Keckley’s History Lesson

I have always been intrigued by the Civil War, slavery, and the fight for freedom. In Elementary School even, I was indignant when I learned some persons had to fight for a right that was given by God. It has always been an area of history that has captivated me.

Now in my 30s, we have visited many sights of the Civil War. I have read too many books to count (fiction and nonfiction) whose subject is that of slavery and/or the fight for freedom. I have watched numerous documentaries on it.

One thing that’s become more certain to me, is the more I learn, the more I have to unlearn. I think knowledge of History is essential in order to not repeat the same mistakes made in the past. However; I don’t think we study historical events in depth enough to consider ourselves always well-informed of historical events in their entirety. (That’s not easy for us to do in a time where we believe Google can make us all knowing on most any subject).

I have been reading “Behind The Scenes” by Elizabeth Keckley. She was a former slave who bought her freedom from her and her son. She made a name for herself by becoming the seamstress for Mrs. Jefferson Davis and Mrs. Lincoln. Yes, the former Confederate leader’s wife and President Lincoln’s wife as well. I will note that she did work for Mrs. Davis prior to Jefferson Davis becoming the leader of the Confederate Party.

Mrs. Keckley wrote this book in the latter part of her life, so she knew what came to be of the Davis’s. Yet, she spoke fondly of Mrs. Davis. One thing that strikes me most about this book (and others I have read referring to Mrs. Keckley) is that The North wasn’t necessarily accepting, with wide open arms, of those who became freed from the South.

In an excerpt from her book, she says: “The bright dreams were too rudely dispelled; you were not prepared for the new life that opened before you, and the great masses of the North learned to look upon your helplessness with indifference- learned to speak of you as an idle, dependent race”. Now I’m not sure about you, but I didn’t often give thought to the idea that freedman weren’t compassionately welcomed up North.

Often when we think of Slavery, we limit the problems to the South. Obviously there were issues in the South, but maybe they weren’t only in the South. This reiterates, that now, more than ever, we need to learn to be people of discernment.

Yes! Learn from history! Research it. Gain all knowledge you can. But don’t assume to know it in it’s entirety. Use the knowledge you gain and stories you read to try to do better for the future. In a time of everyone assuming to be knowledgeable on everything, realize we often don’t. It’s okay to sit on the uncomfortableness of it-that’s often where growth occurs.

Thoughts Running

Tonight’s run was therapy and it did it’s job. It’s funny that I love my body more now (even though it’s not what it once was) than I did when I was younger. I exercise because I am (was) an athlete. I don’t feel good when I’m not moving. It’s no longer a punishment, I’m not stressing to fit in a certain amount of exercises into a week, no longer checking my abs in the mirror every time I finish a workout. (Stop judging me, okay?)

I think this mindset has changed because I’ve learned to hold more loosely to things in this world: including my body/body image. Matthew 6:19-21 discusses laying up treasures where they can’t be destroyed (heaven). Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be.

We generally read that and think money or material items, but God is not something we are supposed to compartmentalize. His truths and wisdom effect every area of our lives. I want to steward my body well, while knowing that it doesn’t guarantee I won’t ever face any health crisis or that my body won’t change. (Gravity, y’all).

We need to stop expecting of our bodies what they were never made to do: remain ageless.

I’m a Christian and I am Happy in 2021

There is a place for Christian mourning with the state of affairs in the US today. It is sad to see the hypocrisy, hatred, and lack of looking to something outside ourselves. We, rightly, should mourn the moments of heartbreak we may feel day to day.

What a Christian should not do, is worry about the situation. When we question the times we are living in, we question the sovereignty of God. We know that only He knows what tomorrow holds. That was true 100 years ago, and that is true now. The hymn comes to mind “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand”. Only God controls tomorrow, even in 2021. He is not shrieking in surprise every time something happens. None of it surprises him.

We should not be full of worry or pessimism because we know this isn’t where our story ends! This world was never what we were living for any way. Absolutely every thing in this world will cease to exist some day. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”. –Romans 8:13

God’s Word is relevant today. There is no situation in life, even today, that His Word is not applicable to. We must also be careful to not romanticize the past. From the beginning, there has been sin. I always joke that I think the world is horrible, then I read the Old Testament. We need to not shrink back in fear, but stand firm because we are the ones that have an unchanging, joyful future promised to us.

“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”. Romans 8: 37

Winter Light

Today I was outside with my family building a snowman. I looked at the sky and saw faint light from the sun peeking through the cloudy sky. I know many people (myself occasionally) who struggle with seasonal depression. When they don’t get adequate amounts of sunlight they begin to feel depressed.

There’s an even more important light in this world. In John 8:12, Jesus says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life”. Darkness is depressing. We feel it physically when we go too long without light from the sun during winter time.

But there is a darkness that is even more severe and consuming. Eternal darkness is darkness that will never end. God gives us light as followers of Him because he is light. I believe God is the undercurrent of every aspect in life. Everything that we see can point us to Him, even the sun peeking through a clouded winter sky.

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.

I Can’t Protect Them From It All

I am 10 years or so in to parenting. I have spent most of my years trying to protect them from anything that will hinder their true personality or cause unnecessary pain. I have recently realized that their are going to be outside circumstances that will inevitably effect their growing into their own person, regardless of how much I want to stop it.

My 8 year old daughter has began changing a lot of things we thought were “part of who she is” of late. She has always loved sparkles, pink, frills, and anything girly. In the past few months, this has become a complete about face. She wants a completely new wardrobe of nothing girly. She wants to cut her hair shorter; whereas before she’s always loved her long, blonde locks.

I know she is also my child who wants to fit in with those around her. I am 98% certain that the change in appearance is linked to the fact that she doesn’t see many other friends into the girly things she was into. I can’t even tell you the number of times I have asked her why the change, her responses always being “I just don’t like it anymore”.

On the other side of that, I know my kids don’t care about a lot of things their friends do, and for that I feel to blame. Because of the makeup of our family, we have experienced more loss and heartbreak than most. Etched into my memory is my 4 and 6 year olds crying as we said goodbye to our almost adopted baby girl. I can see a clear image in my mind of us walking out of the State Foster Care Visitation building as we said goodbye to the little man we loved on for several months.

Now, don’t get me wrong-the brokenness that comes with fostering and adoption is minuscule compared to the beauty that has come from it in our family. We have 2 beautiful babies who are thriving in our home. We are able to, daily show our kids that looks and appearance alone do not make a family. We are able to show how easy it can be to be grafted in, what it means to “be adopted as sons”.

I want to protect them from everything, but I also know this life was given its thorns and thistles for a reason. Every area of this life is marked with sin and unrest. So in the meantime, I will be here for my kids, knowing none of our lives (including theirs) will be perfect or without suffering. Together we will look forward to a time where all things will be made new. One day we won’t be crying over good byes. There will be a time we don’t live to please anyone but the only One who matters. This is our hope.

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.

Having it “all” doesn’t mean having it all

I’ve been a devoted watcher of the TV series The Crown since it came on Netflix. This past week they released season 4, which highlighted Princess Diana and Prince Charles relationship. Of course, then I became absorbed in Princess Diana’s story, reading excerpts and watching documentaries on her. Guys, she was utterly miserable. She even tried to hurt herself several times.

This was absolutely heartbreaking to me because I remember hearing about and seeing pictures of Diana when I was younger, thinking she had it all. In a way, she did…but not where it matters most.

It also got me thinking that we spend so much of our lives striving for things that do not guarantee happiness: fame, fortune, status, money, and the like. Oftentimes relationships, family, rest are sacrificed in order to strive for those things listed above. While I do not believe happiness should be our ultimate goal in life regardless-why would we sacrifice the important things in order to gain something that can be fleeting and doesn’t have a record of producing what we all want most in life.

We all want to belong. We all want love. We all want to be seen. Money can’t give you that. Status often doesn’t see the real you. Fame doesn’t build relationships. All the fortunes you can build will some day, eventually, outlive you. These are the goals of so many Americans nowadays, yet we also find more are depressed than ever before. More are needing medication to live. (Now, I’m not anti medication at all). But we can see historically and on the media today that these goals to not necessarily contribute to a life better off.

Does money help reduce stress when you can afford to pay all your bills? Sure. Is it nice to be able to give your family members things? Absolutely. This cannot be where we put our life purpose, however; because it will leave us wanting. Those things are a nice byproduct to have in life but shouldn’t be our ultimate goals.

Aside from those things seldom producing true happiness, they are also all temporary. Money can come and go. Fame changes with the wind. Status changes depending on the crowd you are around. Regardless of what you believe, don’t place your hope in things that don’t last.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time”. Spend time on things that truly matter. Don’t focus on the temporary and fleeting.

Unapologetic About Your Occupation

I still remember the reprimand I received from my public speaking professor while I was in college. We were all discussing something and I made the comment “she’s just a stay at home mom”. My professor then proceeded to tell me she spent 12 years at home while her kids were younger and it was the hardest job she’s ever had. Even with this revelation, I still wasn’t entirely convinced.

Fast forward a few more years, and I found myself pregnant during my Senior year of college. I was able to graduate before my first born made his appearance, but I suddenly faced a dilemma. Do I continue to pursue teaching jobs, as I had already started turning in resumes, or do I stay home with the baby once I graduate college. To say this was an easy decision would be the biggest lie of the century.

I looked forward to teaching. I found great pride in the fact that I was the first one in my family to graduate college straight after high school. I did, however; have many mentors who told me they either a) loved staying home when their kids were little or b) wish they could go back and do it again to stay home with their children when they had been younger. It should be noted that my husband and I also talked about this as well and his opinions do factor into my thought process.

So, I decided to stay home with our baby. I am so grateful to have been home with all our children thus far. I have to admit though, that it wasn’t easy in the beginning. I felt shame for saying I was a stay at home mom when asked by others what I was currently doing. Usually the question that directly followed my stay at home mom revelation was “so when will you start teaching?” I have also received the occasional comments about my college education going to waste because I stay home. These conversations used to leave me embarrassed and ashamed.

That began to change when I changed my viewpoint on staying home. I wasn’t doing “lesser work”. Every occupation or position you occupy in life is to be fulfilled to the glory of God. Yes, there are days that feel absolutely mundane. But that is true of any job. In any occupation, you will have tasks that seem mundane and tedious.

We are told “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. We don’t compartmentalize our relationship with God. I don’t live parts of my life to give Him glory, and live other parts of my for my own or others glory. If homemaking is my current calling, then this is where I am to glorify God. And any task that is aimed at God’s glory can never be a lesser task.

Another thing that has helped me to change my outlook is the realization that my children are all I will (God willing) leave in this world. Any job occupation I will ever have will be filled in my absence, but there is no one else who will ever be my kids mother. That burden and blessing takes this calling to new levels of importance.

Don’t ever feel your tasks are unimportant, whether it be that of a SAHM or a job occupation you are ashamed of. Anything done with eternal significance simply cannot be unimportant. You decide what is important with how you decide to live your life. We all live most of our lives in the little moments. I’ll leave you with a quote from Paul David Tripp: “Our lives are comprised of 10,000 little moments and maybe only 3 or 4 dramatic ones”.

Guys, be confident in your little moments as well as the big.

Rest for Struggle

For my entire life (that I can remember) I remember yearning for the normal, consistent, boring family. I remember watching TV shows thinking “I’m going to have that life some day”.

Welp, here I am: a house full of kids, blessed to be able to (mostly) stay home, a husband who adores me (there must be something wrong right?) and that I adore equally in return. I legit go to bed every night thanking God for giving me so much more than I deserve. These gifts are not lost on me.

I also recognized something else in my life though. There is no normal. We have been through many transitions in our 11 years of marriage. We married young, had babies young, adopted, had a failed adoption, and gone into foster care. That’s just in our immediate family! I’m not even including anything else coming from outside my house.

I started to get pretty confident that I’m a cool cucumber (is that a thing?) now. We’ve handled it all, there’s nothing new to stress about anymore. Then Covid happened. Then school enrollment happened. Who knew signing your kids up for school could lead to eye twitches? (Thanks stress).

But then I remembered something: this is my gift. This life. This family. This struggle. Guys-in this life I’m marching with my eyes set on something much bigger, better even. It doesn’t end with today’s problems, or even today’s blessings.

Every transition or change in life should be approached with one goal in mind- to glorify Christ. Am I trusting in Him? Not just with my decisions, but to sustain me after those choices are made. Do I believe that if I made a choice I regretted, that God will use it for His good regardless, if I’m looking to Him?

Because that’s the truth friends: God is the end all. The decisions you and I are facing may seem huge, even overwhelming, right now. But they are still temporary problems. While Covid and it’s repercussions may last longer than we’d like, and it may effect more areas of life than we’d like, eventually it will end. When it gets to be too much, remember what you’re marching towards- Who you will meet at the finish line. In the meantime, let’s give grace and love each other.