Friday, August 16, 2019

Living Obedience & Shutting Down Fear

Lately we have been trying to teach Lenora the word and concept of "obedience."  She will be 4 next month, and she is understanding more and more about what it means to obey mommy and daddy, particularly as her independence grows and she realizes that she does not actually have to obey us if she chooses not to do so.  We encourage her to choose to obey because that's what Jesus wants us to do, and it makes him happy when we obey.

You may not know this about me but the Bible story of Jonah is my least favorite of all.  It's not something I keep a secret - Matthew is quite familiar with my "the pastor's sermon is on Jonah" grimace.  The story frustrates me.  Jonah does all the wrong things (until he simply has no other choice), but God still uses him.  Yet, in the end, after all Jonah has seen God do (3 days in the belly of a big fish and lives to tell the tale - hello!), he still pouts about his situation and the things God did. 

Jonah annoys me.  I want him to read his own story and stand in awe of God, not pout about it.  And throughout his whole story, it is plain to see that all he has to do is obey God to avoid all the heartache (see above about the big fish).

But obedience is tough.  So I have to cut Jonah some slack in that regard.  It's tough for my almost-4-year-old, and it's tough for me.

Isn't it funny how parenting can be the most frustrating and most rewarding thing at the same time?  I had to know that attempting to teach Lenora about obedience would open my eyes to see how God is asking for my own obedience.

I had a conversation with a friend the other night, and God used her and our conversation to reveal to me that I have been Jonah lately, avoiding being obedient in some situations in my life.  Interestingly (but not surprisingly), just the night before I was praying with some other friends and specifically asking God to show us (me) the sin in our lives so we may repent of it.  Of course, my prayers were directed toward one situation, and God answered that prayer for a different one.  Hah!  He's a funny one.

When I was pretty young (before my youngest sibling was even a thought), my mom made a point of teaching us Bible verses that as a family we would focus on memorizing for a week or so.  I can't say I remember all of them (sorry, mom!), but one that has never left my side is "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1:7 NKJV).  I have always been so grateful for my mom's desire to instill those words in our hearts because I have called on that verse countless times when I have been afraid.  Situations like going into interviews, driving down dark creepy roads, or when my mind wanders into crazy places late at night when I am home alone with the kids trying to determine what the best course of action would be if the house caught on fire (because #momlife).

For the last few months, God has been putting that verse at the front of my mind for different reasons, though.  Reasons like being afraid to speak truth in love when it needs to be spoken.  I am not a liar, but I tend to keep my opinions and beliefs to myself in situations where I feel like it might not be received well (sometimes that's the wise choice, sometimes not).  And God has been calling me out on it.  He's been asking me to obediently speak truth in love in several specific relationships in my life, and I have been avoiding it because I am afraid.  I have been afraid of unintentionally hurting feelings or inciting anger, and I have let those excuses be the reigning force instead of calling on the power and love and sound mind he's given me.

Since I asked God to show me my sin, which he answered through simple truths spoken by my friend, I am now grappling with how to be obedient and step out of fear to do so.  I want to obey because I love Jesus, and I know, just like with Jonah's story and just like we are trying to teach Lenora, he has called me to obedience.  I need to get out of God's way and let him use me, especially because I want to be an example for my babies to follow.

I think, for me, it starts with gratitude for some of the things God has given me.  Thank you, Jesus, for giving me power and love and a sound mind to call upon when I struggle with obedience.  Thank you for showing me sins that need to be confessed.  And thank you for using my mom to teach me about who you are all those years ago as I now try to teach my own children those same things.

Friday, April 26, 2019

When A Big Sister Loses A Little Sister

Grief is a funny, funny thing, isn't it?

This month marks 6 years since Kasie was murdered.  Sometimes it feels like yesterday she was here.  Other times it feels like a century we've been without her.

The end of April and beginning of May is usually a weird time for me ever since Kasie first went missing.  This time of year is marked with so much sadness since 2013.  But in subsequent years, this time of year has also held good things, like finding out the gender of LK (2015) and then announcing our pregnancy with LE (2017). (Interestingly, the day we found out Kasie died and the dates of the fun things with our babies all fell on the same day: May 4th.)

Regardless, this year hasn't felt particularly sad or difficult like some years have been.  I miss Kasie with all that is in me, but Jesus has seen me through it all and helped me heal (which is a continual process).  So usually I miss her in a fond way, not so much a sad way, which has been the case lately.

My best friend got engaged this week, and I'm absolutely over-the-moon excited for her.  Besides my brother's wedding (which was in TX, leaving me a little useless for the planning), this is the only other wedding I've been part of (other than my own - haha), and I get to be there for a lot of the planning and festivities since she's my best friend!

It hit me this morning that part of the reason I'm so excited about being there to help her plan and do ALL THE WEDDING THINGS is because I will never get to do those things with Kasie.  So there's this big part of me that is so very grateful for Toni (my bff) wanting me to be part of the process simply because I kind of get to do the big-sister-help-plan-the-wedding thing like I should have been able to do with Kasie!!

Up until this evening all I could feel was pure excitement about it.  Like literally jumping up and down with glee.

But then the kids went down for bed, and Matthew's at work, leaving me alone with my thoughts (time I normally really savor).  The excitement for Toni's wedding has been temporarily matched with grief over the countless big sister experiences that were lost when I lost Kasie.

I will never get to help her find the perfect wedding dress or plan her bachelorette party or give an embarrassing but hilarious MOH toast at her wedding reception or any of the other experiences I should have as the big sister of the bride.

So I'm a little sad tonight and missing my sister.

But I'm choosing simply to be grateful for the time I did have with Kasie, like our childhood experiences and my own wedding.  And I'm looking forward to being able to do the big sister wedding thing with Kristen one day in the future.

And I'm very much looking forward to planning with Toni.  I'm so grateful Jesus brought her into my life 10 years ago, shortly after moving to WA.  I can't wait to help her find THE dress and do silly bachelorette things and celebrate her and Jake.

So here's to sisters, ones born to us and ones we choose.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Toddler Resurrection Eggs

Last year for Easter I wanted to give a gift to each family in our church with a small child.  Something to help them share the story of Easter together in a fun and tactile way. 

I'd seen Resurrection Eggs all over Pinterest but couldn't find one that really fit what I wanted.  So I took a couple of different ideas to create something that I liked and made several sets for our families, and I love how it all came together. 

I thought I'd share it this year for those who are interested.

Here's what is in my set:

  1. Heart - On Easter we celebrate God's love for everyone (John 3:16-17).
  2. Bandage - We are a broken world in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23).
  3. Cross - Jesus died on the cross for our sins (John 19:17-18).
  4. Cloth - Jesus was wrapped in cloth and placed in the tomb (John 19:40)
  5. Rock - A stone was placed in front of the tomb (Matthew 27:59-60).
  6. Empty - Jesus' friends came to the tomb and saw the stone had been moved.  The tomb was empty!  (Luke 24:1-3)
I added corresponding number stickers to the eggs to make it a little simpler and printed the list above on cardstock to go along with my egg carton to use as a reference and starting point when using the eggs with children.

The hearts and crosses were small wooden ones bought online (Amazon, I think).  I cut small strips of cloth from a $1 tea towel and bought rocks from Michael's.  I was going to just find some in nature but wanted to make sure I found ones that would actually fit in the eggs and that also wouldn't be too small and pose a choking hazard.  And the bandages were just a plain box of band-aids from the store!

The were received really well by the people in our church, and I hope they bless you, too!

Happy Easter!