It has been a hard few months, right? It has. Tensions are high for one reason or another. It seem like when one hot topic cools off, another one begins to boil over. Along with our opinions, defenses and our feelings. Oh the feelings! The feelings are everywhere and everyone is having them. And, you have probably chosen a side or tend to lean further in one direction than the other on the issues. You may have gone over all of the reasons why all of the things that you believe are right. Of course you're right, or you wouldn't believe it right? Can I be blunt with you? You aren't right. I'm not right, either. We are getting this wrong. ALL OF US. WRONG. SO VERY WRONG.
We are a splintered nation. Unity is endangered, and in many areas unity has not been seen in such a long time that it seems extinct. Imagine that. Unity could be on the verge of extinction. My mind goes to ugly places. Before we get all dramatic and start rambling on about the state of unity in our country and where fault lies...Stop. Many of us have large protective barriers fashioned between us and "the other side", that we cannot even see each other anymore. Behind all of these opinions and reasonings, demands and marches, and all of these social media profiles are real people. We are neighbors, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends. We only see opposition, lines drawn in the sand. Many of us are even daring the other to step over that line. There is so much anger. The truth is the anger is failing us. The real TRUTH is that "Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13:8" "...love covers a multitude of sins. Prov. 10:12". Lay down your defenses. You cannot love well from behind a shield.
But some of us aren't really trying to love here, are we? Maybe at one point we were. This feels more like hate and we do not even realize it. Or maybe we do. Oh sure, you know when the "other guy" is hating, because you feel it and it offends you. Now look inward. Look at your own heart. Do you hate? Merriam-Webster defines hate as intense hostility and aversion. UMMMMM....have you been on Facebook? Are you reading the news outlets? There are fingers pointing in all directions. Every single one. If you are trying to find the right side, you can't. You won't. There will always be a finger pointing at you. And we all swear we are right. We have our band of brothers that think exactly the same as we do all huddled together in the same corner and we are all doing the same thing. Just to be sure. Some are silent and some are loud. And even that's wrong. So many of us are demanding our own way. Aren't we? We all just want to be heard. I ask you this...at what price are we willing to assure that we are being heard?
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."1 Corinthians 13:4-7
We are in an extremely vulnerable place. As a nation, very vulnerable. Many eyes across the globe know that we are on the verge of something. As we continue to demand our own way for the sake of love, and dishonor one another in the name of love, the divide deepens. And its our fault. Its not the political parties' fault, its not the church's fault, its the fault of the unchurched or the fault of a different religious group. It's not the liberals' or the conservatives' faults. IT'S NOT EVEN THE CURRENT OR PAST PRESIDENT'S FAULT. It is every single one of us collectively that is causing this estrangement. I am going to get really real for a second. Can I call out my family right now? My family, the church. I feel like I can say some hard things and you might get mad, but we are family and you will get over it and still love me. We aren't standing in the gap. We are breaking down. Our behavior is unbecoming of a bride. We are throwing blows at one another, to our own brothers and sisters, in the name of righteousness. "But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. Gal 5:15. And everyone else is screaming at us too. We are buckling under the pressure to have the answers and we are all coming up with different ones. The answer in Jesus. Not a platform, not a charity, not even a really good moral belief. We are letting this happen by placing our selves above others, some of us even in the name of others. We aren't loving others, if we aren't loving each other. In John 13, Jesus said "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” WOW, just wow! Our love for one another.
We are not being the light in a dark world. We are mimicking the darkness. We have made this about being right. We are so sure we are right. Just like Eve was in the garden. She was sure of herself. An idea had been planted in her mind. And the Word says she evaluated her surrounding intricately.She looked for the good, she did...just like we think we do. "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate." Gen. 3:6. She was wrong. We are so sure of ourselves. So sure that we are doing good. The truth is hate isn't the opposite of love, self is. Hate is a byproduct of fear. Many of us are afraid. I know I am. We are about the shatter into a million pieces if we aren't careful. Have we forgotten that God is sovereign? He reigns. That is the only thing I am sure of anymore. HE REIGNS ALONE. In prayer I have begged for His wisdom, and His Word says if we lack wisdom, ask Him and He will give it generously. He does not need us to help Him. He needs us to seek Him. On our knees. Humble. Repentant. Would you seek Him with me?
"...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chron. 7:14
Along with certain "resolutions" and quests for the new year, I have been given a theme word to remember. Each new word for each year, is simply something that I feel the Holy Spirit has impressed upon me to pay special focus, but is in no way the only focus. The theme for 2017 started to be whispered before I even began praying about it. It kept being recited over and over. To be sure, I still prayed for God to show me what He wanted me to focus on in 2017. Once again, He spoke clearly.
an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady
a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
Life is hard. That is so cliché, but it is also very true. I find is especially hard to "distribute the weight" of the responsibilities appropriately. My focus can lean heavily to the kids.....cause we have a lot of them, don't we? When it leans too heavily on them, there is inadequate care of my own physical, mental and spiritual health and I find my focus as a wife is lacking. This affects the greater relational dynamic between my husband and I . We begin to feel disconnected. This also does something else very significant, it begins to decompose the authorities placed within the family...Father, Mother, children. My role as wife comes before my role as mother. The role of Father comes before all. Then, there is the delicate balance of self care. "Mama always comes last" is not a healthy mindset. We are equally as worthy of care. We all know there is a fine line between self loathing and self obsession. Balance. Father, Mother, Child....and self somewhere in between. And, those responsibilities do not equate to one another. I know this because God placed these positions in the Bible, in this order. Relationships are substantially important, in this life, but neither of these are my greatest priority. I have one superior relationship that sadly gets a smaller portion of my time, more often, than the others. This is my relationship with the Creator of the Universe, the Author of the Truth. He wants a personal relationship with each and every one of us. One where we spend time with Him, where we listen more than we talk. One where we lift praises and requests before Him and not demands. And again, I say life is hard. It is hard because I make it hard. I do not act on the things that I know are true. I know this relationship fuels the entire rest of my life, and yet I allow myself to get bogged down by the tasks of daily life, because my relationship with my Savior wanes. Balance in life comes when we distribute the weight, not equally, but in proper proportion as "to remain upright and steady". It really does not sound hard. The Truth is that we will endure troubles in this life. I expect them. And, I do not think that my life is any harder than yours. All any of us need is the proper balance.
I have been working very hard over the past months, to complete the many unfinished blog posts from the past. Finally feeling a release and freedom to do so, I have focused on past accounts....heavily. So much that I have not kept past and present in "correct proportions". I am remembering to live life now and enjoy living it. I can still finish up things from months ago, but I must be sure to be present in the here and now. I must live for today more so than yesterday or tomorrow.
The kids have asked and wished and asked and wished.....for snow. It only snowed once in 2016, while we were away in China. Finally, the much sought after snow arrived!! The kids took their sleds and braved the cold, sledding over every small hill we have in our yard. They had hours of snowy fun. When they could no longer take the frigid temperatures, they came in for homemade hot cocoa, after dumping wet clothes in the dryer. Then, they did it all over again.
We took the kids to the big hill around the corner. I thought we would never get them to leave.
It has been almost an entire year since I have blogged. Well, actually since I have made a post public. I get on here and go through the motions, upload photos, reminisce and my mind goes to unhealthy places. Many times I get bitter and angry all over. So, I leave the post here, hiding feelings and photos of the life I am living. It has been a year of an intense, swirling soup of emotions. At the beginning of last year after our home invasion and the realization that our pictures could not be recovered, I tried very hard to make myself bypass the grieving process. Then when that did not work, I tried to move faster than my heart was willing. That is just human nature. Pain and suffering is not fun. We do not like it. We try in every way to avoid it. We try to pray against it. Often we do not see the need for it. I stayed frustrated for a long while. I cannot say that I am over it now, not completely. But, through pain and suffering comes growth...the good, healthy kind. The kind that stays with you. The kind that brings a death of something unneeded, then renewal.
Marcus and I were looking back with our children on New Year's Eve, discussing what 2016 brought. I initially wanted to believe that it was not a good year. 2016 was a hard year for me. Just plain ol' hard, man. Then, he begins listing all of the beautiful blessings God brought and I felt truly ungrateful, like a first world brat. God brought Lottie home in 2016, without a single shred of debt. God promoted Marcus, thus radically changing His provision for our family in 2016. God delivered Clementine into our family in 2016. Those are some major highlights. We were warm, fed, loved, healthy and protected in 2016, just like we always have been. In 2016 we again, found favor with God, again undeservedly. It was a good year.
God had had me in His hand even when I did not feel like he did. Through those circumstances, when we feel God is far from us, but we trust that he is still as near as ever, we grow. He fills cracks and even gashes in our hearts. Our soul is stretched, and though we groan with pain, we grow. We are being sanctified. Sanctification is serious business. It is preparation for eternity. If you are in the midst of a season that is dry, lonely, excruciating, exhausting, or mundane; trust that He has you here for a beautiful reason. The enemy is always near. He would have us to believe that we are unloved, useless, invaluable and that we suffer in vain. Those are untruths. These moments do not feel so beautiful by our standards, but we will stand in a new place one day, where these manmade standards are no more, and see how beautiful this really was. We have to believe that. "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19. We must stay vigilantly in the Word and in prayer, less we fall or become ensnared again.
Now I feel like it is time to get back to this blog. I have been beckoned and I oblige. To whomever this blog means enough to encourage me, I do so appreciate it more than you know. Sometime we need a little nudge. We need encouragement...to know this is not all futile...to know we are making a difference even a tiny one. So, I have gone back and posted a lot from time past. I will continue to do so, until it is done. Much of what we have salvaged is not great quality, but sometimes we must appreciate what we have and not get sidetracked by what we desire.
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!
We had a wonderful Advent and Christmas season this year. This year we got our tree early, the day after Thanksgiving. Last year we got a late start and most of the trees were picked over. We went to Ward's Christmas Tree Farm again, as we have since moving out to East Chester. The kids look forward to the horse-drawn wagon ride out to the field to choose just the right tree. It is then cut down and loaded up on the wagon, along with all of us. We go inside the tiny cabin like office to pay and enjoy hot chocolate and cider. We love the new traditions.
We set the tree up in water at home and give it a few days to adjust, then we pull all of the totes full of decorations downstairs. These totes hold ornaments accumulated through years of marriage, ornament exchanges, tiny hands making festive creations and even some passed down from our childhood. Memories made. The kids love finding their creativity from passed years, finding the baby ornaments and guessing which belongs to whom. Usually we alternate who gets to top the tree with our start, but this year the bulb blew and we never got around to getting it replaced.
As soon as December arrived, we began our Advent devotional, called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp. Ann is such a poetic author, that at times it is often hard to read her work. This was our second year and it was much easier to understand. We enjoy the building anticipation of Christmas morning, when we celebrate the first coming of Christ to this earth. With each nightly reading, someone hangs an ornament on the pallet tree that Daddy built last year. The final ornament, the star, is hung at the top of the tree on Christmas morning after our final devotion and before presents!
We took Lottie and Jude to see St. Nick since neither had seen him before. Although we do not use Santa in our celebrations, we do observe St. Nicholas. He was a Christian bishop who gave to the hungry and poor. This is where the legend of Santa Claus is derived. We learn about St. Nick in our History of the World cycle. One popular story about him we read is that he gave bags of gold to a poor family for the daughters of the family a dowry so that they could marry. He was a giver, which goes with the Christmas season.
We also continued with pour tradition of making homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Mia looks forward to this time of year because she LOVES to bake. She has grown quite good at following a recipe. We also made some homemade ornaments out of felt and popsicle sticks. We may or may not have started a new tradition of caroling. We had a good time singing carols to friends, but I am not sure we were in tune.
Christmas morning was a little different this year as well. We decided to visit and celebrate with family before Christmas day, reserving the day for our immediate family. This year was special because Christmas fell on Sunday, so we went to worship with our church family after opening gifts and eating Christmas breakfast. I got to cook my first Christmas feast this year, except for the turkey that we bought at Birth Choice. Everyone enjoyed the meal and I enjoyed not having to fool with dinner. We had lots left over. Other first we enjoyed were Lottie and Clementine experiencing Christmas for the first time.
I do wish we would begin wrapping gifts as we buy them. Staying up until the wee hours of the morning is getting old....or I am.
Two blond, blue-eyed beauties
Our group photo at Ward's
Trimming the tree
The ornament hoarder
Ann Voskamp's Christmas Devotional was much easier to read the 2nd year.
Our Advent Tree
We wanted Lottie to experience Santa Claus :-)
2016 Homemade Ornaments
2016 Christmas Card
We decided to have a little fun and use one of the many outtakes as our card.
This is what it is really like when we try to get a group photo.
All is calm.
Christmas morning chaos
Clementine's first Christmas
2016 family Christmas picture
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:14
Sweet, Sweet Eva Lou turned 8!!! It amazes me how each birthday seems to startle me with another year added to the life of our little ones. Eva is not so little anymore. Eva is growing into a sweet young, lady. And yet, she maintains her eccentric, artsy personality. She has taken a new liking to LEGOs, spending hours creating. She recently took offense to her sister's comment that she wasn't girly. She is very much girly, yet her personality is all her own and we celebrate that!
We love you sweet girl! We praise God for giving you another year ahead. We look so forward to seeing you grow and your charm continue to captivate all of us. You are a blessing and a true beauty!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SUNSHINE!!
Eva was gifted the day at the skating rink with her friends!