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? “ 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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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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Disconnected to be Reconnected

2020 was one of the first years that I felt nervous about beginning (as if I had a choice). I found it difficult to settle on resolutions because 2019 repeatedly taught me that “man makes his plans but the Lord directs his steps,” although in my case it often felt like my children were the ones changing my plans. I didn’t want to set myself up for more frustration.

I also didn’t feel prepared. We were blessed with an abundance of beloved company from October through January, but all good intentions about maintaining routines are usually set aside for the sake of memory-making with visitors. Over Christmas, Jared and I didn’t get the time to sit and plan and discuss our personal and shared visions for the new year. In some ways, I felt like I was entering this brand new decade blind except for knowing of certain challenges ahead – which didn’t serve to help me feel peaceful.

Thanks to a dear friend wanting to do Cultivate’s Powersheets with me this year, I am doing them for a third year in a row. Through the prepatory work, I settled on CONTENTMENT as my word for the year. As I pondered how to strive to live out this word, I realized that the steps towards being content could become my resolutions. I would like to reduce the amount of cravings in my life: sugar cravings, material cravings, and approval cravings. I desire to increase my appreciation for what I have: relationships with family and friends, the beautiful outdoors, a home filled with lovely items, a personal library stocked with books beckoning to be read, a tea hutch with a rich selection of inviting tea. Finally, I hope to cultivate simplicity which will offer me the time to savor what I have rather than fighting the frenzy that can easily overtake me when my expectations are all too high.

My “plan” for the new year involves two main steps: disconnect from social media and reconnect with Jesus. When my thumb is scrolling, I can feel my mind buzzing with unnecessary noise and my heart growing restless. I start viewing my person, my home, my children, and my life with a critical eye as I compare it to the perfect squares on my screen. That quickly spirals into extra spending, bitterness, and frustration as I frantically try to make my life meet social media standards.  What I really need to do is fill my spare moments with intentional prayer, refreshing reading, and focused time reveling in the bounty within my home.

This doesn’t mean I will never hop on Facebook or check on Instagram – I enjoy sneaking a peek here and there. But it does mean that it will no longer be my priority. I want to be connected with the things that mean the most to me when I am eighty-years old and by that time I highly doubt that I’ll be counting ‘Likes’ on my posts.

How do you feel about this brand new decade?

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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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Let’s Talk About It (Part 1)

I experience depression. There. I’ve said it. It’s not an easy topic to discuss but I believe it is an important one. In my journey towards contentment depression is a significant obstacle and has consumed much of my mental and emotional energy. I have read about it; listened to podcasts discussing it; shared with my inner circle and heard their testimonies related to it; sought counsel from my midwife regarding it. Most of all, I have pored over Scripture and prayed for healing and freedom from this burden. I’ve learned that there are many causes of depression and a range of emotions connected with it, including:  shame, sorrow, weariness. However, there is always hope. 
I think there are as many types and experiences of depression as there are strains of the flu and it is nearly impossible for anyone to say to someone else, “I know exactly what you are going through.” Depression can be prompted by spiritual trials, physical conditions, chemical imbalances, trauma, loss…and everything in between. It can be as simple as deep gloom for a day or as intense as years of struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Personally, I went through years of depression from my middle school years to early college. After having my first child I experienced a minor case of postpartum depression and ever since I have waves of intense darkness that are rarely predictable.  I’ve discovered that it is difficult to talk openly about my experience because I feel:
  • Shame. I am a Christian! I love Jesus! I should know better than to believe the lies that bombard my mind and bring me down. I have good health, a loving husband, fantastic children, a beautiful home, friends in abundance. How ungrateful of me to be wallowing in this darkness and despair. There are people genuinely suffering all around me and I have the audacity to be depressed! Shame on me! What will people think of me if they knew? Now they’ll know that I really don’t have it all together all the time.
  • Sorrow. Oh! All the missed opportunites for joy when I am stuck in the mire of despair. I am so alone in the cloud and it prevents me from truly absorbing the life that is mine. Depression isolates and it is gut-wrenching to feel so close yet so far away from the ones you adore.
  • Weariness. Depression is exhausting. At times I can sense the cloud coming and I do all I can to resist it, but I’m not always successful and the effort to fight wears me down. Other times it consumes without warning and the blanket of despair is so heavy I don’t even want to attempt to push it off of me.  In these times, the last thing I want is an onslaught of “you should’s” or “you shouldn’t’s” or “if you only’s.” I hesitate to open up because I don’t want to sound rude or ungrateful or embittered by the lack of understanding. And so I withdraw and battle silently.
That is a glimpse into one side of my depression experience. It’s rough and not pretty. It is the human side of human me. It’s what I don’t want to be the first thing people think about when they see me. I don’t want people to pity me or think that I’m not happy with the life God has entrusted to me. It’s not that at all. The fact remains that I am but dust and in the midst of a beautiful life there is the burden of living for eternity in a temporal world. The struggle of fallen and heavenbound remains. Heavenbound! That is where hope lies and next time I will share how I know I am not truly alone when I experience depression. Every time I come through. Every. Single. Time. 
If you have a depression story and feel comfortable sharing, please do!
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The Third Three

Everyone who knows this child agrees that she is not easily intimidated: by adults, peers, boundaries, rules, new flavors, new experiences or unlearned lessons. If there is any challenge to be had, she heads straight for it; given 2 options, she picks a third; expected to say yes, she will say no, but when you want her to say no, yes is the first word out of her mouth. She is probably the most challenging 2-year old we have parented so far.

When describing Arden, we say that she is very much like a cat: she manages to squeeze into the most obscure spot on the couch, pull her blankets and pillows all around her, pop her thumb in her mouth, twirl her hair with her free hand, and become completely relaxed. Usually she is the child wedged closest to us, but if we lather her with too much affection she leaves. She wants attention, but on her terms.  I often ponder how to best handle her obstinance and tantrums. Are they simply her will rising or are they indicators of unmet needs? Each day seems to be a new experiment as we try new ways to reach her little heart.

I absolutely adore this little girl. All of her put together is quite mesmerizing, from the way her mouth puckers when she talks, to her little voice and adorable pronunication of certain words, to her half-head nod when she affirms what she wants to her infamous hair twirl and thumbsuck, to her iconic mismatched outfits and flipflopped shoes to her surprise stashes of household goods in her bright orange backpack. It is not unusual for me to blink an extra time as I look at her and realize she is my little girl. I become all too consumed in the mothering of this child that I lose touch with getting to know her as an individual person. She was once my infant in arms; she was once learning to walk; she was once babbing her first words. In just three short years, she moved across the country, became a big sister TWICE, was potty-trained, learned the A-B-C song, and recognizes the letter, A, just to highlight a few of the important happenings in her young life. And it all happened in such a short time.

As Arden begins a brand new year, I want her to keep dancing when she hears music. I want her to keep hopping instead of walking from point A to point B. I want her to keep giving the tightest hugs. I want her to keep wanting to snuggle with me at nap time. I want her to keep sucking her thumb and twirling her hair and stuffing her bright orange backpack with unexpected items. I want her to have to her own style and to think her own thoughts. And somehow I want to show her heart that obedience is a good thing, that there is joy and freedom found in boundaries, and that there is a proper time to say no.  I think that this third child of ours has shown me more than anybody that there is no such thing as a parenting formula. Every day truly is a new parenting experience and the only way to parent well is to be in constant communication with Jesus and Jared. I rest in the knowledge that Jesus chose to gift us with the firecracker of a little girl and I KNOW He knows what He is doing.
The happiest of third birthdays to our one and only, Fervent Melody of Joy. May Jesus be the keeper of your heart and soul from today into eternity.


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Regret or Rejoice?

The day I dreaded since the day she arrived is today. After a rich, 6-week long visit with us that encompassed Quinley’s 4th birthday, a garage sale, Thanksgiving, Christmas decorating and the first day of Advent, my mom had to leave. My initial reaction was sorrow over all the things we still didn’t find time to do or all the moments when we weren’t chatting or at least in the same room together. I’m just wired to focus on what I haven’t accomplished or could have done better and that means regret is usually my first emotion felt after a positive experience.

But then I prompted myself to review my favorite memories through all of my senses. I realized that even if we weren’t always talking or spending time together, I was still absorbing the fact that she was in our home. I came up with quite a list in just a few short minutes:

    I cherished seeing her all snuggly on my couch or tidying up the kitchen.
    I liked seeing her special things spread throughout the guest room, proving she felt at home.
    I feel comfort in wearing the clothes she folded.
    I hugged her tightly, feeling how fragile and strong she is at the same time.
    I savored feeling her hand touching my arm and watching her embrace the children.
    I enjoyed hearing her singing or chatting with the children, her door opening and closing, the radio on in her room, and her visiting with the pets.
    I savored the taste of her omelette and sandwiches and the tea she would brew for me.
    And there is nothing like the sweet Mom smell- many comforting scents all mingled together.

I’m human and had my share of bad days while she here, but I did my best to not take the gift of her presence for granted. Gregory-Hans recently declared that God is bigger than everything, even bad guys. Sometimes those bad guys are feelings of fear, regret, anxiety or despair. It’s necessary to look for a reason to rejoice in all things because in doing so we remember how great and good our God is. I want to practice choosing to rejoice.

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I’ve been itching to blog ever since I stepped into my blogging sabbatical so I decided to return for a moment. I’m sure I’ll have something to write for Christmas too.

Lately I’ve been thinking about specifics. I see how bland generalities really are and how humans are drawn to details. It’s the details of life that inspire and make a difference: the colors which make the rainbow; the varying shades of green and blue of the Pacific Ocean that cause it to dazzle; the subtle grin my husband has that makes my heart skip a little.

I know I am thankful for many things but instead of merely listing general categories I want to share specifically why I am thankful for these things:

~Salvation: it’s no small thing to know that my sins no longer stand between me and the Almighty God. When I die, I can stand spotless before His throne because Jesus took my place on the cross. Until then, I am growing in my relationship with Jesus through the gift of His Word, the Bible. For this I am thankful.

~Family: there is nothing quite like having my own people who I can dedicate my life to loving and serving. Each one of them is my dream come true. I yearned for a husband who would be my best friend and faithful listener and steady confidant. I ached for my very own babies to fill my arms. And now all of these people fill my home with their laughter, their tears, their silly antics, their warmth, their chaos, and their mutual love for me. These 6 people need me and for this I am thankful.

~Nature: the peace that only comes from being outside and absorbing the fragrance of fresh air, glimpsing the sunlight dancing off the varying shades of green, hearing the various birds chatting about their day. For this I am thankful.

~Friendship: I am blessed with friends from all walks of life and corners of the world. Each one helps me to see life with fresh perspective and my closest circle, my mom tribe, holds me accountable in my efforts to live intentionally. Life would have less dimension without friendship and for mine I am thankful.

~Books: my brain would shrivel up without the opportunity to step into fresh realms of thought. I never regret opening up any one of the books from the piles near my bed and reading a page or ten. For this I am thankful.

My list could go on and on ranging from tasty food to hobbies to employment to second chances and forgiveness to…you get the idea. This Thanksgiving let’s all immerse ourselves in the details of life and take time to mention specifics. For what are you thankful? Be specific.

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This Season We Are In

There is something about the seasons that prompts me to write about them. I have written thoughts about them in the past (seasons of friendship, for example) and I have a feeling there will be more thoughts to come in the future. I am certain that we can all pair an annual season with a phase in our current life.

With the crispness of autumn teasing us (in Florida we keep our swimsuits next to our winter coats), I am more aware of seasons changing. And with my mom gifting us with her time and love and presence in our home for the entire month of November, I am confronted with the speed of passing time. It hurts. I am intent on savoring the little years with our children but I’ve been negligent with the older years of our parents.

It struck me the other day that while our children are in the spring of their lives, our parents are in the autumn of theirs. I’ve been in denial because I want to assume that they will remain the constants they have always been to me. They’ve been the anchors of my existence that I have more than once resented but upon which I counted in every storm. Even as a married woman with five babies of my own I can live with more confidence knowing my parents are there. It’s impossible for me to imagine life any other way.

But autumn is a glorious season filled with vibrant colors, crisp air and cozy nights with fuzzy blankets, warm drinks and long conversations. It’s a time of anticipating the beautiful memories to be made at Christmas and a time to reflect on the passing year and make good on those nearly-forgotten resolutions from January. (In Florida, autumn can almost last into the new year.) And so I pray it will be for this season we are in as a family: spring and summer and autumn linking arms, savoring the moments together, and making memories that will carry us through the chill that will come at some point in our lives.

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Dear Quinley

On the eve of your fourth birthday I want you to know that:

When your smile dances in your eyes

And you giggle from head to toe,

When you slip your little hand into mine

And announce you have a surprise to show,

When you faithfully help with every chore on my list

And soothe the babies just like I do,

When you pucker your lips for a good night kiss

And tuck your beloved dolly next to you,

When your comforting words soothe hurting hearts

And you bless your penpals with hand drawn cards,

When you burst into songs of your own creation

And dance with joy and freedom,

You’re the epitome of girlhood innocence,

The image of childhood delight.

Like butterflies floating on a sunbeam,

You bring wonder into life.

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Hello Faithful Readership,

Writing is in my blood and is integral to my personality and identity. With that said, I am feel the need to take a step back from blogging for the remainder of the year for several reasons.

I have some hurt I need to work through; some flourishing friendships I want to cultivate more; an abundance of visitors coming; an eagerly anticipated visit from my mom that I want to savor; and of course, the treasured holiday season to prepare for and enjoy. I wish to be present for all of this in order to glean and hear and grow in all the ways God wants me to.

I have a feeling that I will have more words and thoughts to exchange with you in the new year and I may hop on here (for sure for the next birthday child) a time or two before then. In the meantime, please know I care about all who read this and I want to be back but I also need to pause for a season.

Thank you for understanding and for your prayers.

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A Philosophy of Education Part 4: A Body-Supported Mind

In this final segment of my education series I am considering an obvious, but often overlooked, element of a child’s learning: the wellness of the body. There seems to be a disconnect in popular education between the body and the mind. Youngsters are told to eat their veggies but fast food is sold in cafeterias; they are told to move but recess and p.e. have nearly disappeared from many schools; they are told to rest but TVs and cell phones are put in their bedrooms for around-the-clock entertainment.

I believe that a healthy body is critical to a thriving mind. Body maintenance is comprised of three elements: adequate rest, a balanced diet, and regular exercise. Because learning is a lifestyle that must be cultivated with intentionality, so most healthy living. I can’t expect the children to sit for any length of time with focused attention if they only had 8 hours of sleep (they need 10-12), weren’t outside at all and ate sugar cereal for breakfast. Our routine is designed with time spent outdoors, scheduled opportunities for rest and breaks for low sugar food.

Most of all, however, we want our children to have a healthy view of themselves and their bodies. They are wonderful creations, image-bearers of the Almighty God. This means that it is honored work to care for their bodies and it is a privileged duty to treat themselves and each other with respect. This fourth posture, that of the body, begins with us, their parents. Are we willing to commit the time required to be intentional stewards of these five little bodies in our care? And are we modeling that stewardship with our own bodies and minds?

As I conclude my philosophy of education I am reminded that whole education should reflect the whole person: body, mind and spirit. And in the process of teaching I myself will never stop learning.

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Mystic Sweet Communion

Jane Kirkpatrick skillfully weaves the personal story of Ivy Cromartie Stranahan with the history of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This beautiful yet powerful historical fiction reminds its readers that history is made by individuals and defines individuals. Things that can be mentioned in passing, like illness, hurricanes or financial discrepancies can actually change the course of history. And the decisions one person makes for the sake of others can rescue an entire people group. The weaving of words in this book has inspired me to look differently at my life and to see Florida with new eyes.

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A Philosophy of Education Part 3: Never Cease Learning

From the moment they take their first breath, children have a desire to learn. It’s innate; an instinct over which they have no control. This is how they learn language, how to engage with the people around them and what their place is in society. They absorb, observe, imitate and master in a continuous cycle. This ability to learn is as much a gifting as it is a survival mechanism. It’s a resource that should be nurtured and guarded.

Children approach learning with enthusiasm. They see it as an adventure of discovery; to them new knowledge and skills open doors to wonderful new worlds and experiences. When I was a classroom teacher it broke my heart to see the apathy in some students and resentment in others towards education. They wanted the least amount of work possible and hated assignments that demanded anything more from them than the minimum. What happened over their dozen years of life to change their delight in learning to disdain?

I have pondered this question ever since, and even more intently as I begin educating my own children. I have come to the following three conclusions in how to cultivate the posture of the student’s mind towards learning:

  • Make learning a way of life: Once a week I take our schooling to the park. It’s important for the children to see that learning isn’t limited to what happens at the dining room table; it happens continuously. We are always looking for new things to do and try and discuss and I emphasize that we are learning new things. What is learned in our school hour is referred to over and over again throughout the day and week to link school and life. And what we experience throughout the day is mentioned in school to illustrate the need for new tools.
  • The teacher needs to love learning: My attitude is contagious. And as their learning guide I set the tone for our school experience. If I don’t like something, neither will they. If I love something, most likely they will too. But this doesn’t only apply to our school hour; it translates to my personal interests. I read on my own and talk about what I’m reading. I chat with other people and share what I have learned from them. I listen to sermons and podcasts around the kids. I attempt new recipes and practice new skills and tell the kids that I love learning new things. I want them to be excited that there is always more to learn.
  • Beware of fast food learning tools: Just as microwave dinners, bags of chips, and drive-thru burgers taste so delicious and are easy ways to soothe hunger pains, so it is with many common learning tools today. Educational shows, electronic learning devices, and battery-operated toys mesmerize and entertain young minds while sprinkling in ABCs and 1-2-3. Parents breathe a sigh of relief for a moment’s reprieve while feeling satisfied that their kids are learning something. These things can be a fun treat in small doses but if they are the primary educators they will condition a child’s mind to being entertained rather than being challenged and stretched. Learning that lasts comes through tapping into the imagination, hands-on experience and stimulation of all of the senses, not just one or two.

As a teacher I have been given all the tools I need for a successful educational journey: my 5 students. They want to learn. My responsibility is not so much to teach them new things but to cultivate, guide and guard their ability to learn them. I want to fan the flame of their imaginations and ignite the spark of possibility within them: that they can be and do and love and experience all that God wants them to.

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A Philosophy of Education, Part 2: A Student’s Posture Towards God and Man

Last week I introduced the philosophy of education which is guiding me in the instruction of our children. I explained how this philosophy incorporates four heart postures that I wish to cultivate within our little students. The first one is the most critical as it has eternal impact, quickly followed by the second which involves the child’s influence on others.

From a very young age children must learn that they are not their own authority. God is; and their parents are His representatives. This truth is taught through intentional boundaries, consistent discipline and daily instruction in God’s word. Children have a way of testing boundaries and resisting authority and we explain to them that these tendencies reveal the condition of their hearts. They are sinners in need of a Savior. At first this may sound harsh but we do not tell them this to demean them; we explain this to them so that they will seek Jesus as their first love. Our little ones are being immersed in God’s Word. Our children are already learning the Shorter Catechism, the Ten Commandments, and the Fruit of the Spirit. We are reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation to help them grow in their familiarity of and love for the Bible. Music is another heartbeat of our home. Every night they listen to classical music or Scripture put to song. I hear them humming these songs to themselves throughout the day. Their commitment to Him will influence all of their future decisions and determine their view of themselves and others: as precious souls created in the image of God, designed to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

Their posture towards God: repentant before Him, surrendered to His service and confident of His presence in their lives, shapes their posture towards their fellow man. This is developed in their worldview, an understanding of the world in which they live, both the natural world and the social. Scripture is to be their first guide in helping them to process their convictions and opinions. This is supplemented with other rich literature and frequent family discussions at meals, on walks or before bed. We are also training them in social etiquette, responsibility for the natural world and their possessions, and respect for each other. We want them to see that even now, at the tender ages of 5, 3, and younger, they can bless others and care for the world around them. In order for virtue to be valuable to our children it must be instilled in them while their character is being formed. Norms are established in childhood which is why education is critical.

It’s easy to feel like I am occupying time as I wait for God to show me the great work He has planned for me to do for Him. But I’m beginning to understand that this is that great work. It doesn’t matter if they become doctors or lawyers; I don’t care if they save a million lives or just one. What matters most to me is that all five will love Jesus with their entirety and seek to point others to Him.

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A Philosophy of Education, Part 1: An Introduction

With the advent of our homeschool journey, it seems appropriate to develop and record the philosophy which guides my teaching. I am blessed with a wide range of exposure to academic institutions: home education, community college, private university, state university, public high school, public middle school and Christian middle school. These experiences have introduced me to diverse teaching styles, philosophies and learning strategies. Along the way I have incorporated some into my own philosophy and rejected others. My teaching style is organic, adapting as necessary to the tone of the day; my philosophy, the assembled convictions that guide what I teach, will be a constant as my students and I grow.

It is ironic to observe the evolution of education in America across the centuries. There was a point where schooling was minimal (Abraham Lincoln was self-taught) to now feeling like children must be in preschool for 8 hours a day. The Greatest Generation learned the core subjects and defeated the Axis of Evil; today’s students are receiving sexual preference and tolerance education. Will they be equipped to defeat the next evil which threatens the world? The difference between the victories of then and the weakness of now is that we have gone from teaching how to think to teaching what to think.

My philosophy of education incorporates four postures a student should develop in order to know what he thinks so he can articulate it and act upon it:

  • The posture of the soul towards God: education is meaningless without an assurance of eternity with God
  • The posture of the heart towards man: education is empty unless it benefits mankind and teaches us to do good for our neighbor
  • The posture of the mind towards learning: education has no ending and should be embraced with an eagerness to learn more
  • The posture of the body towards living: education develops a healthy mind that needs a healthy body in which to reside

Over the next few weeks I will expound on these postures and share the vision I hold for my little students.

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To My Little Explorer

It seems appropriate that my blogging topic of the month is exploration since August is your month, my son. All month we have been excitedly planning your birthday and now it is only 3 days away. You have big plans for your fifth year and I have a feeling they will be achieved- because that’s the kind of person you are.

At the cusp of five-years old, your personality is quite defined. You’re a thinker, a planner, a leader, a storyteller, and an explorer. To me, you define boyhood. You are inquisitive in your thoughts; meticulous in your planning (even carrying a little notebook for your plans); enthusiastic in your leadership; detailed in the stories you create and relate to us; and bold in your explorations of the backyard or your own imagination. But something I admire the most about you is your steadiness.

Ever since you were a baby you embraced your own pace. You reached the developmental milestones but always later than the average. Initially I fretted but once I knew you were fine I sat back and enjoyed observing you. You steadily got to where you wanted to go or needed to be. This trait has become your trademark, whether it’s in walking, riding a bike, putting on your belt by yourself, or catching frogs and geckos. And once you achieve your goals, you have them mastered with confidence.

Explorers need that steadiness, Son. They need to be determined in pursuing their dream of discovering the unknown. While you may not discover an unmapped land or encounter a nameless people, there will always be something new to discover about our fathomless God. And as you discover more and more about Him, He will take you to incredible places that will require every ounce of courage you can muster.

We are swiftly entering an era where evil is being called good and good is being called evil. Your peers are going to want to remain in the darkness and will resent you for shining the light of Jesus into their lives. My prayer for you is that your boyhood ideals will mature into the character that will define you as a man: a man who will not minimize what matters nor treat the mysteries of God with indifference. Be bold, young explorer, and never forget to bring your shield.

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Explore the Deep

“Who is man that Thou art mindful of him?” This question, penned thousands of years ago, is still relevant today. I think everyone wants to know who they are, what they are and why they are. I know I do.

I am always asking myself why I hold the aspirations I have; why I’m feeling the way I do; what motivates me and what discourages me; and how I can improve. And then I wonder why I strive so hard only to fail again and again. I know the odds are against me until I’m with Christ in person. It’s easy for me to only see where I fall short, how I’m a stumbling block for others and the long list of should’s scrolling through my head. But that’s where my explorations continue.

As much as I long for perfect contentment I realize it will never happen. I will have moments of perfection but they won’t last. I am an imperfect human who will never achieve the perfection I desire in heart, home or happiness and I can see that that is a good thing. The fruit of my faith is finding God glorified in the mess:

  • feeling the pain of others’ because I’ve felt pain too
  • Refusing a critical spirit because I’m not a perfect mom either
  • Love welling up inside when I see my children in the midst of their fits
  • Learning to slow down and to embrace the slower pace
  • Accepting the shorter to-do list and recognizing that life has still been well lived today
  • Remembering I’ve been here before and will make it through again.

As I question and explore I go deeper into my faith and my God. Who can fathom “the breadth and length and height and depth” of God? It’s in my shortcomings that I’m reminded of the length of His mercy; it’s the desires of my heart that give depth to my prayers; it’s the fears and unknowns that fill me with gratitude for the breadth of His outstretched arms; and when life feels bleak my gaze reaches heavenward.

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A Fresh Look

Exploration means offering yourself opportunities to see things from a different perspective; it means admitting that you don’t know everything; it means being willing to learn something new. Explorers need to be humble because what you discover might shine light on what better ways to live or correct mistakes you didn’t even realize you were making.

Friendship is a fantastic way of encountering a variety of perspectives since every friend has a unique personality, passion and plan for life. I am blessed with friends all over the world and the United States who are seeking to live well. Through them I have learned that my way of living isn’t the only way to live.

Truthfully, I struggle with insecurity fed by pride. I feel like if someone else does something differently than I do it means I’m wrong and if I’m wrong I’m a failure. Jesus is working with me on this and one tool He is using is friendship. This summer He surprised me with an abundance of IN-PERSON visits with beloved friends. Oh! There’s nothing like being able to chat face-to-face! I have also been building brand new friendships and cultivating faithful friendships. In all of these I have discovered a wealth of wisdom for how to live victoriously.

It’s impossible to know all there is to know about teaching, parenting, marriage, loving Jesus, and living well. There simply aren’t enough hours in a lifetime! But you can certainly tag-team life together with quality friends. Here are some exploration tips to go deeper with your friends:

  • Discuss your latest reads
  • Share thoughts on news headlines
  • Swap recipes
  • Brainstorm parenting challenges
  • Be honest about your mishaps
  • Glean new ideas
  • Pray together
  • Provide fashion tips
  • Inspire healthy living habits
  • Build one another up in the faith
  • Hold each other accountable
  • Don’t hesitate to inquire

I am thankful that my friends aren’t just like me. We share similar desires, values and interests but our approaches to living are unique. This provides all of us with a sampling of life experiences that we would otherwise miss. And I’m discovering that doing things differently from others doesn’t mean I’m wrong or a failure. There’s freedom in that discovery.

How have you been enriched by your friendships?

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What? Why? How?

A new month means a new series and this month’s is a prequel to what’s coming in September: education, a theme very close to my heart. I think that a cornerstone of education is exploration: wanting to know the what’s, why’s, and how’s of existence on this planet called earth.

Children are born with an innate desire to explore. Everything is new to them and guiding their explorations can make the world a brand new place for their teachers. Every first is a new first for me with each child: the first encounter with bubbles makes bubbles all the more wonderful; the first look at the Christmas tree is more magical each year; the first trip to the zoo is greater in its excitement. And as their vocabulary grows and minds develop the discoveries do too.

“How does the soap dispenser open up in the dishwasher?”

“What makes cars move?”

“Why do bees pollinate?”

“Where does the water go when it goes down the drain?”

“How does bacteria get inside of us?”

“What is an idol?”

“Why do bad guys have birthdays?”

“How can a bad guy love Jesus?”

Each question makes me explore the world a little deeper myself. I realize that I have settled with what I already know while life beckons with greater mysteries I have yet to discover. I have an inkling that there are many great adventures ahead as the exploring continues- both in our physical world and in our faith.

Is there still an explorer within your heart?

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Freedom in God Glorified

We have that phrase memorized: “…that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I remember teaching the Declaration of Independence to my middle school students and explaining that the right to pursue happiness does not give us a license to do whatever we want at the expense of someone else’s rights. It does mean that we have the right to seek a fulfilled life and experience the freedom that is ours as citizens of a great nation. That freedom might look differently than what we would expect.

I have observed how much I struggle to keep myself in front and center – even in my spiritual life. My prayers focus on me or matters concerning those closest to me:

“Give me wisdom (or strength or peace or joy)”

“Heal them”

“Protect us”

“Help me”

And in the midst of the trials, whether they be minor irritants or major suffering my attention is on how they are affecting me and diminishing my personal comfort. It is natural for a human to be aware of himself above all; it defines the Christian to seek God glorified above all.

The Christian will find ultimate freedom in seeking Christ’s interest before his own. Since my heart has been enlightened to this truth I have been actively raising my gaze heavenward when the demands of the temporal clamor loudest.

When I am fatigued and don’t know if I’ll last through the day I seek God glorified.

When my back is aching and there’s still dinner to prepare I seek God glorified.

When my husband and I see differently on an issue I seek God glorified.

When 5 of my 5 children are screaming or being defiant all at once I seek God glorified.

When the two-year old needs to be potty-trained I seek God glorified.

When my tongue yearns to criticize or judge I seek God glorified.

When the future is overwhelming I seek God glorified.

When I’ve been hurt and bitterness beckons I seek God glorified.

God provides the storm and God provides the blessing. Our prayer in the heart of the storm should not be for it to abate but for God to be glorified in how we weather it. The blessing comes not when the storm is over but in how our conduct throughout the storm brought praise and glory to our God.

How gloriously freeing to no longer consider myself in this life but in all things to pursue God glorified!

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Freedom in Embracing Rest

I have a thought to share: God designed pockets of rest into our daily existence. Why is this significant to me? Because I don’t slow down unless I am forced to be still. However, with this new baby I am guarding his feeding times as a chance to sneak away and savor rather than multitasking during his care. That’s what prompted these thoughts on rest and the freedom therein.

I view rest as a luxury, something I can only do if there is absolutely nothing else to do. Even when I am being still I feel I need to grab a book or pick up my phone. I save baby snuggles or playtime with the children as a relaxing incentive to get all my other things done while those restful times of fun are highlights of my day. Reading, journaling, sipping tea and seeing, sitting outside and thinking, these are all favorite forms of rest that I am always hoping to do when I have a spare moment.

But God designed us for rest which makes it as much of a necessity as respiration and food. And when there is a balance of rest and work we thrive! Take note of those little moments to be still: the bathroom breaks, sitting down to a meal, tucking children in bed, waiting in line at a grocery store, walking the dog… what can you add to the list?

There is freedom in embracing God’s perfect design. When we rest we can see beyond the surface clutter of the busy moment. Delight in rest!

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Freedom in Authenticity

I write for two reasons:

  1. To write- it’s how I process life. As soon I could fluently put sentences on paper I have been writing and I have a journal collection as witness.
  2. To testify to God’s faithfulness- He has called me to be His servant and He works mightily in my life. I must declare what He does.

And that is why I am writing today. I am not writing to flaunt my weaknesses or to seek advice; it would be easy to blog about my ideals and skew my words in order to imply that my life aligns with them perfectly. But it doesn’t. I struggle.

Most days it seems like the trials seize control. These postpartum emotions are all too real; they stalk me, taunt my inadequacies, and threaten to conquer when I am at my lowest point. Without them I would bravely face my husband’s work trips, not lose my cool with incessant harmonica playing and not sit on the floor sobbing after the one-year old pours a can of pee (don’t ask!) on himself and later locks himself in his room. I would roll my eyes in exasperation at the continual clutter surrounding me but not despair; I would feel blessed by having dogs and kids velcroed to my side all day (well, maybe blessed is too saintly a description).

I often lie awake at night reflecting on my day and regretting every lost opportunity for filling memories with love and gentleness rather than impatience, anger and harsh tones. My eyes will tear up with immense love for the little people that were so exasperating during nap time or went to bed screaming just moments before. I feel shame for even having this postpartum struggle because I should “know better.”

As real as these postpartum lows are Christ is greater than their reality. After a stressful nap time He reminds me that there can be bedtime snuggles. During a long night He soothes me with the thought that tomorrow is a fresh start. And after a desperate mother’s prayerful plea for help with a locked door, it swung open- reminding me that in the loneliest moments I am not alone.

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Freedom Under a Watchful Eye

It was that first act of defiance in the face of GOD so long ago that forever altered our DNA. Defiance towards our Creator is now our default and our nature demands the anointing of self as king rather than the King of kings. We shun submission, scorn surrender and scoff at servitude to the Almighty God, never pausing to consider the very fact of our existence in the first place. At what point before we existed did you or I determine our own conception? We loftily think that exercising our free will defines our freedom; in reality, it is we who forge our own chains.

Not long ago I gained a better understanding of this concept of freedom when I observed my two-year old at the splash park. She was reluctant to venture out but after some coaxing she attempted a new part of the play area on her own. As she was climbing the stairs, she paused and scanned for my face. Once she saw I was watching, she smiled and went forward with more spring in her step. In that moment I recognized that my freedom is found, not when I’m on my own, doing things my way, but when I’m in the presence of God. Under His love-filled gaze I can enjoy and explore life, confident that He will guide and prompt me as He deems best.

Our society revolts against God at every turn. It is driven by emotions , follows the heart and worships self- all of which lead only to destruction. Ironically, the freedom we seek is found in dethroning self and pledging allegiance to our Maker.

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Discovering Freedom

July. The year is more than halfway to its completion but it seems like yesterday when we celebrated a festive Christmas season. And yet time has continued its steady tread to a destination only known by God. I ponder man’s relationship with time and the unquenchable yearning for something other than what we have.

Freedom. There are many nuances to this concept and this month I plan to unwrap some of those nuances. I am sure our immediate image of freedom is one of fireworks on the Fourth of July, but even that has deeper meanings than is usually considered. We say it’s our nation’s birthday but when was the last time we dug into the history books and relived the incredible sacrifices of those who birthed this land?

Freedom. Is it the permission to do whatever we want? Does the pursuit of happiness give us license to indulge in every whim and fancy stemmed from an avoidance of want and pain? And what if your desire inhibits my sense of freedom? What then? These are questions that only lead back to the ultimate Source of freedom and a recognition that the only chains worth considering are the chains that stretch into eternity.

Freedom. The absence of fear. A clear conscience. Peace with who I am. A foundation of unshakable joy in the midst of great sorrow or intense depression. An assurance that my sin debt has been paid in full by Jesus Christ. The knowledge that the Almighty God knows my name.

Freedom to live and work and play and worship without fear of imprisonment, torture or death is priceless. But the freedom that comes through a saving relationship with our Creator God is infinitely greater.

How would you describe freedom?

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Quiet in the Loud

Perhaps it’s because I’m so desirous of rest that it seems elusive; or maybe I’m aware of the need to practice rest and therefore am more conscious of where I’m lacking in that discipline. On this particular weekend I caught both glimpses of how I should be and why it is difficult for me to remain in that restful state of mind.

Our family took a day trip and despite the challenges that arise when taking #5under5 on a mini road trip and away from their routines, I was peaceful. Just 24 hours later I was bombarded with all the details of managing our household and found it incredibly daunting. Why the change in my peace?

During my devotions this morning I believe that God revealed the missing link: rest and peace come when I tune into the quiet voice of Jesus more than the clamor of my responsibilitiesTo keep Jesus the focus of my gaze is much easier said than done; however, that needs to be the goal of each day rather than my to-do list or parenting or my marriage. When I am striving with life on my own strength even the littlest task can appear insurmountable but when I make Him the center of each moment even a mountain is moveable.

Once again I have encountered the truth that quiet can be found in the loud, rest in the midst of busy and peace in the eye of the storm.

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Relaxation Discoveries

I’m feeding the baby as I write this; the older kids are attempting to do their morning chores but the sounds emanating from the dining room indicate that chores have turned into play. My husband’s summer vacation time hasn’t turned into quite the stay-cation I had anticipated. I had envisioned endless hours of family play and local discoveries; home projects being accomplished swiftly and daily routines being perfected.

Instead we have just been getting by. The baby is still unpredictable in his sleep patterns and our morning chores barely get done before it’s lunch time. Our summer bucket list continues to wait on us and the home projects multiply exponentially. Can relaxation be found in the cacophony of demands upon our time and energy?

It is possible but it’s a life skill that needs practice, and I’m a long way from being perfect in it. I tend to think that I need to plan ahead for times of relaxation and to prepare for fun. But upon further reflection of our summer thus far I see that we have had good times: father and son fishing in our lake; a spontaneous family tickle fight before bed; lingering over breakfast; ordering take out and watching a movie after the kids are in bed. We have had deep family conversations and turned doctor appointments into mini road trips with snacks and books and country music. So what makes the difference between regular life and relaxed life?

While rest is pausing to breathe, I think that relaxation is a focused determination to breathe levity into the ordinary. It’s a matter of attitude and expectations: anything can be joyful with the proper perspective. My husband reminds me that this season of #5under5 is a time of taking life in small doses. There will be many things we simply cannot do right now but relaxation doesn’t have to be one of them. I’m going to keep practicing.

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I am reading through the book of Proverbs during my devotions. This morning I could relate almost every verse I read to the political climate of our nation; phrases like ‘wicked ruler,’ and ‘helpless people’ seemed to resonate as I attempt to process the tension in our land. Each side will have their own interpretation of those terms but it saddens me that there even are sides within the Church.

Verse 26 of chapter 28 declares, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” I think this is what Christians need to take to heart: leaning on our own understanding is foolish at best, dangerous at worst. I have been stunned to hear that many who claim the name of Christ are minimizing His words as they determine what matters in a presidential election. As Christ-followers, shouldn’t we seek the ultimate source of wisdom in every aspect of life?

Verse 21 of the same chapter reads, “To show partiality is not good – yet a man will do wrong for a piece of bread.” I am right there with you when it comes to wanting to view my candidate of choice with rose-colored glasses. This verse was convicting to me because it revealed how subtly partiality can creep into a decision-making process where personal gain is at stake. In today’s situation, Christians need to be the referees who are partial only to God’s Word, even when it results in backlash from angry citizenry.

Finally, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” The Church in America has become too comfortable in the ways of the world; we blend in, adopting the trends of materialism and modern thinking as our own. We don’t want to offend by holding to a biblical worldview; we nod our heads and apologize for our faith, hoping to be seen as tolerant. We use contemporary definitions as we interpret life rather then biblical ones and we seek to appease the people rather than provide a convicting contrast. And yet we have the audacity to request God’s blessing on us? It is time for God’s people to fall on our knees and plead for mercy before He brings us to them Himself.

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A Birth Story

I hesitate to publish my birth story, not because it was traumatic but because it was wonderful. I don’t want anyone to think less of their own birth story after reading mine. I believe every birth story is a testimony to the miracle of life. We need to share our stories of giving and sustaining life, of intertwining heartbeats, of gazing into brand new eyes, of saying “hello, it’s so nice to finally meet you” for the very first time.

As soon as I had calculated Rowan’s estimated due date, I had a knowing that he would actually be born two weeks later. I wished it away because I really didn’t want to be pregnant 42 weeks. When I started having regular surges just before week 40, I was excited and skeptical at the same time. My skepticism proved accurate as the surges were the beginning of 3 weeks of prodromal labor. This was physically and emotionally draining but was also deeply spiritual as I practiced leaning into Jesus more and more every day.

I also picked up the HypnoBirthing book and read it cover to cover. As the days turned into weeks from when I had hoped I would deliver, I worked on breathing and letting go- not just in preparation for birth but also in surrender of events as I had planned them. Holding on tightly only served to make me more stressed and anxious; release brought freedom and renewed hope. I am thankful for the midwives’ presence and encouragement through those long weeks of waiting; they even took time to call me and text back and forth with me when I was the most emotionally worn down.

Finally, during the night of August 18th my surges found a consistent rhythm of 7-8 minutes apart. This was after two days of implementing a handful of natural methods to nudge my body towards labor: chiropractic adjustments, and an herbal tincture were a couple of the them. After a long walk in the early morning of August 19th (two weeks after my EDD), my surges switched to 2-3 minutes apart. I called my midwives as I settled my mind on active labor.

In the early stages of active labor I was able to literally sing praises to God. I was SO ready to deliver this baby. I prayed aloud, thanking God for me for each surge that brought babe and I closer to seeing each other. Between surges I conversed and laughed with those attending me. For some of the time I walked around our bedroom and bathroom; some of the time I spent in the shower, allowing the hot water to soothe my stretched abdomen; some some of the time I spent draped over the birthing ball, moving it forwards and backwards. Eventually my limbs begged for rest so I laid on my side on the bed.

I never planned to labor or deliver on the bed but it felt so good to be comfortable and relaxed. I actually transitioned on my side, breathing through those distinctly sharp transition surges and leaning into the sensations when I would rather have run away from them. I tried to focus inward: noting my temperature and blood pressure rising and falling, as well as Rowan’s movements and position, all indicators of when I would be releasing him from my body. When I felt him on the cusp of crowning, I rolled over on to my hands and knees.

Once there my water burst (spraying anyone within reach!) and the full force of his head was there. Oh! The pressure and searing pain! I wanted to say, “I can’t!” But I knew with Christ I could. I focused on his head rather than the pain- and then it was free! Then I focused on his shoulders and then we were both free! I wept and repeated over and over “oh! Thank you Jesus! Thank you!” And then I was holding our perfect fourth son! All this time Jared never left my side: massaging my back and thighs with black pepper essential oil, doing gentle caressing touch and whispering affirmations. I think it was our best birth as a couple (and we have six under our belts now!)- almost like a dance.

I think I will always remember the serenity of this day that came through the calm assurance from Christ, Jared’s strong attentiveness, the cooperation of the children and the camaraderie of our friends and midwives. I have no regrets or “if I could do it over again” thoughts. My home was a haven on our little boy’s birthday. I want to remember that goodness is all the sweeter for the waiting and the longing.

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