Mr. Aksel Turns 3 – On Letting Go of Birthday Expectations

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.  – Voltaire

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.  – William Barclay

I still haven’t forgiven myself for failing to have my hospital bags packed when I was a week over due. The irony is that, though my bags were not packed, my homework for the next two weeks was complete ahead of time. But my bags were not packed, and if they had been I would have missed Mr. Aksel being born on that infamous first day that people like to attempt to fool one another one. Alas…

And now it has been three years. Three years and finally most days bring more smiles than they bring tears. And while he still is a challenging child, speech delay and all, I finally feel like we are getting there. Like I can handle each day and not need to talk to a therapist at the end of each day.

But another year older bring another years party…and parties have proven to be all but disastrous for Mr. Aksel. I can’t remember one of his birthdays that have been “fun” or “cute” or anything that you would generally imagine.

Of course, year one he put the candle out with his fingers – and didn’t cry – I should have realized then he had sensory problems 😉

Year two, I can only remember thinking…let’s get this thing over with.

When your child, the birthday star, is clinging to you and fussing through his entire birthday, too overwhelmed to even eat his cake, and dis-interested in opening his own presents you start to wonder if having a party is even worth it.

It is sort of one more thing that I’ve grieved over this boy-I-never-wanted, but the boy-who-God-knew-I-needed.

So I won’t have all of the instagram and Pinterest worthy pictures that every other mommy posts.

So I won’t get to make my daughter’s day planning and decorating for a party (she on the other hand, thrives on parties).

No cute pics. No cute decorations.

I’ll tell ya, you definitely get some weird looks when you tell your family and friends that you are not having a birthday party for your own child.

But guess what?

We didn’t have a party.

And it was the best birthday that little boy every had!

All day smiles and all day celebration.

Ellie and daddy went to the store and got him balloons and a sister-present before breakfast.

He opened his presents from us, played with them, and ran around with his balloons most of the day.

Grandparents and his Aunt stopped by throughout the day to give him a gift and wish him happy birthday.

And we ended the day with cupcakes and candles and singing happy birthday.

Because even though you may think that society expects you to have a party and that is just what you do if you are a good parent – sometimes, it is just not true. And while you yourself may grieve the fact that your baby boy just does not like crowds, and noise, and parties and all the pictures and planning that go along with them…you may be surprised to find out that you like a no-party birthday after all.

Because every child is different. And every child needs different things.

This idea is the whole reason why I began studying child development and chose my career path anyways.

God made them all, but He made them all different too.

And what’s good for one is bad for another. And in learning about your own child you will learn a lot about yourself.

And so Mr.Aksel…I hope that you remember this day – your third birthday. Or at least the feeling of joy that we saw on your face. What a long way you have come! Like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon as a butterfly – finally prepared to face the world in a beautiful way, independent and with emerging confidence.

I pray that you take this gift of life that God gave you and live it well. I pray that along the road He takes you down you will come to understand yourself, and realize your purpose in this world. We are so lucky to have you in our lives…mom, dad and Ellie, you have taught us so many things. And because of you we have realized that it is okay to let go…and now we understand what is truly important in this life. The little things.

 

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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. 

A Little More

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Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you

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

~ Tenth Avenue North

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

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

And they really just become sort of lost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Letting Go: Thank God For Doctors

“The life so short, the craft so long to learn. ” ― Hippocrates

 “Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” Jeremiah 17:14

These days, I feel like I half live at the doctors office or hospital. I think since December it has been round after round of doctors, referrals, specialists, lab-work… And just when you get a month of perfect health…it all goes down hill again. Sometimes I wonder why they can’t just get a normal cold…instead it’s seizures and severe respiratory infections and blood in those bodily excretions that we like to just quickly flush away…

But not me. Nope. I’m the lucky one that got to get up-close-and-personal with what Ellie now calls “poop nast”. Yep…it all started one Saturday when she spiked a low fever, leaving us wondering if she had experienced one of her elusive seizures. And then the poop started coming…uncontrollably. So of course you have to look at it, since you’re scrubbing it off the floor and off her legs. And after it happens a couple of times you notice the blood…and all I could think was, great, another ER trip. But our doctor is awesome and advised us to just see her first thing on Monday. Which of course was a whole round of labs and stool samples and referrals. Which is really awesome when you have a needle-shy three year old who has experienced more needles and tests than most kiddos her age.

Which leaves me grateful for the access that we have to industry-leading healthcare professionals…and the appointment that we got a week later. At which point you keep looking at poop, which really doesn’t stop coming, looking for any little unexpected thing and trying to memorize what each poop looks like so that you can be prepared to offer a description for the specialist when you meet with them. And it just smells so good. And then, you get home from work one day, put your one year old down for a nap with a runny nose, and he wakes up wheezing. Great. Great, great, great. So you’re on the phone with the on-call doctor, a process you are all too familiar with, trying to ease the troubled breathing and freaking out trying to decide if the ER is appropriate or not. Meanwhile the three year old is still pooping – uncontrollably. Our poor babysitter.

You avoid the ER by the skin of your teeth again, the second time in one week, and see the doctor again the first thing the next morning. At this point, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been to this place. Really, I should get my own parking spot. It’s probably croup or RSV…we get a steroid and are reminded about the benefits of steam. At which point we meet with the specialist and end up waiting so…so…so long for an x-ray. Could be this, could be that. And I’m so glad that I’m not in gastroenterology – which I just shorten to “poop doctor” – I just can’t imagine doing that for a job/ But I’m thankful that someone does! Two days later, the three year old is still pooping but also freaking out every time her one year old brother coughs because it just sounds so doggishly weird. And he just doesn’t seem better. So a last minute call to the doctor who hears him breathing while I’m talking to her on the phone and you hear those words that really make you want to panic “You need to take him to the ER NOW”.

All I can say is thank God that people are where they are when they’re meant to be there. And we were able to leave the pooping one and head on out.

And it’s never a good feeling when you walk into the ER and there are three nurses and two doctors surrounding your one year old within a minute of being admitted.

Because no matter how hard you try…you can’t be perfect. And you can’t protect your kids from everything…no matter how hard you try. So you just feel so…bad. Like  you should. You should be perfect. You should be able to prevent this. You should do better.

After a long time trying to get oxygen levels to where they need to be, the restrictions had stopped and poor little guy is finally breathing better. But still, it’s safer to just admit him for monitoring. Sleeping in that hospital, I had flashbacks of this little guys cranky, colicky start to life. And here he is now…lying in that huge metal hospital crib. Alive. And he finally spends more time during a day smiling than crying. You finally see your way through one trying season when you fall into this unexpected sea of sickness. And you feel like you’re kind of just floating along, keeping your head above water – but barely.

So you float along through follow ups, and never-ending phone calls. Until finally it gets so bad that the nurses know your voice and basically your kids whole life stories when you call the doctors office – which I suppose is nice because you don’t have to go through the whole spiel of first and last name, phone number, date of birth, bla bla bla.

And finally! The school year is over, and you didn’t use up all of your sick time, miraculously! And everyone seems to be getting better!

But seriously, things seem to come in waves.

While one is up trying to poop at three o’clock in the morning…er, night. The other one wakes up with a fever of 104, vomitting, and diarrhea.

Here we go again.

We were at the doctors three days in a row, plus one night in the ER.

Poor little guy was up several times a night. And now they were both pooping. For different reasons of course. But poop is poop and really…it’s just poopy. But when you combine it with puke and fevers it’s basically quite unbearable.Sick kids are the worst. Geeze, at this point maybe just kids are the worst. But when they’re sick you secretly just wish that they could go back to being that twinkle in your eye. At least until they are better. So here we go on more rounds of lab-work and stool samples. Until you get a call from the pediatrician at the hospital on Sunday. Sunday?

Your son has Salmonella.

What?!

Well, I guess that explains why he is STILL pooping. Like twelve times a day.

Seriosuly. I am so.sick.of.poop.

And how in the world did he get Salmonella?!

At which point you begin to question whether or not you have any basic parenting skills. You feel so far from perfect at this point that you could cry. Or just eat a ton of chocolate cake. Or maybe both. And then you feel guilty. Something you did, or forgot to do, resulted in that horrific puke/diarrhea/fever experience that you just want to forget.

And you kind of just feel like you suck. You should be able to take care of  your kid and prevent something horrible like Salmonella.

But the truth is, you can’t. And the truth is, you’re not perfect. And you never will be.

If I have learned anything from this marathon experience with doctors and hospitals it’s that you can’t protect your children from everything.

And sometimes that’s okay. Because God has a hand in it all. And he has given people a passion to care for us when we are sick. He has given some people a passion to spend years of their life in order to learn how to help people breathe. And he has given some people a passion for poop. And I’m thankful for all of them, and the years of their lives that they have spent studying and learning and caring…so that when I’m not perfect, they can step in to help.

And when you feel like you’re still floating along, and you can’t keep your head above the water any longer…it’s then that you come to the end of yourself and are willing to just grab a hold of that life-raft He throws. And it’s then, maybe at three o’clock in the morning when you’re watching Little Einsteins,cleaning up puke and poop that you realize that you’re not meant to do it all…and the peace that passes all understanding fills your heart and mind.

And you know that no matter how many mistakes you make, or how many more hospital experiences you have, it’s all going to be okay.

Thank God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is a person supposed to handle it all?

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

But we’ve got it all wrong.

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

I pray. 

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

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

God calls us to have hope.

1 Peter 3:15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what is this hope?

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

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

And it ended with Hope for all of us.

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