Today’s post is on OurCityOnAHill. Please click here http://www.ourcityonahill.net/when-the-giants-fall-by-katie-taylor/ or on the picture below to read. So thankful that when we know our Daddy is on our side, we can watch the giants fall!
Christmas in June
We hear a lot about baby Jesus in December, but not much this time of year, so I wanted to share this little heartwarming moment today. We love to read children’s Bibles with our kids, and it is neat see each child identify with the stories. John’s favorite is David and Goliath and every time Goliath dies, John slaps the book as hard as he can and roars. It usually scares his sisters, but he is a precious little warrior. Mary’s favorite stories include the Marys; Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and Jesus’s momma all captivate her because she shares their name.
But Anna, at age (almost) 2, usually just wiggles around and tries to eat the books. She has just started talking more and wanting to read books by herself, so I handed her the Jesus Storybook Bible the other night. There was one (and only one) person she wanted to find:
“Oh baabeee Jeeee-Zus….Where are euuu?
She flipped and flipped and flipped the pages until she found Him lying in a manger, and then her face lit up with joy.
“Der’s baby Jeeee-Zus!” she squealed with joy when she found him.
It blows my mind that the One who made the gigantic sun became as tiny as a baby. The One with all Heavenly power arrived powerless. The One who can hold all creation in His hands needed His mother to hold Him.
The Living Word had to learn how to talk just like Anna. And so she, one of the the least of these, can relate to Him! I find it incredible that we don’t have to change and grow to get close to God, but that He changed and became small to grow close to us. What a beautiful upside-down Kingdom; what an amazing love!
As Anna was pointing to baby Jesus in glee, I asked her if she remembered his momma’s name.
“Mar-wee!” she said with excitement.
“That’s right! And what about his daddy?” I asked.
“Moses!” she said confidently.
I chuckled. Anna may not know Jesus’s earthly father’s name yet, and she may not know His Heavenly Father either. But…He knows little Anna. And He loves her so much that He made Himself small so that she could know Him too. She may be little, but she matters in a big way to that baby Jesus.
And that is worth a joyful squeal!
Today’s post, “Our Advocate” is on OurCityOnAHill. Please click on the picture or link below!
Sharing ideas, Mommas!
Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all of the Mommas!
One of the things that blesses me most as a mom is having a village of people to share advice, wisdom and creative ideas when it comes to life with kids. I am beyond thankful for the fingerprints other creative moms have left on our home. Motherhood is a daily challenge for me, as I believe it is for all of us who aim to do it well! It’s hard to know how to make the most of the mundane, see the big picture in the day-to-day, and capture the time that flies so quickly. Today, I wanted to share some of the ideas at work in our home (some original, some adopted) in hopes you might doing enjoy some of them with your own kids or pass them on. And, I would love for you share some of your own ideas in the comments below. When it comes to raising little ones, we are definitely better together! I’d love to hear from you!
Will and I started this tradition by writing a letter to our first-born when I was pregnant. Ever since then, we’ve written each of our kids a letter on their birthday. We try to limit them to one page to hit the highlights. We include special memories and milestones of the year as well as general impressions of them. I love reading the letters from years before because that thing we thought we’d never forget is brought back again – and was totally forgotten! If you are crafty, you could make this keepsake look more impressive. A binder from Publix and plastic dividers was what worked for us, but regardless, these letters are a treasure! One mom asked me if it’s too late to start if you didn’t at birth, and I don’t think it’s ever too late! If my Mom and Dad had written me a letter every year since I was eight, I would love it!
My Quotable Kid
A friend gave this to us when our third child was born, and it is AWESOME! It is a great way to capture those hilarious things your kids say. Ours lives in the kitchen because ninety percent of the quotes are said there. As soon as they come out of their mouths, I jot them down. Again, you think you’ll never forget these things, but with new memories always coming, it’s crazy how much we forget. This book is a gift to the whole extended family and they have all contributed!
Last summer I bought one of these for each of my kids. When my oldest went to Kindergarten, I started writing specific prayers for her. It is great to pray Scripture over them, pray for their future spouses, call forth qualities I see in them, pray protection, etc. They live in my nightstand and I love praying intentionally for each of them as time allows and the Spirit leads.
Someone gave me this idea when I was cleaning out closets and having a hard time parting with certain things my kids had outgrown. It wasn’t necessarily the most fancy items that were hard to let go of (though I love those too) but the ones they wore so much. Like this shirt:
John has worn it at least 100 times this past year. If I dress him in something else, he changes back into “Fly Guy”. If this shirt could talk, oh, the stories it could tell! At my friend’s suggestion, I am going to start putting these special items in a box for each kid, and will one day make (I mean, have someone else make) them into a quilt!
Summer Goal List
We started doing this a few years ago, and it has been a neat way to be intentional about summer. This year, a friend suggested starting by asking the kids what summer means to them. As a mom, I feel pressure to plan grand adventures for them to waterparks, activities and resorts (which we do love), but their list was so simple. It included catching a lightening bug, climbing trees, feeding ducks, going swimming at the neighborhood pool, playing tag and eating ice cream somewhere new each week. We have it on the fridge and my oldest is eager to start checking things off! Setting goals together is rewarding and makes our family feel like a team!
This is new this year, but with the combination of nappers and non-nappers, my family spends a lot of our summer days at home. I want to make this time intentional and fun for them. Since school gets out this month, I’ve been collecting items and putting them in “the summer box”. You can do this on a dime; most of these items came from the Dollar Tree. The box includes things like an aunt farm, sidewalk chalk, water guns, puzzles, mazes, sticker mosaics, bubbles, games, etc. They are each going to get to play with one thing from the summer box per day, and it will have to go back in at the end of the day (so it keeps its “limited-time-only” status). We’ll see how this works, but they have seen the box in the laundry room, and can’t wait for summer to come so they can open it! It’s just the same old stuff, but made into a game so it seems more special.
This Mother’s Day, I am thankful for the mommas who have inspired and encouraged me. If you’re a mom of little kids, by the time you’ve read to here, you probably have someone crying, hurt or standing on the counter! But if you have a moment, please pass on one of your family’s ideas. You may not even think it’s special, but I assure you, someone else will. We all have unique gifts, influences and things we’ve learned along the way; I’d love to hear from you!
Happy Mother’s Day!
Calling Your Name
Possess the Gates
Today, I wanted to say how much I appreciate you as someone who reads my blog. Thank you for sharing life with me! I hope your Valentine’s Day was filled with extraordinary love. Today’s post is on OurCityOnAHill. Please click below to read. YOU OWN THOSE GATES! Read, and you’ll see what I mean!
As a mom at Christmas, I write a script in my mind for how the magical moments of this season should unfold. I have these special memories of Christmas as a child; they were probably messy and chaotic, but when looking at frozen pictures of the past, they appear to be Norman Rockwell esque. So as I prepare meals, shop for gifts and make plans, I envision these magical moments with my family. The script in my mind is perfection.
But…for some reason, it doesn’t usually play out that way. This happened last week. Mary asked for an experience for Christmas this year…an ice skating date with mommy. Then dinner at her favorite pizza place right next to the rink, a cozy restaurant below the art museum that looks at the tinsel trail of trees. You can imagine the visions I had of gliding on the ice together while Christmas music played and then nestling in at that special restaurant in the middle of the park.
And, as we walked up to the rink in our three pairs of socks, two coats, and two pairs of pants in the surprise record low temperatures that hit on the date we chose, we saw the hip hop radio station’s van. Rather than Christmas music, we heard the bop of the nnst, nnst, nnst. As we walked up, they were blasting a song about “dropping your a..” at full blast, and we could hardly hear each other. Perhaps fitting for what was happening on the ice, but not fitting for the precious Christmas experience I envisioned with my five year old. Oh dear. Maybe we should come back another night. But then I remembered the efforts of stuffing our three-socked feet into our boots and zipping up all our zippers. There was no turning back!
At check in, Mary proudly told the woman how this was her Christmas gift. We stuffed our feet into the heavy skates and bravely made our way onto the ice. It was quite hard. As soon as our skates hit that awaited ice, the dj in charge told everyone to clear off for their game of turkey bowling. Clear the ice. We just got on. The woman in charge saw the looks on our faces and quietly told us that we could stay. So, we had the entire ice rink to ourselves which, for safety reasons, was very helpful. While the dj manned the turkey bowling game, the Christmas music resumed. It was fabulous! But not exactly the gliding together I had envisioned because Mary was determined to skate without a helping hand from me. We laughed as she fell about forty times, and thankfully didn’t hit her hard little head. It was wet ice mixed with crashes and cold wind. But she loved it. She would not quit until she did a whole loop by herself. It looked like a painful disaster to me, but Mary was thrilled. And she finally did it!
Then we walked to the pizza restaurant, starving. It was full of people and the hostess greeted us with the news it was closed for a private party. What in the world?! On our night?! This was absolutely not part of the plan. Rather than head home, where my numb feet wanted to go, I drove Mary to a little place down the road that I hoped would still be open. It was empty and they told us we could sit anywhere. Mary chose the bar, the high seats, of course. She ordered sweet potato fries that came with a chocolate dipping sauce – something, Mary told me, is only at fancy restaurants. This was way better than pizza.
As the wait staff gathered around us and rolled silverware, Mary told them all about her ice skating adventure. They were thoroughly entertained by their small visitor. She told them all about her excitement for Christmas and her love for baby Jesus, a topic that was warmly welcomed out of the mouth of Mary. Wine was poured, Christmas was celebrated, more stories were told, and laughs lingered as we all embraced our unexpected, warm moment before braving the cold again. Mary did about eighty percent of the talking and beamed with glee as the center of attention. As the ice melted off my legs, I looked around at our new friends and at her windburned, laughing face with chocolate all over it…somehow the magic I was hoping for found its way to us.
I made this picture into an ornament as a gift to Mary to remember the gift of her experience.
But really, it is a gift to me. It’s a reminder that in our failed quest for perfection, sometimes we find ourselves enveloped by a better storyline…that in the midst of unexpected cold, hard falls, closed doors, and moments we’d never put on the script, perfection makes its way to us. And that is the great joy of Christmas.
When You Miss Someone At Christmas
Each year at Christmas, new memories are made and old ones are relived. As I opened the box of our tree ornaments, memories from over the years spilled out into the room. Remember that trip? Here’s that one from my childhood! Awe look, the year we got married? And look, our first Christmas with a baby! Years and years of memories all hung in one place. And then I pulled out the little wooden sleigh from her…my aunt Kitty.
Kitty was my mom’s older sister who lived a few doors down. My childhood memories are flooded with Aunt Kitty. Our grandparents lived far away and she was a grandmother and an aunt all wrapped into one. She was so jolly and had a belly laugh that made you feel so good and special when you were with her. She gave out king-sized candy bars to hundreds of neighbors on Halloween; she was recklessly generous. And when I say she did Christmas, I mean she DID Christmas!
That’s why I will never forget twelve years ago on Christmas Eve when we got a call from a neighbor saying there was an ambulance at her house. We hung up the landline and my sister and I sped over. The stockings were hung, the gifts were wrapped, the food was made, she had worked so hard preparing a magical Christmas that only Kitty could prepare for her eleven grandchildren. She went to sleep on the couch after a long day of finishing touches, and she never woke up. As soon as we pulled up to her home, we knew. We just knew.
As I sat in Kitty’s funeral next to my younger sister and saw her fingers shake as she held the program…those fingers that had dialed the numbers to Kitty’s landline at least once a week since she was old enough to talk…I looked around at those Christmas trees in the front of the church and just sobbed. Christmas Eve. She was taken from us on Christmas Eve. It just didn’t seem right.
Twelve years have passed, I have gotten married and now have three precious children to soak in the magic of Christmas. They are absolutely adorable and hilarious this time of year. But even as new memories are made, I can’t get through this season without thinking of Kitty and having at least one good cry.
Because I miss her.
Maybe there is someone you miss this time of year too. It’s the happiest time of the year, and I dearly love it, but Christmas also brings us memories of people who are no longer here to share in the season; the family member who isn’t at the dinner table any more, the address in the Christmas card list you have to delete. Death is real. And it hurts. It’s not how it is supposed to be.
And this year as I got out that wooden sleigh, I feel like God was right there with me. And He reassured me that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to have a good cry. It’s okay to have these emotions and not feel the need to stuff them down. It’s okay not to be okay with death.
Because He isn’t.
At the tomb of His dear friend, Jesus wept. I know He would have wept with us that day in Kitty’s living room. He felt the sting of grief I know so well, and He too cried. And then He did something about it. He commanded his friend Lazarus to come out of that grave. And shortly after that, He did something even more miraculous. He went to the cross.
He came in all humanity and all power to look death straight in the eye and swallow it so we wouldn’t have to. He loves us so much He came to set us free of the shackles of sin and the sting of death. Because we matter.
We miss our loved ones, but we won’t always have to. “He will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.” (Isaiah 25:7-8) That hole in our hearts that yearns for things to be made whole again…He came to fill it, and He’s the only One big enough.
My wish list is long and exciting, but I think what we all desire most deeply this time of year is for the death of the people we love, and the brokenness both inside and around us, to be overcome and gone forever. That’s the cry of my heart and I believe that’s what Christmas promises.
Yes, there is death and darkness. But the birth of Jesus introduces us to the life and light that cuts straight through the heart of it, victorious.
“In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
There is something stronger than death; the love that broke into the universe on Christmas Day. The love that is making all things new.
And sometimes new memories shine light on the old. My children asked today if we could get out our birthday sign for Jesus. I told them not yet, and reminded them they needed to wait until the 25th. John, who is three, started jumping up and down. “Are we going to heaven, mama!? Are we going to get to sing to him in heaven?! Can we go and see him on his birthday, mama, please!? Can we go…”
I listened to his joyful request as his precious words began to cut straight through the heart of such a painful memory…it was the moment I lost it this year. I immediately thought of Kitty and how she went home to be with Jesus on the Eve of His birthday. She was with Him that night. John asked about my emotions, and I reminded him about Kitty. He was thrilled to know that she made it to heaven just in time to sing.
As I rejoiced with John, the words of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, my favorite Christmas hymn and one that comforted me greatly in the years after Kitty’s death, played through my mind,
Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation, Sing all ye citizens of heaven above…Glory to God…Now in flesh appearing…
Those of us who miss loved ones at Christmas, we are invited to sing along triumphantly with all of the citizens of heaven, and perhaps with more volume than before,
Oh, come let us adore Him…Christ the Lord!
What does it mean to be pro-life?
I believe LIFE comes from God and is so amazing, so vast and such a miracle that it could never be squeezed down or boxed into a political party. Life is made in the image of God and that includes the unborn, and also those who have been born; each man and woman, black, white, rich, poor, marginalized, elite, foreign, oppressed, strong, disabled, young and old. Each is hand-stitched together in love to reflect the glory of our Creator. He loves us so much that He knows the hairs on our heads, Republican and Democrat alike, and He sent His son to die for each one of us. We are all worthy of dignity, extravagant love, and amazing grace, despite how we’ve all fallen short.
Webster defines life as “the period of time when a person is alive.” But the word Jesus uses in John 10:10 when he says he has come to give life is the Greek word Zoe which means, “every living soul” and “of the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God, a life active and vigorous, and to last forever.”
This is the kind of life I want to be for. It’s the kind of life I’ve received by the grace and love of Jesus Christ, despite how short I’ve fallen of His glory and how much I’ve broken the law. The amazing love that has been shown to me by Him and by graceful people who follow Him is what has transformed my life. It is only by His grace that I can say I am pro-life.
I don’t personally believe the front lines of life and death are at the polls where the laws will be changed. I believe the law is important, but agree with Jesus that it is powerless to transform. “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” Romans 8:3.
When it comes to the unborn, I believe the battle of life and death lies in the hearts of pregnant women who are alone and afraid, and who probably feel judged. I believe being pro life means sitting face to face with her and telling her that her life matters, that she is made in the image of God and that He promises her a hope and a future. It’s telling her she is forgiven for her sins and worthy of extravagant love, that she is a daughter, that she belongs, that God will never leave her or forsake her or her child, and that she does not have to be ashamed or afraid. It is being for her as well as her child. It is holding her hand and sharing a love that is stronger than any law and has the power to transform, redeem and save.
I believe being pro-life includes the life of the woman who has had an abortion. One out of three women have walked this unthinkable road and are silently suffering in shame through the election dialogue. If you are pro life, you are for her, a sinner in desperate need of Truth and grace. Jesus has come for her too, to cleanse her from all unrighteousness and set her free from the shackles of shame.
Being pro-life is so much more than being anti-abortion. It is seeing life as a gift from God and seeing all people of all races, ethnicities, religions, sinful backgrounds and social classes as being made in His image and worthy of being treated with dignity. It’s giving a voice to the voiceless, the vulnerable and the marginalized, both born and unborn. I have been sad to see how human life has been debated in this election in a divisive, hurtful and confusing way. Life refers to all life, comes from God alone and cannot be contained by a political party or candidate. The zoe life Jesus offers is way too big for that!
Each American on both sides is a gift from God, worthy of dignity and grace. We all desperately desire to be understood, heard, valued and loved now more than ever. It’s time to move on with life.
Fear Not, Little Flock
“Fear Not, Little Flock” is something I wrote for a community blog last month, but wanted to share here as well. I hope it encourages you!
My three-year-old stood at our back door in his ninja turtle cape and plastic sword in hand. Nose pressed to the glass, he longingly looked out.
“Come with me, mommy!” he begged.
I was cleaning up dishes and told John to go out by himself for a minute.
“I don’t want to, mommy. I’m scared.”
I explained that the fenced in back yard was perfectly safe.
He looked down and muttered, “but what about the cat?”
A fat, orange cat had come to visit the other day. We had never seen it before and didn’t know which neighbor it belonged to. As soon as we opened the door to go say hello, it leapt back over the fence and fled.
But it’s fluffy size terrified John.
Until that orange surprise visitor came, John was fine going outside alone. But I understand his fear. When we are surprised, we want to arm ourselves against those kind of surprises again. That phone call, that diagnosis, that accident, that heartbreak caught us off guard. We want to move forward prepared for it. If it comes, darn it, we’ll have predicted it. We are on the inside looking out for it.
The tender words of Jesus came to mind, “Fear not, little flock.” (Luke 12:32) I knelt down and looked John in the eyes. I told him he was twice the size of that orange cat. I also pointed out the plastic sword in his hand.
“If you see him coming, run after him with your sword and he will be so scared, he will run away. He’ll jump that fence so fast, it will be funny. Remember last time?”
His little eyes lit up with visions of being a superhero in action.
“Why don’t you go out there and look for him and scare him away?” I suggested.
He plunged out the door, sword in hand. After a few minutes of no cat, he was running in circles, playing on the new swing set, pushing his plastic mower and digging in the dirt. It was a great, sunny morning that John got to experience instead of watch from inside.
And that cat….would you believe it….never showed up.
This conversation reminded me of a talk with my husband recently. Only this time, I was the fearful one. He asked me to tell him what I was afraid of, and while some of my fears seem so silly and selfish, I was honest. It helped to say them out loud and bring them to light. It helped me see where I wasn’t believing God. And that if these worst case scenarios were to happen, even death, I would be okay in Christ. God doesn’t promise we won’t have trouble, but that He will be with us and has given us power to overcome it. He never says that cat won’t come, but that in the name of Jesus, it will flee.
Then Will helped me look back at the last time something scary happened. While painful, I am okay. In fact, each surprise, hard situation in life has served to mold me more into the image of Christ. I am more than okay. Then he pointed out my sword, my Ephesians 6 armor already in hand “the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.” It says,
“The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
“I (Jesus) have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy…” (Luke 10:19)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
I thanked my husband for the reminder. In Christ, I am twice the size of what I fear. It helped give me the courage to step back out of my comfort zone, victorious sword in hand, and ready for what comes. I’ve seen a lot of neat things since…but not the cat.
When it comes to things we worry about, did you know that:
40% never happen
30% are in regard to unchangeable deeds of the past
12% focus on opinions of others that cannot be controlled
10% center of personal health which only worsens when we worry about it
8% concern real problems we can influence
(Max Lucado, Come Thirsty, p.101.)
And I’ll add…0% outside of the redemptive power of God and victory in Jesus Christ.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 ESV)