When my fear is confronted by grace…

Love GOD first More at http://ibibleverses.christianpost.com/:

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. James Stephens


Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me— Psalm 49:5

The righteous will see and fear;

    they will laugh at you, saying,“Here now is the man

    who did not make God his stronghold

but trusted in his great wealth

    and grew strong by destroying others!” – Psalm 52 6-7

 

I just can’t get this whole idea of fear out of my head lately. With the revived debate regarding refugees that has infiltrated life once again the topic is ever more on my mind.

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

My latest literary obsession, C.S. Lewis once said “You cannot know, only believe – or not.”

What truth!

And yet, there is fear again…surrounding the borders of my heart and mind, laying it siege and slowly, slowly choking the life out of me. Sucking the hope from my limbs, and the love from my heart.

I’ve been horrified following this debate amongst people I know…amongst Christians and family members that I know specifically. Their words, generally typed in absurd amounts of capital letters (when did shouting become a thing in the written English language?) just sound so desperately fearful. Jihad this and jihad that and Muslim this and Muslim that…and in the blink of an eye people are lost amongst the labels that others have chosen for them

Yet, I am no different. When I wake up every morning I have to will myself out of bed and out the door and in to work on what I so often refer to as “the trenches”. And every day I am met with the thought that I don’t make enough money, and I won’t be able to pay my bills, and what if I crash on my way to work, or I forget a student in the bathroom, or this or that or the other thing.

And when it comes to refugees, I am afraid too. When I first think of  refugees, I think – holy crap, they want to kill us. There is no way we let them live, never mind come here! what if they murder me in my sleep? What if they murder my children? Take me job? Inflate the economy? The list goes on and on.

Yes, my mind is also filled with fear, just like you, who so viciously argue against allowing refugees from here, there, or everywhere in to our great country.

But that is where the similarity ends.

Yes, my mind is filled with fear. I see the danger. I see the potential for harm.

And I don’t care.

I don’t care because that is what God has called me…no, not just me. That is what God has called any person who has been saved by grace to do.

There is no way to sugar-coat this foundational truth.

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God. Ecclesiastes 5:7. This is who I fear. I fear that if I allow my human instincts to overwhelm my heart, I will not be living in the fear of the Lord but will be living in the fear of man. And that same fear for Him who created me and you  (and Muslims by the way) calls me to love others. To love very.single.human.being. Even if I don’t want to. Even if it’s card. Even if it’s scary. Even if it means I could die in the process.

So yes, I fear. But I know my life is so much more than sitting in my comfortable little home…so I swallow that fear and carry on.

But so much more than that, I try to understand. So much of the hatred and fear that I see my fellow Christians and family members is simply a lack of understanding. A limited worldview, and a failure to educate themselves.

Marie Curie said ““Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Which is really so perfect for the point that I am trying now to make.

Don’t just belief the things that your father, or sister, or pastor, or favorite conservative radio host, or politician tell you to believe. Really take the time to educate yourself about the facts of other people groups.

Again, here I think that it is fear that holds people back. Fear of the unknown. Fear of challenges themselves and having to change their beliefs and views. Because after all, the familiar is comfortable. I am so thankful for my very public-college education that required me to take two courses on culture and religion. I studied the history and culture of Africa for one semester (which is a rant for another day), and one semester studying Asia and The Middle East.

This was the best thing that I have ever done in my life when it comes to learning about others.

It confronted so many of the stereotypes that I unknowingly held for these people groups ( I refuse to label them). It combated so many of the groundless fears that my mind used to create prejudice and hate. And it opened my eyes and enabled me to see that these people too are just caught in the struggles and trials of everyday life, born into a system that tries to define them. Lost in the rush of this world, yet longing for so much more than their inherited religion can offer them.

So now, when I fear, I remember all I have learned. And then I put myself in the shoes of those refugees. I fight back against the fear-led desire to dehumanize them…and slowly their blurred faces come clearly into view. I imagine them taking up residence is some temporary housing next to my quiet little house, on a scenic little cul-de-sac in small town New England. There they are, heads wrapped in their traditional dress, skin much darker than mine, words so different than mine…living there next to me with their children who bear the physical scars of their life experiences and the mental burden of all that they have seen. Cooking their food, same as I do…cleaning their emergency tent, same as I clean my home, sleeping as I do, waking as I do, breathing as I do…holding their precious little babes same as I do. And they are afraid.

I imagine myself at first being afraid and wary…probably locking all of my doors and windows and making my children sleep in my bedroom with me…after all you just never know. The next day I’d make my husband conceal all of the hand-guns that we own and we would bring them cinnamon rolls or some other traditional American “welcome to the neighborhood” greeting – cuz that’s what my mother taught me to do when you have new neighbors. Of course, we probably wouldn’t understand each other, but in my experience with English Language Learners, sometimes a smile and a kind gesture is all you need. And besides, love has no words.

And slowly life continues, little by little every day, learning to trust, continuing in love. And while this little dream of mine will never likely be realized, and could likely also include my house blowing up in the middle of the night, well, somehow it doesn’t make a difference.

Because I’d rather confront my fears and live in love than remain in my safe little comfort zone.

Not just because I want to be a super-cool person, not because it is easy to do so. But because when I received grace through the death of Jesus on the cross, that’s what He called me to do.

And now, when I think of the complacency of so many Christians that I know and am surrounded by and their scathing remarks regarding the current plight of so many individuals throughout the world it literally makes my blood boil. My heart stops for a moment because the rage inside of me is just too much to handle.

But then another feeling emerges, and I honestly feel so bad for these friends and family members who possess such a limited worldview and who cannot even realize that their lives and attitudes are ruled by fear of man instead of fear of God. Whose attitudes towards their fellow man are wholly void of love and understanding. And my heart breaks for them, that they are so engrossed by fear and so immature in their spiritual walk that they fail to realize the perspective of another.

And I beg God to challenge my faith. So that I never arrive at that place of complacency. Whatever I do, whether I live or die…all the while knowing that in death me, my husband, and my sweet little babes will have achieved the final victory. And though death may separate us for a moment, eternity awaits us. And the words “well done, my good and faithful servant” are worth more than any comfort here on this earth.

And so Kreade and Ellie, I pray that God challenges your faith. I pray that you do not remain complacent in your faith, but challenge yourselves and always seek to gain an understanding of the world and the people around you. I pray that above all, you do not fear man, but fear God instead, and allow this fear to cause you to love all those around you…just as God loves you – without regard for self, wholly and passionately, not matter the cost.

 

 

“What do you fear, lady?” Aragorn asked.

“A cage,” Éowyn said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

 

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. 

For me, to live.

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Sometimes I feel as if I am just barely keeping my head above the water.

I feel as if I am completely unequipped to handle my life.

Two kids – and here I am feeling all guilty because I really don’t know if I can ever have anymore and make it while also feeling like a terrible person for being almost completely unwilling to be pregnant again. All the while feeling completely overwhelmed with the life that having even two kids creates. The health issues, the growing four year old attitude, the exhausting fiery personalities, the speech delays, the discipline, the schedules, the laundry, the cooking, the trying-to-go-grocery shopping…the baths, the potty-training, the constantly applying Nantucket Spider Bug Spray.

The decisions- what to do, and when to do it and why to do it. And are you sure that you should do it? But what if this happens instead, what do you do then? And where and why and how all over again. Then the doubt. Oh doubt…

There are so many things. Relationships. Career choices. Friendships. Family. Life.

Life.

Maybe it’s just that I am home for the summer. I sometimes wonder if I am just a better person all together when I am working. But then the guilt sets in and I feel like a terrible mother for even thinking that.

I feel like I am in an endless cycle of waking up, Mr. Aksel waking up ten seconds later and screaching “Mummmmmmaaaaaaaaa”, fighting with my four year old about what to have for breakfast while my two year old is repetitively whining “can-cakes, ‘ausage” and proceeding to scream when I tell him we are having raisin toast.

And I just wonder.

Am I doing something wrong? Am I the only one who wakes up and winds up arguing with my children, even though I began the day with such resolve to be a calm, patient mother who blinks and magically calms her children and bends their will to hers.

It’s just exhausting, you know?

Proceed to finish breakfast when the children run off with sticky hands, drifting them all over your walls and kitchen cabinets as they gleefully run away from you. And before you know it you are wrestling trains and Elsa Barbies from their hands and half carrying them half dragging them up the stairs to brush their teeth and twist some clean clothes on – all the while hoping that you didn’t put someone’s pants on backwards.

And you spend the rest of the morning coaxing them to drink their water.

And there is no joy.

Because as soon as you collect your thoughts and resolve yet again to be a happy, calm person, you hear a fight break out.

And suddenly your life becomes some sort of raging tumult that resembles both screaming fans at a country concert and the crashing and banging of cars at a demolition derby.

So instead of enjoying playing with the trains, you are swiftly plucking them from sticky-again hands before they become catapult ammunition.

And I just wonder.

Why? Why me? Why can’t I have easy going kids? Or is it me? Did I make them like this?

So on a whim in an effort to calm the screaming-demolition-craziness you half begging half bribe them to go outside with you and play. Which is all happy and jolly until someone gets sand stuck between their toes, and the chickens start clucking and the four year old causes the two year old to believe that impending doom is near because the chicken are doing their scared cluck…so Armageddon is near! And everyone is running screaming and crying or semi-evily laughing back into the house and you are just standing there with weeds in your hand wondering….will I ever get anything accomplished EVER in my life?

Before you know it lunch is upon you. And you must know how this goes. It’s like a portal to another dimension – the window of opportunity for lunch time only lasts for a specific amount of time. Miss it – your toast. Try it too soon – you’re still toast.

So you end up bribing little Miss with a penny if she just sits down and eats her Annie’s Shells & Cheddar. And Mr. Aksel ends up sitting on you, spilling his milk down your shorts because  you bumped elbows as you were trying to shovel  your own food into your own mouth while simultaneously giving him a bite of his macaroni. I mean, he’s not going to insist upon sitting with me when he it ten, right? And by insist I mean scream and shout and throw his food and flat out refuse to eat. I can’t wait to tell his girlfriend about his childhood…

And finally, FINALLY rest time is here!

A half an hour, maybe longer if you’re lucky.

But instead of taking a nap or reading a book, there I am. At the computer. Working away on grad-school assignments in record time. I love school. But I’m not going to pretend…it’s downright hard when you have kids. Sometimes I look at other people, and I wish my life was like theirs. Two kids is hard.Two kids and grad-school is like climbing Mt. Everest. I guess we all have things we are called to do, and God allowed grad-school to call my name. So homework during rest time it it.

On a good day, Mr. Aksel wakes up happy as a lark.

Those days are few and far between.

Like maybe once in a blue moon (do we even have those?)

Most of the time when he wakes up from a nap he resembles a mummy emerging from a stasis-pod that he has been in for 20 million years.

If I could, I’d be on Mars.

But I can’t, because I’m his mother, and someone has to help the grumpy mummy.

The short end of the straw.

So then we enter the post-nap phase which is comprised of fussing and whining and trying to crawl inside my skin because I just love mom so much and want her to take away all of my post-nap woes. And I want a cookie, but I don’t want a cookie, and I want a banana, but not that banana…on and on and on.

Until suddenly a switch flips.

Was it something I said? Something that I did?

Am I the only one with kids like this?!

And off he goes, running with his excavator in one hand and green blanket in another to join his sister.

But little Miss is NOT okay with this, because she has happily been playing peacefully without him and really, if you were her would you want some clumsy two year old brother stumbling into the playroom and knocking over your train bridge?

Nope. Not me.

Take another nap, Bud.

So that screaming concert demolition derby thing starts happening all over again.

Sometimes I just get so tired of being a referee that I just stop.

Barely keeping my head above the water.

On top of all the other demands of life. On top of all the stresses that life brings. On top of all the things that need doing…sometimes it just all seems like too much. Too much.

And I just can’t help but wonder…why? Why me?

There I am again. Fighting through dinner time. Because Mr. Aksel is going through this phase where we won’t eat unless he is sitting with me.

And that alone brings so much stress. Am I doing this wrong? Should I just not let him sit with me? But then he won’t eat? People must think I am an awful parent – letting my two year old win the battle.They must think that I’ve allowed him to be like this, that somehow, it is all my fault.

But he’s not going to sit with me forever. So for now, let’s just get through dinner.

After dinner is probably the best part of the day. For some reason every one is generally very calm.

Maybe they just got tired from the drama of the day.

Until bed time. And I literally have to say to myself over and over…be patient, be patient, be patient.

The trying to brush teeth and floss but he just spit his toothpaste out on my face! And she took my blanket and put it on her bed. And I don’t want my diaper but I don’t want to use the toilet, and not those pajamas I really just have to have the ones that are in the washing machine!

And the thousand and one kisses that I love to give but really, who has energy for a thousand kisses? Mr. Aksel, that’s who. Because mommy, I just want to be awake with you forever.

And little Miss who likes to relive the entire day just as you are about the walk out her bedroom door. And yes, it’s just easier to pretend to listen as you rattle off the post-bedtime to do list in you head.

Just keeping my head above the water.

Or can my feet really actually touch the bottom?

Maybe I’ve had it wrong this whole time.

Perhaps instead of floating along struggling to keep my head up, the bottom has been there all along.

Yet I’ve allowed my perspective to overwhelm me and failed to see the truth that all I needed to to was stretch out my legs and sink my feet into the sandy bottom of water that is actually calm, but became rough when I began to struggle in my effort to survive.

 

Wilt the seeds of wanting more
Rippin’ pride out by the roots
And if I’m still, let me hear You speak
Not the tone of my transgressions,
But the song of the Redeemed

Because perspective can make or break life. And wanting more than the life you have is a dangerous path to travel. Sometimes you just need to be still, and in those moments allow your spirit to be refreshed by the simple fact that no matter how awful your day was, not matter how much you struggled as a mother, the song that is your life is one of redemption.

My great desire is to be with You
But this is the place you chose for me
This is the place you chose for me
To lift my cross and give everything
This is the time you gave to me
This is the time you gave to me

Because let’s face it, heaven would be amazing. I don’t think it is possible for my kids to fight with each other there. But there is a time for everything. And now is my time to be a mother. And even when I feel completely unequipped and unworthy…this is place He chose for me. No matter how exhausting, how messy, how stressful and overwhelming.

This is the time He gave to me.

I’ll never be the same, I’ll never be the same
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain

So let my dreams of perfect parenting die as I strive to pour my heart and soul into the life that He designed for me and the time He has given me to live.

Yep, that’s me.

I just stuck out my legs and my feet hit bottom.

I’m not struggling to keep my head above water.

I’m living.

 

 

A Christmas Letter ~ 2015

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O little town of Bethlehem,
    How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
    The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
    The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
    Are met in thee to-night.

And what a year it has been. So much hope. So much fear. Dreamless sleep and all.

January always begins with Azrielle beginning a new chapter in her life. It also met us with the closing of the book regarding her wierd episodes that later that month we determined were seizures…likely caused by the UTI that she had experienced in her second year of life. Infection can cause all sorts of long-term issues – seizures being one of them. If you ever need to get to UMass Worcester, we can show you the way! So many specialist, so many appointments…ruling one thing out and then another. We had an in-hopsital EEG done, and then an at home “walking EEG’. Both tests came back showing no signs of seizure activity. As long as she made is 6 months without experiencing another seizure, she should be fine. The human body is an amazing work of art that God created. And finally this medical chapter in our life was closed.

February and March dragged on as winter did not want to leave us this year. March also met us with a new milestone – Kreade sleeping through the night! And finally the happy boy we always dreamed was inside him began to emerge.

O morning stars, together
    Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
    And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary
    And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep the Angels keep
    Their watch of wondering love.

And there was peace in our corner of the earth. And finally some sleep. April rolled around and the emerging happy boy turned 1. We celebrated with family and moved on to enjoy Easter. With Kreade becoming increasingly happy, I began to start thinking about graduate programs. Something just kept tugging on my heart to continue my seemingly life-long college journey. But God puts dreams in our hearts for  a reason, and after a few months of trying to ignore the longing, I gave in to the dream and began searching out colleges and programs. Graduate programs are  hard to nail down! Perhaps it’s just that my undergrad work is in psychology – which offers a variety of graduate options. I prayed everyday that God would help me to know which program was “the one”. My mind kept going back to one: Southern New Hampshire University offers and online program specializing in Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology. Yep. Right up my alley. So I applied, and was accepted, and we began to plan for the start of my first course.

May began with the ending of my school year and the beginning of our camping year. Both of the kids just really LOVE camping. We are so happy to have our camper, and thankfully God allowed us the use of a truck as we had sold Klayton’s earlier in the year. Yes, May was good.

How silently, how silently,
    The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
    The blessings of His Heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
    But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
    The dear Christ enters in.

But alas, the goodness never seems to last. Towards the end of the month, Kreade caught a mild cold. Well, that mild cold turned into something much worse: croup. Which apparently is common in kids his age, Ellie never really even had a cold, so I never imagined. We were on the phone with the doctor in the middle of the night, in the office the next morning, beginning a steroid that same day. Spent a night and a day at home, and ended up in the ER on Friday afternoon. Meanwhile the chickens were getting huge and needed to be moved to their coup, which still needed renovations, spring yard work was piling up since winter had lingered so long, and the to-do list was mounting in its usual fashion. About a minute after walking in to the ER we were quickly given a room. About a minute later there were 2 doctors, 2 nurses, and a respiratory specialist in the room with us. Poor buddy boy was having great difficulty breathing, had chest retractions, and was a congested croupy mess. We ended up staying the night in the hospital. Another kind of steroid later, home we went. It took about a week for the croup to completely go away…and we were very tired of ER trips and doctors appointments and worrying about sick kids.

And then one morning Kreade woke up crankier than ever. He began vomiting and had a diarrhea diaper just about every hour. I took his temp and it was 104.5. Yep. Time to freak out. The doctor didn’t even give me an appointment. They said to just go. Go now. A dose of Tylenol and ibuprofen later his fever came down to around 101. We spent a few hours just sitting at the doctors office…watching. During that time we noticed there was blood in the diarrhea. Great. Well, lets run some tests and see what could be up. Home we went. Only to end up the the ER the next afternoon because buddy boy was crying and no tears were coming out of his sad little eyes. He was so dehydrated! But we just couldn’t get him to drink anything; never mind eat. He slowly began to improve. The ER trip was on Wednesday. I remember where we parked. On Sunday, we got a call from the doctor. Kreade had salmonella. All I could think was: how?! We were at the doctor the next morning.

The following Friday, Ellie had an interesting bowel movement. Black and sticky. We didn’t think much of it until we noticed blood in her stool the very next day. She had a low temp on Sunday, and we debated another trip to the ER. Our doctor advised us to monitor her, and told us to come in first thing Monday. I love our doctor. As my sister says, she is seriously the bomb.com.

More appointments. More blood-work. More tests.

By July we had met with a pediatric GI. Ellie did  a clean out, and we began a maintenance dose of Miralax. Thank God, she was finally passing her stools without pain, and we didn’t notice any more blood. After a couple more appointments with the specialist, she felt confident that Chron’s or colitis were unlikely. Finally, nothing but well-child checks for 6 months.

In between doctor appointments, we went camping. I think it worked out something like ER one weekend, camping the next. And we camped about every two to three weekends. We so enjoyed these trips! My mom and sisters were even able to come along to Cape Cod with us. We traveled to the White Mountains, to Old Orchard Beach, and several other lovely places.

Where children pure and happy
    Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee,
    Son of the Mother mild;
Where Charity stands watching
    And Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
    And Christmas comes once more.

Meanwhile, I had begun my first graduate course. It felt so good to resume learning. I so just love school. And thank God for Klayton’s job. Seriously. I don’t know what we would’ve done without it. So many times when I needed to get to the ER, Klayton was only five minutes away and able to come with me. Other times when I had to take one kid for a last minute appointment, the other kid was able to go and hang out with daddy at work. We prayed a really long time that God would show Klayton what he was supposed to do for the rest of his life, for a job that was family friendly, and something that Klayton enjoyed. Well, I guess good things really do come to those who wait. Klayton is going on a year and a half at Triumph Interiors, and neither of us could be happier. We are really both so grateful for his job, and the Christ-centered workplace that it is.

Finally, around September, Kreade’s bowel movements resumed normal toddler consistency. We had been having him tested routinely to monitor the salmonella levels, as it can be carried in the gut and stool for a month to a year. He carried the bacteria for a good four and a half months. And finally it was gone! Truly, the dark night wakes and glory breaks.

I went back to work just before Labor Day, and began what has turned out to be a rough year. So much heartache and so much pain – the world is just so full of hurting people and children. It feels like whatever I do, it is never enough.

Klayton has been oh so busy. We really fell behind with the to-do list that life produces with so many sick kids and ER visits. And then the engine on the new-to-us truck went in July. On 495. On our way home from the Cape. Extra bills means extra work, and poor Klayton has been so busy. We just kept trying to remind ourselves that God has a plan, amidst the sickness, and with the truck.

After Thanksgiving, Ellie had another x-ray just to make sure that her bowels were working the way they should. Well, they weren’t. In fact, her colon was so full of fecal matter that there was no room for free air. I almost cried when the doctor called me to let me know. She had been having a bowel movement every day! Why, why, why? We did another clean out and see the GI in January again.

And here we are.

December. Christmas.

I love looking back.

I did one of those “your most used words” on Facebook. You might have guessed, it was DOCTOR. It seems like the story of our year. Literally, I don’t think a month went by, never mind a week where we weren’t at the doctor.  From seizures, to salmonella, and digestive issues – we’ve done it all.

And yet, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Well, maybe the salmonella. That was horrific.

Life is hard people. Life is really hard. It’s stressful. There never seems to be enough money. Trucks break. Kids get sick. The to-do list never gets done. You forget to have your car inspected. Forget to pay the cell phone bill. Don’t remember the milk when you go grocery shopping. I guess life is just full of crap sometimes – in our case, one of us is literally full of crap. Yes, life is hard.

But it’s when you’re in the depths of despair, when you think that you can’t handle one more doctor appointment, one more bill, one more trip to the grocery store…and God finds you.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
    Descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in,
    Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels,
    The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
    Our Lord Emmanuel!

This year, looking back, I am struck by His faithfulness. His provision. His deliverance. And even though life is hard, our hearts know the love that was born in us. Today, and everyday, we live in the promise that the Christmas angels told…He has come to us, he abides in us, our Lord Emmanuel.

Yes. God is with us. Everyday. Through it all. And He always will be.

And even though it has been a hard, hard year…we know that He was with us, and will be forevermore.

Praying that your hearts accept the holy Child, and allow Him to cast out all sin and enter in so that He can abide with you too. And if your heart already knows the faithfulness of our savior, remember, the great glad tidings tell. 

Merry Christmas!

Love,

Klayton, Alicia, Azrielle, and Kreade

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