But Really? Where IS Neverland?

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
― Heraclitus

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”
― Henry Ward Beecher

“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Do you remember when you were a kid and all you wanted was to just be old? Maybe not like wrinkly and eighty, but older. As in I-have-my-license-drive-a-car-do-cool-things-have-a-house-have-a-hot-husband-super-cute-kids-awesome-clothes-sweet-job-and-don’t-look-a-day-over-sixteen?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who every wished this.

But really. When I was a kid I thought about that all the time. I’d sit in my log and grass-thatched tee-pee hideout in my funny 1990-something clothes and think about what it would be like to be older. Life is always amazing in your day-dreams. And you can do anything… Be anything…

Weren’t those the days.

I can still see those sunsets of my childhood. Feel the bone-chilling cold of those rainy fall days, playing outside until it was dark and the moon began to rise. Remember what the sand felt like between my toes and in less than pleasant places that those little kid bathing suits just loved to capture so much sand in. I remember my imagination, my adventures, how I half lived outside. The pain of getting my finger caught between logs I was stacking as I built a forest hideout. Of carrying buckets of water to try to make a pretend well. Of hoarding miscellaneous pieces of wood to act as butter and bread in that outdoor pretend store…oh,those were the days.

In some ways I miss them. But in most ways I don’t.

And here I am now. Twenty-eight years old.

I was married when I was twenty. I had a sweet babe before I was twenty-five. Finally graduated (the first part of) college at the age of twenty-six. I’m now twenty-eight and I still don’t drive the car of my dreams. I’ve been married for seven and a half years and it just keeps getting better. Now there are two kids to spend my time with.

And I still think about what it will be like to be old.

I look at this picture and already notice all of the lines our faces didn’t have.

I’ll be thirty in two years. If I live to be ninety, one-third of my life will have passed by.

I used to be scared to get old. To grow up, live, and someday die.

But life doesn’t frighten me anymore.

As hard as it is to grow older, the easier it gets all the same.

What I didn’t know then, sitting in that hideout, holding on to my pocket-knife whittled stick sword and blue and gold painted shield, pretending to be a knight, or an elf, or some other amazing, immortal, half-mythical heroin was that… I would grow up to be all of those things and so much more (well, I still don’t have pointy ears so I guess I didn’t achieve elf status).

I am amazing.

I will live forever (but not on this earth).

And my life has a purpose.

I never thought I’d marry such a hottie (and what a story that was). I never thought I’d graduate college (never mind be working on my Master’s degree). I  never thought that I would be anything more than a stay-at-home-mom (but my work is my calling). I never knew how much I could love (until I had my children). I never knew my purpose (until faith opened my eyes and love became my anthem).

Yes, almost-thirty years has been full of life and learning, of finding and becoming.

And so, if one-third of my life is over, I have no regrets. And if two-thirds of my life remains, I will live with confidence.

Of course because it’s me so I’ll have to bring up Tolkien. Who of course completely nailed it when he wrote about going out of your door. There really is no telling where you might be swept off too (I certainly never expected to end up where I am at today). But wherever it is, and no matter how dangerous the getting there was, it’s going to be amazing. Because the going out of your door is the most difficult part of the journey…the part where you surrender it all and decide to follow The-Giver-of-Life and pursue the purpose that was created for you, and only you.

So thirty more years will likely bring several more lines.

But it will also bring so much more life.

And if in living I share the Love and purpose that I have found with whomever I can…well..

Well, that’s what it’s all about.

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Holding On…

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
― G.K. Chesterton

I have been taking part in an Online Bible Study and am loving it. One of my biggest regrets of being a WAWM (wicked awesome working mom) is that I don’t have the opportunity to participate in Bible Studies.

Problem. Solved.

I freaking love the internet.

Oh, you want to go to college but don’t actually want to GO to college? Go to college online!

You want to participate in Bible Studies, but can’t actually GET there? Go to Bible Study online!

Amazing.

The topic of this Bible study is centered around the book of Ruth. It is a practical approach to not quitting things.

Honestly, I’ve struggled a bit with having anything to apply this whole concept to as (and I hate to toot my own horn here) but I really don’t actually every quit things. I kill myself mentally, emotionally, and what often feels like physically…but I never, ever, ever quit. I mean really, that’s what being a WAWM is all about. Doing things and doing lots of things, and never giving up.

But as God always does I have been shown that there is an area of my life that I have quit…

I know, shocker. I was shocked myself when I realized it.

You see, I am this kind of person: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” ― Alexander Pope

And I have given up on hope.

Who really knows how it happened. As it does, life likely whittled and chipped away at the walls surrounding my soul until slowly but surely the  hope that once lived there began to slip away. Until one day I just quit having hope.

They (and don’t ask me who exactly because I really don’t know) say that the first step to fixing your problem is admitting it.

Well, here I am admitting it. I have quit hope. Which is really quite shocking because I truly love inspirational and motivational things. Maybe in an effort to jump-start my own dying soul…

It’s funny how you don’t always see the truth about yourself. There I was in the middle of a Bible study about quitting things and being all “I’m-so-awesome-I-never-quit-things” driving to work and I hear the words of the song by Danny Gokey:

There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen, there’s hope in front of me

And I realized all at once that I don’t have hope in front of me.

I don’t have hope at all.

I like to talk about hope, but I don’t actually have any.

I just take life and all that happens and goes on and try to deal with it. I just move along through life doubting anything and everything.

And the only place that has gotten me is into a depressed and negative place…like a dark, dark forest that you can feel closing in on all sides. And you can’t get out. At first, you want to. But then you sort of just get used to the forest. You tell yourself it’s not so bad. This is just what life is like. It just…it just is.

But it doesn’t have to be.

A quick search for the keyword ‘hope’ in the Bible revealed 151 results.

Well, guess I’m not the only one who has quit this thing!

So many  powerful reminders of what hope is…and where it can be found.

 

The way I see it, hope is rather like love. It’s not actually something that we feel. Like love, it is a choice. It is something that we do, and seek, and look for, and purposefully put into our hearts and souls.

And when we find ourselves in the heart of that oppressive forest we don’t give up. We look for hope. We look to Him to give us that hope. And we carry on victoriously in life with His hope in our hearts.

Because life doesn’t have to just be.

Hope gives us victory in life.

Since the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, I think I’m on the right track to not quitting hope.

I will hope that these college degrees are the tool He has equiped me with to make a difference…

There is hope in your future, says the Lord… Jeremiah 31:17 a

 I will hope that things will be fine financially, and not allow financial worries to consume me…

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. Lamentations 3:21-22

 I will remain hopeful that He has my best interest at heart…

That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments. Psalm 76:7

I will hold on to hope and will not fear my future…

Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

I will not let depression and anxiety fill my soul…

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

When I’m tempted to lose hope, I’ll turn to Hos word…

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. Psalm 119:114

When I want to worry and stress about my job, my kids, my life, my finances, anything and everything…I’ll let His promises comfort my heart…

 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I won’t let go of hope, instead, I’ll hold on to it…

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:23

And so my sweet Ellie and my passionate Kreade…

Find your hope. Find it in Him and hold fast to it. Don’t let your souls wander into that dark forest. Be hopeful. Remember that every detail of your future rests in His all knowing and perfect plan. And never lose hope. I pray that He fills you with so much hope in the midst of so much doubt that people cannot help but notice. And when they ask you why you dare to hope…tell them. Tell them why. Tell them where. And tell them Who. May the hope that He gives you be the reason that despairing souls find their way out of the darkness and into the light…

 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15

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When Middle Earth Becomes Reality…

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Fear does not have to make you cruel or cowardly, fear can make you kind. -Doctor Who

“To fear is to have more faith in your antagonist than in Christ.”
D.L. Moody, The Overcoming Life

Lately, I feel that my dreams have finally come true. And in a way of sorts, they have. Here I live, in my comfortable heated home, in a beautiful part of the countryside, with the ability to sit by my fire and smoke my pipe, and if it weren’t for the fact that I lack hair growing between the toes of my nonexistent tough-skinned feet, my life could nearly pass for the complacent, comfortable, unadventurous life of a Hobbit.

Middle Earth at last.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

I am afraid that that basically sums up so many of us out there. So many of us Christians. Paralyzed by fear. Swallowed up with doubt. Empty as a clanging-gong or cymbal. Wholly without love or care. Or eyes that see and feel.

We are so privileged to live without fear of death or rape or hunger or pain. But of course, many will argue that we have many things to fear. And yes, we do. There is always the possibility of a horrible car crash, that vaccines will kill us, that non-organic food will cause our sudden demise. But really. We are so privileged, to be burdened by fear that in the perspective of the larger world, seem so trivial and mundane.

People are dying out there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

And no one seems to care.

I literally don’t get it.

How have our Western Christian hearts become so callous? Truly it blows my mind.

We have forgotten to feel. We have allowed our hearts to become stone, and fallen prey to the Devil’s lie that it could never happen to us…and that it shouldn’t.

As if we are simply too good to ever experience the horror of what so many others live day in and day out.

I get it. We have issues of our own. We have homeless people, and veterans who probably deserve more. Our education system is hugely flawed. Our politicians largely selfish. Our food system may or may not be healthy. The Mexicans keep crossing the border. We have too many taxes, not enough money, we work too much, sleep too little, we never have enough time. We have problems of our own.

We are Hobbits.

Plain folk, who have no use for adventures. Who care not one bit for those who live elsewhere. With our heads in the sand, and our hearts guarded by stone. We care not and do nothing.

But still, we fear.

It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.

And the ache in my heart has been fully reawakened by the recent issue surrounding refugees from Syria that has become such a hot topic lately.

My first reaction to my fellow Christians is completely less than wholesome – they’re f***ing refugees for Gods sake!

Refugee noun someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons; :  one that flees; especially :  a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution

And I don’t care if our of the 1000 of them are hurting women and children and one belongs to that infamous terrorist group who I won’t give the satisfaction of naming.

We can’t just ignore what is happening in the rest of the world.

With every chance we have to help, and every choice we make to do nothing, we only allow our hearts to be overtaken by stone.

In this highly political issue, I don’t pretend to know what the answer is. I am not saying that we allow them into our homes. Although I am not saying that we should not.

I only urge my fellow Christians to look at these people as Jesus would. To see the hurt and the pain, to acknowledge the sin and the shame, but ultimately to love and treat with care and respect.

Whatever that means for us.

“Bilbo saw that the moment had come when he must do something.” 

I urge you to prayerfully consider what it is that God would have us to do. Because I cannot believe for one second that He simply wants us to turn our eyes, blind to the reality that could have been ours.

 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The fact is staring us in the face. And something has to be done.

And in my heart, I feel that the end is nearing.

As a child, the thought of the world ending or the though of dying was just too much for me. I have lived under the oppression of anxiety of these things for so long.

But it is amazing how God gives you what you need.

In one of my psychology classes I learned that normal development prepares you for death. And that the majority of people are truly ready to die when the time comes. I was very comforted by this. Death has scared me since I was young. And it is comforting to know that God has designed us to die, and die well.

I never thought that at 27 I would be alright with the thought that the end times are more than likely here.

A year or so ago, my pastor showed a video of a woman and her family who were being persecuted in some country somewhere. The family had the chance to leave the country, but chose to stay and share His love with whoever they could. The video told of the woman giving her life, literally, to the hands of the Lord. Then her husband, then her children. Through prayer, they committed themselves. And decided that if they were to die, their last words would speak of forgiveness to their killers.

I really struggled with this.

I made myself imagine being in this situation.

And it was hell.

But it is amazing how God’s word speaks.

So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. ~ Hebrews 13:6

This is the meaning of Azrielle’s name. Her name literally means the Lord is my helper. And this is her verse.

I always wanted my children to have names full of meaning…and sometimes I wonder if there is so much more awaiting them because of it.

And now I have peace. Because this woman- I wish I knew her name, and the rest of her story – has helped me to know with every part of my heart that no matter what is going on around me, no matter how He chooses to use my life and the life of those I love, He will be enough. He will give me what I need.

And I refuse to live in fear. 

And I will see people.

And I will do whatever it takes to allow my life to be the difference, to exude the love, and tell the story that gives Life to all.

Whatever it takes.

And so Kreade and Ellie…

“Things are drawing towards the end now, unless I am mistaken. There is an unpleasant time just in front of you; but keep your heart up!”

In this world full of so many things – decisions and choices, hatred and persecution, right and wrong and everything in between…never loose heart.

Because if it is the end, we have a job to do.

We must be the faithful church. The ones who persevere. The ones who overcome. The ones who keep His word.

We must be great and do great as we allow ourselves to be filled with His love.

And never loose heart.

“Where there’s life there’s hope.”

Do not allow your hearts to become stone. Even if we are called to lay down our lives for the brethren.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.”

And when that day comes, I will see you when all things are made new.

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” John 3:17

 

 

…We Do Not Lose Heart

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

– Edmund Burke

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
― Abraham Lincoln

A while ago I had the harrowing experience of attempting to debate justice and mercy. I hate debates. My blood rushes to my head, and I get sort of dizzy and I have a very difficult time collecting my thoughts and expressing my argument. This is made even worse by the fact that I take a very, very, very long time forming my opinions and thoughts on matters of life and this world; they sort of become a part of who I am. They form me and define me, and I feel so attacked and condemned when I don’t see eye to eye with someone. Then I get really angry and I just want to bash the offenders head against something and hope that I knock my view point into them.

But I am realistic. And I know that not everyone will feel the way I do. Though I wish they did sometimes.

I haven’t been able to get the conversation out of my head. It has bothered me so much so as to keep me up at night. I fear that we forget that we are all people. All imperfect people who are just trying to find our way in this world. And sometimes our faith causes us to feel better-than-you, and we use it as a reason for passing judgment.

And yet judgment has already been passed. And we too were found guilty.

I understand the need for justice. I’m a soon-to-be psychologist and I’ve read the research that tells us swift consequences are most effective, for children and adults alike.

But in issuing justice and the consequences thereof I just hope that we see people. That we really see them. That we really try to understand.

Maybe it’s just psychologist heart…the one that breaks when you learn that not everyone can fit into the mold that society has created. The one that aches for people when you see the evidence of how stressors in early childhood, experiences throughout the lifespan, and how poor choices from the important people in their life causes them to be different. And some of it, though so many Christians would like to deny it, some of it is biological too. It’s who they were made to be. Genetically inherited traits that put them at risk for so many of the things that fall outside of societies perfect box. Because when you were abused as a child, when your mother was never around, when your father did drugs, or you have a family history of mental illness (don’t try to tell me it’s just a lack of faith) your brain develops differently. DIFFERENTLY. They are not the same. And though it does not excuse their behavior, I wish that it would help people understand.

You are lucky.

That curfew your parents had for you…that’s nothing.

Remind them tobe subject to rulers and authorities. To obey. To be ready for every good work, to speak evil to no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward men appeared. not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 3:1-6

So is the justice we issue and the judgement we pass too harsh? I’m not here to debate that. I’m here to encourage you to use your authority and position which allows your to issue justice and pass judgement to see people. While you do what you feel is necessary, please, take a second and just consider who the person is and why they are the person that they are. Maybe they deserve a second chance. Maybe they deserve some extra support. Maybe they don’t. But they at least deserve to be seen, to be loved, and for goodness sake they deserve our prayers. We can’t just issue justice and pass them by.

We could have been them. In a different world. In a parallel dimension. In a new version of reality. Wherever and whenever, it could have been us.

I really don’t have all the answers about justice and mercy. I wish I did. But perhaps God does not intend for us to  know all things.

I do know though that God wants us to be like Him. And we were once foolish and disobedient, and yet God extended His mercy to us. So shouldn’t we extend mercy to others? To that parent of your student that blew off their parent teacher conference? To that kid in your class that got caught for using heroine. To that addict who backed into your car in the parking lot. And even to the drunk driver who hits and kills your loved one.

Idon’t think that extending love and mercy in any of these situations is easy. But I do think that God does call us to extend it. After all…who are we? Sinners just the same. In need of God’s love and mercy and forgiveness too. Only we know it, and they don’t. How much more so do our actions speak than our words?

But even I with all my heart is not so great at practicing what I preach. Though I feel I do a fairly good job at work extending mercy and trying to love, I know there is more that I can do.

Lately I have come to appreciate the people in this world that I see loving as He does and extending mercy and a second chance like God gave to us.

It’s really quite beautiful. And if you know what I know about people, the way experience causes them to develop, and you see the reasons for who they are…it can almost bring tears to  your eyes. It’s inspirational. And I wish I had the confidence to just take a chance with people.

My father-in-law does a pretty good job with this, I think. It might be the family joke that he hires anyone who is a felon, addict, thief or generally non-typical member of society;I personally think that it is awesome. I think that it is love and mercy in action. And it is God working through him.

I think that he sees people. And their potential to know the love of the father. He gives them a chance. And sometimes it doesn’t work out for him. But I guess you never know the seeds you have planted. And then sometimes it does. My father in law once hired a mechanic to work for him, and there was a whole history of those bad things that don’t fit into societies box. But hired he was nonetheless. I remember this mechanic, I don’t recall ever seeing him smile. But my father in law gave this guy a second chance, and the short version of the story is that the mechanic now knows the love of Christ. He knows the mercy and forgiveness. He has a hope and a future. We saw him when we went for ice cream with my in-laws a few weeks ago. It was the first time I ever remember seeing the guy smile. He told me that by the love and grace of God he was still able to keep his long hair.

Wow. Just wow.

I wish I could be half as awesome.

When we were camping my father in law told me about picking up a hitchhiker who disclosed to him he had just been at some sort of drug festival. Really, the man is just a magnet for these non-conformers. He gave the guy a ride and shared the gospel message with him.

I wish I was half as bold.

But really, it is inspiring and encouraging to see that there are Christians in this world who see people. Who see beneath the exterior of the-world-can’t-touch-me to the hurting soul in need of a Savior. And I just wish that more people would allow themselves to be half as used as my father in law allows himself to be.

Because people are worth it.

Ellie and Kreade, I’m so glad that you get to have a real life example of what it means and looks like to extend mercy and love to those who we might think deserve it least. Remember that not everyone is the same, we are all unique and have unique experiences that form us. Sometimes, people just need a bit more prayer and support. I pray that you will be as bold as your Pa, as as full of love and second chances. Don’t lose heart my children. Allow Him to work through you, and you will see miracles. Because you were worth His son giving His life on the cross. We all were. Let your ministry be seeing people, as He has seen us.

Therefore since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:1

A Little More

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Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you

And grace tonight will pull us through
Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you
And grace tonight will pull us through
Until the tears have left your eyes
Until the fears can sleep at night
Until the demons that you’re scared of disappear inside
Until this guilt begins to crack
And the weight falls from your back
Oh, my dear, I’ll keep you in my arms tonight.

~ Tenth Avenue North

We are going on month four of Kreade’s metamorphosis from cranky, colicky baby to happyish, well-adjusted toddler. Honestly, those days of terror are starting to fade in the wake of new, happier memories. But before I completely forget those dark months, there is one thing that I want to remember: Ellie.

Because colic isn’t just hard for Mommy. And while it’s definitely hard on Daddy too, it’s also hard for the siblings that are forced into the whole dreadful experience by no fault of their own.

And they really just become sort of lost.

Their whole world was just turned upside down, and after two years and three months of being the ONLY sparkle in Mom and Dad’s eye, now there is this baby to contend with. And when that baby turns out to cry more often than he doesn’t cry (I won’t even say smile, because that’s totally unrealistic), that poor little two year old gets lost.

Lost in a life that she never asked for, never knew existed, and doesn’t really understand. How could she understand that most babies don’t cry this much? How could she understand why mom was so stressed out all the time? How could she know that it was okay to love this little bundle of fury?

Because colic wasn’t just hard on me. It was hard on Ellie too. And only now, coming out of it, can I look back and see just how likely traumatic of an experience that was for her. We lost ourselves. We lost so much in an effort to cope and just get through it all.

Positive guidance gave way to bribes and “whatever means necessary to prevent both these twerps…er children-who-i-love from crying at the same time”. Cuddles and stories became sit on one knee while mom bounces the still-crying-Kreade on the other and reading over his screams. No kidding. Can you imagine? We loved books together. And here came this awful, crying baby who ruined it all.

Gentle instruction on social interaction and sharing has basically come to a halt. I mean, really. How COULD I ask her to share with him? He already was taking up so much of our time…so much of our time, some of which should have been hers.

Quiet and peaceful bedtime routines instantly changed to “tiptoe and whisper so Kreade doesn’t wake up”.

Playing outside and exploring and having adventures was put on hold because, well it would just be rude to make the neighbors have to hear Kreade crying.

We lost ourselves. I lost my patience. And I’m only now beginning to get it back…and realize just how much we lost.

But while it is certain that we lost so much, it is also certain that we have so much to gain.

And while those days were definitely oh so hard on Ellie. But there is much to gain.

We are all starting to get to know Kreade, Ellie included.

She is starting to talk about the old Kreade. I guess even three year olds can recognize such a dramatic change. While before her usual complaint was “why is he crying?!” now she complains that he isn’t big enough to do all the things she wants to do with him.

Now they play together. Now Ellie talks with him and is starting to gently guide him. She is starting to learn that it’s okay to love him. That he can be loved. That is is more than just tears and cries and very difficult.

Every time I see them interacting with each other, my heart stops just for a moment.

And now I realize just how hard it all was for her. I feel so bad.

But what can we do? Reality is, life isn’t happy all of the time. Life is hard. Life is really hard. People are hard. People are really hard.

Some of us experience this when we are much older, and some of us experience this when we are two.

And Ellie, I never want you to forget. Because people are hard. People are difficult. Some more than others. But God in His infinite grace calls us to love them nevertheless; waiting for Him to turn their ashes into beauty. And all the while we wait, to hold them in our arms. Though you may feel lost, trust that He will pull you through. And pull them through. Because people are hard. But they’re worth waiting for.

And Kreade, never forget that your sister loves you. She learned to love you through all of your crankiness and tears. And through his grace the tears have left your eyes, and now you literally can sleep at night. Ellie asked me “when is he gonna be god enough like me?” The truth is, you will never be just like her, and you will probably always require a bit more patience and love than she does.

But like I told Ellie, that’s the point.

Some people need a little more love, and a little more grace. But people are always worth it.

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When Again I Wish I Were An Elf: Thoughts On This Sad and Broken World

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

“Where there is no hope, it is incumbent on us to invent it.”
― Albert Camus

“My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.”
― Jim Henson

Work lately has been…well honestly it has been depressing. I wish that I could share all of the stories of my students. But believe me when I say, this year has been full of heartbreaking stories of the lives of children Ellie’s age.

This world is so full of sadness. It is so full of pain. It is so full of evil and heartbreak and rage. It is sad and broken. And sometimes…sometimes I just feel so worn down by all of the negativity and sorrow. And I wonder what God’s purpose could be in all of it.

Why is this child experiencing abuse? Why is this woman the victim of domestic violence? Why is he choosing to drink his life away? Why, why, why? Why is there so much sadness, so much brokenness, and so much pain?

Halfway through this year I experienced a staffing change and had a new teacher join me in my classroom. It has been a rough spring. As I said before, it has really been quite depressing. These kids come to school, having experienced so much of the sadness and brokenness that the world has to offer. And what can you do? They’re full of anger and most days it just seems like you’re never enough. Friday morning my co-teacher and I were talking about this. She told me a story about driving home the other day after picking her daughter up…she witnessed some sort of domestic dispute involving a man and woman and less than savory words. After telling me this story she threw a thought out there…

This world is so full of hate. There is so many bad things going on. And what are we supposed to do? It’s just so depressing…

And it’s true. This world is an awful place. It is filled with awful people, and awful things.

And what can you do? It doesn’t take long until you begin to feel dragged down by all of the hurt and all of the pain that you see happening all around you. And your mind kind of begins to just shrink into itself and try to forget the world…there is safety inside yourself. Or maybe instead of withdrawing, you just harden your heart and stop feeling. Your heart can’t handle all of the brokenness and sadness…and you slowly develop a sort of immunity towards the pain in this world.

I’ve been in both of these places before. Working as a Head Start teacher I’ve seen so much pain and so much brokenness. And among children so young at that. And sometimes when it starts to be too much I’ve found my mind retreating and my hard turning to stone.

How is a person supposed to handle it all?

How are we really supposed to be surrounded by all of the horribleness of this world we live in and be able to feel? How are we supposed to see the pain and yet live on? How are we supposed to feel the sadness and yet thrive? It just doesn’t make sense. So we allow ourselves to become depressed. And we mentally and emotionally withdraw from the world, and maybe even from the people around us. Because the truth is, the world is sad and broken.

But we’ve got it all wrong.

When my co-teacher threw that question out there my heart immediately responded. I realized that I had been withdrawing into that safe place, amidst all of the chaos and brokenness my class has been experiencing. So I told her the only thing that I have ever experienced to have made a difference in combating the harsh realities of this world.

I pray. 

The only thing I’ve ever found to help in situations that seem just too unbearable is prayer. Because sometimes everything we do is not enough; but prayer is. A while ago I had a child who had witnessed their father shoot their mother. Obviously, this had quite an affect on this little one. Every nap time this child would kick and scream and fight…and I would sit there rubbing their back, trying to soothe. But it never helped. No toy, no amount of rubbing, nothing ever helped. And one day out of desperation I began to pray…and like the flip of a switch the child calmed, and drifted off to sleep. I did this every nap time until the child went of to Kindergarten. It was then that I realized just how powerful praying in the name of Jesus is.

Reality it, this world is a sad and broken place. But the truth is, we don’t have to be sad and broken about its sad and brokenness.

God calls us to have hope.

1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

We are supposed to face this world, along with all its sadness and brokenness with hope.

I know I’m wicked nerdy…but I can’t help but visualize one of my all time favorites here. And no wonder I have claimed that J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary masterpiece The Lord of The Rings changed my life.

The battle of Helm’s Deep. Please tell me you all have seen it!

The Elves part of the wall, of course, will suffice for this illustration.

It was a battle doomed from the start. The “good” guys were far outnumbered. There was no way that they could win. Yet they faced their enemy, remembering the words of the Wise one…”at dawn, look to the east.” Even when the battle wore on, and it seemed as if defeat would occur momentarily. Still, the “good” guys held on to the hope contained in those words. Though they did not know exactly what this hope was made of, they held the hope nonetheless…despite the sorrow, tragedy, and despair of their world in the midst of that battle. And at dawn, their hope came. Turning the tides of the battle and chalking up one win for the “good” guys.

Sometimes I wish that life was more like LOTR. It often seems that physical battle might be easier than the mental, heartfelt battle that we experiences again hopelessness in our reality. But sadly, I will never be an elf.

Though I can hold on to hope as these literary creatures did.

Because God calls us to be hopeful. Despite the sadness and brokenness that surrounds us.

And what is this hope?

It’s the hope that I can face any tragedy and know that I am not alone. It’s the hope that I can combat sadness and brokenness with prayer. It’s the hope that despite it all of this suffering, God has a plan. And it’s the hope that someday…someday we will be free of this world and all of its sorrows.

And we will live forever with the One that has loved us despite it all. The one who loved us enough he allowed his physical body to be broken, and his human heart to feel all of the sadness of everyone who ever lived. But the sadness and brokenness he bore through His death resulted in life.

And it ended with Hope for all of us.

So Ellie and Kreade, I hope that you learn to face this world despite all of this brokenness and sadness with hope in your heart. Yes, this world is a tragic place. But the hope in our heart causes us to fix our eyes on Him. And on living forevermore in the presence of His glory.

Abundantly More: Happy Birthday Kreade

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Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Today, April 1st, 2015, it has been exactly a year since Baby K was born.

Exactly a year since all the crying began.

But today he is one. And what a transformation has taken place!

Not only is it amazing to watch all of the miraculous developmental changes that children undergo naturally, it has been even more amazing to watch an infant go from a screaming little ball of misery to a happy, independent one year old.

This has been one of the most difficult years of my life. Perhaps even the most difficult. I don’t do well with babies in general. Never mind the ones that cry. All. The. Time. And though I said I could never do it – I did! And I survived with most of my hair and most of my sanity.

But through it all I have learned so much. I’ve learned to be flexible, and not become too attached to the plans that are my design. Because sometimes, even though the road is often narrow, His plans are so much better. But we cannot know them until we have learned to let go of our own. And Kreade taught me to let go.

And through it all I’ve learned that I can do things that I never thought I could do. But I also learned that I’m not actually a superhero and I can’t do everything myself. Yet, through Him I can do all things. Kreade taught me that I can do anything, through His love and power living and working in me.

And though I feel like Kreade’s personal version of Jesus, loving him through the sleepless, scream-filled nights and days, I have such a better understanding of the love that He has for me. Unconditional. Even at 10 PM, 12 AM, 2 AM, 4 AM, 6 AM…love never fails. I’ve loved him through it all. And come to understand His love through it all.

I never dared to hope that this day would come. I honestly lost hope that Kreade would ever sleep through the night. That he would ever be somewhat happy. That he would grow up to be even partly normal and well-adjusted. I know it sounds crazy – but when all you’ve ever known is an infant that cries all the times and needs you all the time ( literally ALL the time). You really do begin to lose hope that they will ever be…normal.

But guess what!

The day has come…exactly a year later, when I can say that through it all has emerged a somewhat normal, beginning to be well adjusted, somewhat happy one year old. It’s really been in the last month that things have really come together.

Like the flip of a switch. One calendar day to another.

He started sleeping through the night. I mean like 11 or so hours all night long. Hallelujah!

He stopped nursing every 3 hours and weaned himself to a sippy cup of regular milk. Literally all by himself. Wow!

He has learned to entertain himself for short periods of time. And the days of cooking one handed with a  baby on my hip are slowing starting to fade. Amazing!

He is almost walking.

He doesn’t cry all of the time.

He smiles at people and lets other people hold him.

He cuddles with Klayton.

He goes to bed sleep all on his own after a snuggle and Bible story.

And though I doubted that it would ever be possible, Kreade has transformed from a needy, fussy, screaming ball of misery to a thriving little boy.

All thanks to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think.

So Kreade, I pray that your heart will know His love as I have known His love for me through loving you. Always remember that we all are a work in progress. But through His power at work in you, you can be and do abundantly more than you could ever ask or think.

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