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.

That’s Life and I Can’t Deny It

When we first moved to our house, the hubs wanted to cut down all the trees and bushes surrounding our creek and pond. I convinced him otherwise, because how would my bird friends come to visit me if they had no where to stay? (Yes, I’m 80).

This morning I was feeling overwhelmed so I went out to feel the sun peeking behind the clouds and watch the different birds flying between all the branches. Then I was struck by the dirt mound to my left.

Last week we had to bury our cat, Ashley. She was hit by a car in front of our house. (I’m going to have a rant about driving the speed limit and actually stopping when you hit an animal another time). We buried her before the kids got home from school, but our girls were hysterical nonetheless.

There are a few moments of the kids crying that are burned into my mind: them crying and saying goodbye to K’s little sister (when we attempted to adopt her), my oldest son crying on the first day of school (because it takes a lot to get him emotional), and how sad my girls were when we told them about Ashley.

I want to protect them from every pain possible. But I know that it is impossible. I also believe there is pain with purpose. I told the girls to mourn Ashley. I told T and C the same when we said goodbye to K’s sister. It is good that they learn to love things and people without conditions.

I think it’s realizing this chasm in life that you start to understand it, even just a little bit. There are and will be beautiful moments throughout your life, but there will also be pain. Let them change you and cause you to grow.

Occasionally sit in the remembrance of it. Knowing it’s all a part of your story, and it can all work for good.

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

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.

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.

Morality VS Christianity

I am a woman in my early 30s.  I am a Christian.  I am right around the Millenial/Generation X time frame.  I tend to get a little disheartened when I hear the older generation of people discuss our world as if “the best has already been” and “it’s all downhill from here”.  Yes, I am of this generation so it’s not hard for me to find pros of this generation.  You relate to something more when you live it.

We can all agree that in the past, there were more laws (written and unwritten) that helped to hold up a certain level of morality in our culture.  We cannot equate morality to Christianity though.  If you yearn for the “good ole’ days” you’re probably not yearning for more Christianity, as much as you are yearning for more morality.  Therefore, I don’t necessarily feel as though it’s a topic that always needs to be discussed in the Christian circles as though all the Christians have disappeared.

I will argue that church events used to be more of a social thing than they are now.  People (Christian and not) would go to these events just to be able to socialize with friends.  This does still happen today, just not to the extent that it used to be.  Actions do not always signify a heart change.  Have you ever heard of the Pharisees? They were probably the most moral people you could find in their time, yet God called them hypocrites repeatedly.

Discussing our day like this always suggests a lack of trust in God’s work.  Does God have you here on accident?  Is the world the way it is on accident?  Does God just gasp in surprise every day? The answer here is no, to all of the above questions.  He has you here ON PURPOSE during THIS TIME.  Yes, we are dealing with things that may be “new” to our current living generations.  History also repeats itself, and I look in the Bible and see there is truly “nothing new under the sun”.

God doesn’t make mistakes.  Regardless of current hardships you see in this life, God overcomes them all.  He always has. He always will.