Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sitting Graveside

I went and sat at my dad's grave the other day after work. I really had no intention of ending up there. I was exhausted after standing all day and wanted nothing more than to get home to see my babies and hubs. But there I went, driving towards the funeral home, passing it and heading in to the cemetery. It used to be I could enter from the other side right after he passed. I was 16 then. I spent a lot of time there that year. I would drive up there late at night even. Sometimes I'd go with my mom, but mostly I went alone. My sister and I processed his death very differently and she didn't go for years to visit. She still rarely goes. And really, is there a need to? We know he's not lying in that coffin. We know his soul resides with Jesus. I know he hears me talking to him whether I'm standing in my kitchen or by his grave. So why do we visit graves anyway? What's the purpose in visiting a body that is 6 feet in the ground with no life left in them? I know good and well my dad would tell me to stop coming there. He would tell me there's no need, that I can look up and talk to him anytime I wanted. My grandmother would say the same. Well, maybe she'd want to make sure her flower arrangements were looking good. And my mother keeps them looking beautiful.
But what drove me there yesterday was desperation. Desperation to make sense of this life. Desperation to figure something out that I haven't quite yet. Desperation for answers. For something. I will tell you this...if you need some calm, if you need some reflection, some evaluation, go sit in a cemetery. Walk around and read the stones. Reflect on the lives that are no longer present around you and tell me if that doesn't reel your emotions in a bit. Or maybe it would send them over the edge. For  me, it was sobering. It's always something that is good for me. To be reminded that this life is in fact temporary. That one day I will breathe my last breath and my family and friends will be left to mourn without me. As my sister and I were left to mourn my dad's death at the ages of 16 and 14. My dad died when he was 42. I'll be 32 in a few short months. 42 is not far away for me.
It was all I could do to get out of my van quick enough. I left the windows cracked and walked towards the tombstone. I sat on the ground right in front of his name. "Danny Ray Casey, Born June 22, 1958 - Died April 17, 2001". I stared for a long time at the stone. I stared off into the sky. I listened to the bugs chirping around. I talked to him, asked him if he ever dealt with some of the things we are. I asked how he handled it if so and just thought of what he might say if he were here today. I reflected on the day of his funeral. I was in my darkest place of grief that day. I didn't even know how to process a loss so great at such a young age. I relied heavily on my friends to pull me through. I remember collapsing in their arms when they were lowering him into the ground.
I sat and cried and talked a little more. I told him how much he would love my babies and how proud he'd be of Victoria. I longed for his freedom. His freedom from his sickness, his freedom from this world. His freedom from this life. We can't imagine that type of freedom just yet. We're not made to experience that until we meet Jesus face to face but man do I ever long for heaven some days. For those streets of gold and being reunited with all of our lost loved ones. Where there's no ugliness, darkness, gossip, lies, temptations, and sin. Where all is right and nothing is wrong. Where hesitations and fears are no more and saints are free to love and worship forever. What a day that will be!
Until then, I want to know that I am living as freely as possible in the time I have left on earth. That I am showering others with grace and love, even in the darkness. That my daughters see that I am not perfect, but I'm clinging to my Jesus who is. That I'm giving myself freedom to fail, learn, and grow in the process. That I'm freeing myself up from expectations of others and expectations I put on myself. That I'm refusing to put back on the chains of bondage of anger, frustration, and bitterness that ruled me for too long. Sometimes we live as if this life goes on forever, that we get chance after chance, that we will never perish. While I know where my soul will reside after this life is over, I want to know that the life I'm living today isn't full of things I'll regret. And I can't do this in my own strength. Selfishly, I want to throw my arms up in the air and give up. Give up on people. Give up on humanity. Give up on there being any good in this world. I want to point my finger in their face and tell them that's not how you do it, not what you say, not how you treat people, not how your life should go.....and the list goes on. We are a culture of fixers aren't we? We try to take someone else's life and circumstances and give them a prescription. A prescription for everything they're not doing right. We could do it better. We would never do what they're doing. We would never struggle with that sin, temptation, addiction, etc. You must not be doing what the Lord wants you to do. You must be reaping what you've sown in your wild days. You must be getting what you deserve.
But what if that's not it at all? This is so contrary to what we are called to live like as Christ followers. What we deserve is certainly not what we've been given. And how do we live out that gratitude to our Jesus? By withholding that same grace and forgiveness towards others? By hiding behind our computer screens and phones and posting scriptures, laced with guilt trips. By turning encouragement into something that has to be earned. By only loving those who love you and give you something in return. By turning God's Word into a buffet...my pastor said it best, Christianity is not a la carte. There's no choosing here. Love is a command. What restrictions and stipulations are you putting on your love? What would it look like if those restrictions were lifted? If you love without hesitation, reservations, or qualifications? If you loved your family member addicted to drugs, served your friend in their darkest hour, gave to the homeless man on the corner who has nothing to give in return.
Wouldn't that love be freeing? Wouldn't that kind of shocking love change your life? That's the life I'm longing for. Where my hands are open and my heart is ready to serve. God help remind us that this life isn't forever, but the way we love others can be eternally impacting.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Raising Up Storm Chasers




I took this picture at the beginning of this week during a pretty cool rain storm. The girls were so mesmerized by the wind and the rain and they wanted a front row seat. They opened the glass door and pulled closed the screen so they could hear and smell everything. At certain times, Callie would pull back the screen and stick out her hand and laugh and giggle as the rain sprinkled her hand. Before it became too heavy, she hopped right out in it and twirled around in the wind. She spun and danced on our deck without a care in the world. Eyes closed, arms outstretched, hands dancing along the currents of the breeze. When I ushered her back in, they both went and grabbed their blankets and plopped down on the kitchen floor as if they were watching Disney's newest movie on the big screen. They sat and chatted. They yelled out when the thunder started and would laugh here and there when the rain blew toward the screen drizzling them a bit. But they were safe and dry. They watched from inside our home. They watched not worried about being caught in it, knowing I would make sure they kept the door closed and stayed safe. They carried on with their normal playing after 15 minutes or so of observing. They walked away and went about their merry way.

I've been thinking about this picture and their little storm experience all week. I've been pulling up this picture and thinking about all of the parallels in our own lives. Unbeknownst to me, the Lord was showing me something that morning. Something I want my kids to be a part of, not to just be a spectator of.  While I'm so thankful my children were under my care during the storm and inside, safe and dry, it's far from what I want for my children in the grand scheme of things. In the grand scheme of life, relationships, and in society...I want my kids to be fearless. I want them to abandon their safety for the sake of someone else. I want them to run out, get wet, stand with a friend and feel the storm with them. I want them to take a risk to show love and support in the eye of the hurricane. 
The joyous scene for my girls certainly would have changed if one of their little friends or cousins were standing in our yard getting soaked and crying from fear of the thunder and lightening. No doubt in my mind, Callie would have thrown back the door, yelled for her friend or would have gone out to help her get her to safety as quick as possible. 

Would we, as adults, do the same?

Adults who have experienced many more years of life than little ones. Adults who have taken root in their pride, fear, judgment, anxiety, and finger pointing. Those of us who can tell you what you're doing right and wrong, but don't offer an ounce of love or grace to the suffering. Kids need to be taught how to act, how to speak, what to believe, who to love. Who are they taught to love? And HOW are they being taught to love? WE are their teachers, parents. WE are their mentors, their how to's, their eyes, their ears, and what comes out of those little mouths. It's all a reflection of us and what they are taught. Through word and deed, through accident or observance or a direct lesson or lecture. And I want to push my kids out the door. I want to urge them to pull back the screen and go running out with umbrellas, lifeboats, food, water, pure and undefiled love. Love that hasn't been tainted by the world, society's bantering, people group's segregations, or Satan's lies. I want them to hover around the one that the rain is beating down on. I want them to hold their hand and share in their fear and worry. I want them to be the ones to offer a word of kindness, a prayer for healing, a look of concern. I want them to give life to Jesus' commands to love they neighbor.

I want them to also know that running out in the storm means getting caught in the storm themselves at times. I want to caution them and I want to prep them. Praying for my storm chasers everyday. Filling their minds and hearts with God's Word will fuel them and strengthen them for ministry work. Befriending the excluded, sticking out their neck for the undeserving, and loving those who are unloving is no light task. No light task for any of us. There is risk for rejection, miscommunication, even being struck by lightening. But when the rain stops and the clouds break for the sunshine, I want them to know at the end of each day, they weren't dictated by fear. They were bold in loving others for Jesus. That they looked at someone and saw them and their need and did what they could to meet that need or love that person in need. I want them to lie down each night, exhausted from being used up for the kingdom, ready and willing to grab their life jackets on the way out the door the next day. 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." Phillippians 2:3-5



Monday, March 21, 2016

The Worst Anniversary Ever

This has been all in the last week: last Monday (a week ago), my oldest daughter came and got me after seeing blood in the toilet. We then ended up in the ER with her for half of the day ruling out possible scenarios, malfunctions, etc. While we are still in the process of getting her better, we were thankful to leave the hospital knowing what wasn't wrong with her. That night I was up all night with her after she had four accidents throughout the night- once in her bed, three in ours. She's almost 5, but with the frequent bladder issues, her muscles have become very weak and when she gets another infection, she can hardly get to the bathroom quick enough. The next night, my 2 year old ended up in bed with us and started throwing up. Adam then ended up sleeping in the living room floor with her where she threw up once more. The next day we sent Callie to school, having been on antibiotics for a few days. Her school called to let us know she was bleeding once more and was in intense pain and needed to be picked up. Her follow up with the pediatrician was that day where we were told she would for sure need a procedure done to further investigate her ongoing issues and would have to be sedated. Also we had to switch her to a stronger antibiotic because the one she was on wasn't doing anything. Saturday was set aside for us to go out to eat for our anniversary. I took off work and was really excited to get away with Adam after our crazy week. As irony would have it, I became pretty sick that evening and we had to cut our mediocre dinner short. I was able to rest up Sunday and in the middle of the night Adam started throwing up. He violently threw up all night into this morning and stayed home from work. I saw him briefly as I brought him more water and was switching out the laundry. Today is our 7th anniversary.
Whoa. I mean, I can't even digest what this week has thrown at us.
So in the midst of fear, stress, exhaustion, and worry, I'm now frustrated because my weekend didn't go as planned. Our plans of a night out was cut short and we only spoke today when I was ushering the girls out of our room to keep him quarantined. He even said to me in passing today, "This is the worst anniversary ever."
Yep, can't say I disagreed with that statement. But in retrospect maybe I do disagree. No, we didn't get to have our big dinner and stay out as long as we wanted. Heck just to have him in the same room with me without running to the toilet would've been great. Reality is, life is hard. Life doesn't care what you have planned or what you're feeling, it just has a way of sucking sometimes. But this week, we gave life to these vows.

"to have and to hold, from this day forward
for better, for worse
for richer, for poorer
in sickness, and in health
to love and to cherish
til death do us part
according to God's holy law
and this is my solemn vow."

These weren't our exact vows, but very similar. Let's be honest. When you have children, it's nearly impossible to hold each other. Our arms are full with little girls and garbage bags, and laundry baskets. Even when we're walking somewhere together, we're herding sheep. Making sure no one gets hit by a car and carrying 14 bags plus an infant seat. The best time to hold one another is in bed I suppose, but he'd have to get past my pillow and our two children who climb in between us almost nightly. He's started this thing saying, "Do you need 20 seconds?" He read somewhere that hugging for 20 seconds releases endorphins and puts you in better spirits. So he'll grab me as I'm running to get a bottle or to get Maci out of the sink. I usually try to keep walking but he usually wins. And let me tell you, it works. For 20 seconds, I have time to remember that I'm a wife. His wife. I can embrace this man and tell him I love him in the midst of chaos. I have the opportunity to show my girls how much I love their daddy.
This week has been more worse than better and more sick than healthy. Sleep deprivation and long work hours thrown in with everything else has made this week purely survival mode. Bathe, eat, brush teeth, get to where you have to go, pay bills. We've been robot parents and robot spouses.  We communicate through text on our work days if possible and even after getting off work, we're counting the minutes until we can fall into our bed. You can see where this vicious cycle would take it's toll on us. After this week, it could be very easy for us to be at each other's throats. But by the grace of God, we have stayed unified. I don't say that in a way that's implying our marriage is some great teacher to other marriages. But I say that to give glory to our Lord for helping us to keep each other priority in the midst of the ugly stuff.
We love each other, we cherish each other, and we have each other. When I walked down the aisle in front of all of our family and friends 7 years ago, I made a life long commitment. I had no idea what that commitment would look like or how much work would go into it, but it's hard work, let me tell you. I wake up every morning and choose to love him. I choose to put his needs above my own. I choose to encourage him even with a simple text or a quick prayer on the way to work. He wakes up and chooses to love me. He puts my needs above his own. He encourages and strengthens me. There are no boundaries, no white elephants, no secrets, and no hiding. Everything is on the table at all times. If I need to be called out, he does it. If he needs to be more sensitive, I tell him to put his phone down and look at me when I'm talking to him. "I need your eyes" is something else he says to me when I'm distracted or half listening. Our honesty and transparency is the the lifeblood of this marriage. The Lord brought us together. He is my most precious gift and I am his. So while we are still figuring things out, have many more hurdles to jump, and many mountains to climb, I know that I'm never alone. He is the love of my life, the father of my children, the holder of my heart. He serves me and cares for me. He leads me and doesn't skirt around hard issues. We laugh. Man, do we ever laugh. My face has more lines in it than I had wanted at 31, but I can't regret them, because I know most are from laughing at my crazy husband.
Happy 7th Anniversary my love. Let's keep having and holding and cherishing and loving. Our life wasn't promised to be easy or full of sunshine and rainbows, but we can walk through the rain hand in hand and keep our family before the Lord. Here's to many more!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

We're not home yet

"When it rains, it pours."
Familiar with that phrase? Lived it? Ever felt like you were drowning in some kind of rainstorm without a trace of an umbrella, lifeboat, or break of sunshine in sight? Yeah...me too.
I'm just gonna get straight to it...life sucks. Life is hard. Life is not fun. Life is unfair. Life is stressful. Life is unpredictable. I am convinced the older I get, the more difficult life becomes. The past year has been an uphill climb for me with lots of debris hitting me in the face, no safety harness attached, and a 300 lb man latched to my back. But before I loose everyone to all of the negativity this blog has opened with, I must clarify.
My life would be considered good. Been married to my high school sweetheart for 7 years, have 3 beautiful, healthy daughters, a nice home, great friends, family and we are a part of an amazing church. My husband and I are both really happy in our jobs and are doing our best to live a life reflective of Christ. We've had our fair share of grief, heartache, and pain too. But the Lord has been faithful to us in those times and delivered us time and time again. So overall, I am incredibly happy about my lot in life at this very moment. I am blessed beyond measure with all the goodness our God has poured out. But that could change in the blink of an eye.
There has been so much pain around us this year. People hurting everywhere. People suffering in silence or masking their deepest wounds for fear of judgement. Tears at every corner. Grief on the hunt like a starving bloodhound. Temptation dangling in front of lonely souls. Fingers being pointed and relationships divided. Trust has sizzled where it once thrived and unconditional love has been overshadowed by selfishness. Manipulation is at it's best while authenticity has taken a back seat. Gossip rings in my ears (literally..I work at a salon) and encouraging words are long gone. Pain and darkness seem to be overtaking humanity and we are all guilty of sitting back and watching our loved ones drown in it one by one. Or maybe you are the one crying out for help, loosing grip of your rope, and everyone is stand around watching you. If we're honest, I think at some point we have all felt like a lamb thrown into a pack of wolves.
How do we make the pain go away? When will life improve? When will people stop getting sick and dying? When will evil disappear forever? When will everyone be genuinely happy and frolic around holding hands running through a glorious field under the canopy of a blue sky with perfect white clouds?
We need to wake up. We need to realize the reality and severity of our world and the pain that exists within it.
GREAT news is we can control our reaction to such pain. Our actions when someone else is hurting. Our response to a loved one who is dying. Our words when their is division. Our care when it is needed. Our love to give when someone is deprived of it. There are beautiful gifts of ourselves to give if we only open up. If we put others' needs before our own. If we see the good in people and aren't constantly blinded or stopped at the bad. If we stop trying to prove our skills and compare ourselves to others by how well we do this or that and instead come alongside each other and lift one another up. There is a lot of bad but there can be a lot of good too.
In frustration and sheer exhaustion from a personal struggle, I lifted up my hands and yelled to my husband, "Why is life so hard?" His words were simple and life giving, "We're not home yet babe."
I felt like the Lord smacked me across the face with my sweet husband's reminder. We were not promised an easy life. Many people question things about God when a loss or death happens. Or a lost job. Or a divorce. Or a family feud. "Why would a good God allow His people to suffer?" My response...what kind of person would I be without having gone through suffering at all? I don't know that I want to know that kind of person. For my fellow believers out there, we can be encouraged in Romans 5, "...but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope..." What kind of person would I be or anyone be without endurance, character, and hope?
So the next time you hear of someone suffering, offer an encouraging word or prayer. If you are suffering, don't hide in it alone. Reach out and get help. There are many things friends of mine, clients, and people I don't even know are experiencing right now that I may never experience but that doesn't exempt me from the pain. We are called to carry each others' burdens and I intend to do that as best as I can for those who need or want their load shared. My dark days were always a little better with someone, anyone, shining the smallest glimmer of light.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Three daughters, oh my!

Today I am 40 weeks pregnant with my third baby girl...wowza!! This last week I have been out of commission. I have sat in my house in very stretchy pants for days fighting random contractions and trying to rest, knowing how much sleep I'll be missing the next few months. I have held my girls close and have prayed over my belly in the tub night after night. I have slept terribly, tossing from one sore hip to the next, slowing maneuvering in a way that doesn't make it feel like my insides are being rearranged. I have literally punched my husband in the back from his snoring so loud (oops, he doesn't know that!). I have done little to no cooking and we're surviving on coupons and Adam picking up dinner here and there. I've walked our stairs and our neighborhood for Halloween, hoping something would make this baby come out. She ain't budging. And I am ok with that. Well, not at first. First I was really annoyed and angry and emotional. Still emotional, but now the Lord has softened my heart, reminding me good things come to those who wait. And I will be holding my very good thing in a few days.

As early as tomorrow, I will be meeting my third daughter, Rosie Mae. Lots of emotions have been on the surface today as I imagine our life with three girls. Callie and Maci have been enormous blessings to us and I know Rosie will fit right in. But I would be lying if I didn't say how insanely unsettling it is to think we'll be outnumbered, that potentially we could go through six proms, and there could be four menstrual cycles going on at once (take that in!). Not to mention, ahem, 3 potential weddings! I get into my own head a lot as a mother. Constantly second guessing my decisions when disciplining and trying to get it right. Showing love while keeping a balance so they can turn into functioning adults at some point. My husband and I make a great team, and I feel like we are doing all that we can; loving them and taking care of them and raising them in a God honoring way. My oldest is four so I haven't been in the parenting trenches too long, but long enough to know what I do want my girls to learn from us. So I've decided to list a few things as a reminder to myself to keep what's important first and everything else will work itself out.

To my girls, a short list of what I want you to learn from Mommy and Daddy (lots and lots of things to be added to this list as we all grow together):

1. Always be kind. Always. You never know what kind of hurt or struggle someone is going through that's causing attitude, hatefulness, or pure venom to be spewing out of their mouth, but we are called to love everyone. It's much easier to give attitude back when it's given to you. It takes someone of strong self control to let things slide and roll off your back.

2. Never give up. Go down swinging if that's what it takes to accomplish something you've got your sights on. Your daddy is a good example of that. He has worked his tail off providing for us while graduating college and holding a second job. We will always support your goals.

3. Forget about The Jones'. We are happy to give you girls things that you want for Christmas and birthdays, but we will not raise you to expect anything at any given moment. You will have lots of friends who have more than you and I want you to be ok with that. We are blessed in having one another and building our lives on our faiths in Jesus and finding joy in the eternal things, not things that break within a week.

4. Be a loyal friend. Mommy has been blessed to have friendships that I've carried with me through many years, ups and downs, and milestones in my life. I don't know what I would have done without some of them by my side, especially through the really ugly things in life. Find a few friends who love you and support you and tell you when you're being stupid. Cling on to them for dear life.

5. Be silly and laugh often. Daddy and I fell in love over jokes and laughter. We love making you all smile and belly laugh hysterically with our random dance parties and Daddy's crazy voices. This home will always be filled with laughter.

6. Ask questions. Mommy and Daddy will always be honest with you. If there's something you don't understand, please come to us and we'll talk through it. If we don't have the answer, we'll pray for peace for you and us until we have one.

7. You do you. We are all different and God has created us to be that way. How boring it would be if we all walked around looking, sounding like, and acting like everyone else. Don't be afraid to step out of the box and challenge yourself, even if it's uncomfortable at first. Don't worry about pleasing people and trying to fit into some mold our ever changing society has put together. Love Jesus and honor Him.

8. Never abandon family. Family is the closest relationships you'll ever have. Having sisters is going to be a challenge, but I know firsthand what sweet friendships come with sisters. You will be each other's first friends and I hope to see all of you grow together and stay closely connected through the years.

9. Go out of your way for others. Even if you don't know them. Friend the kid at school sitting alone. Hold open a door. Be respectful at all times to authority, even if you disagree with them. Talk to people and learn about people. We were created for community and friendships.

10. Love Jesus, pray often. Daddy and I are raising you in church and to know what Jesus did for you. We want to live out our faiths in our parenting and marriage more than any other area. We have already been praying and will be continuing to pray that He captures your hearts one day and that you choose to follow Him.

So these are just some things that were stirring in my heart. Still much to learn and to pass on to my girls. I am convinced being a mother is something that will challenge me and grow me until my last breath but I am so eternally grateful to be on this journey with our soon to be THREE girls!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Word for my Fellow Believers

Social media has become quite the courtroom hasn't it? With so many things changing in our culture, society, and government, it seems everyone has something to say about something. From Bruce "Caitlyn" Jenner, Josh Duggar's confession of molesting his siblings (which outraged me the most), something about the confederate flag (not sure what the deal was there), and now a big decision sweeping the nation to legalize gay marriage statewide. We are all standing before a judge, declaring who's innocent, who's guilty, who deserves what, and who doesn't deserve rights at all. We are slamming our fists in anger and going head to head with others who think differently. We have made our own judicial court with our own set of rules and guidelines and our own standards of whom we should and shouldn't show love to and who deserves to be punished.

I have seen this from many people, but a lot from my brothers and sisters who claim Christ. Those are who I'm pleading with today.

This is not a blog to talk about all of those things. My heart is heavy for many things, but mostly, I am finding people almost recreating Christianity, salvation, and their view of conviction to satisfy a very changing culture, but also to maintain good status in the church. The older I get and the more years I walk with Christ, I am seeing my faith differently. I am clinging to His grace all the more and realizing my defenses and anger have no place in evangelizing and being a reflection of Christ. Are there times to become angry? Yes. Jesus was rightfully angry when He stepped into the temple and saw it was being misused by a bunch of thieves. So angry He started flipping tables. I've been that angry too. I've let anger consume me in past years. To a point where I was constantly defensive, abrasive, rude, and short with others. By the grace of God, He broke me from that and made me realize I was standing in my own way to being a light for Him. There are things in my life that I've experienced that I'll still always have questions about, but I now know, I don't have to have the answers and I don't have to carry grudges.

I have read a lot of people's debates the last few months. I have cringed at responses and reactions from those who are in the church. I have stayed out of most and prayed when I wanted to interject. God knows I need to be silent at times. My husband does too, and is good at reminding me to reel in the frustration. He's God's greatest gift to me. I do believe there are times when we need to stand up for what we believe and in no way do I think we need to hunker down under a rock in the face of adversity when Christianity is quickly becoming the minority. I think we all need to remind ourselves of what it is we believe and how that effects our lives and should effect every facet of our lives.

What do you believe about God? His character? Your salvation? What does grace mean to you? Conviction, brokenness, and repentance? Why are you standing up for and revolting against something in anger if the Lord has no reign and rule in your life? If He has covered us in grace and love, shouldn't we be covering others with the same? I am more nervous than ever that our believers in our churches are shortchanging their beliefs and salvation as nothing more than a mere bandaid. We walk into society seeing what's going on, being backed into corners, or backing others into corners with no real grasp of what we're saying or doing. Have we allowed the transforming grace to grip us enough to walk in conviction to our own sins daily? Are we repenting? Are we being the hands and feet of Jesus to a lost and hurting world? Or are we wasting breath and years keeping our defenses so high and our walls so strong up around us, we have completely darkened any light that was once in us.

It's time we turn the finger around. Christianity is a call to continually self reflect. It's not something we label ourselves as because we sit in a church pew once a week. It's a calling to deny oneself and trust completely in the work of Christ on the cross. It's hanging up legalism and rebellion. It's not the robber who hung on a cross and demanded Christ to save him; it is a picture of the thief who hung on His other side, asking for forgiveness and in realizing his own wretched state, cried out for Christ to take him to Paradise. Are we the angry thief, blaming others for all there is wrong with us and the world or are we the other; the one who knows so desperately his need for saving grace.

In no way do I think this is watering down or should water down what is clearly stated in scripture. There are things in the Bible that are very black and white and I will stand upon the scriptures as God's very real words to me until the day I meet Him face to face. But no where in scripture does it say condemn in anger, point your finger in arrogance, or make those around you who believe differently feel as if they're inadequate in your presence. God created us all and the ugliness around us, towards us, and from us is dividing us. As a human race and as a body of believers. Instead of consuming ourselves with what we think about gay marriage or how we feel about the Duggars being taken off TLC, maybe we need a shift in our thoughts. We need to pray that God redeems our hearts for people in a big way. We need our eyes opened to our own struggles, shortcomings, and failures in remembrance that we are no better than anyone and should be all the more grateful that our Jesus paid the penalty for our sorry selves. So something I'm asking myself and want to ask of you:

When was the last time you did something for someone else, without any reason to, expecting nothing in return, simply to show the love of Christ?

Who was the last hurting person you prayed for?

When did you reach out to someone in need and go out of your way to help meet a need?

When did you last speak a kind word to a stranger?

These are all ways to tangibly show the love of Christ. In conversation with a friend today, she had read something about all of these debates, that I plan to read. The whole basis of the author's article was "is this a hill worth dying on?" It has stuck with me all day. What do I want to be known for when I'm gone? What do I want my children and grandchildren to remember about me when they're missing me? What legacy do I want carried on in my relationship to Christ? I don't want to be remembered for the hateful things I said, the lash outs that I was apart of, the explosvie anger that consumed me, or how many debates I "won" on Facebook. I want people to know that I loved Jesus to my core and tried to carry out that love in my day to day life in parenting, hairdressing, being a wife, church member, and friend. If I had to choose my hill to die on...let it be one where I'm serving others, ministering with my family, and enjoying the special relationships God has given me. A hill where all are loved despite race, religion, or sexual orientation. We have to start seeing people as just that, people. People that, believe it or not, were created by God. People that deserve respect and kindness at all times.

Legalistic one, put down your stone.
Rebellious one, come to repentance.
Calloused one, return to the joy of your salvation.
Wavering one, commit to love Jesus wholeheartedly.
Angry one, cast your anxieties on Him.

Let's love in action and stop hating in words. Together, we can get back to the heart of the gospel and the message that Christ's desire is for all to know Him.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Home Sweet Home

Today we close on our very first home. I couldn't have imagined the emotions that would come about. I knew it would be somewhat sentimental, but my heart is on the verge of bursting from emotions and memories we've made in this home over the past 5 1/2 years. We are so very excited to be moving to a new home with more space, but I will definitely be leaving a piece of my heart within these walls. I remember when Adam and I first started house hunting. We were newlyweds living in our small townhouse (that we loved and I still miss it). We were so excited and ignorant at the same time about the process of buying a house, but we decided to contact a realtor. I remember walking into this house and thinking how much I loved it. I loved the open concept, the laminate flooring, and the oversized deck. I walked into each bedroom and imagined where a crib would fit and how our future children would grow and play. I wanted a home where we could have our family and friends over often. After two failed contracts on other houses, we found this home, and decided it was for us.

It was so fun picking out paint colors and deciding just how we would have our very limited assortment of furniture. When I found out I was pregnant with Callie, I was chomping at the bit to start planning her nursery. Owls, owls, owls!! As her room came together and my belly grew larger, I would sit in the dark, rocking in her nursery, anticipating her arrival. Singing to her, praying over her, and imagining her lying in my arms instead of nestled in my womb. I still remember the paint color, "Cinderella's Ball Gown". Goodness, how fitting for our four year old princess now. That sweet nursery, has turned into a toddler playground. That little squirmy baby that slept so peacefully in our first purchased crib is now on the verge of starting preschool. Where a diaper stacker hung, there is a backpack in it's place. I remember opening her closet and staring at how small the pink clothes were that hung. Now it's bursting with long dresses, coats, suitcases, and board games. The little one who kept us up all hours of the night our first few weeks together, now brushes her own teeth, goes potty solo, and jumps into her own bed. I still sing and pray, but she sings to me sometimes too. Sweet memories, I'm hanging on as tightly as I can.

The same for my second pregnancy, our bedroom, or when I would hang a new family picture. Each added touch was something that represented us. We've entertained, hosted small groups, had birthday parties, derby parties, Christmas get togethers, summer cookouts, and even had a baptism done in our bathtub. We've said goodbye to a puppy when he was picked up by the new owner and we've watched our other one turn more white over the years. We've had our share of leaks, squeaky floors, hot and cold days when our heater and AC have gone out, and times that I've really wanted to scream from feeling so cramped. Adam and I started this ongoing list, "In our next house....". The blanks have been filled in by a lot over the years; "we'll have more closet space," "I have to have a bigger kitchen," "we will have two sinks in the bathroom," "we need a garage." There have been a lot of complaints and things we would change, but I would argue they were so few and far between. We know the blessing this home has been to us. The too shallow of a sink where I gave my babies their first baths was perfect. The smallest room in the house became the perfect size for a second nursery. Our always cluttered, never swept basement, houses our girls clothes, toys, and our things from years of living life. We have never had a spotless house. You could walk in on any given day unannounced and see that it's been a house very much lived in. Many nights, dishes were left in the kitchen sink and strung out on the counters. Laundry piles have been bursting from closets while we stepped around them to get out the door. Dust has collected and dog hair has been lying in corners before I pulled out the swifter. I can proudly say, we've neglected some housework over the years to make sure we're living our life with our babies.

As we turn over our keys today to new owners, I can only hope and pray, they build as many fond memories as we have. That they have a home full of love and cherish each passing year together. Boxing up each room is very bittersweet, mainly because it takes me back to that year, that moment, when I decided to put that item, picture, or piece of furniture where it is. We are looking forward to the many years we'll have together as a family of five in our new home. A home where we'll bring our third daughter into our family. A home where we'll be able to host a community group with our church. A home where we will watch our girls grow from babies to school age children. A home that will host many slumber parties and girls' nights. A home where Adam can play pool and ping pong with his buddies. A home where, above all, we can show love, kindness, hospitality, and the love of Christ. I will always be thankful for the years we've been growing in this home together. The walls that have seen us laugh uncontrollably and cry out of deep sorrow. The bathroom floors that have held up the splash bath parties and the hot shower waters that beat on a sore back after long days of work. The neglected yard that has been overshadowed by long grass more often than not, but that many children have run on, giggling and kicking balls. The worn deck that has held up to many burgers, dogs, and barbecued chicken on the grill. Our cabinets and pantry have been filled with food, formula, and everything in between.

These walls have taken a beating, this home has been lived in and loved, and I can only hope it will miss the life we have given it. We will surely miss the life it helped give us.