For the Good

Romans 8:28 has been popping up everywhere lately. It is a verse, the verse, that reminds me of my grandparents the most. My grandpa got interviewed by his church after my grandma passed away. I remember the change in his voice and the pain in his eyes when he mentioned this was one of their favorites. He struggled and questioned God after my grandma passed away. He said he couldn’t find any good in her passing away. I’m sure he will never see this verse in the same light. Although I know the meaning is much deeper than thinking nothing bad will ever happen, neither will I.

My grandma was an amazing lady. When she said she was proud of me, it meant something. I still cry sometimes when I think of her. It is crazy, I never thought I was anything like her. The older I get, the more I see her in me. Maybe because the older I get the more I am comfortable with myself. I never saw her in me because I never saw me in myself.

So here I am reflecting on this verse and what I really need is to spend time in prayer. I need to read the surrounding verses. This is a hard one for me. When I think of this verse, I think the pain in my grandpa’s eyes. I think of my grandma and cry.

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Finished

Hi. My name is Stacy. I serve at my church. I read my bible. I pray. I have a Christian blog where I share my faith openly. I’ve been surrounded by churchgoing Christians all my life. I could sit and discuss theology for hours. I get ‘can’t sit still’ excited over it. Shall I list all my good deeds now? Should I tell you how I turn the other cheek? Don’t you see what a good little Christian I am? I’m really working my way up to heaven. Yep, I can see the building of my own place up there…it just keeps getting larger…more majestic as we speak. No? 

Maybe I should start again.

Hi. My name is Stacy. I am a sinner. No matter how often I go to church, no matter how much I serve, no matter how much I pray, I cannot earn my way up to heaven. Yes, all of that is a product of my ever-growing faith. But, it isn’t my salvation. If I lived like the above paragraph, I’d be living as a slave. I’d be as righteous as the pharisees. I wouldn’t need a savior. In a sense, I’d be worshipping myself…I’d be my own stinking idol.

I could say many Christians are accused of living their life as trying to prove their righteous ways. I could say they are accused of condemning points of the fingers. The problem is there really are people (too many) who try to earn their way to the blood. Some really are pointing fingers.

They have forgotten they are sinners like the rest of us. They have simply forgotten or maybe they have never even been taught the truth. Imagine that.

Can we place the blame on these modern day pharisees for the declining relevance of the church? I don’t think they deserve that. We need to look at them as being as lost as someone who has never stepped inside a church. Which means, what they deserve is to hear the true Gospel. They also need a big hug. They need to be told, “It is finished!”

Yep, it is finished. Jesus did the work. He lived a sinless life. He died for all of our sins. He rose from the dead! He did what we couldn’t do. He did what we will never be able to do.

Jesus was and always will be enough to finish the job. So, rest, my weary brothers and sisters. Just rest.

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Without the Black and White

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I remember the first time I watched the Wizard of Oz. My mom was excited to have all of her children old enough to watch one of her favorite movies. My brothers and I sat on the floor in front of the tv, my parents on the couch, and all of us chomping on popcorn. Remember the aluminum foil pan popcorn? That was the ish back then. Anyhow, I could barely sit still when I heard the MGM lion roar. The movie started and… it was black and white? I had to sit through an old black and white movie?

My mom told us to just watch and pay attention. It would be amazing, she said. I trusted her and I also knew whining would just get me sent to bed. So, I waited. Dorothy opened the door and the beautiful colors captured me. I remember my mom’s giggle as she listened to us kids ooh and aah. It was a magical moment.

It became an annual tradition to watch the Wizard of Oz. Back then, we didn’t have On Demand. We had to wait until it came back on television. Now, we don’t know anything about the excitement of waiting like we did back then. I remember when we recorded it for the first time. I could watch it whenever I wanted. Woohoo, right? I thought so until I watched it a few times and the family tradition faded. The fun in waiting ended. I learned the magic isn’t so magical without the waiting.

As a kid, I never fully appreciated Good Friday. It wasn’t a nice day to think about. Jesus having to die was sad, it wasn’t exciting. It was like the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. All I wanted was for the door to open. I wanted the beautiful color, not the black and white. I wanted to hear about Jesus rising from the dead. I was a kid so I would be lying if I didn’t also admit I wanted the Easter egg hunt, the pretty dress, and the candy (of course). All I wanted was the magic, not the things leading up to the magic.

I now love Holy Week. I love the reflection and the humility it brings. I always try to carry the beauty of the “black and white” into the “technicolor” and the days beyond. It is easily my favorite week of the year. It sort of snuck up on me this year, though. Tuesday, I kept thinking of how I wanted it to slow down. I wanted to feel the waiting a little bit longer.

It wasn’t until Wednesday night during my class that I felt my usual Holy Week feelings. I told the kids we were going to have a (sort of) Last Supper together. They were excited to say the least. It took them a bit to calm down and I almost thought it wasn’t going to work out.

They did calm down. I read the verses as we talked about how it must have felt to be there. How did Judas feel? Peter? Jesus? We passed out bread. We talked about what it meant. We ate. I poured grape juice. We talked about what it meant. We drank. They were engaged. The verses were familiar to them and of course they started talking about communion. We talked about the steps they need to take in our church to participate in communion when they are older. I got my Holy Week feeling back. Funny how teaching has a way of helping me as well. I guess it goes to show why it is important to use your unique gifts and talents.

Even as an adult I try to rush to the magic at times. I have to remind myself to stop and trust God. I look back and see the beauty in the steps leading up. I thank God for the steps leading up––no matter how hard they may be at the time.

Without the blood shed on the cross, we can have no salvation. Without the black and white, we would not have the color. It is the same with life. We must not rush to get to the color. We have to wait and see and feel the beauty in the black and white. It is only then that we can see and feel the true beauty and magic in the color.

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This is a painting I had my class do on Wednesday night after our lesson. This was my son’s. I loved the colors each kid chose. I loved seeing the anticipation they felt waiting to see their finished project. I especially loved their smiles when I oohed and aahed at their work. 

The Whisper From Within

I pulled my hair back into my usual low messy bun, removed my sunglasses, and peered into the opening of the cave. My hands tightly held my treasured designer sunglasses that hid tired eyes on my busiest days. I remembered the day I bought them and the false sense of accomplishment I felt wearing them. I wanted to rid myself of all of that and so I quickly tossed them into the tall grass behind me.

I stood staring into the never-ending darkness. I took a deep breath and stepped inside. A light sweeping breeze tickled my skin. I heard the whisper, the whisper from within, calling me to continue. It was the same whisper telling me to leave behind my fierce independent ways. It assured me perfection is a weak and fragile state. It reminded me real strength lies in the mess. It lies in being content with your mess and with your limitations.

I was frightened, yet determined. I thought of the steps that led me there. I was in my early twenties. The noise of busyness, the layers of self-made sludge, the wounds of days past had drowned out the whisper. I wanted nothing more than to listen and embrace it once again. I was never meant to live that life. I was meant to live my life. So, one day I stopped. I just stopped, pretty much dropped, and couldn’t move any further into the life I created. A life I worked so hard at maintaining the image of perfection and self-sufficiency. It was then I saw brave was not nonstop trying and doing and living the “good” life. Brave was standing where I was that moment. Brave was stepping inside my own cave.

I took another deep breath and didn’t look back. It felt like the first few moments after jumping into a pool. There was a shocking cold that quickly transformed into a refreshment for my weary soul. My eyes adapted and light appeared. The outside noises soon diminished. I began shoveling through the sludge. I came across my wounds, some I healed and some I simply acknowledged. There was nothing else between me and the whisper from within. It was like a long lost friend I hadn’t seen in years. We embraced and cried and fell right back into the old rhythm of things. I fell back inline and freed myself from the pressures of this world.

There are times, will always be times, I wander outside the bounds of my life. I find my way back to my cave, I do the work all over again. I know that life isn’t real, it isn’t sincere, it isn’t mine. It is built on pressure and duty and pushing past limitations I was never meant to push past. No one is made to do it all, to try it all, to go and go and go until you drown out the voice from within. So just stop and go inside your cave. You won’t regret it. I haven’t.

Oh, I Understand

DSC_0125I understand what it feels like to raise a kid who is “different”. I know what it feels like when others just don’t get it. They nod their head, they listen, but then a minute later something flies out of their mouth that makes you want to scream.

I understand what it feels like to want the world to accommodate your child’s every need. You only want them to have an even playing field. You want their teachers to help them. You want their friends to take it easy on them; to wait for them when they are falling behind or struggling.

I remember how unfair everything felt when Luke was first diagnosed. Heck, there are still times when it feels unfair when I watch my kid struggle. When he tries to pretend he can see so he can just feel “normal” for a moment is a horrible thing to watch. It is horrible. It is a feeling I would not wish upon anyone.

Everyone wants to be able to relate to others and when you have one thing that always gets in your way…something you can never take away…well it sucks.

One day, Luke was with a group of kids and he was talking and laughing with the rest of them. He got right up in one kid’s face as he was talking. The other kid put his hand up and said, “Luke, back up. You’re too close.”

I was so used to Luke getting up in my face, that I failed to even think of how uncomfortable it made others. I started observing. I saw adults backing away from him, I saw kids backing away from him. I saw.

I didn’t say anything to Luke right away because it was hard to think of having to tell my kid to stop doing something that helped him. But then I began to think of the life I wanted for him. I thought of the person I wanted him to become. My parenting became harder and life became more gray.

See, Luke can’t have it all in life. I can’t allow him to do what is best for only him. He must think of others. He must find a healthy balance between trying to see his world better and also seeing the world through other people’s eyes. It is the only way for him or for any of us to share life with others.

To take care of himself and others is what I envision for him. It makes things more complicated. It makes my job harder. The difference I have seen socially since Luke has improved on his personal space issues (and understanding of personal space) shows it is worth it. It doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking to see him struggle, but I know it will make him a better person.

It is worth raising your kid, no matter what the struggle, to simultaneously think of themselves and others. There are times when we teach Luke to think of his needs first. Sit in the front of the class. Use enlarged print. Put sunglasses on when the sun is bothering your eyes. Those are black and white. The gray areas are where other people are involved. Sometimes in the gray, we must choose others. I now know getting in other people’s personal space is not worth the benefit it has for Luke. It is one of the many times he has to learn to accommodate to the world. It is a little less fair, but we all have to do this in life.

Remember, I understand. It is hard to choose others over you own kid. Over someone you love unconditionally. We all deserve to feel normal, but we cannot always take away from other people to do so. Sometimes what is best is to see the gray and choose some middle ground for the sake of others.

Purity

I feel as though I should be able to meekly state my thoughts as openly as anyone else. But that is not what this world treasures. See, I like to be loud in joyful situations and quiet in thought-provoking ones. Maybe because I am less worried about winning and more worried about staying true.

I am not one to jump on any bandwagon. The thoughts I have on this subject and any other subject are always well thought out and well researched. I am incapable of jumping to conclusions because I think too much. I am incapable of believing in anything without truly feeling it fully. I do not follow the crowd. If I did, I would be more “popular” than I am. I am not interested in conformity, nor am I capable of it.

I made a promise to myself a while back. A promise to continue this blog as long as I stay prayerful and stay in the Word. If I stop reading the bible, I stop writing this blog. If there is ever a time I go back through previous posts and feel it isn’t inline with the Word, I will take it down or edit it to fall back inline. I have done this numerous times already. I want my words to be more than mere opinions. I want my words to reflect my walk in faith. I want my entire life, not just this blog, to reflect my walk in faith. Not because I am trying to earn favor. No, it is because I am continuously being transformed by the Word, by prayer, and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If you haven’t picked up on this yet, let me fill you in. I do not take things lightly. Not this blog, not my decisions, not anything. 

Now that I have cleared things up. I am going to do my best to respectfully and meekly give my thoughts on some things swirling around in today’s world…

I believe in loving all people. I think love encompasses more than what this world thinks it does. I think you can fully love and fully disagree. I think you can be honest about the things you are uncomfortable with and the things you refuse to accept/tolerate/whatever you want to call it and still love and show love. I think that is the part of love that rejoices in truth. I think that is the part of love that always protects. I think there is a danger in leaving out the parts of love that are harder.

The one part of protection I think often about is purity. Purity is something that changes depending on experience, exposure, age, and maturation level. Purity is something our culture has become desensitized to.

I think you can raise your kids to love all people without having things shoved in their face they may not be ready to fully understand. It has nothing to do with being hateful or ignorant. We have a duty to explain things to our kids, yes. We also have a duty to decide what they are exposed to. There is a huge difference between the two. Sometimes they are exposed to things outside of our control. Trust me when I say, they will remember what the world exposes them to and what you choose to expose them to.

See, I think it is different for all kids. My four-year old will have a better understanding on these gray areas of life than my seven-year old. My seven-year old lives life according to rules. He gets disturbed by things that are harder to understand. I should say, the things that are harder for him to understand. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love people. It means God made him to think differently than some people. I will honor this about him.

Last night I read an article about a lawsuit. A boy feels uncomfortable having a person with female parts changing in the locker room with him. The school is refusing to see his way. Think about it this way. He is being forced into something that changes his purity. I know maybe he has seen a naked or close to naked female already. But there is a difference between someone making the choice to see someone naked or close to and someone not having the choice to. There is a difference in choosing to allow someone to see you naked or close to naked and being forced to change in front of someone. I think of how my kids would feel in this situation. My seven-year old would be so deeply disturbed.

Some are born more modest than others. I am one of those people. I cannot imagine being that age and having someone with male parts change in the same room as me. Think of all these kids who have never seen someone of the opposite sex before. There is something wrong with ever thinking they don’t have a right in this decision.

imageThere are consequences to all of these things happening. I will continue to disagree and not become desensitized to things I don’t want to become desensitized to. I want to protect my kids purity until they are old enough to make their own decisions. I know people don’t think about boys purity as much as girls, but I think boys deserve this part of them to be protected as well. I will always point to truth and simultaneously stress God’s love and forgiveness that covers all sins for the times they mess up.

I want my kids to know they and their bodies are precious and worth protecting…but also worth forgiveness. How else are they ever going to learn to truly love themselves or others?

Finding the Joy in Parenting


Choices. As a parent you are always making choices. Sometimes your brain is dizzy with all the things you need to decide. You want what is best for your kids and many times it is hard to measure the results. You make a choice. You hope and pray it was the right one. You wait. You breathe a sigh of relief when you find you did the right thing. You feel ill when you find you did the wrong thing. Sometimes you wait years to see if it was the right choice. Sometimes you will never know.

You have information thrown at you from all directions. It is as though everyone knows how to be the perfect parent. Well, until it is your own child that you are parenting. Because, once you look your child in the eye and feel the overwhelming love, you just know there is too much at stake to even try to pretend you know what to do all the time. Once you see your child struggle or mess up, you know there is no cookie cutter way to parent your imperfect and unique child…

How do you ease your weary mind and embrace the joy of parenting? The answer is a little different for everyone. Again, there is no cookie cutter way.

I feel like I do a decent job (most days) at enjoying this sometimes arduous journey. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way:

  1. If it isn’t broke, simply leave it alone. If something works for you and your family then screw what everyone else thinks.
  2. Do listen to advice, though. Some people know more than you. But don’t forget, it is your choice on what advice you follow.
  3. If you don’t follow someone’s advice, don’t feel guilty. Seriously, don’t. You know your child the best. You also know your own limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  4. Honor your limits. Honor your spouse’s limits. Honor your kids limits. Enough said.
  5. Don’t judge other parents. You are not in their shoes. You do not know their child as they do.
  6. Don’t compare and don’t ever compete. No one enjoys being around those who try to compete or get their kids involved in such nonsense.
  7. Allow your child to be who they are, not who you think they should be. This may be hard, but, your kids know themselves better than you know them. (I have to thank my parents for doing a great job at this one.)
  8. Forget the rules sometimes. Just have fun. Sing loud, dance, and get a little goofy with them.
  9. Love them. Figure out how they feel loved. Give it to them unconditionally.
  10. Let them love you. Accept the way they show love and appreciate it.
  11. Most importantly, trust God and His will for your kids. God’s got this, guys. He really does.

Feel free to share any tips I may have missed.