Posted in Random Thoughts

Gone are the Days

I recently discovered The Gray Havens and have been playing them on repeat. The song Gone are the Days has been one I have come back to multiple times in response to current events.

It speaks to the hope we hold for what’s to come.

“One day, when sorrows are gone.”

“Finally, all is right
Only love and light
Finally, all is right
When all is right…”

One day, all will be made right. One day, we will be free of our sorrows, burdens, and suffering.

How do we pass the time until then?

We will shed tears. We will carry grief. We will endure suffering.

We will see glimpses of what’s to come. We will experience joy that radiates our faces. We will find comfort and rest from the Lord. We will hold onto hope.

We live in a broken world. We live in a world that will be restored and made great.

In time, evil will ultimately be defeated.

In time, Goodness will reign.

In time, we will be those who worship the One who causes all of this to pass.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Romans 8: 18-30

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up!

Posted in Random Thoughts

The Gift of Presence

Tears streaming down his face, his little arms reached up for me to grab him.

You see, my son is learning how to walk. Sometimes he takes a wrong step. Other times, he leans on an unstable object. Most of the time, he falls mid stride. Some of these falls are harmless, others hurt. A lot.

One afternoon, I was holding my sweet boy while tears streamed down his face from one of those unfortunate instances where he landed right on his mouth.

While I was holding him, I looked over to Alex and said, “Whenever Simon is sad, hurt, or angry and wants to be held, that’s all he wants. To be held. He doesn’t want hugs or snuggles, he pushes them away. He just wants me to be with him while he cries.”

Alex responded, “Oh, so he’s like you then.”

Yep.

One thing I appreciate from people is presence. Not solutions or affection. Presence.

Eleanor and Alex are different. Their guard comes down with a hug. It’s how they exhale their stress. (At home, at least :)).

Affection and presence. Not solutions. Affection and presence.

We are meant for these kinds of things.

We are meant to have safe men and women in our lives to join us in the weight of our burdens.

Our tears, sighs, and outbursts should be tended to with thoughtful, nurturing care.

We practice this at home with our falls and our disobedience. With our grumpy demeanors and our words that often lack hope.

We prioritize caring for each others soul.

We grow in grace and love by our presence.

Our presence in the midst of disagreement.

Our presence in the midst of disobedience.

Our presence in the midst of hurt and pain.

In the past few months (years, actually), I have felt unsettled and frustrated in regards to the typical dialogue and interactions I observe and experience.

A lack of presence leads to a lack of wisdom.

A lack of presence leads to quick thoughts and words that may bring more harm to a discussion or situation.

A lack of presence leads to seeing a person’s behavior without any insight of their heart, motivations, or need of grace.

A lack of presence leads to growing pride, “at least I’m not like him/her.”

How do we grow in gifting our presence to those who need us to weep or celebrate with them?

How do we gift our presence to those who disagree, disobey, or disregard our opinions? (I’m talking about the surfacey sort, not the kinds that threaten our safety or our dignity)

We become present people when we dwell in the presence of God.

Sometimes we need God’s presence for our own comfort.

“Now that we know what we have —Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God –let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all–all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Other times, we need the presence of God for our own refining and discipline. Presence and trust earn the right to challenge, and what is better than His presence and Word to do so?

“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn’t think of asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way. You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” James 4:2-6 MSG

We become present people when presence is more important than persuasion.

We become present people when we prioritize safety. Safe people listen without speaking harsh judgements or condemnation. Safe people honor the conversation and the person by resisting temptation to gossip. Safe people point to the grace and reprieve found in Christ.

Our presence is never a substitute for God’s presence. We will never master the ability to perfectly dwell and endure with those with personalities, beliefs, or choices that differ from ours. Our presence is not reliant on our own abilities.

What if we were more focused on how we receive others instead of how others receive our opinions or objections?

What if learning how to be present is key to learning how to speak those hard truths that lead to love and grace and NOT division?

What if presence is an essential component to receiving truth?

How would our lives change if we regularly dwelled in the presence of God and prioritized being a safe and loving presence for others? What do you think? Even in times when we can’t be physically presence, we can still practice this.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-2 MSG

Photo by Artur Tumasjan on Unsplash
Posted in Random Thoughts

Christmas 2020 Gift Ideas

I love any reason to give a gift. Last year, I had a lot of fun making a post all about white elephant gifts people may actually enjoy. (You can click on that last sentence if you’d like to see what I included last year.

With all of the COVID fun this year, I’m not sure how many holiday parties/gatherings are happening, so I thought I’d make a general idea list this year.

Super inspired by The Lazy Genius, I decided to lump the different gifts into categories.

Also, as a general rule I follow, I like to think of gifts for people that either add to convenience/success in what they already do day to day OR something fun/”treat yourself” type of things. My husband is the most practical of humans, so I try to think practically when giving gifts. (Still learning :)) SO, some of these may be things you want to purchase for others, or maybe I don’t know anyone with the interests you are buying for. Either way, I hope this list serves some inspiration for you!

A few of these items can be mixed and matched to make a gift basket if you want to spend a little more.

None of these are affiliate links or anything fancy.

Happy Gift Giving!

A Thing From Their Amazon Wishlist:

For real. Ask them if they have one first. I bet there are things on there they want way more than any of this if they have one. Unless they are one of THOSE kinds of people who ONLY put items $150+ items on there. (Don’t be that person :)).

A Few Things I am Asking For:

Okay, I am not including this list so you will buy me anything. Instead, I hope this list serves as an indication as to what types of gifts I would like to receive to give you an idea of what constitutes as practical or worthwhile to receive :).

Inklings in the Rabbit Room Print $35 + shipping + frame. I like C.S. Lewis, Alex likes J.R.R. Tolkien. I love this print because it combines our interests and I think it would be a fun addition to our reading room.

Inklings in the Rabbit Room print by Stephen Crotts

Recipe Keepsake Diary $12.99. I like to keep our favorite recipes in one place. This recipe diary is something I’d like to fill out and eventually pass down. Some of my fondest memories happened over a meal, and there is plenty of spaces to write memories associated with the meal in the diary. I failed at baby books, but I’m hoping to pass down a love of cooking and fellowship to my children, so maybe they will cherish this too someday.

Beeswax Tapered Candles $27.99. I have a couple of candle stick holders on our dinner table. They seem to lighten the mood and environment at dinner time, which is usually a somewhat stressful time in our home. Also, the lit candles serve as a visual “timer” of sorts for Eleanor to know that she needs to sit at the table. She gets to blow them out, signaling the time to take her plate/bowl/silverware to the sink.

Some of my favorite colors!

Foodie Fun Gifts:

Gift ideas for foodies!

Souper Cubes $36.99 for a two pack. Tis the season for SOUP! Why not give a tool to help freeze perfect portions of leftover soup/broth/chili? There are various color choices, but how cute are these sprinkled holders? (You may see a sprinkle theme throughout…)

Silicone Sit Up Scraping Spoon $9.95. I have one of these and it is THE BEST. There are quite a few color choices as well.

(SPRINKLED) Ice Tray with Protective Lid $14. How cute is this!? I see it paired with a fun Icy Tray Treats cookbook or cocktail recipe book.

Magnetic Measuring Spoons $14. These are awesome. Double sided and they stick together for easy storage. I use mine all the time and never regret using liquid ingredients before dry spices :).

Anything from Women’s Bean Project $6-$10 + shipping. This program gives employment to women in the Denver area who struggle to obtain it elsewhere. It’s a comprehensive program that employs and trains them to graduate and move on to a entry-level job. Give their website a click and read more about it!

Gifts to Aid in Beverage Enjoyment:

I’m going to spend less time here because there are SO MANY cute/practical options for this.

Greatest Hits Mistaken Lyrics Coasters ($30). Know anyone notorious for getting lyrics wrong? This may just be the perfect gift for them.

These can also be found at Uncommon Goods.

The Mug With A Hoop $25. **Kid Friendly** There are options for football, hockey, soccer, and baseball as well.

W&P Porter Ceramic Mug $25. I love this. A travel mug is always useful.

It’s Hard to Get a Handle on the United States mug ($15).

Disappearing Bill of Rights mug ($15). It’s an election year. Why not?

Why not pair the mug with the Teas of the Boston Tea Party? ($35) You could probably find a cheaper tea leaf set on Amazon.

A Cozy Home:

I’m all about making our homes cozier, especially since we’ve had to spend so much time in them!

I Hope You Can See How Art Print ($15 + Shipping + Frame). I love this reminder to appreciate the little things. It’s 8×10, so it is small enough to keep on a desk or on a collage wall.

Abbie Ren Illustrations, Etsy.

Caldrea Pear Blossom Agave Countertop Spray. ($28 for a two pack). I could only find other scents sold solo, but I can only speak for this smell. It is AMAZING. Gift one, keep one if you want. You won’t regret it. Also, cleaning spray for a GIFT? I know. But really, why can’t we be a part of making the mundane tasks more enjoyable?

Turkish Hand Towels ($25 for four) There are plenty of other color options too. These towels are great for few reasons: 1) They get softer with each wash. 2) They dry really quickly and do not smell like mildew. 3) They are pretty!

Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags ($20 for four) One of my friends has these in her house and THEY WORK!

Meh Sign. ($18+shipping). I have this sign in my house. It’s pretty small, but always inspiring 😉

Online /Printed Content:

One thing I am also asking for that I did not include above is content I regularly use that I would like to actually invest in. For example, I create a lot of things on Canva, so having a paid subscription would be helpful for me in having more options of templates/images/fonts/etc.

I also enjoy The Atlantic, Christianity Today, and the New York Times. A magazine/online access subscription would be awesome. I don’t know what specific things the person you are buying for likes to read online, but it would be worth it to see if there is a magazine/website, podcaster, etc. they would like to financially support in order to have additional access of content.

Christmas By Mail:

If you are unable to travel and want to send something a little more personal, Giften Market has some unique and special (albeit pricey) gift box options. I think it’d be worth taking a look at some of the fun products they’ve found to serve as inspiration as well.

Mystery Lovers: Dear Holmes letters look like a fun game to receive via mail. It’s a subscription service and the letters build on each other to solve a mystery until Sherlock sends a concluding letter with his own deductions.

Indoorsy Boxes from Fabled Bookstore. If you’re interested in supporting a small book store, this is a great option. The selections for the adult boxes are as follows:

Hardcover Indoorsy Box ($40.00 + $3.30 tax) 1 Hardcover book, plus indoorsy surprise
Paperback Indoorsy Box ($45.00 + $3.71) 2 Paperback books, plus indoorsy surprise
“The Stacks” Indoorsy Box ($60.00 + $4.95 tax) 3 Paperback books, plus indoorsy surprise
“Top Shelf” Indoorsy Box ($75.00 + $6.18) 1 Hardcover, 2 Paperback books, plus indoorsy surprise
via Fabled Outdoorsy box ordering form

You are able to choose various genre preferences for the box.

Thanks for checking out some of my gift ideas for Christmas! Even if you don’t find anything you’re interested in gifting to others, I hope you are inspired! If you’re not inspired, I suggest making Amazon wishlists a mandatory Christmas tradition for your family and friends.

Happy gifting, friends!

Posted in Random Thoughts

Tears of Rage, Words of Contempt

I’ve learned that experiencing sadness does not always produce tears, but often, profound, deep anger does. This is not to say that I am frequently profoundly and deeply angry, but that when I am, tears are sure to follow.

“I feel so angry I COULD CRY!” is not something you hear everyday.

In particular, I think of the numerous conversations in which I’ve been “mansplained” and dismissed. I’ve been misunderstood and assigned with an uncharitable and inaccurate view behind my intentions. When the tears rise, I’m reduced to an “emotional being” that just needs to be comforted.

Do tears signify a potential need for comfort? Yes.

Is a need to be comforted a sign of weakness that invalidates someone from their frustrations, concerns, and viewpoint?

Are my tears a helpful signal that my anger may be driving my responses to the conversation?

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:19-21 ESV

Am I justifying the (sometimes) sinful and wrong response of the other person by prayerfully reconsidering my participation in the conversation? Not at all.

I am recognizing that their sinful OR correct, yet frustrating response should not drive me to sin.

Even if I have every reason to be angry, I need to humbly remember that MY anger is not what produces God’s righteousness. Feeling offended, misunderstood, or dismissed leads first to tears of rage, second to words of contempt.

In my arrogance, I can reduce a person to MY personal experience with them. When that quiet, tear filled rage leads my interactions, I am easily manipulated in my mind by betraying the purpose of discovering what they are saying and WHY they are saying it.

Am I quick to feel offended simply because this person is disagreeing with me?

Am I justifiably hurt because this person IS speaking to me in a dishonoring and dismissive way?

For example, I once received an email that I received as hurtful and unkind (okay, I’ve received more than one). After reading it, I was angry. My immediate response was to discuss it with another person under the guise of, “What do you think of this? CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?” I feel instant contempt for the other person. Their opinion isn’t even worthy enough for consideration, instead, they must be reduced to a hateful, unkind person.

After the rage settles, I reread the email. In it, I actually find some constructive criticism and an intention coming from a place of love. As a leader, you always fight the tension of seeking feedback while fighting the urge to express how little of the “big picture” people actually see.

The rage fades, the conversation begins. What I can’t take back is the contempt and attempted assassination of another person’s character I participated in. I don’t regret feeling angry and defensive, those are normal responses in our brain. I regret allowing those emotions to obsessively justify my own righteousness. “I’M GOOD, this person is BAD.” “I AM RIGHT, this person is WRONG.”

My rage led to sin.

My anger did not result in the righteousness of God.

My anger produced the same behavior I was accusing the other person of doing.

I’m praying that my tears of rage would instead lead me to look to words of comfort.

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

I’m praying for a heart that does not easily feel contempt for another human being.

I’m praying for a heart that can wisely establish boundaries and limits to those who are bent on destruction and pain of others.

I’m praying for a heart that longs to see the flourishing of others.

I’m praying for a heart that desires to enter into the stories of others, without trying to control the narrative.

I’m praying for a heart that disagrees graciously, and also humbly accepts when others disagree with me.

I’m praying for a heart that knows when to challenge, but also when to comfort.

I’m praying for a heart that leans more into silence and contemplation than shouting and arrogance.

I’m praying for more of this:

“Brew coffee or tea, sit with a friend and ask them questions—questions just one step riskier than the last time you talked. As you listen, observe the flickers of sadness or hope that cross their face. Try to imagine what it must be like to live their story, suffer their losses, dream their dreams. Pray with them and dare to put into words their heart’s desires, and dare to ask God to grant them.” Andy Crouch, Strong and Weak

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash
Posted in Random Thoughts

How Do I Teach Truth and Morality to My Kids?

I promise this is more of a question I am working through than it is I question I am about to answer. I am inviting you to enter into my thought process, not my prescription. I am a mother of two small children, I do not propose to have a lot of wisdom or insight to offer, and I just have some thoughts I am trying to flesh out.

One of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked is, “why do you believe in God?”

It seems like it should have a quick, well thought out answer, but in reality, I’ve found it much easier to answer questions like, “What do you believe about God?” “What is the gospel?” “What does the Bible say about ____?”

“Why do you believe in God?”

The answer to this question is foundational to how we live out our morality and how we interpret truth. The answers to what we believe ABOUT God and the gospel also pretty well inform our belief IN God. I think a big part of why it is difficult for me to answer is because that answer, above all else, can easily be dismissed as idiotic and nonsensical. Sure, our application of Scripture can come off that way as well, but only because of the basis of our belief in Him in general.

“Why do you believe in God?”

Is it enough to tell you that once, as a teenager, I told my dad I didn’t? “I do not believe in God.”

Is it enough to tell you that his response as someone who did surprised me?

My dad was not an outwardly spiritual man, and I’m not really sure about the in’s and out’s of his faith (other than he was a Christian), but he did believe in a moral code.

“That saddens me because I have a deep sense that he does exist and I wish you did too. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to take seriously what other religions and worldviews say, because even your lack of belief in God carries with it beliefs you will have about the world, humanity, and purpose. Even if you research and find yourself more comfortable in another religion, I will still love you.”

“Okay.”

I know that probably sounds like the least effective strategy to making a case for God to a doubting child, but my dad knew how my brain is wired. I took his challenge seriously and checked out books about other religions. I read about Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I read about Mormonism, and Judaism. I also read into Agnosticism and Atheism. I am STILL always learning about other religions.

What is the foundational belief system?

How do you reach heaven? Is there a heaven? Is there a hell?

What rules or code of behavior would I have to submit to in that religion?

Some may say I settled into a belief in the Christian God for a couple of reasons:

“A differing religion would have been difficult to truly exercise in the context of your culture. How many mosques or temples do you have access to? How would you exercise dietary restrictions when you are not in charge of the grocery shopping? Etc. A drift to the Christian God is easy because it fits easily in your culture and family.”

“You were raised with Christian beliefs. The other would have been too foreign for you, so you naturally drift to comfort. People are not by design prone to shift to belief systems with such large changes like that. A drift to the Christian God makes sense because it is comfortable and familiar.”

I think there is some validity in both of those responses. Really.

But, coming to the conclusion that the Christian God was (probably) the one I believed in did not actually affect my life significantly. For a long time, the only thing it did was serve as a mental way to feel shame, guilt, and disgust with myself.

“You believe in God, but He does not approve of you.”

“You believe in God, but do everything you can to avoid being alone with your thoughts. You don’t know what kinds of scary things can happen there.”

“You believe in God, but in the past, that belief has led you to be unkind, judgmental, and snarky to people. Avoid affiliating too closely with that belief.” (As if that prevented me from being those things in other ways, even when “religious conviction” (and actually acting on behalf of the religion of self) were not the guiding factors. Cruelty isn’t limited to those misusing the Bible.)

In essence, believing in God alone did not save me from thoughts of condemnation, fear, and sin.

19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? James 2:19-20 ESV

19-20 Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands? James 2:19-20 The Message

This is, in part, why I am not surprised that a large percentage of Christian Americans differ morally, ethically, and politically. “I believe in God” is not enough to produce meaningful transformation across a wide spectrum.

Why do you believe in God?

I was captivated by not only God’s existence, but through his word (the Bible).

I’ve wrestled with a lot of the same questions as everyone else: “if God exists AND is a good God, why does suffering and evil also exist?” “What in the Bible still applies? ” “How to we receive the Old Testament law?” “Why are there so many confusing and controversial passages in there?”

As you’ve (maybe) concluded from above, I am naturally a researcher and enjoy the process of learning new things.

I eventually concluded that a faith in the Christian God means that the Bible is probably pretty important in understanding Him and what it means to follow Him.

Unfortunately, we also are prone to look for information to confirm, not convict. We look for information to point to a THEM problem, not a ME problem. There are plenty of “Biblical” resources out there to help guide us in this way. The only ME problem I have is needing to acquire more blessings. The THEM problem is THEIR sin, misunderstanding, and misapplication of Scripture.

My belief in God quickly expressed itself through arrogance in the wisdom and knowledge I possess about God, his law, and who does and does not deserve his grace based on what I read and studied.

It easily aligned with world views, political stances, and people I disagreed with.

It blinded me to the ugly effects of self righteousness. I am capable of misunderstanding and misusing the word of God.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:6-10 ESV

Why do you believe in God?

A significant factor in belief is having your views affirmed by other believers. The church, past and present, local and global serves as a testament of God’s presence to me.

I have seen church disfunction. I have witnessed pastors abuse their power. I have witnessed the effects of pastors stealing from the church, cheating on their spouses, and using the word of God as a tool for manipulation. I firmly believe God hates ALL of this sin. I have read and heard the words from pastors and congregants that encourage or justify racism, hate, and toxic tribalism. I have heard sermons that sound more like political campaign speeches. I firmly believe God hates ALL of this.

I have been hurt by people in the church as well been the participant in hurting others. I have fallen in more ways than one: I have been dismissive to struggles and hurts of others, I have gossiped, I have been self seeking, I have led others to sin by encouraging gossip or other ways of minimizing the dignity of other image bearers. I firmly believe God hates all of this.

I am capable of being a sinful, divisive member of a Christian community. I am not exempt from needing grace, forgiveness, and criticism from other brothers and sisters in Christ.

In true gospel community, a family with God as father and Christ as redeemer, this is a radical concept. Complete acceptance in Christ. Complete commitment to bear with others as we walk out our salvation. Recognizing and anticipating that grace will be needed in ample supply. Recognizing that is only possible because of Christ’s commitment to us.

God enables a community of boldness, gentleness, and grace to point each other to truth and oneness in Him alone. Believing in His existence results in a shared goal, meaning, and hopefulness for things to come, while spurring each other on to good works.

1-5 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. Matthew 7:1-5 The Message

So, HOW do I teach truth and morality to my kids?

Especially in the light of the election, I have been thinking a lot about this. My kids are still very young, so we really didn’t have much discussion about it. Still, I wondered, “if they were older, who would I tell them to vote for? What do I tell them is worth advocating for? What issues are most important to us? How does this relate to our faith?”

Then I realized…there are a few things in particular that matter to me most:

We need to define the terms we use. Culture at large throws a lot of terms out there with various definitions. It makes discussion very confusing and difficult at times. If we are disagreeing with a stance about something, we need to ensure we are explaining it accurately and objectively, using correct terminology and assigning the correct meaning to it.

We need to recognize and hate our own sin first. There are actions and behaviors in others that I truly hate. It is humbling, however, to recognize that my anger never results in God’s righteousness. Also, if I start hating other people, I am guilty of sin as well and blinded by it.

19-21 Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

22-24 Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

25 But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.

26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:19-27 The Message

Am I saying we need to subject ourselves to racist and hateful rants, endless conspiracy theories, and the sin of others? NO. I am saying that in my teaching about our morals, values, and beliefs, I cannot lead and point to Jesus from a posture of hate for others. I can hate the SIN in others, but I need to begin by hating the sin in myself so much that I am incapable of hating another person for falling victim to sin in their own lives. I see my value in Christ alone, so therefore I do not see my value in being morally superior to anyone else.

Tim Keller says it like this: “The moralistic grid says, ‘The good are in and the bad are out,’ and the relativistic grid says, ‘The liberated are in and the oppressive are out.’ But the gospel says, ‘The humble are in and the proud are out.'”

In teaching our children, humility needs to be at the forefront of the instruction.

We need to be willing to hold convictions, yet remain open to listening and feeling uncomfortable. We will encounter others who have experiences, worldviews, and perspectives unique to our own. How can we teach our children to be comforters? How can we encourage our children to be prayerful and honest when they feel confused, unsure, or challenged? How do we teach our children to lead with conviction AND gentleness? How can we encourage our children to work out their salvation and/or their doubts?

In conclusion, I’m processing HOW my beliefs lead me to teach and interact with others while also recognizing we will be teaching our children some unpopular and uncomfortable things. (Whether they agree or disagree is left to them :)). Also, as I mentioned before, this is a large question looming in my head. If you have any wisdom to offer, I am all ears.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Posted in Random Thoughts

Election Complexities

A stance of accusations and assumptions vs. a stance that seeks to understand.

We cannot assume the motives of those who make different decisions than us. We cannot take the most flamboyant and ridiculous expression of support behind a candidate and assign it to all supporters.

We can ask those we respect and know view this election in a different way, “why did you vote for ____?” and actually listen.

Tim Keller (pastor, author, theologian) and Jonathan Haidt (atheist, social psychologist, professor, author of The Righteous Mind and co author of The Coddling of the American Mind) came together for a conversation a few years ago to discuss religion, morality, and pluralism. In it, they give some helpful pointers for co-existing with those who believe (religion, politics, and more) differently than you. It’s a longer video, but it kept me engaged while doing dishes, folding laundry, etc. 🙂

If you struggle to view those who are vastly different as you as valuable, beneficial, or worthy of love, I’d encourage you to check it out by clicking here. Or even if you don’t, it is so good.

A posture of love and humility vs. a posture of self righteousness and judgement.

It is okay to leave the polling booth confident in the decision you made. It is not okay to leave the polling booth with elevated pride about the decision you made.

As Christians, we can vote confidently and still believe:

-The Lord is ultimately in control.

-Our decision can be wrong.

-Our opinions and stances can change over time.

-Those who voted differently than us can soften in some of their stances given time and grace.

If we rush to self righteousness and judgement to those who disagree, we do not welcome them to the process of considering another view point. My political views and opinions have shifted over the years. Do you see? Years. Not days. Or in one or two conversations. Years. And they are still shifting and considering and covered in a lot of prayer for wisdom and discernment. Maybe a friend or family member doesn’t change their mind about who they are voting before BUT does have a conversation with you that ends with, “wow, I never considered that before.” Maybe that consideration turns into a thought process that turns into a softer approach to that issue. What is our end goal? 100% submission to a political party or a dialogue built on respect and the ability to lovingly challenge each other? As much as I resist criticism, it makes me better. Criticism is necessary. Insults, belittling statements, and lies have no place in Christian discussions.

“If you voted differently than me, you must not care about ______.”

There are people who are passionate about some of the exact same social issues as you who voted differently than you. Some of these people will go on doing what they can do to combat racism, poverty, hunger, and disease (etc.) in their homes, communities, and churches. A vote in this election IS NOT a final judgment on people’s ability to care for and love our neighbors.

There are people who carry the same weight of passion you take to the polling booth as you do about issues you do not care or think about. Those passions are not all evil or self motivated.


“If you voted differently than me, you must be uninformed/stupid.”

This argument frustrates me in so many ways.

To assume ALL minority voters who vote democrat do so because they are too dumb to vote any other way is idiotic. To assume ALL minority voters who vote republican do so because they are manipulated (or, again, too dumb) to vote any other way is idiotic. I hate that minority voters not only have to defend their reasons for voting the way that they do, but they are also burdened with the additional duty of defending their intelligence and ability to make informed decisions at the polling booth. This is wrong.

Here is an additional issue for ALL races and political parties: we are increasingly being formed and informed by what we read and watch online. It is no secret that our newsfeeds are sharing content that seeks to confirm our views and keep our engagement. I’ve been enjoying a podcast series by Rebuilders (Mark Sayers, season four) on a networked world. He speaks a lot about how power dynamics, information sharing, and mobilization of movements are shifting. If you are interested in understanding current events from a different perspective not based on partisan beliefs, I highly recommend it.

We do not encourage people to seek truth and facts by belittling or dismissing them.

I love reading and listening to perspectives from people on the outside looking in. It has been helpful to process some of the issues in America from people who have little direct stake in the game. The voices I am reading can criticize without lobbing emotionally driven insults and hate filled rhetoric. For example, this article helped point out a few concerning things about America’s current condition. In it, a few quotes by Waleed Aly (Australian) stood out to me:

  1. “We need a better word than polarisation because that just implies serious disagreement. We’re beginning to see something much bigger than that: people who inhabit completely different worlds. These sides do not merely object to one another, they simply fail to comprehend how the other can even exist.”
  2. “There’s no real middle position on offer here. You simply choose which narrative suits you. And once you choose, no accommodation can be made – no conversation can even be had – with those who subscribe to the other one. The result is to replace a political culture of disagreement with a political culture of contempt.”
  3. “By allowing for change at frequent intervals, it delivers stable transitions from one government to another on the understanding that both victory and defeat are only ever temporary. This lowers the stakes of any given election, and allows us to avoid a kind of “winner takes all” politics in which even the most basic institutions of government can be sacrificed for the sake of winning. But that only works if people have faith that persuasion and deliberation are possible, that despite our disagreements we’re starting from a loosely agreed set of facts, and that the other side is even worth engaging. America has dismantled all of these things.”

We must fight this way of thinking. Especially in the church. We must not fall into the trap of reducing complex humans into simplistic idiots. These ways of thinking are not only dangerous for American democracy, but also for the witness of the church.

Tensions are high, grace is needed, and fellow citizens still face day to day suffering and hurt.

The truth is, while America waits for election results, there are people:

-Waiting on a call to confirm a cancer diagnosis.

-Losing their jobs.

-Suffering the loss of a child, parent, spouse, or other loved one.

Life does not pause as we wait. People who agree and disagree with you are having to face the realities of a fragile life and heartbreaking circumstances. There are needs greater than the winning or losing of a preferred candidate.

The hardest work lies before us, regardless of who is president.

What’s at stake?

Are policies, rhetoric, and leadership built on lies and evil a cause of concern? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Yes.

Do we confront and advocate against those things? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Yes.

Society only gains from bipartisan efforts to combat evil.

We can worry about and advocate for our neighbors and our communities and our families, but we must always do so grounded in grace, love, and forbearance.

At the end of the day, though, even our good motives and intentions can cause us to grow in something other than love and Godliness. We need others in our lives who can see roots of sin taking hold in us. We need our sin confronted. Only when we confront and deal with the hate and sin in our hearts can we effectively see the hate in the world. Don’t get me wrong, we can always recognize it, but with unrepentance we cannot always see the cure. Hate blinds us to the humanity of others.

We can not merely wake up to and dwell on the sin of the “other.”

13-15 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

16-18 My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

25-26 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”

Galations 5:13-26 MSG

Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats

Thanksgiving Family Worship Ideas

Hey! I made a family worship guide to prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving. It requires little to no prep and can be done on the go, at home, or waiting for an appointment. All of the songs are available for free on Youtube. There is also a bonus sheet of the verse so that you can hang it on the refrigerator or mirror to help with verse memory if you choose. At the end, I made smaller verse cards if you’d like to use those as well.

Here is a quick preview of the guide:

This guide is formatted to be printed DOUBLE SIDED please 🙂

If you do end up using the guide, I’d love to see pictures or to hear about how it’s going! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any issues with the format/printing either!

<3,

Kelsey

Posted in Inspired, Random Thoughts

Parenting: Downton Abbey Gif Edition

About a year ago, I had a Facebook post with The Office gifs describing parenting. In that post, I said I would do Downton Abbey next. IT’S TIME.

Parenting as told by Downton Abbey Gifs starts now:

“Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend.” What’s that? The Dowager asks from a place of privilege, we ask from a place of desperation.

“Mom, I’m simply EXPLAINING why I’m not going to do what you asked…”

A valid response to, “YOU’RE THE WORST MOM EVER!”

“My tummy isn’t hungry for dinner. It’s only hungry for candy, ice cream, and cookies.”

A thought I have every single day. I continue to be proven wrong.

“Who’s gonna win the battle of wills?” asks the innocent bystander.

“LOOK WITH YOUR EYES, NOT YOUR HANDS.”

My kid:

“I’m BORED.”

Two different definitions.

Me: “Let’s get this house sparkly clean!”

My kid: “Sparkly? I can surely do that. GLITTER TIME.”

My face when my child disobeys in the most hilarious way.

“EW, this dinner tastes DISGUSTING. (even though I asked for it and ate seconds last week).”

Me, after taking a peek at the state of my child’s room:

My child, coming in after her eighth outfit change of the day:

“I HAVE AN IDEA…”

“Motherhood is so hard sometimes.”

Other moms on the internet: Soak up EVERY MINUTE (thanks, by the way 🙄)

“PLEASE? PLEASE? PLEASE? PLEASE? PLEASE?????????”

Wait, so we’re supposed to take all of the opinions in the mom group seriously?

When someone says, “you’re a good mom.”

When you ask your child to be polite…

“Please say you’re sorry.”

“I don’t like this. Or this. Or that. Or this.”

When my husband and child start playing together (this applies to both of them):

Me, at various points of the day, “you’re acting a little grumpy”:

My husband, as soon as I finally get the kids to bed and a moment by myself:

Me, reclaiming my power as the parent back from my child!

How I feel at the end of any given day:

Never, ever.

Posted in Random Thoughts

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Today is my dad’s birthday. There is no age too old to lose a parent and no span of time too long to grieve that loss.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things we leave behind when our souls leave our earthly bodies. What do I hope to leave behind for my children? What significance do these things bear?

The other day, Eleanor and I were sitting on a chair under a blanket and chatting about the random thoughts that come into my four year old’s mind. I turned her attention to the blanket.

“Eleanor, this blanket is extra special, do you know why?”

“Ummmm because it has beautiful flowers on one side?”

“Nope. It’s special because its a quilt of all of my daddy’s favorite shirts. Look at this one, I bought him that for Christmas, and look at this green one, I gave that to him for his birthday many years ago! My aunt made it for me after he died.”

“Oh, wow. I love the pink shirts!” (Real men wear pink, after all :))

Another reason this quilt is significant is because it is one of the last remaining earthly possessions I have to remember him. Things break, like the camera he gifted me before I went to China. Most things don’t last.

I think it is funny that the things that do last are the same things we need.

Clothing preserved as a blanket.

Memories of meals enjoyed together.

The feeling of peace and love I have when I remember the home he and my mom built and established together.

Clothing. Food. Shelter. Legacies built on our needs and nothing more. These are the legacies I hope to leave as well.

As I remember and celebrate my dad today, I want to remember and celebrate the invaluable gifts I received through his life.

Clothing. Hugging that blanket is like hugging him. I picture him in each of the shirts that have now been cut to squares. I think about how little he actually cared about outward appearance, but how grateful he was anytime he received a new piece of clothing. I think about the pride I felt every time he chose the shirt I gave him for a gift. How it was a gift given from the product of hard work-clocking hours at a minimum wage job to finally be able to give my dad a gift spent with my own money. How he held on to clothes for decades (!) because spending money on himself wasn’t a priority.

Food. Anytime my mom would make a meal and ask how it tasted, my dad would respond, “It was alright.” It was alright. Never anything more or less. He was not one to rave nor was he a huge complainer about the food put in front of him. The same man who needed a thesaurus to describe his feelings for a meal still prioritized our enjoyment of food. My dad never had a Facebook account. Ironically, he was weirded out about what happens to the accounts after someone dies. “It’s just there…forever?” Still, he would occasionally log on to my mom’s account to check in on me while I was in college. I went through a pretty big bagel and cream cheese phase–it was obviously one of those things I dubbed important enough to post a status about once or twice. What was readily available for me next time I went home? Bagels and cream cheese. After I graduated, I lived at home for a while. After I got my first “big girl job,” there were many nights I’d come home and he’d ask, “what can I make you for dinner?” If only I understood what a gift it was to have someone else cook for you after a long day (he ALSO had long days at work…). You know what was more than “alright”? Ice cream. We ate ice cream pretty frequently in our house and we all developed a love for it. It is why we celebrate my dad’s birthday every year with some. I will be going with my family tonight.

Shelter. Home was safe. Home was where unconditional love lived. Home was laughter on the saddest days. Home was where boundary testing was safe and corrected. Home was comfort and peace and rest. Home was where hugs were healing. Thirty year old me sees what a huge blessing this is. How rare it can be. Memories of a safe home are one of the greatest gifts.

As I think about the various ways my needs for clothing, food, and shelter were provided to me throughout my life, I can’t help but be grateful. The Lord has been generous with me. As I think about the legacy I hope to leave (experiencing the death of a loved one will do that to you), I have a few things in mind.

Clothing. Food. Shelter. Clothing that can endure snot and tears. Dresses that symbolize love and enjoying special evenings together. (Wedding + Military Balls). Food that is tasty, experimental, or brings back memories of an evening of fellowship and togetherness. Recipes that are passed down so that certain scents or tastes take you back and propel you forward to serve and love others with a meal. A home that may be messy at times, but where questions and frustrations can be voiced. Where boundaries are respected. Where the person is always more important than the thing. Where there is always a safe place to land.

These are, after all, among the gifts we look forward to.

God clothes Adam and Eve. He rains down bread to feed the Israelites. Jesus feeds thousands with bread and fish. God leading his people throughout Scripture. Providing land and shelter for them…and then…

14-15 Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.”

-2 Corinthians 5:14-21 MSG

20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.”

-Philippians 3:20-21 MSG