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.

Make Time for Stillness

I do not like being bombarded with noise all the time. I feel overwhelmed if I don’t have times to pause in complete silence throughout the day. It legitimately makes me anxious if there is noise, running around, and mess all the time.

Seems kind of funny considering the fact that I have 4 kids, right? I will agree that 4 kids is hectic on it’s own. But there are things I do to help offset the busyness of this season with 4 littles. I do a quick pick up halfway through the day, usually right before nap time. I don’t have TVs on for just white noise during the day. I make time for rest during the day (usually while the little is napping), so I have energy to carry it on until bedtime.

This was something that did not come naturally to me. I had to teach myself to learn to sit in quiet. At the time, it was because I wanted to learn to sit in my thoughts, not busy myself in order to them. I was surprised at how hard it was at first. But as such goes with new habits, consistently won.

This is a great example of how we should live in relation of God. I’ve heard a quote (I can’t remember who said it) that God does his best work with empty. We can’t constantly be filling with things other than God. We must carve out time to be filled with His Word. If we aren’t filled with Him, we will be filled with something else.

Jen Wilkin has said “the heart can’t love what the mind doesn’t know”. I learned early in my parenting role what I needed to do to give what I can in my role as a mother. It’s much more important that we realize what is necessary to make sure we are filled with the most important person in life.

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.

Girl Power…or something like that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “girl power” and what I think that entails. I am an accidental girl mom. I say that because I truly thought I’d never be a girl mom. I always felt I was going to have a house full of boys. I now have 2 boys and 2 girls. I love having each, but I do still struggle more with girl emotions and drama.

I think a lot about the things I want to impart upon my girls as they grow. “Girl power” or “I’m a girl I can do everything on my own” is a pretty popular philosophy nowadays. I am 100% for girl power, but I find the characteristics I consider girl power aren’t often what others consider it to be, and vice versa.

Tonight I was watching my 8 year old daughter at her basketball practice. I noticed when she was running sprints that she was looking at the girls around her. After practice, I told her looking at other people while running just slows her down. I told her to pay attention to her running and her race, then she would run better. (I also feel like that could be used for many different areas of life as well).

I want to write a list of things I want my daughters to know as they grow, as they grow in to their “girl power”:

  1. Never be afraid to stand alone.
  2. Be confident enough in who you are to know you don’t have to explain yourself to others.
  3. Don’t pretend to be less smart than you are. Even if you’re made fun of, you’ll come out ahead.
  4. Know that you don’t have to have your makeup and hair done all the time-a little real-ness can be very welcoming.
  5. Know your worth isn’t dependent upon anyone else.
  6. Be friendly with many types of people. I mean truly friendly, not the “friendly to your face, talk behind your back” kind of friendly. Many viewpoints lead to a better understanding of the world.
  7. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
  8. Where I hope you’ll be friendly with many persons, I want you to also know it’s okay if you don’t want to be friends with everyone. Some people will only drag you down, you are free to say no to friendships like that.
  9. Know and own your weaknesses. Ask for help when you need it.
  10. Believe you can do much more than you think you can: athletically, academically, etc.
  11. Enjoy life. Do not fear anything that cannot kill the soul.

Now, these main points don’t sound controversial to the main stream girl power we hear, do they? But here’s where I see a big difference: the women that come to my mind when I think about “girl power” don’t ever have to discuss it. They are able to do hard things, and they have peace with themselves when they aren’t doing those hard things.

They realize being a woman is an empowering thing in itself. The women I think of also aren’t afraid (or feel like less of a woman) to ask for a man’s help. Because they know we each bring our own gifts to the table. Men having value does not curtail the value of women. We compliment each other, which makes us even stronger.

I raise my girls exactly like my boys, but I know each will have their own different strengths and weaknesses. I raise my boys to encourage my girls, and my girls to encourage my boys. But I feel like when you raise a child (boy or girl) with the values above, you don’t need to tell them “speak up when a guy makes you uncomfortable” or “you aren’t less of a woman because you don’t like girly things” or “you have to bring down guys to appear strong”. When you raise them to know these truths, they become aware of themselves and grow confident in who they were made to be. I don’t want my girls to scream “girl power”, I want them to live it.

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.

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”.

I want to remember the hard and ugly, not just easy and pretty.

Lately I’ve felt a stronger pull to live in the moment more. Our community has lost persons in it recently. I’ve read about things on news pages about lives lost at young ages. I’ve really felt the shortness of life being emphasized around me.

It’s not that we don’t know it deep down, but at certain times of life events bring it more to the forefront. I’ve seen posts about wanting to savor moments when kids have done something cute, or are wearing something cute, basically anything good that people want to remember. I get it as well. I want to remember the good times all the time. Those are the memories that keep us a little bit encouraged when facing hard days with them.

I want to start living in the moments that seem harder at the time as well though. The days I’ve told (and been ignored) by my one year old after telling him “no” a million times-I want to be there. The days I’m exhausted from the time I wake up until my head hits the pillow at the end of the day-I want to be there. The days my girls fight nonstop and I feel like all I’ve done is referee-I want to be there. The days I feel like I’ve done nothing but keep my kids alive-yep, I want to be there too.

I don’t want to just live for the good moments. I want to be an active participant in every part of my life. Why? Because it all serves a purpose. When my one year old does finally listen to that “no”, it emphasizes how important the incessant “no’s” were. The days I wake up exhausted, I know it’s because I’m busy with little people who are some of the most important to me in this world. The days my girls fight and are forced to make amends, relationship is being built. (You can’t have two divas in the same house and it expect arguments to occur while living in close quarters). The days my only accomplishment is keeping them alive is reason to celebrate-because it’s no easy task.

Another reason I don’t want to wish any day away is because I’m not promised rainbows and butterflies throughout life, let alone try to plan it so that’s what I get right before anything bad ever were to happen. Life doesn’t only have purpose when it’s easy. Life doesn’t only have purpose when it looks good. Every moment has purpose because you were given it to live in. In James 4 we’re reminded that life is a vapor. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. We’ve got today, and regardless of the circumstances, I want to be all in.

We don’t live life with only today in mind. A life lived for the short term, in any aspect, isn’t very encouraging. You can’t spend money without thought for tomorrow. I mean, you could but it’d probably get you into some monetary issues. We don’t think of our diet in terms of today. We don’t gorge ourselves daily because we would careless about the long term. The good and the bad total up the sum of your life-and it all has value. Let’s not forget there is purpose in moments of adversity as well.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved”. -Helen Keller