Love Thy Neighbor

I’ve been cleaning stuff out today and stumbled upon the only picture I kept of our daughter’s sister (whom we affectionately refer to as Magnolia). For months after meeting her, I kept everything as it was and didn’t touch anything. Then once that time had passed (much to my now regret), I got rid of every picture and item except for this picture.

I was up until about 2 in the morning a couple nights ago, listening to sermons and crying over the division in the world, and Christians alike, over the racial problems that still exist in the world today. My eyes (and heart) were opened when we spent those couple weeks in Wisconsin. Much of our time was spent in the black and brown neighborhoods up there. I saw differences like I have never seen in my small town Kansas.

I still sometimes question why we went through what we did with Magnolia. And when I was up late that night, it came to me that maybe it’s because that experience shaped something in me that’s irreversible. It makes me sad because I feel this situation is a great opportunity to love others and have conversations. I also feel that a good discerner of a Christian heart is how much they love. “God is love, and all who live in love live in God”, after all. (I didn’t make that up, it’s from the Bible).

Then this morning I was thinking about the story of The Good Samaritan in Luke. The priest walked by a person who had been beaten and left on the road. (If you didn’t know, if someone helped a person like that in those times they would be considered unclean by cultural standards). The priest lacked compassion for this neighbor of his, even though he had all the theological training to be a priest. Then a Levite walked by, and did the same. But a Samaritan (you could say Half breed), walked by and helped him. He didn’t question what he did to get himself in that position. He didn’t pepper him with questions about his life, he just helped.

It doesn’t help the person on the road (or in the sketchy parts of town) to love them at arms length. Or to yell some Bible verses as you pass by. It’s going to get messy. It’s going to be costly.

But, according to Jesus, this was the answer when asked “who is my neighbor”. So I’m going to do the messy work…gladly. Because there’s a girl I loved the moment I saw her and while she didn’t end up being my physical child, she’s my neighbor.

Can Sickness Be A Blessing?

My youngest daughter, who is now 6, has struggled with asthma her entire life. We’ve been to several specialists. She has been tested for so many things. We don’t have any certain answers for what triggers it, or how to keep it from coming, but we do know how to kick up which medicines when her asthma flares up.

The last couple of days she has been coughing a lot (which is usually the first sign it’s about to start bothering her). So we have began our additional medicines on top of her daily ones and doing breathing treatments until her breathing seems better.

Now that she is older she vocalizes how tired she is of being sick, how annoyed she is that she has to stop whatever she is doing every few hours to sit and do a 30 minute breathing treatment. Thirty minutes is an eternity to a 6 year old. As soon as she woke up this morning, I got her machine ready and told her she could lay in bed while she did it.

Once her treatment was completed, she came out to the living room and stated “WHEN I’M IN HEAVEN I WON’T EVER BE SICK ANYMORE!” This declaration stopped me in my tracks.

The last couple of days have been stressful in our home: lack of time, cars breaking down, a million things needing done, etc. But there will come a day where we don’t have to be stressed any more. There will come a day we won’t experience sickness anymore. (It never was God’s original plan for us to experience it any way). This is all temporary.

Knowing this is all temporary leads to hope. Hope gives us joy. Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”.

We’re All A Little Different

“There’s not very many black people in the world”. I was sitting out in the back yard with my youngest daughter, who is black. I looked over at her, taken aback, and said “there may not be in this town, but there are a lot of black people in the world”. We live in a small town in the Midwest. It’s safe to say it’s not very diverse.

This is something I have always been conscious of. I knew when we adopted her it was going to take a lot of intentionality to make sure she felt well represented and not separate from other people around her. One of her brothers is adopted as well and is a different race from us also, which does help some.

We read every night before bed, and last night we read a book that was based in Africa. At the end of the book, it showed real pictures of African kids and families together. Guess what? One white person was in those pictures. I told my daughter that if we went and visited there I would be the one who stood out.

My husband and I also told her how we all more than likely came from some other country in our family history. That it just depends on which part of the world you’re in, as to what race the people will be.

I hate that she has moments of questioning her value. I can’t tell you the nights I’ve spent awake worrying about this. But I also know, her skin color isn’t her entire story. I will always do everything in my power to gain knowledge to help with the racial differences , I will show her unconditional love, and she will know in this family she always belongs.

But more than where she is now, I care where she’s going to be for eternity. This is the basis on which we live. We all feel like we don’t belong sometimes in this world. While my daughter’s are more visual, which causes more direct conversation about it, every one deals with it some times.

Her struggles won’t look the same as my struggles throughout life, but she belongs in this family. Because the family we will end up in eternally will be filled to the brim with different races, yet we will all be one family. For eternity, we will see and celebrate the differences in each other. I can’t wait for the day.

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.