Seen & Heard: Bad Christians

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This Christmas has been an odd one for us. We haven’t broken out an advent book, haven’t lit a candle. We set up a tree in our living room, threw a bunch of ornaments on it, discussed at great lengths what star to put on top and called it Christmas. There have been no trips to look at lights, or to any festive places.

I suppose we aren’t very christiany Christians.  Certainly a pastor and his family must live more spiritually than this?

Last night, the kids and I watched Bedtime Stories. Tony asked how it was later in the evening. I told him it had crude humor, “You know, so that’s always funny.” I rolled my eyes as I said it, remembering the reason I didn’t let the kids see this movie in the theaters.  He asked, “Were there a lot of people slipping and falling down like Home Alone?”  “No. There was a guy named Butt-kiss. They loved that.”  We don’t do this.  There are countless children’s movies my kids have not seen. Last night, they watched Bedtime Stories. There. I said it.

I think they’re going to be ok. I really, really do.

We haven’t done anything Christmasy and we’re watching movies with crude humor. Great.

My friend asked me about children’s bibles yesterday, what’s on your bookshelf? We’ve read all of ours. Umm… The Action Bible? We had the Lego bible but it talks about rape and kids way to young were asking about that so we put that away. We have children’s books on Augustine and great leaders of the faith… surely that counts for something?

I used to be so strict, so careful. I haven’t lost that, but now that I’m the ripe old age of 33, I’ve loosened up a bit. You know how the babies in the family are always allowed to do more than everyone else ever was? Yeah, I think we’re there. I don’t plan on watching more crude humor, but if my 3 year old says Santa is bringing her a candy, I don’t sit her down and give her a good talking to.  She plays with Barbies. I know, it’s wild around here.

There hasn’t been a strong feeling of Christmas cheer, but there’s been something else. There’s been a distinct feel of family, relationship, connection.  We’ve had friends and family in, we’ve talked, laughed, shared life together. My friend showed up at my door the other day and a few days later, I sat down in her kitchen. We laughed, we talked, we shared hardships. The other night, I had the opportunity to go out for dessert with a group of women very special to me. Another group of believers talked and guided me through a difficult test in my life. The kids, all of them, have been hanging out together. Meeting each other in the halls, in bedrooms, on swingsets and spending time together.  There’s been laughing. Lots of laughing.

I had the opportunity to sit down to talk for 2 hours with my 14 year old the other night.  He just kept talking, sharing his heart, his dreams. I just kept staring straight into his eyes, asking questions, smiling, laughing.  What’s more merry than that?

We’ve been praying for people. People who are visiting our home, people we hear about, people we care about.

We actually filled up an Operation Christmas Child box this year! Two of them! That is an accomplishment for this family! 🙂

That’s 13 days of real life in December in our household, it’s not much, but God is here, alive and moving among us.

Happy Friday!  or Merry Christmas if that makes you feel better! 🙂

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Seen and Heard – Dear America Actually

A little bird told me there were some who took my post to be a promotion of acting dangerously and posing theoretical questions that can’t truly be answered. I’m thankful to hear the conversation sparked. Blogging is a lonely hobby, posing thoughts, questions, ideas, the things flowing through my heart and mind, the things that help me discover who I am and what I think, I send these out into the void. The void rarely answers.

It’s just the nature of blogging I suppose. Or maybe it’s just me, but I like to console myself with the former.

So, it was nice to hear what came out of it.

I don’t think I was promoting foolishness. I actually know actual people who live in big houses and have nice things and will not pray about or consider going to certain places because of their own prejudices and yes, concern for safety. I don’t think it can necessarily be assumed that those acting out of such prejudice would also be acting in the spirit. So, any idea that you would shun the Spirit’s leading and just jump into a dangerous situation doesn’t seem to match what I’m talking about. Follow the Spirit’s leading, but actually seek, ask, heed, don’t just decide on your own.

As for asking theoretical questions. I don’t generally speak theoretically, my husband does, but I don’t. Do I? I don’t know, maybe I do, sometimes I like to ask odd questions like, “Would you rather be a jaguar or a cheetah?” Theoretically speaking, I would rather be a jaguar because they’re dark and mysterious as compared to a cheetah who can just run really fast for a short sprint before tuckering out.

When I asked, “Will you? Lay it all down?” I wasn’t speaking theoretically asking if you would turn from Christ in persecution. I was talking about today, right now, here. I actually know actual people who say they want to serve God with all of their lives, to live radically, communing with Jesus who told people to drink his blood and eat his body. The same Jesus, that those people turned their back on because they didn’t understand. I know people who say they want to follow that Jesus and yet are too busy, too distracted, too caught up in this world to actually look outside of themselves and their own concerns.

My question is: American Church, will you stop running around in circles, saying you love God and yet living your own life. Will I, as an American church member stop complaining about the present light affliction, stop filling my days and my calendar with things that don’t really matter and lay it all down for Him?

I actually live with this little boy:

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This little boy actually made in impact in my heart:

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When I look at him, I realize there is actually a mother in India right now who is actually mourning, groaning and weeping over her baby boy.

All this America, all this stuff, all this living for self?

It doesn’t actually matter.

Dear America, This is Not a Game.

Seen & Heard: The Dark Thoughts of a Mother

ABC's of a Godly Woman

I heard you say it. Your voice trailed off and it was quickly passed over, but I heard it.

I caught your words, softly spoken, your mother’s heart seeping some of its life giving blood. A mother isn’t supposed to think such things, but your quiet confession was like a billboard for all to see. I recognized your words, I felt your bleeding heart. Like reading a book, you recited my own thoughts:

“Sometimes, I want to say, ‘Go ahead and take your life'”

I know, it’s ugly. How does a mother get to the place where she thinks such a thought? How does a child get to the place where the one bore them, in her own body, would have such a dark consideration pass through her mind?

Now you’ve said it, I heard you say it, and I want to tell you:

You’re very brave.

I was afraid to voice it. As if speaking could bring to life. As if the condemnation would be eminent if this awful, nightmare became a reality. Afraid, if I said such a thing, it would give my child license; permission, to do as Satan tempts. A mother’s heart readily accepts guilt for the frailty of her children, readily accepts

the weight of her own frailty.

The dark chaos of a desperate mother’s thoughts: At least the torment would be over. You would be free. I wouldn’t have to worry, I would know you are safe.

The One who speaks and brings life will tell you: you’re contemplating lies. Such hopeless ideas have no place before a holy God. To ponder such things is to belittle the pain of mothers, all over the earth, who weep and mourn over the child they long to hold again. These thoughts spit in the face of a God who gave His Son to set our sons and daughters free.

Don’t take the easy road.

Even in your mind, don’t take the easy road. Certain thoughts ought to be taken captive and this is certainly one of them. But,

should you let it slip by in your mind…

Well, it might be best to just say it. Just have it out. Then, we can look it over together; examine it. We could shine the light of God’s truth on it. I know darkness wells up in the weak moments, that’s why we have sister-friends to hold our hand in the storm. We’ll search the scriptures, we’ll pray, we’ll cry. The God who understands such tears – He’ll get you back to the place where you aren’t despairing of life.

You said it.

I’m glad you did.

Find peace dear mother, find strength, find hope to smile at the future: In Christ.

Seen & Heard: Stashing Treasures

It’s a quiet Friday morning. The kids are off this week and so is our schedule. I’ve seen and heard so many great things this week, in the quiet of this morning I find myself calm, my mind blank, still.

I go through seasons where the whirlwind is so great I need to withdraw. I used to be able to do this by simply staying home; life isn’t so simple anymore. There are people everywhere. I often find myself so outside my comfort zone, so much stepping out by faith, so much being who and what I need to be, that I finally have to withdraw.  I find myself an introvert in a world that is seemingly filled with extroverts.

In the chaos. In the people. There are moments, really great moments, where hearts meet; love forms.  I dream of running off to live on a farm with Ann Voskamp where we could wax poetic about anything and everything, but the poem of these lives flowing in and out of my home cause my heart to overflow with love.

MOMENTS THIS WEEK

  • SUNDAY: Standing with my friend with tears in my eyes as she retells how God has been working in her mom. Chills, as I sense we are about to watch God do something amazing. (He did. He always does. It’s His nature)
  • MONDAY: My son explaining that his precious guitar strings, the ones we argue over who will pay for and if they really need to be changed, his beloved guitar strings? They are being worn down and worn out from worshiping God, with those in another country, the same God – in Spanish. What has become of his spare strings? He gave them away. By the way, if he comes home without a guitar strap or a capo, it’s because he plans to also leave those. What wonder is this?
  • TUESDAY: Sitting with 5 women as we finish out a study that drove us crazy with it’s frills, repetitiveness and nonsense, but laughing in wonder as we see how God was speaking anyway. Hearts opening as we share the impossible things in this life, things we have no control to change. Things we lay before The One who is victorious over all. Later, talking with another dear friend who just so happens to be a neighbor. Sharing life, encouraging one another. Days of talking over the backyard fence may be over, but we catch a glimpse of this community, christian community with this moment of encouragement in the afternoon.
  • WEDNESDAY: THIS:
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This little one begs to be played with all day long. These two who stayed late, ate chips and salsa and lived life right beside us. Hurts, tears, pain, weights and all, we lay them before the King and then play Candy Land with a 3 year old. It’s how it’s supposed to be. 🙂

  • THURSDAY: Oh, Thursday. Too many things to recount in the rollercoaster day.  Hard, good talk with my husband. Meeting with a great pastor who lets me run with my ideas, helps me carry them out and helps me think clearly! I left this meeting rejoicing, it’s a beautiful thing when ministries in a church converse, talk, and work together. It’s for the good of the people, the good of the ministry, the good of the mission and it glorifies God, why don’t ministry leaders TALK more. Stop drawing lines between yours and mine and let’s work together already. Snuck out for tea and another, easier chat with my husband. Did my best to encourage some AMAZING women whom I am so blessed to walk this life with. They LOVE and then LOVE some more and I love to watch them LOVE! 🙂

That brings us to Friday and this quiet morning. There have been high highs and low lows, but as you can see, God is so, so faithful. I can’t focus on the drama or the incessant desire to withdraw, I have to focus on Stashing Treasures.

Happy Friday!

Seen & Heard: In Visions and Dreams

I slip into bed, having nothing specific on my mind. The days have been slow, nursing an injury; trying to muster some ambition to carry out tasks with one arm.

In the darkness, my eyes close. I nearly drift off.

It’s there. There, where I’m not asleep, nor awake, but taken into that surreal space between sleep and wakefulness.

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It’s there I see the line of windows with the curtains drawn back in no particular neatness. Out those windows, that appear suddenly to my left, I see the dark shadowy figure pass by. Passing quickly towards… what?  The door to the room is now the focal point of my vision. I can see the door to the room, the door wide open,

I see the darkness without.

The phrase comes to my mind, it suddenly makes itself known:

“It’s an open door to the enemy”

Just as quickly as this vividly flowing scene is brought before me, it’s gone.

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I’m awake, wide awake. I find myself, again, in the dark. My voice sounds loud, my speech quick, as it breaks the silence of sleep. I recount this vision, this warning.

I know what this open door of darkness speaks to in my life; so I pray. I pray, not as one afraid, but as one intimately acquainted with the One who gave His flesh and blood. I pray, knowing I wrestle not against flesh and blood, as one who knows the Conqueror. As I pray, I give thanks. Thanks for messages in the dark to bring wisdom to light.

As the sun rises on a fresh day, warm rays shine over me. The darkness of night overwhelms, but the Light breaks through and He brings peace.

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I smile.

Seen & Heard – Reader’s Edition

Briana Simmons

This picture has nothing to do with this post, but she’s my dear cousin. Isn’t she cute? She likes to read so it kinda fits in with the theme. Actually, we read many, many of the same books growing up and passed novels all the time. Forget this caption, this picture totally applies!

Have you started on your 2014 reading list yet?

Crickets chirping…

I suppose I am the only one who does this, beginning in October!  Goodreads was the best invention ever, I think it could be made better, but it does it’s job adequately enough. I was going to write a post about writing your 2014 booklist for our church blog, but I changed to another topic instead.  By the way, when I posted my Take Your Parents to Church! article, my husband said it was better than my post for the church. I asked him why he didn’t say so when I asked him how it was?! He replied: “Well, you can’t really tell someone to re-write their entire blog!”  Now, I know that there should have been a black eye after this comment, but I remained very calm and replied: “You could have said to write more informally.” To which he replied: “Oh, yeah, well anyways, I really liked your Take Your Parents to Church post.” Thank you. I think.

Tangent done. Don’t you just love Friday posts? Don’t answer that.

2014 Booklist:

  1. Get a Goodreads – everyone’s doing it.
  2. Create a shelf called 2014 Reading List
  3. Think hard, look broadly, search for good books on VARIOUS categories. In 2013, I tried to read a biography, a book on marriage, a book on parenting, a theology book, a book on community etc. The key is to plan ahead so that you aren’t just reading Harry Potter all year long.
  4. Don’t be a slave to your list and feel free to change your list if you want throughout the year. Otherwise, it’s not any fun. Being a slave to a booklist is not fun.
  5. Read! I don’t finish my list, ever. In 2012 my list was titled: 2012 To Read List – Not Possible.
  6. I don’t suggest starting too many books at once, but right now I have 7 books going. That’s too many for me.

Books I Read in 2013

  1. The Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler – LOVED this book. I’m still thinking back on it all the time and I’ll read this one again.
  2. Life Together – This was a life changer for me. By the way, we don’t have a clue what community, real community is about.
  3. Holiness – I read this and you know what is funny? I have NO IDEA what it was about. I think I liked it, I think it was a little bit difficult for me… wish I remembered..
  4. Washington: A Life – I haven’t finished this one, but I am really enjoying it.

That’s all. 4. I read other books, but they weren’t on my booklist so I won’t mention them here.

2014 is coming, time to start looking!

Oh, need a recommendation on where to find good books? Tim Challies writes book reviews, I’m pretty sure he reads books in his sleep. For a while, I banned him from my life because I believe he has an unnecessary bias against homeschooling and large families, he tends to stereotype in that area. However, I really can’t live without him so I look past that… until he writes a new unwarranted post about it!

Happy Friday!

Seen and Heard – Unconventional Life

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I was thinking this week about all of the ways I have lived my life unconventionally.  Really, if there is a way that old ladies will sit down and tell you this is the way NOT to do it, that’s the way I did it.  I always stay within the lines, but I tend to lean on the odd-ball side of the line.

HOMESCHOOLED
I was taught at home as a child from Kindergarten all the way until graduation. I never know what to say as I’m standing there listening to people say they don’t want to homeschool because they want their children to function in life and not be social misfits. I am always reluctant to wave my hand and say, I was homeschooled!! I mean, I seem to manage to function in life, but I may be called a social misfit… I meet a lot of public educated adults of which the same could be said. 🙂

GRADUATED EARLY
I tested out of highschool early and started at Jr. College at 16. Unconventional? Yes. Did it work for me? Yes.

MARRIED AT 18
🙂 This one makes me laugh. I also find myself in conversation about someone being very foolish and stupid and marrying at the age of 18. I take more confidence here in saying it worked for me, seeing as how I can show proof of a good marriage far easier than I could prove I’m not a social misfit. 🙂

HAD KIDS RIGHT AWAY
We married in June and announced our pregnancy in July. We wanted children right away. I wouldn’t do it any different. If you are going to have 6 kids before the age of 30 you have to get to it! Unconventional to be sure.

HAVE 6 KIDS
If there is a crude comment about how babies are made, why don’t you just get cable, etc. I’ve heard it.  I have leniency with old ladies that say this, but if a man makes these comments, I find them very crude and not to be spoken to a lady. Keep your billiard room talk to yourself.  We wanted 8. 6 seems a good, unconventional compromise. 🙂

HOMESCHOOL
If being homeschooled isn’t enough to make you odd, reproduce the oddity and homeschool your own children. Not just one, reproduce SIX children and homeschool all of them… UNCONVENTIONAL

EAT WEIRD
We eat weird. Certain children have allergies, certain children have intollerances and have been prescribed a certain diet. We eat unconventionally, but I like it because it keeps us from a lot of junk.

CHRISTIAN
I was raised in a Christian home, I’m married to a pastor, I’m raising my children to know God and have a relationship with Jesus. If you’re going to be a Christian, which is very unpopular these days, you might as well go all out and be a ministry family that eats weird, has 6 kids and homeschools.  Maybe I was destined to be a social misfit!

🙂 Just having fun on a Friday again!  God has been ever so faithful to guide, direct and keep me through all my days and I’m confident He will continue to do so until that great day when I see Him face to face.

Happy Friday!