Joy to the World!

We are facing a lot of uncertainty in the world today. Even in the midst of this Christmas season, I feel that everything is heavy. I’ve actually forced myself to cut back my social media scrolling because I want this season to be focused on Jesus and the joy of this season, not negativity and arguing that is all over it anymore.

I love history, and history tells me we are in good company. Think about the uncertainty Mary faced during her season of the birth of Jesus. She was a virgin who was betrothed to a man, who found herself pregnant.

Let’s not even focus on the ridicule she probably faced from people around her. Let’s not think about the fact that her own fiancé doubted her until an Angel visited him in a dream. Let’s forget about the fact that she had to ride a donkey (!) to a new town while she was towards the end of her pregnancy. Those are enough stresses, right? I think about myself and I think, I’ll go to Bethlehem on a donkey but I’m gonna cry the entire way!

What is sticking out in my mind today is the fact that aside from the very real physical pressures she faced, she also had spiritual pressures. She was told she would carry the Son of the Most High! His throne would never end! The Holy Spirit, would come upon her, to place this baby in her womb. Talk about pressure!

To me, Mary’s response is the most startling part of this entire story. According to Luke 1:38, Mary says “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word”.

She agrees, submits, to God in the face of uncertainty. She found her joy in God regardless of circumstances. We know 2020 was a hard one, but we don’t know what 2021 will hold either. We can’t depend on circumstances for our joy, and thankfully we don’t have to.

Henry’s Christmas Bells

I’m sure many of you have heard the Christmas Carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. It has been performed by many different musicians throughout time. The song is actually based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the 1800s.

Longfellow was already a respected writer when he wrote this poem, but what makes this poem so astonishing are the events that led up to his publication of this poem. He was in a dark place following the death of the love of his life, Fanny. She died following a horrendous accident in which her nightgown caught on fire by a candle. Henry was heartbroken, grasping for strength to carry on for their 5 children.

During this time, Civil unrest was very present in the United States as the South was trying to secede from the Union. War was beginning between the North and the South with slavery being a main point of emphasis. Henry’s oldest son, Charley, much to his dismay, was in the military-fighting for the Union. (Henry preferred his son to stay out of battle).

Charley was wounded in battle with a prognosis of possible paralysis. It was while Charley was recovering in the Longfellow home that Henry was walking outside, and heard the church bells and felt compelled to pen his poem.

The parallels between his feelings at Christmastime in the 1860s and mine in 2020 are not lost on me. Towards the middle of Longfellow’s poem a selection reads “Then from each black accursed mouth, The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned, Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” He can’t even hear the chimes of peace on earth, good-will to men because of all the explosions and noise going on in the Civil War happening around him in his day to day life. It’s hard for us to ignore the Civil unrest we are facing today as well, isn’t it? Lest we get close to forgetting, all we have to do is long onto the internet and we are quickly acquainted to it.

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song. Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

He looked around and didn’t see peace anywhere. That’s easy for us right? Covid. The Election. The race discussions that have once again become paramount. It’s easy for us to feel depressed and overwhelmed right now. It would be justified if we didn’t feel too much in the Christmas spirit this year.

But I love how this poem ends:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

We have hope for brighter days. God does not sleep, nor does He slumber. One day, all wrongs will be righted. The righteous will one day prevail. In the midst of Longfellow’s unhappiness, the bells reminded him of that truth. I hope you take a moment to listen to the tune, or even read the poem-and take a minute to be reminded yourself.

Faithfulness in School Days

My kids went back to school in person today. Our district offered different modes of learning at the beginning of the year. We had elected to do school remotely to start out the year because child #3 had horrible asthma. We wanted to see how it was going to look before we sent them back.

Then I received an email from the school asking if I’d be okay with them going in person the 2nd 9 weeks. I discussed it with the hubs and we decided we were comfortable enough to send them back. The house is awfully quiet today with just the 1 year old at home.

It’s funny though, looking back on the first 9 weeks, I don’t remember wishing I had more time to myself. I don’t remember feeling resentful that they were home with me. Yes, things were more hectic, messy, and loud. Yes, we were some times short tempered. Yes, I did raise my voice some days (most every day). I just don’t remember focusing on it during that time.

I don’t say this to make it sound like I’m a super mom for teaching my kids the first 9 weeks. I don’t want to sound like I think I’m more of a loving momma because I didn’t get sick of them or that I didn’t struggle with the idea of them being home.

I’m also not saying God’s Will is that all children be remote or homeschooled during this time. Any situation you find yourself in (even a bad one) can be used for the glory of God. We simply did it because of health issues for our daughter. Since we haven’t had huge outbreaks in our district, we felt comfortable when asked about returning early.

I’m also not going to say that I’m completely worry free with my kids being in school. My heart broke not being able to walk them in for their first day. I do still worry about sicknesses with my third. But our reason for keeping them home currently isn’t the issue we thought it would be. However, I know where to take any worries I may have. (Yeah, I may have been up last night at 3 am praying about them). There is only One who is never changing and completely dependable.

I look back and it simply amazes me that God gives us the grace when we need it. Oftentimes, we don’t realize we needed it until the moment has passed us as well. I enjoyed not rushing around all morning trying to teach all 3 of them this morning, even though it didn’t bother me at the time.

It’s not my strength that carries me but His. I’m not saying God’s Will would be that all teach their kids remotely and that’s why He carried me. Rather, in whatever situation we find ourselves led to, God will sustain us if we are looking to him as our source of hope, strength, and joy. Just like God sustained me through the first 9 weeks, I know He will sustain me (and them) through the uncertainties of going back to school as well.

I’m going to share a quote by Elisabeth Elliot that I think best sums up my feelings. She is referring to motherhood in this specific quote, although I think you’ll find it applies to any calling that you find yourself in: “This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness”.

The year we didn’t ask for…

I love stories. I remember one of the first children’s books I fell in love with, The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. The shiny scales captivated me. I remember the sadness I felt the first time I read Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park.

My fascination with stories has continued well throughout my life, but expands further than just books. I collect antiques because I love picturing the person who once owned the piece before me. I like imagining how they might have decorated with that item. I put stickers on my vehicle from where we visit because I like looking at the locations on the stickers and remembering the trip and stories that go alone with it.

I recently read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. In that book, Alexander goes through all the bad things that have happened to him throughout the day. He wakes up with gum in his hair. He found out he had a cavity. He falls in mud. His brother calls him a cry baby, along with many other wrongs in that particular day. The book ends with saying “mom says some days are like that”.

Well guys, this is our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (year). It seems as though things have been piled on one right after the other. We adjust to one thing and a new situation appears. Things have been piling up one right after another.

We can focus on all the things going wrong or we can accept the fact that, in life, there will be times like this. Generations before us have faced difficulties in life. Some have faced problems that affect a big population and others have faced personal problems in life, ones that others may not know about.

Our reactions to these situations can make all the difference. This is a difficult part to our story or life, but we get to choose how it ends. The statement “mom says some days are like that” changed the entire tone of the book. It went from a story of hopelessness to one that is hopeful.

I hope where ever you find yourself today, you are able to find moments of happiness or calm. If you are struggling to find the good right now, I hope you find the courage to keep moving forward. I hope you realize that you are never alone. I hope you know, this too, will pass. I hope you know “some days are like that”.

Continue reading “The year we didn’t ask for…”

I Surrender All, but…

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the way many Christians are handling the current situations going on in the world. I don’t pretend to handle every situation correctly. I also am not opposed to being corrected if I have been found standing on the wrong side of something.

That being said, I have stayed awake at night trying to figure out our stance as Christians during this current time. Not only because I’ve been confused as to how to stand; but also because I don’t like all the division, anger, and hatred I’ve seen.

Christians are told to not be a stumbling block for others, and we have no problem avoiding certain foods, places, or even attire to help others. Just do not ask us to wear masks to make others feel more comfortable. Because then our rights are being infringed upon.

While I’m discussing rights, we are not more American than we are Christian. Yes, America is a great country…the best in the world. I do believe there is a place and time for fighting for rights as Americans…but you cannot pass them as Gospel truths or the Christian motive. Even with standing up for American livelihood, there is a correct way to do it. I don’t believe getting angry on Facebook and arguing with others is the way to bring about change.

To me: this argument just further shows our entitlement as Americans. We EXPECT a certain level of comfort, and when that is taken away from us, it certainly can’t be of God, right? I’m going to say wrong.

I think about missionaries who literally surrender everything, all their rights as an American or even their distinct person to go to another country and find out how to serve and to adapt to the area of the world they would be called to. They do not go to the other countries talking about how they know the way life should be done, like in America. They don’t go preaching about all the things they have surrendered in order to go teacher the Gospel to others. No, they go to preach Christ and Christ alone. Certainly God wouldn’t call someone to do that, right? Wrong again. Many souls have been saved because of self-less persons not counting their life more important than others.

I don’t pretend to know why this is happening, but what if God wants to strip of us pride in anything in this life except for Him? I sometimes wonder, if the reaction to this pandemic is any indication of how we handle the end times, how many people we are truly going to lead to God by our love and truth. Are we going to sit on Facebook and talk about how the end times won’t effect our kids at “this certain school” because we have faith in God? Or how America will still fare better because I have rights as an American and I have faith in God.

THIS is our mission field right now. THIS world is not our home. Our job (even in America) is still to share Christ and Christ alone.

Excerpt from “I Surrender All”
All to Jesus I Surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me, Jesus, take me now

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all