We went out to see the Supermoon…

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For some people small, beautiful events are what life is all about. – The Doctor

Last week, we went out to see the Supermoon.

I was reminded once again just how beautiful the world is in the eyes of a child. The way that they perceive the things around them is just so wondrous. Their untouched perception of the world and all it has to offer is comparable to a cool glass of water on a hot summer day…refreshing.

I didn’t really know what they would think of the moon. But I figured that since it has been nearly fifty years since the last Supermoon, I should probably fulfill my parental responsibility to make sure that they saw the moon with their own eyes so that they could tell their grand-kids someday “Yeah, I saw that moon”. Cuz, you know, that will definitely be something to brag about.

Anyways, we got on our winter jackets and hats and mittens just before bedtime.

And we went out to see the Supermoon.

And in the crisp, cool air of that moon-lit night, something beautiful happened.

The second they saw the moon those precious little children started running.

I mean flat out running as fast as their 4 year old and 2 year old legs could carry them.

Eyes on that bright, huge moon. Running towards it, fully expecting that they could jump up and touch it.

And as their feet brought them to the edge of the dark woods, their eyes stayed on the moon, and their glee echoed through the night air in strains of unashamed laughter.

They ran towards that moon, eyes unwavering from their goal, and they expected to touch it.

Being a parent is one of the most beautiful things in the world. And it is small moments like these that really do remind me of what life is all about. Small moments, small adventures.

Sometimes it takes the un-touched perspective of a child to remind you…We adults get so caught up in reality that we often loose sight of our goals. Our minds become so distracted by everything else around us that we forget what we set out to do. We forget where we are going, or get caught up in the details of how we are going to get there.

My kids didn’t loose sight of their goal. They kept their eyes on it and never looked anywhere but where they were going. They weren’t distracted by the darkness of night all around them…nor by the shadows of the trees, or the edge of the forest…by the bird in the tree watching them, or their beloved cat who followed along in their glee.

They didn’t stop to think that they would never be able to actually reach their goal…and really, it didn’t matter because they believed they could, and that was enough.

I’m pretty obsessed with the song 7 Years by Lukas Graham lately. The words from his song ran over and over through my head that night as I watched my children running towards that moon…I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure, ‘Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major. 

And isn’t that the truth.

As adults we allow ourselves to listen to those little voices, and something small becomes something huge and all of the sudden all we can see is our failures, and we are too afraid to try to reach our goals anymore.

But not my kids. Childish or not, there was nothing going to stop them from getting to that Supermoon.

Now I know what Jesus meant when he talked about faith like a child.

Simple, beautiful, un-touched and un-ashamed faith.

And so Kreade and Ellie, I hope that you always remember this night. I want you to know that God used you to touch mommy’s heart and remind her of a simple life-lesson.

I want you to always remember this night, and remember running towards that moon – nothing was going to stop you from reaching your goal.

If you remember anything that I say or write for you, remember this – Run toward God. Run toward Him and never stop running. Make Him and His glory your only goal in life. Set your eyes on that goal and do not waver from it. Remember that night when you were running towards that moon, unaware and uncaring of anything else around you, unafraid of the darkness of night, the edge of your little world that began at the edge of the forest, or of the fact that you couldn’t see me anymore.

Run. Run towards God and do not be afraid. Keep your eyes on him and remember that place in your heart where your childlike faith lives.

Run. Run towards God. And never turn back.

Phillipians 3: 12-14 (The Message)  I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. 

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.

For By Grace

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Your grace, let it surround me,
Let faith change the atmosphere. – Remember, The Passion

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

2 Corinthians 12:9

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Some days I find myself counting time relative to Kreade outgrowing his colic. Today I know so much more about why that first year of his life was so hard. More than a physical ailment, infant colic is often linked to temperament. Do I think that he suffered from tummy aches and discomfort for 11 months? Maybe. Do I think that his inherent personality contributed to his symptoms? For sure. Because most days even now Kreade can be difficult to live with.

Those days of waking up every 2-3 hours to nurse him  morning and night for eleven months straight seem so long ago. But I can never forget them. Those days of crying and bouncing and attempting to soothe will always stay with me. When Kreade cries now, at two years of age, all of the memories come flooding back.

And he is still so passionate in everything he does. Instead of tantruming because he wants to nurse, he tantrums in the grocery store when he has to sit in the shopping cart. Instead of crying because he couldn’t communicate what he needed or wanted as an infant, he still cries because language has been slow to come for him and we still don’t know what he needs or wants.

Honestly, I still wonder if he will ever make it one whole day without crying. It’s almost like his preferred method of communication. Like his emotions are just so overwhelming for things big and things that I perceive as small he just handles them by crying. He is all in or all out. Either screaming “Bye! Love you!” at the top of his lungs and being heard two miles away, or screaming “Nooooooooooo!” because he doesn’t want to leave and being heard four miles away.

It’s either Kreade’s way or no way. I wish that I could describe to you the volume, passion, and intensity of his tantrums. Which happen probably at least every hour that he is awake. And then there are his snuggles and hugs and kisses. He hugs with such effort and passion – you never want him to stop. He is the best hugger I know (except maybe for his Pa, could be that’s where he gets it from).

Some days he won’t eat because, well, because he doesn’t want to. Or because you gave him the wrong fork, not his Lightning McQueen fork. And he is so totally thrown off by this poor choice on your end he can’t calm down enough to even realize you quickly washed the Lightning fork and put it in his hand. Instead, he just keeps screaming and you skip straight to nap time and save lunch for when he wakes up.

I’ve never met a child like Kreade. And I have met a lot of children. I don’t think that there are many children out there like him. And he is already so misunderstood. I’ve gotten some nasty stares in the grocery store. And I’m sure that there are family and friends that think we are “spoiling” him. After all, he is two and really shouldn’t be crying so much all of the time. And while I’m sure that there are some things we could do better with him, I’d invite anyone who thinks we have created a naughty kid to spend a day with him. It’s not always that he means to be troublesome (although sometimes his intent is clear), he just is so different. Again, I wish that I could explain it. But those of you who have children who are passionate, spirited, and high-needs know exactly what I am talking about. Normal kids function on 100% and spirited kids function on 500%. No kidding.

And I refuse to completely break that spirit, because someday it is going to be such a good trait. He’ll go far, that boy, and do great things. Because he doesn’t take no for an answer and has the passion of probably a thousand suns, literally pouring his heart into everything he does. If you stop for a minute and block out the screams and tears and difficulty of the situation, your heart will realize the beauty of spirited children.

I wish that I was better at realizing the beauty in it all. But most days I still feel like I’m hanging on by a thread.

Parenting any child is hard and tiring. Parenting a spirited child is exhausting. EXHAUSTING! Exhausting!

Yesterday was a particularly rough day. it was rainy, and I was busy, and Kreade was extra loud and passionate (as in, running around with the slats I was trying to paint for his toddler bed hitting his sister on the head and laughing like he was at a Broadway show). I yelled and threatened and was so frustrated with him I almost cried.

Somedays, Kreade leaves me feeling like I’ll never be good enough.

I’ve been reading this book that my father in law let me borrow. I personally think that everyone should read it. I’ve been in tears through most of it. The stories of redemption and being saved from drug and other addictions by the love of Jesus are nothing short of a miracle. And they are beautiful, beautiful stories. The work that Teen Challenge does is amazing. I became interested in the subject of addiction after learning in one of my secular psychology classes that religious based addiction programs are significantly more effective than any other secular programs. Since then, this topic has really been on my heart.

And I love the stories.

These people have led hard lives. Lives fraught with doubt, anger, hardship, hopelessness, fear, regret… But it’s the hopelessness that stands out to me. And yet, one by one they finish their stories with voices that exude hope. As a reader, you can’t help but wonder how such an adverse life experience can end with a life full of hope.

It’s because of grace.

Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their sanctification :  a virtue coming from God :  a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace : approval, favor, mercy, pardon.

I often wish that I had more of a ‘story’ to narrate my own life. It’s not that I am jealous of the hardship and heartbreak that these recovered addicts experienced. But I have often wished that I really knew just what I was saved from.

I don’t believe there is any greater way to understand and comprehend grace and forgiveness than to recover from addiction because of Jesus. Reading their stories causes me to look at Him with such awe for the exceptional act that grace in their lives is.

Approved of. Favored by. Extended mercy. Pardoned by God.

And while I do not have the experiences of an addict, I think that parenting might be the runner up when it comes to understanding and comprehending grace.

Not only do we, as Christian parents, have the privilege to extend grace to our children, we do so knowing that we ourselves have been covered in His grace.

Tried really hard but still had a bad day? Ended up yelling at your kids? Feeling exhausted and unworthy to be a parent? Feeling overwhelmed? Want to give up? Feeling bad that a choice or action or something you should have done but forgot to do is going to result in something catastrophic happening to your child as in maybe he will get chicken pox because I scheduled his immunization a month after the recommended time-frame or maybe she is going to catch a cold because I didn’t use the shopping cart cover in the grocery store and I really just feel like I suck at this whole parenting thing.

Grace.

No matter how much we mess up. No matter how much of a failure we think we are. No matter how inadequate we view ourselves as.

Grace.

Because He knows we are doing the best that we can.

You are favored by Him. You are approved of by Him. Mercy is extended to you by Him.

Even when your spirited two year old is screaming in the grocery store because you didn’t get to the race car shopping cart fast enough.

You are pardoned by Him.

All because of Grace.

So let’s remember that His grace is sufficient for us tired and weary parents. And that His strength is made perfect in our weakest moments – the ones where we just want to throw in the towel (or leave the grocery store crying along with our tantruming child).

And let’s remember that the POWER of Christs rests upon us.

And we can do this parenting thing!

Romans 5:19-21 NKJV

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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In Which I Compare My Life to ‘The Mindy Project’ And Realize Just How Awesome My Husband Really Is

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“It makes me cry because it means that fewer and fewer people are believing it’s cool to want what I want, which is to be married and have kids and love each other in a monogamous, long-lasting relationship.”
― Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Danny: The thing that’s most beautiful about you is your confidence.
Mindy: Really? Because people say that is the most annoying part about me.-The Mindy Project, Season 4

The Mindy Project. It’s all I ever want to watch at the end of a long hard day of work, school, kids & life in general…cuz I know it will make me laugh – probably harder than I should – and take the edge off of, well, off of life.

But lately, the show has been tackling an issue that is really quite close to my heart. You know the topic – that one that everyone wants to avoid and no one wants to address but that really should be talked about more.

Working moms.

Yep. Leave it to Mindy Kaling to take this less-than-popular topic head on in her Hulu Original Series. And as hard as it is to watch, as much as I just want to yell at Danny every time he says something so heartless…I am interested to see just where she goes with it all. And I really can’t wait – because my life is like a mini version of this season’s plot.

I’m that woman. Just like Mindy Lahiri. The one who starts her career…cuz, you know, starting a career is just so awful and heinous when you’re a women. Then there I go…I get pregnant and horror of all horrors: I don’t quit my job. Cuz where I’m from, women kind of just are expected to be moms. And nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way diminishing motherhood and the calling that it is. But if you can have it your way, why can’t I have it mine?

And then baby number two. So of course, you’re quitting your job now, right? How can you work and have two kids?

How can I not?

Some days, I wish that I could be nothing more than a stay at home mom. But God has created two types of women to ride the tides of Western Society; and I fall into the non-traditional category.

I used to be self-conscious about the fact that I am a working mom (try to explain to people that I also am a Grad-student and just imagine the looks on their faces). When we first got married, I thought that this was how my life would be. Eh, might as well work for a bit and then when we decide to have a baby -poof – God will make sure I can stay at home.

It’s amazing how God works.

I never would have imagined being anything but at stay at home mom at one point in my life. Looking back, I lacked so much self-confidence, and that “dream” of being a stay at home mom was born out of insecurity and self-doubt, lack of worth and lack of allowing God to use me as He would.

Financially, I have to work.

Mentally, I have to work too.

Spiritually, I need to work.

Because now I know that this is what God has called me to do. Now I am full of confidence – not my own, but the confidence that only God could have filled me with. I have self-worth, because in the depths of my heart, I know I am fulfilling my purpose here on this earth. And now I am totally secure in the knowledge that even though this full time job-grad student-mommy-wife thing is exhausting, it’s what I was born to do.

And I just feel so bad for Mindy Lahiri.

I get how she’s feeling. You love your babies. You love them so much. You love them so much that you know you will go completely insane if you are home all the time, so instead you hire someone who doesn’t go insane and go to work for some of the day.

You love your babies. But you love your job too. You love the platform that your job is – how it allows you to make a difference in other people’s lives. How you can experience the joy of bringing a smile to a child’s face, helping them learn and grow, and supporting their family through so many things. How your job makes you feel so fulfilled, and you know that for some of the day, this is just what you are meant to do with  your life.

Because some of us have bigger hearts – hearts that can hold both love for our children and husbands and love for our careers.

And we are enough.

But where I’m at in this series,  it’s not enough for Danny. And my heart breaks a little, I kind of don’t want to watch the show.

Because I can’t imagine if my Babe told me that I wasn’t a good mother to our children unless I stayed at home.

And I realize just how awesome my husband is.

There should probably be more Christian guys like him out there.

Truth is, if he said I should stay home, I would. It would break my heart (and I’d probably literally go crazy), but I would do it. I know that God asks that wives follow their husbands lead.

But marriage is a beautiful thing.

And when you love someone, and allow God to fill you up, it’s amazing how dreams align.

And I’m just so thankful for all that my husband is for me. Because I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it without him. And on my hardest days, when I’m totally stressing out about all I need to do at work, or the assignment I think might be a ‘B’, there he is…supporting me.

Cleaning up after dinner, playing with the kids while I finish writing my paper, making dinner, going in late so I can go in early and catch up on PTC’s, sitting next to me watching hockey while I’m frantically answering discussion board posts…quietly supporting. Cheering me on.

And I just know that he is my biggest fan.

And every woman who has a heart for family and work deserves someone who will cheer them on.

Because for some of us, God is calling us to both home and workplace. And it’s hard enough to follow this non-traditional path without the support of the one we love most.

So thank you Babe.

Thank you for how awesome you are. Thank you for supporting me, building up my confidence, encouraging my dreams, and letting me fly. I couldn’t do it without you.

So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:28

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

Remembering Reality

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot

In the recent past, our Pastor has been including stories of the past and present persecuted church. If I’m being honest, I really have not enjoyed these parts of the sermon. I don’t know about your imagination, but when I hear these stories I pretty much insert myself as the “main character” and everyone important in my life into the “supporting roles.” This is all well-and-good when the tale has some sort of fairy-tale ending. But when the content includes the persecution of Christians, my stomach isn’t on quite-so-friendly terms with the story. And as a mother, when the stories include children it’s really almost too much…

But sometimes reality is too much. Nonetheless, it remains the same.

And I haven’t been able to get them out of my head.

I don’t generally watch the news. Well, I really NEVER watch the news. It’s much too depressing and negative for my taste. But now-a-days the news is not just on TV where it is easily turned off. It’s much harder to avoid the news stories that your friends share all over Facebook. And seriously, they have been all over Facebook. The horror is everywhere. The heartbreak is slammed into your face. The truth does not allow you to run and hide.

But we try. And it is so easy to lose ourselves in our comfortable little worlds.

A reality that is so very different than the ones that so many other Christians find themselves in. I sit in my house, warm and cozy while someone out there (Christian or not) sees their breath in the frigid air of whatever place they call home. I drive my car wherever I need and want to go while someone out there (Christian or not) is forced to walk to where they NEED to go, and maybe without any shoes. I have access to immense varieties of food while other have little or none. I am able to nurse my baby while other mothers are so starved themselves that they are unable to produce what their infant needs. I complain about having so much laundry while others wash their one and only garment in a dirty river somewhere so far away. I can sit in my children’s playroom (and actually have a playroom) surrounded by toys and play with my children while mothers across the world fear that they will be unable to protect their children’s lives. The comparisons are unending.

And here we sit, debating whether vaccines are blessings or curses. Arguing whether organic or non-organic is better. Judging the new people at church because of their “past”. Engrossed in who is dating who in the celebrity world. Obsessed by the stats of our favorite sports team. Surrounded by the latest technology, a world of TV shows, running water, toilets that flush. Comfort after comfort after comfort. Privilege followed by privilege followed by privilege. Yet we debate and demean each other over issues that- when you really think about- it seem so trivial. The state of the public school system…medical care and practices…government and politicians…whether or not Taylor Swift is all she cracks herself up to be…the latest and greatest toys…we wear all the best clothes and are obsessed with providing the “best” for our children.

We have houses and cars – independence found in our own piece of the world. We have safety – laws that protect and a large body of people that work to enforce those laws. Yet we complain about getting pulled over. We have convenience – grocery stores, gas stations, shopping malls. Yet we are frustrated when the line is long, or the organic variety is limited, or they don’t have your size. We are surrounded by so much. So much of everything that so many do not have.

And we keep on trying to run and hide from the truth. From reality.

The reality that all of the issues that you spend time and energy contemplating and pursuing, all of the things you take for granted or don’t remember to appreciate make you feel like nothing compared to the world.

The world that is full of suffering. Persecution. Christians…women, men, children…being killed, tortured, raped…Christians who do not have permanent homes. Christians who do not have cars. Christians that do not have access to “good” food. Christians that don’t have even a bit of what we have. They’re dying. Dying for goodness sakes…while I sit here sipping my coffee and writing this very sentence. Infants ripped from their mothers…husbands torn from their wives. Children…babies…

And I can’t even handle this thought.

Why?

Why them? Why not me?

And what if I were in their shoes? What if?

I can still see the video that our Pastor showed at church a while ago. A woman in some Middle Eastern country telling her story…her prayer. Through her prayers she felt God asking her to give up herself, and then her husband, and finally her children. To come to terms with the reality that it may be His will that their lives be taken. And through her prayer and discussion with those family members she did this…she answered God back with a yes. Even when offered the chance to be brought to safety, her family chose to stay.

I can’t imagine trying to explain to my child that God’s purpose for our lives might be that they be taken. Or choosing to stay when I had a way out.

But maybe you can’t really know what you would do unless you had lived through the experience yourself. There are some decisions and choices that can only be made after experience has brought you to that point.

And we are so fortunate that we aren’t being brought to that point.

But some people are. And it really is just so hard to understand why. Yet faith directs our questions to Him Who Knows All Things. And though we tend to complicate life and the answers we demand from God, sometimes the answer is really quite simple.

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them- those who are mistreated- since you yourselves are in the body also.” Hebrews 13:3

For reasons only He can understand, some are purposed for persecution while others are purposed to pray.

And while the voices of the testimonies of these suffering Christians, and the challenge that their faith offers to me, and the horrors that I can’t get out of my mind fill my thoughts I can’t help but think of words penned by J.R.R. Tolkien (please don’t tease me, I promise it really does apply).

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. 

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.” 

So as I hold my children tight, and enjoy the multitude of privileges around me I have decided that my time is meant to remember. To remember those who are mistreated. And to pray.