Mama’s date night. They know what housework I do on which days and always hope their day to help me falls on the day I do their favorite chore. Time brings them structure and security; it helps give them a sense of place and presence.

I think that holds true for man kind. We measure time, record time, plan out our time, predict time and attempt to influence time. We try to find ways to shorten it, lengthen it or maximize it. If it’s a turbulent time, we feel unsettled at best, terrified at worst. If it’s a peaceful, predictable time, we feel confident and happy. We define who we are according to the time in which we live. If we are troubled, it’s because we are a product of our times. If we are overcomers, it’s because we survived the times in which we lived. Time offers us a sense of place, purpose and identity; it is both a springboard into the future and a record of where we have been. “Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.” Ecclesiastes 3:15

This morning I read chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes. It’s the “Time for Everything” chapter and one of my favorites. But today I focused on a few verses I had not pondered before:

“And I saw something else under the sun: in the place of judgment- wickedness was there, in the place of justice- wickedness was there. I thought in my heart, ‘God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.’”

I believe it is time for every individual to ponder how they stand before God. Our time here on earth is but sand in a glass timer; it has been turned, time is being kept and it cannot be halted. When all is said and done and we stand before the judgment throne of God, He will not ask us about our diligence in wearing masks and washing our hands; we won’t be called to give an account for how many monuments we tore down or saved, or even for how we voted in elections or how we convinced others to vote. The posture of our hearts toward Him is what will be judged. Have we accepted or rejected Him? Is He Lord of our lives or not? If we claim to be Christ-followers, is the gospel our banner, our purpose, our calling? If we do not claim the name of Jesus, why not?

For me, I see that “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” This is a time for me to go deeper with Jesus. I want to pore over His Word, to communicate with Him from dawn to dusk, and to not hesitate to respond to His promptings regardless of how difficult it might be. These uncertain times only appear that way when I view them with temporal vision. When I look at the times in light of eternity, I can walk into the future with confidence. Just as my children rely on me to be the time keeper, CD changer and routine maker for their little lives, I can also rely on this present history being in God’s hands. Jesus makes all the difference.

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These Simple Truths

Imagery is a great way to describe the human experience: hurricanes in our hearts; life’s a roller coaster ride; riding the waves; days feel like a merry-go-round, up and down and going nowhere. There are many more, I’m sure, but even this handful of examples depict a pattern of movement, uncertainty and a degree of chaos; truly what we encounter in life, is it not?

As I strive to keep my balance in this topsy-turvy world of which I am a resident, it is the simple truths to which I grip. The Bible tells me to be a faithful steward of what is entrusted to me, to mind my own business, and to live in a way that encourages others to worship God. I want to be a catalyst for good change in my community; I want to move mountains for the causes closest to my heart; I want to publish a book that will be read for generations to come. I don’t know if any of those things will happen, but I do know that there are many things I can do today that I won’t ever regret doing.

I will not regret:

  • Nurturing house plants in every room.
  • Growing wildflowers with my children.
  • Lighting a candle at dinner time.
  • Developing music appreciation in my children.
  • Reading books every day- alone or with my family.
  • Sipping tea.
  • Praying with my husband.
  • Giving generously.
  • Responding to anger with gentleness.
  • Putting forth the extra effort to bake bread from scratch or making a hot, 3-course meal for my family.
  • Maintaining a simple housekeeping routine that even my children can follow.
  • Joining in playing pretend.
  • Laughing
  • Hugging
  • Crying when the tears need to flow.
  • Going outside and gazing heavenward.

This morning I read Ephesians 4:17-32. It was completely applicable for today’s culture: the ignorance, the anger, the hearts hardened towards God. But the culture doesn’t dictate how I must live. I am still called to hold to the simple truths of Christlikeness that are timeless in their relevancy.

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For Them I Speak

*I write with the presupposition that by discussing one topic it does not render another less valid. My motive for writing is not to offend but rather to be a voice for those unable to speak.

Humans tend to seek the path of least resistance so we often tune out what we don’t want to hear or think about, and injustice continues. In the midst of the chaos and confusion swirling through our streets, our friendships, and our newsfeeds, I see the value in the spotlight being shone on crimes committed against humanity both historically and currently. We can ignore them no longer.

Let’s take a closer look at the scar of slavery on the heart of our nation. Clearly, it is not a distant memory. It is a scar that continues to ache; it is a scar that should prompt us to examine our current actions. What was it about that slavery that made it such a travesty? It wasn’t only the cruelty; it was the stripping of humanity by human beings from human beings. Slavery declared, “you do not exist unless I say you exist” and this mindset gave slave traders, buyers and owners the green light to commit whatever atrocity they desired to.

Slavery did not begin in pre- Civil War America. It is a curse that has haunted civilization from ancient history and has passed from one generation to the next. Tragically, young America did not escape this curse. In spite of being transported in grievous conditions, examined from head to toe, bought and sold, kept in chains and driven by whips and prods like beasts, animals were treated with more care and dignity than human slaves were. Researching the methods used to maintain control of slaves is enough to cause the staunchest heart to shudder.

With debate swirling around monuments of the Confederacy and their impact on our society today, it is time that we examine current methods of dehumanizing that are occurring and consider our role in bringing them to an end. While these crimes against humanity are international, we Americans can at least begin to put an end to them in our own neighborhoods, towns and country. Consider sex-trafficking, for example.

“This is not only a dominant issue, it’s an epidemic issue,” Cindy McCain, who chairs the McCain Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council said. “It’s also something that is hiding in plain sight. It’s everywhere—it’s absolutely everywhere.” Globally, human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry and a form of modern day slavery. Human beings are bought and sold and forced to perform at the whims and fancies of other people. Women and children are drugged, tortured and kept in miserable conditions in order to strip them of their dignity.

But the best way to end sex trafficking, activists say, is preventing it. Making sure our prosecutors, judges, schools, doctors, first responders, are trained on what to look for and what to do when they see human trafficking, is the most important piece of combatting it, said McCain—but that can be harder than it sounds.” In order to bring down this criminal Goliath, we all need to get involved.

We cannot move forward in our investigation of human cruelty and tragedy without pausing to consider the slaughter of unborn children. Abolitionists sought to educate the populace about the humanity of slaves, something we consider with wonder today. Wasn’t it obvious that the men, women and children in chains were men, women and children in chains? As Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice questioned, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?” Life in a person seems obvious, until it is inconvenient for another. Just as acknowledging the rights of the slave on the buyer’s block would cut into the profits of the seller, so would legitimizing the life of the unborn child affect the abortion industry. With approximately 125,000 abortions occurring per day in the United States, with the price of an abortion being as high as $1,000, there is little wonder why the abortion industry is a multimillion dollar one, and this doesn’t even include the profit from the sales of fetal tissue.

Arguments in favor of abortion declare the new life as nothing more than “a blob of tissue,” in spite of the fact that the tiny heart is beating a mere four weeks after conception. Other arguments concede that the fetus is a human life but that the mother’s life is of more value, and then they proceed to pull apart the tiny body, label and count arms and legs, and identify tiny organs. It is argued that the abortion industry is all in the best interest of women, that women have the right to determine what happens to their bodies while baby body parts are sold to the highest bidder and clients are left with the physical and emotional scars of their choice.

If separate DNA, a beating heart, a developed nervous system, and tiny fingernails and fingerprints aren’t proof of life, what about a tiny body desperately trying to squirm away from the suction tube and forceps that will pull it apart? If we can harden our hearts to these actions, and live contentedly with these actions being committed in our communities, then tell me how we are different from those who denied the humanity of the slave woman having her child wrenched from her breast two centuries ago?

As we decry the grim darkness of the past, let us determine to speak where our forefathers were silent; to move when our past leaders stood still; to act when previous generations did nothing; and to live in such a way that our descendants will not look back upon us with shame.

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Me and You

When emotions are running high, honest dialogue can be difficult to achieve without offense being given or felt. In times like these the voices best heard are often the ones in literature and film. Thankfully there is a wealth of these available to us which address racial history, diversity, discrimination and tension in our country. If you are wanting to gain a deeper understanding of all that is happening in our country, as I am, here is a place to start:

A Raisin in the Sun is a play written by Lorraine Hansberry and inspired by Langston Hughes poem “Harlem.” It follows a portion of a Black family’s life as they seek a better life in Chicago after leaving the South in the 1950’s. Their struggle and disappointment and moments of hope become your own as you are drawn into the story.

Maya Angelou is one of my favorite poets and of her poetry, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” stops me in my tracks every time I read it. She is quoted as saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Her poetry takes the reader inside the struggle and for a brief moment you almost know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. “…for the caged bird sings of freedom.”

I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin in grade school and it was the book that brought the devastation of slavery alive to me. Despite the controversy that now swirls around this title, it is important to remember that this book was a pioneer of its times. It was written before the Civil War so it gives us an inside look at that time period. It was written by a woman, another significant detail since women’s voices in that era were rarely heard. I believe Harriet Beecher Stowe was a woman with an indomitable spirit who was not afraid to bring an end to despicable institution of slavery.

To Kill A Mockingbird brings us to our more recent past and reveals that the travesties of racism and prejudice were not left behind. This novel a written from a child’s perspective which almost makes the issues being discussed more compelling. Children are not racist or prejudiced by nature; it is taught. Following Scout’s thought process as she tried to understand these evils in her town we can see the tragedy all the more clearly.

I recently read Follow the Drinking Gourd to my young children. It was a gentle way to begin teaching them about slavery in our country. The illustrations are vibrant and the characters are authentic. My children asked questions like, “Why was she taken from her mother?” and “Why are the bad guys chasing them?” We were able to discuss as they processed their thoughts.

There are four films I would recommend for the thoughtful way they present the many dimensions to the struggle of slavery, racial discrimination and segregation. [These films are not meant for young viewers due to their graphic nature]

  • L’Amistad
  • Harriet
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Hidden Figures

Refer to these links for info on these films: L’Amistad, Harriet, 12 Years a Slave, Hidden Figures

As a language arts teacher I have long felt that some of the best discussions are about literature and the arts. This venue of conversation prods the heart and mind to think in ways we hadn’t considered. What plays, poets, books and films would you add to the list?

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Should We Forget?

Earlier this month the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial was defaced by rioters. Ironically enough, this memorial was in honor of the first all-Black regiment who fought during the Civil War. They were heroes and those who dishonored their memory probably would not have done so had they known history.

I am pondering this movement to sanitize our history. Civil War monuments are being removed or defaced; street names are being changed; the Confederate flag is coming down. It is a paradox. On the one hand, I see why the Black populace is offended by any amount of honor and recognition given to their oppressors, and I agree with them. On the other hand, we are called to remember the pain and the providence of the past; if we do not remember, how can we learn?

Great need and great wrong-doing pave the way for great provision and great courage. If we attempt to forget the past because of its darkness, we will also forget the beacons of light that shone brightly in the midst of it. And if we remove all markers of the past because they remind us of injustice, how can we chart our change for the better? Perhaps we should view these monuments, not as symbols of honor but as warnings to not repeat the travesties of the past. And next to them display monuments of history’s hidden heroes- those who, with courage and conviction, countered the evil surrounding them.

In Joshua 4, God commanded that memorial stones be set up so that children would inquire about them. Parents could then explain how God caused them to cross the Jordan River on dry ground. Why did they need to remember? “...so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” All of history is an interweaving of evil and good, despair and hope, depravity and redemption. God allows us to experience the weight of our sin so we are confronted with our need for a Savior. American history is one example of this and our need for Jesus has not changed.

When we attempt to deny the darkness of yesterday, we will also forget those who held up their lanterns to reveal a better way forward.

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My Place in this Racial Discourse

I’m trying to find my place in this world of chaos and confusion. I have had frank conversations with dear friends whose lives and experiences have been entirely different from mine due to discrimination, and my eyes are opening to the travesty of racism in our land. My inclination has been to shrink back in shame because of the color of my skin; to feel like I am part of the problem, that no matter how hard I try to be kind or how carefully I choose my words, I will be seen as part of the problem race. And then I realized that that is probably how my fellow citizens have always felt- from the time they were brought to this country in chains until now. I have formulated all sorts of opinions and defenses for those of us who don’t see color in our friends and fellow Americans in an attempt to diffuse the situation, but my meager attempts for peace can do nothing to remove the scars of sin that have marred our country for centuries. Sin leads to death and is passed down generation after generation after generation.

The issues prompting today’s headlines are not going away anytime soon because there are no quick fixes or simple solutions for them. Racism is a sin that joins the bleak ranks of adultery, murder, theft, gossip, hatred, deception, abortion (of which Black babies have the highest death rate) and every other vile thought, word and deed that is conceived in the heart of man. Our country is reeling from the devastation of drug addiction, sex trafficking, child pornography, domestic violence, and broken homes. The recent protests and riots have opened our eyes to the deep wounds of sin that have compounded across generations. The problem is that we are broken people trying to fix broken people. It can’t be done.

Thankfully, I don’t need to have an opinion about all of this nor do I have to come up with solutions to this tidal wave of problems devastating our nation. I simply need to turn to Christ and His Word. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 gives a template for the Christian life: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands…so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” This doesn’t mean ignore injustice because it’s not happening to me. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 goes on to explain how we should engage with others: “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Collectively, I believe these verses mean to spend my time ensuring that I’m being a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to me, and in doing so I can influence others. He has given me this life for a reason. I don’t want to squander it or belittle it. How do I put feet to my faith in a time like this? Here are a few specific actions I am going to take as I make it my ambition to lead a quiet life and mind my own business:

  • Use my voice to speak (and write) the words God puts on my heart.
  • Raise my children to see the intricacy of God’s image reflected in the diversity of mankind.
  • Respect the lives and experiences of those around me.
  • Be willing to listen without already preparing a comeback response.
  • Not feel ashamed for being the person God created me to be.
  • Live gratefully and humbly.
  • Read God’s Word.
  • Memorize God’s Word.
  • Obey God’s Word.

Psalm 130 declares: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
This passage is a prayer for my personal life and for my country. Each of us is a sinner, whether we have been accessories to racial tension or not. We are rebels against God and that is the source of the mortal wounds in our nation. We can advocate, educate and plead for change but those are simply bandaids. Repentance is what will bring the healing we crave. Let us repent of our sins against God and each other. And then let us move forward.

Imperfect human beings cannot create a perfect solution to the problems we are facing. The only thing we can do is bring God back into the equation.

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Intrinsically

In just a few short months we have been confronted with the terms of essential and nonessential; we have witnessed the murder of a citizen by law enforcement; we have seen women’s abuse being dismissed by the influential. And now we are hearing the voices of a weary people crying out. But what are they actually saying?

From ME TOO! to BLACK LIVES MATTER! to masked sign wavers declaring ALL WORK IS ESSENTIAL! citizens are desperate to be considered important. We have created a culture where a person’s worth is determined by someone else. The factors that are taken into consideration are social status, wealth, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and religion. This results in favor being shown to whoever checks the correct boxes or the most boxes. In an attempt to balance the discrimination that runs rampant in our land, the pendulum usually swings violently in the opposite direction. Special access and unique privileges are now granted to the groups that experience the most discrimination. Is this the solution?

We seem to be of the opinion that peace will come when we are all the same. Perhaps when all men behave like women or when the wealthy give all their money away or when white citizens no longer hold positions of power things will be better. Maybe when we level out the playing field fairness will return to the game. This, however, is simply a reversal of the current problem. It continues the trend of declaring some more valuable than others. It avoids the real issue: the heart.

We seem to have forgotten that no two people are exactly the same. Each of us is unique in some way and is designed with a particular purpose. Men shouldn’t have to hang their heads in shame for not being women. Citizens shouldn’t feel like they need to apologize because of the color of their skin. What needs to happen is a recognition of Who placed us all here on this planet in the first place. Earth’s citizens are consumed with themselves, their wants, and their needs and are avoiding the truth that they are accountable to God for the posture of their hearts. We are experiencing the consequences of this sin crisis.

Unity in our nation will only come when our society chooses to set aside the labels that divide in order to celebrate the differences that make us stronger. We need to recognize the intrinsic worth of every beating heart in our land, beginning with the unborn. We make a mockery of justice when we wave signs calling for equality for all and then defend the slaughter of millions of babies because of the circumstances of their conception. Ultimately, we must individually repent for how we have devalued life and minimized our Creator’s sovereignty; we must step down from our thrones and bow before His instead.

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#5 Turns #1

I remember envisioning God’s hand guiding you through the birth canal and into my arms as I labored through the intensity of transition. And then there you were! Our tiniest boy! I wondered what it would be like to raise a third son. Your older brothers are each distinct in their own ways; would you be like them or different?

This past year with you has proven that you are uniquely yourself. You have completely stolen the heart of every member of our family as we all fight over whose turn it is to cuddle you, feed you, play with you or fetch your favorite blanket for you. In spite of being such a petite little fellow, you bellow and scream with the best of them, staunchly defending your personal space and property.

In just the last few weeks you figured out how to propel your little body with your arms from one end of the room to the other; your two bottom teeth popped out and you learned how to clap! Every accomplishment causes you to beam with such pride; it’s almost as adorable as your cheery “Hi!” paired with an eager opening and closing of your tiny raised hand.

Simeon, as delighted as I am by your growth and development, and as eager as I am to have conversations with you and to learn life through your eyes, I am content to keep you small for the time being. Burying my face in your fuzzy, strawberry blond hair, snuggling you in my arms, and soaking in your baby giggles are things I look forward to every day. It seems like your babyhood has been the most savored one to date- perhaps because I am sharing it with so many other people. More than once this week I have heard your siblings comment to one other: “I can’t believe his birthday is coming! He is growing up! He is going to be one!”

Tomorrow on your birthday I am going to study you even more; I am going to snuggle you even longer; and I am going to cherish even deeper how you pop your thumb in your mouth when I scoop you up, smirk just a little and then lay your head sideways on my shoulder. Being one doesn’t have to change everything just yet.

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A Walk with Jane Austen by Lori Smith

This is a winning read for anyone who adores Jane Austen and descriptions of a walk through England, has wrestled with singleness or had debilitating health issues that led to serious depression.

The candor with which the author writes is refreshing and heartwarming. It stirs the reader to compassion and also introspection. Her faithful accounts of emotional ups and downs from one day to the next can leave the reader encouraged because God’s constancy was present no matter how the author was feeling.

After reading this book the reader will also feel more connected to Jane Austen by better understanding why she wrote the way she did and how she managed to leave such an impact in spite of living a simple and relatively brief life so long ago.

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Let’s Talk About It (Part 2)

In my previous post I delved into the looming topic of depression and promised to promptly provide a part two. However, the sequel was delayed because shortly after writing my post I plummeted into a difficult time and it has been a slow climb out of it. I hesitated to write a post with answers to depression when I myself was struggling with their implementation. A couple of close friends urged me to write anyway, as my thoughts could still help someone else; not long after, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit that the time had come to write the second part.

In my experience and comparing notes with others regarding theirs, I have discovered that living through a cycle of depression requires an eclectic collection of strategies. For some that collection might include counseling or medication; mine consists of the pursuit of:

  • Acceptance. Depression in and of itself is not bad. It is our mind’s way of telling us that something in our life or body is not well. Change is required and we must make time to find out what that is. The longer we deny the depression, thinking it’s wrong, the deeper it settles in because we then add guilt to our already burdened minds. It’s much better to acknowledge our situation and then work towards finding a solution.
  • Beauty. The other night I made time for a candlelit bubble bath. In the flickering candlelight I couldn’t see the dust on my shutters or the clutter of bath toys around me. An aura of serenity surrounded me and I was peaceful. I realized how important it is to focus on the beautiful- and it can always be found. Perhaps it’s in a laughter-filled conversation with a friend or a multi-colored nourishing meal arrayed on your plate or a dance party with your children or a walk at a sunset. Beauty prompts our minds to see the other side of life that depression’s darkness tries to cover up from our view.
  • The good. As a Christ-follower I know that all things work together for my good and God’s glory- even depression. In the midst of the turmoil I strive to acknowledge the good I can see coming from it: the solidarity between me and fellow sufferers is one; the lifestyle changes I make to lessen my stress is another. I find myself clinging to simple blessings and I am more aware of the sorrow that others are experiencing. I have been convicted of how quick I am to judge others when I know so little of the struggles they might be having in their own minds. As a Christian, I know that depression is not wasted.
  • Jesus. Sometimes during depression we feel like our spiritual health is also plummeting. We wonder why God seems so distant or assume that if He was close we wouldn’t be so afflicted. But I am coming to the conclusion that He is never more ready to hold us closer than when we are depressed. It simply takes us asking. Half the battle of depression lies in turning on the worship song or reading that first verse in the Bible or in breathing out the words, “save me, Jesus!” From there the process of healing begins.

I am always adding to my collection, but these have been helpful to me of late. They aren’t curing me once and for all; I don’t know if I’ll ever be depression-free. The point isn’t so much in reaching that happy place of no difficulty in life as it is in being willing to learn and grow and rejoice in the midst of the hardship.

If you are in a time of darkness right now please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone, especially to Jesus.

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God IS in the Details

For the past couple of months I’ve been doing a study of Psalms with a lovely group of young ladies. Each day the leader of the study sends out the Psalm of the day via text and each group member reads it and shares her reflections (via text). This has been a rich study for me because it has brought me back to Psalms, a book whose relevance I’ve somewhat overlooked.

Throughout my reading I have noted a transparency between the psalmist and the Almighty. In the midst of immense affliction the psalmist does not hesitate to cry out, to despair, to plead for mercy or even revenge; the psalmist also always returns to the character of God: His goodness, His provision, His power, and His awareness of the human plight.

In a recent conversation with my mom, she and I considered the pandemic and the tumult surrounding it. I told her that I wish the politics of the issue wouldn’t overshadow the genuine threat of the disease itself. It is all too easy for citizens to make this a political issue and thus minimize the suffering of those who have been directly harmed by this hidden enemy. I believe Christians need to be the first to set politics and personal opinions aside and reach out to the hurting with the sincerest compassion. How do we do this?

By recognizing the constancy of God in the swirling chaos of the planet. We can practice compassion and selflessness by remembering Christ’s example as He traversed the cities and countryside of Rome-controlled Israel. We can keep politics in its proper place by keeping God in His: sovereign even over the actions and plans of the worst of men. And we can be transparent before our Creator as we acknowledge our emotions and then acknowledge that He is even more real than they.

Personally, I can see much good coming to my family through all the COVID-19 related disruption. I also see the devastation and loss others are experiencing all around me (including the death of a neighbor from the virus). Can both the good and the bad be simultaneously true? Absolutely. Because God, in His sovereignty, is enacting His will at a universal, international, national, community, church, family and individual level simultaneously. We can catch a glimpse of this through the study of world history, but only a glimpse. It will take an eternity of sitting at His feet to even begin to grasp His mind, but at least then we will have all the time in the world.

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A Mother’s Day Reflection

Recently I was thinking about all the things I’ve done in the past and all the things I would like to do in the future. I asked my husband if all of my accomplishments really mattered after all. Were they having an impact on my life now? And in the midst of it all I wondered how to describe myself just as me, separate from my roles in other people’s lives.

As I sit outside soaking in the evening sun glimmering on the ripples of the lake, savoring the light breeze as it plays with the leaves and carries butterflies toward our flowers, and listening to my children shriek with delight while they swing and play, I conclude that my identity is not entirely lost. I continue to find delight in absorbing the outdoors or getting lost in a good book. I still prefer tea over coffee and try to sneak in a bite of chocolate in the late afternoon. I love the thrill of an amazing find while thrifting and am convinced that dragonflies are truly fairy steeds. And I’m starting to see these idiosyncrasies popping up in the little people around me.

I smile as the children and I create detailed imaginings about the fairy world; when we go on walks someone is always commenting on the beautiful flowers we pass or listening for birdcalls. Books are forever being hid under bedcovers for late night reading and the letter-writing tradition is being received with pen-eager fingers. It leads me to believe that the past helped shape who I am presently and bits of me are being imprinted in the hearts and minds of my children. And all the while, their raising is shaping who I will be tomorrow.

I suppose that’s what it means to be a mother: a continual giving and receiving of all we hold most dear.

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The Cross and Corona

During this season of being still, being advised to stay home and learning what is essential, I’ve wondered where the Cross comes into the picture. I’ve pondered what the best approach is: faith or preparedness; concern or nonchalance; soul-searching, finger-pointing, or conspiracy-theorizing. What does Christ desire of me? Does a heavenly focus change earthly circumstances?

It’s very easy to need to know the latest headline or to become consumed with buying extra while you can and then worrying if you forgot something. There’s the fear that causes doors to be shut and distances kept. But then I read my Bible and am reminded that His truths never change. There is still gospel seed to be sown; there are still people to love; and God is still faithful to provide.

This morning I walked outside for a bit of fresh, cool air. It was a stressful morning of slow moving, cranky kids and mountains of laundry. The sky was overcast and I felt ragged before the day had even started. I was also aware of the Cross and wanting that to mold my perspective today. The thought came to me that in this meta narrative of Time, God’s sovereignty works on a universal scale as well as in intricately personal ways. And overall the gospel stands supreme.

Just as in times of crises hundreds of years ago, God guided and moved and changed the structure of civilization to achieve His will and He is doing the same today. He also sanctifies His people in the midst of all of it. He calls us to pray, to read more of His word, to remember the overlooked, to rejoice in Him always, to be grateful and to think more highly of others than ourselves (especially the ones within our walls). Those things remain the same, virus or no virus.

Personally, my sanctification involves:

  • An increased time of devotions and training our children to do the same.
  • Seeing afresh that my children are amazing individuals and I want to really get to know them.
  • Appreciating the opportunity to be resourceful and creative.
  • Delighting in an open schedule with no pressing obligations outside the home.
  • Practicing patience, patience, and a little more patience.
  • Respecting historical figures SO much more because of all they endured.
  • Being willing to be selfless when I most want to be selfish.
  • Recognizing that my husband is his own person with a set amount of time God has entrusted to him. It is not correct of me to dictate or judge how he spends his time; it is between him and God. I am excited to see how God shapes him during this season.

In conclusion, I don’t know how or why all of this is happening or when it will all conclude. I don’t know what God is planning for the Church or even for individuals outside of my home. But I do know that being surrendered to His purposes is the safest and most peaceful place to be in the storm.

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Thoughts After my Birthday

How is it possible for a single day to carry such definition? Perhaps for some of my readership your birthdays are just another day; for me they are a time of reflection and evaluation. Though there are few specific birthdays that I remember with clarity, each one has carried significance for me within its year.

This year’s birthday is not unique in that regard. A handful of years from now I will probably not remember what I ate on my 35th birthday nor what gifts I received, yet it was special just the same. Landing on a Monday, it still carried a touch of the Monday blues; laundry was done and the kitchen cleaned. Babies needed changing and hungry tummys demanded feeding; sibling squabbles were mediated and toddler mishaps tended to. A younger me would have fallen into that gaping hole of self-pity, frustrated that I wasn’t able to have breakfast in bed or a day free of chores. However, my birthday self recognized that this time with my children was a gift in itself and the selfless efforts of my husband to celebrate me were indeed the sacrifices of a tired, but loving heart. I cherish them and all of the kind words sent my way yesterday.

I was gifted some time to sit and reflectively journal and I think that the greatest area of growth in my personal development is in the understanding that life is a series of experiences. Even the most painful hardships are great opportunities to experience deeper levels of life. One never knows how today’s joys or mishaps will impact our steps and word tomorrow. In addition, I have also been making more efforts to live according to my priorities, whether that is in turning worries into prayers or being selective in the expenditure of my time.

And to conclude on a light-hearted note, I think I would describe my newly 35-year old self as someone who prefers tea over coffee, wants more time in books but hasn’t figured out how to avoid the need for screen time, craves sunny breezes, loves a successful day of garage sales or thrifting, and delights in a well- planned schedule.

What thoughts do you have on your birthday?

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The Yoke

This yoke of life is heavy,

The burden presses down.

In every step I’m weary,

Tears my only sound.

Marriages in crisis,

Babies ill too young.

Familiar disappearing,

Farewells remain too long.

The needs outweigh my energy,

Time slips through my hands.

I long to pour out joyfully,

But sorrow is in command.

Dear Jesus take this heavy yoke,

It weighs too much for me.

Please transform all that’s broke,

Into gentleness and humility.

Help me walk in step with you,

Not far ahead or way behind, only side-by-side.

Sustain me daily with all that’s true

And in your strength may I rely.

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Is it ok to be Happy?

“Well of course it is!” you might be saying incredulously. “What kind of a question is that?”

It’s an honest one. I know that there are reams of Bible verses about joy and rejoicing; some of them are even commands. So why, then, is there often a reluctance to jump off into outright happiness?

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel guilty about being happy around other people. I sometimes feel like to be a part of the conversation I need to have my share of woes to contribute. If I’m a chipper in my conversations, I feel brushed aside for not really understanding what life is all about it. That’s one reason I pause before entering into happiness.

Another inhibitor to a lighter spirit is ME. I find that if I simply allow myself the freedom to be happy in spite of my circumstances, it means I’m not fully invested in what’s going on or that I’m being naive about the seriousness of life: the level of my sorrow is an indicator of how much I care.

What is a heart to do? Persist in positivity no matter what vibes are given off by others? Laugh instead of cry when there’s the urge to do both? Jump off the cliff of melancholy into the sea of joy, ignoring all reasons for hesitation? It’s hard to make that leap at times; the conflicting emotions are real.

I wonder if that’s why God made it a command to rejoice: “Rejoice always…” “Count it all joy…” “In everything give thanks…” and we are even reminded of the benefits of happiness: “A cheerful heart is good medicine!” In those times when we step forward, then step back, then timidly step forward again, it is nice to have the authority of God’s Word behind us, urging us on and assuring us that, yes, it is, indeed, ok to be happy.

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That First Step of Obedience

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

This familiar passage from Proverbs 3 begs to be unpacked and set up in our daily life. It’s easy to flippantly quote it but much harder to intentionally apply it.

For instance, take that tiny word all. I think we would quickly affirm that God knows best. I mean, after all, He is God. But do we trust Him with every beat of our heart? What about that move you have to make? That lost relationship? The illness wracking your body? The political chaos in our world? Do we trust He knows best when He allows the painful things to happen? The bad things? The sad things?

And what does it look like to acknowledge the Lord in all of our ways? I think it happens when we seek His word before making major decisions based on what makes sense to us. I think it can be seen when we do what’s hard because we know it is right. I think it is submitting to those in authority over us even when it doesn’t make sense.

Finally, he will make your paths straight. This doesn’t mean the path will be smooth sailing; it does mean that our path will lead us into a deeper understanding of who God is. After reading the life accounts of the heroes in the faith who have gone before us, I see that obedience to God doesn’t mean that God is going to keep trouble far from us; rather, He confirms His will by bringing us through the trouble. When God calls us out of comfortable it is for the purpose of encountering Him in new ways and in new places.

Sometimes I give my children instructions that they resist: they don’t understand why I’m giving the instruction or it interferes with their plans. I want them to trust me implicitly and obey immediately. Why? Because I have a plan for them. I know what will grow their character, sharpen their minds and bring them joy. If they would hear my word and obey, their lives would be so much richer and fulfilling. And so it is with God. He knows what will grow us, build us and give us the deepest joy. We simply need to trust…and obey.

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The Assault on Motherhood (Part 3)

“How were you changed by the process of growing a human being inside of you for 9 to 10 months?” “What was it like to meet that brand new soul for the very first time and to know that person came from you?” “How has motherhood transformed you as an individual?”

Those aren’t questions that are normally asked when people are chatting with moms, are they? Instead, birth stories are often shown as much interest as personal accounts of learning to drive- they might come up in certain circles but not on a regular basis. When birth stories are discussed, they are often summarized in basic facts and descriptions with emotions and thoughts omitted. But no pregnancy or birth is ordinary; each one is miraculous and unique.

This indifference towards the miraculous process that keeps mankind from extinction varies in intensity from nonchalance to hostility. One subtle indicator of our culture’s attitude about motherhood is evidenced by how quickly the new mom is shoved out the door in those early postpartum months. I remember the accolades I received after my first babies were born when I resumed a normal pace and routine as soon as possible. It stroked my ego to hear, “You’re amazing! Only 3 weeks postpartum and you’re already hiking?” It made me want to do more faster. The same could be said for the new mom returning to work a mere 6, 8, or 12 weeks after delivering her child. She is praised for not resting, not allowing her organs to settle back in place or her blood volume to regulate, not giving her emotions and body a chance to adapt to nurturing a tiny human outside her body, not getting a chance to enjoy her baby every hour of the day as it begins all those firsts. Instead, she is assured that pushing herself is worth it; that slowing down and savoring is an indulgence, not a necessity.

In an era that boasts the catch phrase, “My body, my choice,” mothers can recognize the empowerment that comes through pregnancy and childbirth. She can learn to not be ashamed of the way her body changes but to be awed by it. She can exchange fear of birth for anticipation as she awaits the new persons within: both her and her child. And in the midst of the grueling labor of motherhood, she can welcome the invitation to rest, to make home her haven and to embrace the abundance of rewards that her efforts have earned: the firsts, the hugs, the discoveries, and the satisfaction of being the one they run to.

It is my belief that when we minimize the portal to motherhood, that is, pregnancy and childbirth, we are robbing ourselves of the heartbeat of our society. When mothers are equipped to determine the direction of their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery, their birth stories will become their crowning achievement.

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