Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On the matter of Halloween...

I almost didn't write this post for fear of causing division within the church. However, like many of my friends, this is an issue that, especially last year, I struggled with. I read an article about how Christians should participate in Halloween to evangelize, and I tried to convince my husband that we should pass out candy and Bible verses to the neighborhood kids. We should participate in Halloween so we can do our part to reach the lost, I argued. I felt that having holy motivation would make it okay. He knew better, and through his unwavering attitude, the Lord revealed to me some truths that settled the issue of Halloween with me. If you're on the fence, maybe sharing what I've learned can help settle it for you, too.

There's this article floating around the Facebook realm written by Kirk Cameron about his thoughts on whether Christians should celebrate Halloween. I adore Kirk Cameron; I think he has a lot of important things to say, and I typically enjoy reading his articles.

But his belief that Christians should celebrate Halloween just makes me sad. His thoughts are that Christians should be throwing the biggest party; we should be laughing in the face of darkness as we don our witch hats and ghost-like sheets. We should absolutely be using it as an opportunity to tell our neighbors about Jesus.

I agree; we should rest easy in the truth that Jesus has overcome the grave. (We do have a holiday for that; it's called Easter.) I agree; we should be telling our neighbors about Jesus. Nice word, Kirk.

Why is this issue of our participation in Halloween so confusing? We argue about whether the origin of Halloween is Christian or pagan. We argue about whether it's okay to dress our kids up in cute little overpriced costumes, as long as they aren't something evil like a witch or a demon. We wonder whether we should be hospitable and pass out candy or turn off our porch light and pretend we're not home. We have festivals at our churches to give our kids an alternative to go to, because somehow celebrating Halloween at our church feels more safe than being "out in the world with the heathens."

There are some gray areas in the Christian faith regarding what our response should be to the things of the world. But I don't feel like this is one of them.

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them...Be very careful then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." Ephesians 5:8-17

There is our answer. It's simple. We are to have NOTHING to do with anything that gives fear, death, or darkness the attention it craves.

That still may not convince you, but it's not because this is a gray area, folks. Here's why this issue is so hard for us: because our flesh wants something that the Holy Spirit warns us against. Let's just call it what it is. Because the world gets to have all the fun while we have to pass up a costume party for the sake of Christ.

It's hard being left out. Loneliness is one of the most painful things we can experience as human beings. It's one of the hardest things we encounter when we hold fast to our counter-cultural beliefs. Neither my husband nor I grew up celebrating Halloween, and we don't ever plan to. And sometimes it is lonely, especially because a lot (most) of my Christians friends were and are swooning over their (and now their kids') costumes and bringing Halloween candy in their lunchboxes to school for weeks. It didn't seem fair. We did go to our church's fall festival many years, but it was not the same.

Friends, we were not created for this world. We are not called to love the things this world loves. We are called to be anti-cultural, because that's exactly the example Jesus gave us. We're in the world, but not of it. And yes, it's lonely at times. But the best thing about following God is that we NEVER are alone. He is always with us. And His way is ALWAYS the best way. It's hard because our flesh wants to belong. It sees the world having fun, and it wants so badly to join in that it will justify any action, or worse, try to make it seem spiritual, so that we don't have to be left out.

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." Galations 6:7-8

Here's the danger in that: when we justify actions that the Bible clearly warns us against, we come out from under the protection that comes from honoring the Lord. We reap what we sow. Those who sow to please their flesh will reap the consequences of living in the flesh. And in doing so, we are left vulnerable against the attacks of the enemy. It's a double standard that we want to belong in the world, but then we complain when the effects of our actions cause stress in our everyday lives. We want our kids to have fun on Halloween, but our heart breaks when our children have nightmares. When they worry. When they are afraid. Do you see the issue here? We are deceiving ourselves if we think the two are not connected. There is so much evil in the world; why would we want to teach our children it's okay to have fun with it? There's nothing "fun" about the spirit of fear.

Cameron says that we should use Halloween to make fun of the darkness as a way to rejoice that it no longer has power over us. But the truth is, we're still giving it presence in our lives when we make fun of it, and that simply contradicts what the Word tells us we should do. We are to give it NO room to breathe.

I recently learned that the entire month of October is sacred to the satanic culture. In fact, during this month, many satanists specifically fast and pray for the downfall of Christianity. Why would we have ANYTHING to do with that effort? You see, that's not something that would happen all at once. The destruction of Christianity happens as Christians start to make small little compromises with our faith for the sake of adaptability and to seem easy-going. Small, unnoticeable compromises and justifications that over time de-contruct our belief system and values. If he can get us to believe that certain behaviors of ours don't matter, he wins. When we waver, Satan wins. And he takes any little inch he can get.

I don't know about you, but usually October carries more sources of stress for us than any other month. Year after year, we'd experience this feeling that we'd lost ground, that the things going good in our lives would suddenly become uncertain. It was just...a struggle. It's also the month that people assemble graveyards in their front yards, hang "cute little ghosts" from their trees, and there are skeleton and witch displays everywhere you look. It wasn't until a few years ago that I finally connected the dots.

What would happen if, during the whole month of October, Christians united to fast and pray for the salvation of the lost and for the darkness to flee from our land? What would happen if, instead of joining in the Halloween festivities, we exposed them for what they are? What kind of impact would that have on our nation?

Well, we may participate in Halloween (make jack o' lanterns and trick-or-treat), but we certainly don't celebrate it. What does this even mean? As a writer, it's easy to carefully choose words that make anything I want to do sound good, but this was just semantics. I told my husband we could still carve pumpkins and let the kids dress up without "actually celebrating the holiday." (He didn't buy it.) But no matter how it's worded, having anything to do with Halloween is not having nothing to do with it. Just a thought.

Oh, but what about the "harmless" costumes?! We want to see our kids waddling around dressed as their favorite characters! My boys love to play pretend. At any time during the year, they will dress up as a cowboy, a fisherman, or a construction worker and have their fun. I take lots of pictures, and we have a blast! October 31 is not the only day they are allowed to dress up as something they aren't. Get your costumes half-price in November, and let your kids use them to their hearts' content all year long!

Oh, but our kids deserve to have some fun traditions, as long as we don't focus on the bad stuff. What's the real issue here? We have lots of traditions throughout the whole month of October: pumpkin patches, hay rides, face painting, drinking hot chocolate, making fall crafts, visiting farmer's markets, eating chili, playing outside in the leaves...Perhaps we're projecting our own emotions onto our kids? Maybe it's us adults who are afraid of missing out or who are inadvertently living vicariously through our kids and creating issues where they don't need to exist. My kids get to experience so many fun activities during October that focus on the benefits of the harvest season that they hardly have time to notice they may miss out on one night of ringing doorbells.

Likewise, if October 31 is the one day of the year that we reach out to our neighbors, then shame on us. We aren't doing our job of being a light in our little corner of the world if we aren't consistently looking for opportunities to invest in a relationship with and bless our neighbors, making efforts to meet their needs and point them to Jesus. I confess I only know two of my neighbors. If I'm not developing a relationship with them year-round, what makes me think they're going to listen to my beliefs on one night of the year? It could happen, sure, but it's not the most effective way to evangelize. And I suspect that us saying we want to evangelize the lost on Halloween is more about us really wanting to dress up and collect candy than it is about us really desiring to seek out and save the lost in our community. If that was our real motivation, we would be seeking them out the rest of year, too.

"What fellowship can light have with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14

I bring up all these arguments because I've said them all myself at one point or another. We seem to think that if we twist and tweak the darkness a little, we can make it spiritually wholesome. But darkness simply cannot share space with light. No matter how we try to justify the cravings of our flesh, we can't just bend and allow a little bit of darkness in and still be in the light that we are called to live in. It defies every spiritual and physical law. Outreach isn't the most effective when we are entering the lost world and justifying it. The best outreach is when we invite the lost into our world, presenting something much more satisfying—the message of the cross and the hope we have in Jesus to totally obliterate the darkness. We don't reach those in darkness by going into the darkness; we reach them by inviting them into the light. That's where lives are permanently changed.

It's that simple.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A mama never forgets...

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Last year, I sympathized with my friends and family members who have miscarried or lost an infant. This year, I joined the club.

Also today, I learned that another sweet friend of mine lost her baby at five weeks pregnant, same as me. Except, it's not the same as me. There's a famous quote (I forget by whom), "To cheapen something, make it common." It would be ridiculous to assume that because many couples have children, each child is somehow less valuable. In the same way, even though this is a day observed by countless moms (and dads), it's still the loss of a child that they've suffered, and there's nothing common about that.

So, today, we remember. Not that we could ever forget in the first place. I would be almost 15 weeks pregnant today with our third child, which is the same point in each of my previous pregnancies at which I found out the gender. I would no doubt be in maternity clothes by now, hopefully past the sickness stage, and getting ready to go into the holiday season knowing whether we would be collecting girl or boy items. I would be even more excited than I already am (although I'm not sure that's possible) about the news of a friend of mine, someone who has struggled with infertility for years, who is welcoming her baby girl in April, because that means we would be swapping pregnancy cravings and that our babies could grow up together.

I have realized through this experience that, each time one of my friends lost a child, the things I said to bring comfort were somewhat trite:

"At least you weren't that far along." 

"Well, don't feel like there's something wrong with you, because SO MANY women miscarry."

"Be thankful for the kids you do have." 

"Don't worry; a lot of women find it's easier to get pregnant after having a miscarriage. I'm sure you'll be pregnant again soon."

"At least you know you can get pregnant."

These statements, though certainly well-intentioned by dear friends who stand with us during times of loss, offer very little encouragement. What did help, however—probably the ONLY thing that really brought me hope and helped me move on—was a truth I happened across in the comment section of some random person's Facebook status update: That, when we lose someone, they are not a part of our past; they become a part of our future. The hope we have in Christ is that this world is temporary, and that they have gone ahead of us to our permanent home. And each day we live doesn't tear us farther away from our loved one; it brings us closer to being reunited with them.

This has always been a part of my theology as a follower of Christ, but until recently it's never been a truth I've had to rely on so heavily or cling to so tightly. But it's the one thing that has given me the courage to take steps forward and move on.

So, on this day of remembrance, I want to do what I can to offer that same bit of hope to any of you mamas out there who are caressing unworn baby clothes, sitting in empty nurseries, pulling out ultrasound photos of a child you haven't gotten to meet yet, or who simply have hearts that are aching for a friend who is in pain. The pain is real, but the loss is temporal. We grieve, but in the next breath we can give thanks for the blessing of a child who is as eager to meet us as we are them. And while we remember on this day, we look forward to that day.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

An open letter to Tootsie Roll Industries

To Whom It May Concern:

I had been doing so well on my diet recently that I felt I deserved a little reward, so the other day I purchased a bag of your Tootsie Fruit Rolls; few treats can compare to this sassy little snack.

I was so disappointed (read: crushed) when I tore open the bag I'd hidden in my closet for after my kids' bedtime and discovered that there were quite possibly only eight assorted fruity rolls in the bag; a scant smattering of citrus amidst a sea of blue vanilla wrappers.

Now, let's be clear: there's nothing wrong with vanilla. It's a much better alternative to the limp handshake that is the chocolate flavor. (This is personal preference only, of course. My mom went into labor with me over a bag of the original chocolate rolls, so they have their merit and should keep their spot on the candy aisle.) Obviously you agree that vanilla is a crowd-pleaser, or you wouldn't offer a bag filled entirely with vanilla rolls. Vanilla is smooth and sweet and is great when you smush it with the orange rolls to create a dreamsicle experience. Vanilla is like a warm friendly hug, but it's still kind of...well, vanilla. BUT THE FRUIT FLAVORS are a passionate smackaroo right on the kisser. They are tangy and tart and tantalizing, the perfect amount of acidity to cut the sweetness. And what is a warm hug without a kiss that follows and knocks you off your feet? Dissatisfying at best; heartbreaking at worst.

And since I didn't pick up a bag of the purely vanilla Tootsie Rolls (I double-checked), I'd expected more kisses than hugs. It was like an anticlimatic end to what I thought was a great first date. Or more realistically in my world, the end of a hectic day with two toddlers.

I want to bring this to your attention because I would never want to drive a wedge between myself and my beloved Tootsies. The key to any healthy relationship is honesty. And I wanted to give you the opportunity to make sure that, moving forward, maybe you could give the fruit rolls the center stage they so desperately deserve.

Thank you for your consideration!


Courtney Thompson

Friday, August 15, 2014

Facing a thief

Experiencing a miscarriage is a pain that I had hoped never to know. Many dear friends of mine have gone through it, and while I would grieve with them, I would silently plead with God to spare me from having to go through that loss myself. I would thank God for my children, for keeping them safe and healthy, and while I complained about the difficult pregnancies I experienced, I was grateful that they were healthy pregnancies that ended in healthy children.

Recently, though, my husband and I sat silently in the ultrasound room as the technician searched my womb for any signs of new life; she found none. The walls were thin; the hollow was empty. Nothingness. 

I felt empty in that moment, too.

Well-meaning experts will say that this was most likely because of a genetic abnormality, and my body was doing me a kindness by expelling what would not have been a healthy baby. Only, it feels more cruel than it does kind. I should see this as a blessing and know that it’s for the best.

But I still feel robbed.

Miscarriage is a dirty little thief. She comes in, without your permission, to your safe dwelling. She eats your food, dropping crumbs on your sofa, and drinks your coffee with her feet up on your coffee table. Then she gets up, not even bothering to put her cup in the sink, and on her way out she takes your most treasured possession. She doesn’t even have the decency to stuff it inside her purse while you’re not looking, where you can’t see it and won’t notice it’s missing. No, she daringly flaunts it in front of you, boldly stating that she’s taking it whether you like it or not, all while you stand, paralyzed and powerless.

I feel so violated. My body was created to grow life, and instead it has been a vehicle for death. I didn’t want this; I didn’t give my permission for this to happen, and yet it did. Our baby was snatched from my womb, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Moms have a fierce urge to protect their children, but a miscarriage is one thing I couldn’t shield my child from, no matter how still I laid in bed or how much water I drank or how religiously I swallowed those dreadful prenatal vitamins. It was happening inside of me, prompted by my own body, and I could feel the dull gnawing as our third child was sent to Heaven ahead of us.

“Miscarriages are so common these days. So many women experience one without even knowing.”

These words, though well-intentioned, offer very little comfort. Making something common cheapens it. And the loss of a child comes with a hefty bill. Miscarriages are widespread, sure, but the pain that accompanies it cuts deep, weaving its way through a woman’s mind, soul, and body. There’s nothing common about it.

At five weeks pregnant, our child was barely more than an idea, and somehow the enemy whispers that the grief isn’t justified. I hadn’t heard our baby’s heartbeat or seen its profile on the ultrasound screen. It didn’t have a name; we didn’t yet know its identity. But this wasn’t just a failed attempt at pregnancy. In reality, we lost our child.

We barely had time to wrap our minds around the idea of a third child, but our dreams were no new thing. We’d been praying for a baby, shopping for a bigger vehicle, brainstorming baby names, planning how we would announce our news to family and friends (with a “Three is a magic number” theme at our oldest son’s upcoming third birthday party). Up until now, I’d been terrified of having a girl, but the past couple of days I’d been entertaining the idea and feeling a twinge of excitement at the possibility. She would be fierce. A force to be reckoned with. She would be protected by her brothers, noticed and cherished by her dad, and guided and supported by her mama.

This may have been our little girl. Or it could have been another ginger boy. We’ll never know in this lifetime. How does someone get closure for that?

No, I didn’t carry this child inside of me for long. But that doesn’t change the fact that I still held it. And I’ve carried my dreams for a lifetime.

The grief comes in waves. The joy that my children bring sustains me, but one tantrum later I want to scream. I feel a certain determination to resume normal activities, but in the middle of my daily routine I have to fight the urge to go hide under the covers. I don’t want to talk about it, but I do. I fear receiving unwanted attention, but I desperately want to be known. This is a new game to me, and I want someone who can explain the rules. How long is too long to grieve a child I never met, and had barely even discovered? How do I balance the need to heal with the danger of isolation?

But there’s one thing that I am starting to understand, and that is how hope works. While I was waiting to go to the doctor, I knew there was still a chance the baby could still be perfectly healthy. That very tiny chance gave me reason to hope, to steady my heart. When we received the news that our baby was gone, the doctor gave us good news for the future; there was hope of a healthy pregnancy to come. It might even come sooner than we think, because my body is already prepared for pregnancy. When we pray for hope, God gives us the belief that all is not lost. He gives us reason to believe that something good is coming, and that belief sustains us.

Find hope when all the world seems lost 
Behold the triumph of the cross
His power has trampled death and grave
Our life found in His name 
The greatest name of all 

My husband and I came home wearily that day to our two perfectly healthy, happy boys, and though they had no idea what had happened, Liam sensed that we were distraught. He cried for me as I put him down for a nap, so I laid down next to him. “I don’t want to be scared, mommy,” he said. I told him to say the name of Jesus, any time he felt scared or sad; we said Jesus’ name out loud several times. I told him that Jesus was always with us, to look over us and protect us. After a moment, Liam sat straight up and pointed to a corner in his room and said, “I see Jesus over there in my room; I love Jesus.” He stared at that same place in his room for a few minutes, mouth gaping open. “I see Jesus; I love Jesus."

I started singing “No Other Name,” a song we’d learned at church the day before (the song we were singing when the miscarriage process began), as Liam laid beside me and stroked my hair. 

Lift up our eyes, see the King has come
Light of the world reaching out for us
There is no other name, there is no other name
Jesus Christ, our God

Seated on high, the undefeated One
Mountains bow down as we lift Him up
There is no other name, there is no other name
Jesus Christ, our God 

In that sweet moment that we shared, I truly believe that Jesus did in fact show up in Liam’s room, not just for Liam but also for me, to remind us that He is always with us, whenever we feel sad or scared.

This weekend, God has given my husband and me the opportunity to run in a 5K that supports (Un)Adopted and their ministry to children and families. Now more than ever, we understand the pain that comes from losing a child, or loving a child that is just out of reach. We don’t take for granted the blessing of our biological children, but we are running as an expression of our faith that every child deserves a loving home, and for parents who are anxiously awaiting that moment when their forever child is placed in their arms. I’m grateful for this opportunity to look beyond my pain and loss and stand in the gap for other parents who are experiencing pain as they wait for their children to come to them. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Musings: Favorite Things

It's Monday! (Let's all think happy thoughts.) Mondays aren't simply the towering, angry stop sign at the end of a fun weekend roadtrip. They are a crisp black chalkboard that holds possibilities in its chalk tray.

In that spirit, I thought I would kick off this beautiful summer week by sharing a few things that make me smile:

1. Sundresses with pockets. AmIright?
2. Freshly washed sheets.
3. A drenching rain in the summer. The kind that exempts me from fighting off mosquitos and bumblebees to water the plants.

These are quite possibly the secret to my fancy handwriting.

5. A run that takes everything out of me.
6. Cereal for dinner.
7. Farm-fresh peaches.

The PERFECT shade of red lipstick...and it's cheap!

9. The sound of the open low B string on a 5-string bass, and how it seems to shake the room.
10. The way my boys love on each other. It completely melts my heart.

Hope you all have a blessed week!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I just want to eat pizza and doughnuts.

Tonight, I'm writing this while my husband cleans the kitchen and my little ones veg out in front of the television, which has been on for well over the recommended 30 minutes for toddlers (oh, I don't know, somewhere in the ballpark of ever since they woke up from their naps?). I've been sent to my room by my saint of a husband to relax after my mini-meltdown over dinner.

Can I tell you a secret? I really don't like to cook. Actually, most days I abhor it, and I'll drag my feet like a child headed to the dentist when it's time to prepare dinner.

Oh, I used to really enjoy cooking. I would drift off into Master-Chef-land whenever I pulled out my sleek, hard-anodized cookware (one of the perks of having a husband who worked a brief stint at Bed Bath and Beyond) and held my stainless steel measuring cups in my hand. None of that cheap, teflon-plated junk or gaudy plastic for our family! I had a full-time job and could blow my money on expensive ingredients and superfluous gadgets, explaining every step of my recipes out loud, as if Gordon Ramsey were, in fact, standing at my side, watching me create art in a saucepan. That's why I loved it. I felt it was one more way I could be an artist.

But that was pre-kids.

And pre-food-allergies.

And pre-I-have-no-idea-what-time-my-husband-will-be-home-from-work.

Now, I have to tiptoe around babies and foods, read every recipe like it's the formula for plutonium, and substitute half the ingredients for some obscure form of coconut (which, is in fact, not a tree nut, but rather a fruit...and one of the few things I'm not allergic to). What else am I not allergic to? OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE FOODS.

Not to mention that everyone in our family has specific food requirements. All three of the guys can have bread with their meal; not me. My toddler needs his food cut up into big chunks; my baby needs his cut into tiny pieces. My husband...well, he ends up getting his food dumped on his plate at the last minute. And he considers himself lucky if it's still warm.

The past few meals have been burned to a crisp because every five minutes my one-year-old (no matter where in the house I sit him down) frantically scoots his way to the oven and belts out ear-piercing screams until I pick him up. As was the case tonight.

I made roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and pan-fried chicken (soaked in coconut milk and coated with coconut flour, paprika and chili powder...I might as well have just fried up a coconut). Everything was burned by the time I finally got it cooked, and since I'd given Riley puff crackers to keep him calm while I cooked, he wanted nothing to do with his food but to mash it in his fingers before throwing it on the floor. And Liam just wanted to eat the ketchup.

I believe that's when I gave my husband a desperate, overwhelmed, on-the-verge-of-tears look (and possibly a whiny, woe-is-me outburst) that got me sent to my room, leaving him to clean up the wreckage I left in the kitchen and entertain the boys until bedtime.

I need some gluten.

Like, real bad.

I just want to order a pizza, loaded with melty, gooey cheese, chicken, BBQ sauce (WITH corn syrup, daggummit) and pineapple piled on top of a fluffy crust. And after that, I believe I could devour about a dozen Boston cream doughnuts...and—who am I kidding?—probably lick the remaining icing off the bottom of the box.
Dream big, friends. Dream big.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I've already answered you.

Liam has entered a pretty interesting, and exhausting, phase. I like to call it "The Parrot." When he asks a question, he doesn't just ask it once; he asks it over and over, either until someone repeats the question or until whatever he asks to happen actually happens.

This little parrot gig often plays out when we go for a run. The community park is located in the neighborhood where we frequently go running. Once Liam realizes that we're headed that way, his little brain becomes fixated on a trip to the park that will immediately follow our run.

"Mommy, can we go to the park? Can we go to the park now? Are we going to the park?"

It doesn't matter if I answer him. It doesn't matter that I waste what precious breath I have left from pushing 50 pounds of kid in a 20-pound stroller around a hilly neighborhood to respond, he will continue to ask this series of questions for the duration of the run, until we manage to get to the park. Until I have actually unbuckled him from the jogging stroller and placed him safely on the concrete, where he takes off toward the slides, forgetting I exist.

When this phase started, I would answer him every time he asked a question, hoping that eventually he would understand the answer and just wait peacefully for me to keep my word. Well, THAT got old really fast, so my husband or I would tell him to stop asking, or that if he continued to ask, the answer would be no. When that didn't sink in, I decided I would answer once. If he continued to ask, I would simply say, "I've already answered your question," and leave it at that. Because really, NO ONE can hold a conversation while pushing a stroller uphill. But he persists...

He is so consumed by his own desires, his own need, that he does not even notice my answer.

How many times is that me? How often do I request something from the Lord, only to be so distracted by my desperation, so overwhelmed with my own need, so whiny and persistent that I fail to pause and listen for His answer? How many times does He say, "I've already answered your question," but I missed it because I was speaking over Him?

Turns out, I've been quite the chatty parrot myself.

Sometimes, Liam will ask to go to the park, when I have planned an outing to the zoo (which is MUCH cooler than the park). In these cases, the answer to his question is no; not to be mean, but because there is something much better that I have in store for him. If he could just stop asking, stop fixating on what he wants long enough to listen, or if he could just muscle up enough patience to wait and see what's ahead...

Isn't that how it is with God? 

Do I still not fully trust Him? After all of the shadowy valleys He's led me out of, after all of the ways He's directed my steps into greener pastures, do I still doubt whether He'll do it again? Do I still question His love, His faithfulness, His sovereignty? 

Just like my toddler, it's easy for me to grow attached to the picture I have in my mind of how I want my life to turn out, but if I'd just wait, if I'd just open my hand a little, I'd see that what God has in mind is much, much better. Actually, it's pretty perfect. 

Thankfully, God is a better parent than I am. While I get annoyed, He remains patient. When I threaten to take back my yes, His is there for the taking. His way is infinitely best, and He answers me always, if I'll just take the time to listen.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Riley is one!

Happy birthday to our little gingersnap! Last week, we celebrated Riley's first birthday with a woodland-themed small family party. Although, Riley was teething and under the weather, and he's not one for crowds, so he didn't feel much like celebrating at first. But he perked up when it was time to open presents!

I snagged some photos of the food, but I'm sort of kicking myself for leaving my camera behind once our family arrived. I'd so hoped to get some good family pics, and I didn't even manage to get one of us four, or one of Riley and his big brother! (I'll admit, I enjoyed the party a lot more, though, than I would have behind the camera lens.)

I did manage to capture Riley with each of his parents (you can tell he wasn't in a celebratory mood):

He wouldn't even touch his smash cake...

It's hard to believe I have a one-year-old! Riley is developing quite the little personality. He's a talker, just like his big brother, and he has mastered the skill of scooting around on his bottom. Who needs crawling? He's got a classic redhead temper.

This guy is growing like a weed! He weighed in at just over 20 pounds at his checkup, which puts him near the 40th percentile, and he's still 50th for height. He decided to forgo bottles the week before he turned one, so I handed him a sippy cup of cold milk, and that was that. I'm thankful there was no lengthy weaning process, which is pretty consistent with his anything-goes mentality toward food. (I refused to let him eat a crayon this morning, though.) His hair doesn't stick up anymore, which makes him look even more like a big boy!
He's dropped his morning nap, which is bittersweet (for me, anyway), and instead we've been spending our summer mornings enjoying swinging at the park, splashing in the kiddie pool (I believe he was a fish in a past life), enjoying the animals or the splash pad at the zoo, or picking out books at the library. He flips the pages and jabbers away at each one like he's reading aloud.

If he had his way, he would be held all day (can we say separation anxiety?), which doesn't help our quest to help him meet those gross motor milestones, but it's also meant perfect timing to introduce playpen time. You know, so I can do things like shower or brush my teeth.

And then there's this little guy, who never stops moving and runs from the camera. But I managed to snap a couple of pictures of him running around at the park. He's two going on eight. Seriously, when did he become such a handsome little man?!

Life with these two continues to be an adventure, and they make life so much fun!

Checking in...

It's been a little quiet around the blog lately! I haven't gone anywhere, but boy, have things been busy at home! A couple of updates...

I've been taking a little break from blogging and from designing, mainly to focus on some health issues I've been dealing with. It's thankfully nothing too serious, but I have been pretty sick since I was pregnant with Riley, and I finally took the time worked up the nerve to go see a doctor. As it turns out, in addition to a vitamin D deficiency and a sluggish thyroid, I have a whole host of food allergies. My diet has caused migraines, joint pain, nausea, stomach upset, bloating, and exhaustion, to name a few symptoms. I was afraid I had a more serious autoimmune disorder (which it's too soon after pregnancy to draw a conclusion from my test results); I had no idea food allergies could cause similar symptoms!

My blood test revealed I am majorly allergic to corn, wheat/gluten, cow's milk and cheese (excluding yogurt), peanuts, and eggs, and have minor allergies of almonds, cashews, walnuts, oats, rye, bran, barley, and salmon. I know, right. What's left? Well, bacon. So, at least there's that.

Completely eliminating these foods from my diet for at least the next six months is proving to be a daunting task. I thought avoiding gluten was difficult, but CORN is in EVERYTHING! And if something doesn't contain corn, it contains eggs. I have to avoid any foods containing corn syrup or corn oil (or unspecified vegetable oil), and ketchup, barbecue sauce, Ranch dressing—so many of my favorites are out! I can't even marinate burgers or steaks in Dale's. Many of the gluten-free foods contain corn, eggs or some substitute that causes the same reactions the allergens do, so many of the manufactured allergen-free foods are out. Yes, I threw myself a mini pity party last week!

You know what this whole discovery has revealed? How strong of an emotional attachment I have to food. I LOVE to eat! I love trying new restaurants, new recipes, meeting friends for a quick dessert or dinner. It's going to require a complete lifestyle change to avoid all of these allergens. So, of course, I'll be blogging about it. And come the holiday season, I'll probably be whining about it, so consider yourself warned.

Another thing I'm discovering: it's incredible how connected the foods we eat are to our overall health. It just reinforces that our bodies really were designed to function on certain foods. The old adage is true: garbage in, garbage out. In my case, anything other than fruits, vegetables, and meats in, and my body goes berserk.

I ordered a few cookbooks last week, and I can't wait for them to come in. I'm hopeful that I'll find some new favorite recipes that our family can enjoy. If you suffer from food allergies, you might find these helpful (click on each to view on Amazon.com):




Do you have any food allergies? If so, I'd love to hear your stories, tips on eating out, recipes, etc.!

As you have probably guessed, a lot of my energy the past several weeks has been directed towards researching, grocery shopping, and recipe testing. I'm eager to get back to work and business as usual!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The hope of the Resurrection

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter yesterday!

On Sunday, we celebrated Jesus's Resurrection, that glorious day when we proclaim that Jesus is alive; he lives in us. But the days leading up to Resurrection Day usually leave me heavy-hearted.

Saturday, while we were driving to Mississippi to visit family, I found myself thinking back to the cross. And I put myself in Mary's shoes. On Good Friday, she could not tear her eyes away from this man, so intriguing and loving and strong, a man whom she'd devoted her life to, as he was savagely slaughtered, brutally and beyond recognition, innocent but condemned during a time in history when capital punishment was at its absolute most inhumane. (That was no accident.) He was ridiculed but remained silent, composed as the crowd hurled insults on him, attacking his character, his word, his life, his very existence. The love in his heart kept his lips sealed, except for the instance he uttered, "Forgive them, Father; they have no idea what they're doing."

I think about the pictures we see of the Crucifixion, where Jesus hangs on a cross, covered in a loin cloth, only a few scratches scattered on his body. The real story is that he was hanging naked and undignified; the only covering he could hide behind were the gaping wounds that rendered him unrecognizable: his muscles and ligaments torn and exposed, bright red blood dripping down his beaten, exhausted body.

To love him, and to witness his death, must have been too much to bear. Mary sat at the foot of the cross, and I imagine she was paralyzed by the pain. She may have tried to get up and walk away, but her legs wouldn't work. How could this happen? Why?

This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid...

Light of the world by darkness slain.

I can imagine that next day, the Sabbath, was a quiet day. Time stood still, irrelevant and pointless. His followers sat, hiding and hopeless, asking, "What now?" Where do we go from here? How do we pick up the pieces and keep living? Will we be next to die? Everything I've read in Scripture hints that they didn't understand the Resurrection that was coming; they thought this was the end. All the hope they'd placed in the idea of Jesus reigning as their King had shattered into pieces. He was gone. And he'd left a gaping hole.

And they had never felt more alone.

There have been many times in my life where it seemed time was motionless, and Jesus was gone. I felt utterly alone, not knowing what would come next. And what came next didn't even seem to matter anymore. But I couldn't see what was happening behind the scenes.

From what I understand of Scripture, Jesus wasn't lying still in the grave, covered in cloth, on that Sabbath. He was taking the keys of hell from Satan. He was securing his win over the fight against death. He was claiming his rightful place as the one true King of kings, so that we could take our place as co-heirs of the Kingdom of God. He was fighting on our behalf.

When it seems that Jesus is nowhere to be found, we can rest secure that in those quiet moments, Jesus is working on our behalf. And we can look forward with confidence to the glorious Resurrection that is coming.

Mary must have been in denial. Maybe something in her whispered that it wasn't over; it couldn't be. This just couldn't be how it all ends. Something isn't right. I could see her laying in bed with her eyes open, just watching for that moment when the sun came up, and as soon as the first gleam of sunlight broke through her window, she was out the door. I'll go find out for myself. This just can't be the end.

This wasn't the end. Not in the least. It was the beginning. Everything in creation was waiting for this game-changing moment. The love that held a righteous, blameless man to a rugged, splintered cross, in front of a hostile, unbelieving crowd, was the same love that rose him from the grave. Death could not contain him or extinguish the love in his heart. Rather:

Then bursting forth, in glorious day, up from the grave he rose again!
And as he stands in victory, sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am his, and he is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ!

Mary reached the tomb of Jesus and halted, mouth gaping open. It was empty. And there stood an angel, who confirmed her suspicions. Jesus isn't dead. He was in fact alive. I knew it! Her heart screamed, and new life welled up within her, too.

Seem too good to be true? It is. And yet that doesn't keep it from being the absolute truth. It seems like a fairy tale, but we've believed strange things before. Jesus satisfied the punishment for sin so we wouldn't have to, so that we could live and be saved. It is the most glorious sacrifice, and victory, this world has ever known.


Thursday, April 10, 2014


Another month, another blog post! Riley is 10 months old this week, which means that in only TWO MORE MONTHS we will celebrate his first birthday!

New developments in Riley's world: clapping and waving. He discovered how to do both this past week and has been getting in a lot of practice. He's also getting very close to cutting his fifth tooth (on top), and he's a bit of a grump with the whole teething thing. He enjoys using those teeth to gnaw on foods like whole wheat waffles and toast (I just hand him the whole thing), and he loves the ground venison and vegetable soup I made this week. I mean, he will eat ANYTHING. We've been applying the principles we learned from Karen Le Billon's book French Kids Eat Everything, and it's interesting to see the stark contrast between Riley's and Liam's eating habits.

Riley still doesn't have much interest in crawling, but he does LOVE to stand up. I, on the other hand, am a little torn. I mean, once he's mobile, he'll never stop moving, and I'll have two very active boys on the move. But...I can't wait to see him learn! I know it will be a glorious moment. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, his hair still won't lay down.

New developments in Liam's world: Liam is talking more and more in complete sentences! It's amazing the information he absorbs every day. Our new exciting adventure is checking out books at the library, and we spend a lot of time reading because he will actually sit and listen to them being read. His manners have also improved; he understands the proper way to ask for something is to say, "Mommy, please can I have...?" And often he'll say "thank you" without prompting. He now understands and follows the rule that he must try at least one bite of everything on his plate, which has helped his picky eating.

We also encountered another new thing a few days ago. One night, as Kelley and I were dozing off at bedtime, we hear the sudden rush of footsteps, and our door flew open. My heart stopped, and I screamed, it startled me so bad! There stood Liam, his bear dangling from his hand and a huge grin on his face. "Hi, Mommy!" He said. It was cute at first, but this continued for several nights and mornings. The thought of Liam wandering our home when we're asleep or at least don't realize it doesn't sit well with us for safety reasons, so we've been retraining him to stay in his room until we come get him. Thankfully, he's a fast learner! I'm ready for our nights to be a little more restful.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, March 28, 2014

One day last week, I took Liam outside to play, and amidst his endless exploring of our expansive backyard, I took the opportunity to prune our knockout rosebushes, given to us by our realtor the day we closed on our house almost two years. I'll confess I really know nothing about gardening, let alone how to tend to temperamental roses, but I noticed a few clusters of leaves sprouting among the dead branches, so I guessed that I should cut away the dead blooms from last year to make room for this year's new growth.

And then, there it came. In the process of going lopper-happy while dodging prickly thorns that tear at my skin, a revelation sprouted up in my heart, much like the tiny leaf clusters peaking out in front of me. Make room. Those two humble little words boasted an overwhelming truth. This is the season to prune the gray, lifeless weight that does nothing but choke the life out of the new things God is doing.

That limited phrase, small in stature, has monumental applications for me in this season of my life. There's a process at work, so subtle I didn't even realize it was happening at first, that is stirring a desire in me to de-clutter my home, my schedule, my relationships, my beliefs...and my soul. It's a process of blowing away the dust from the corners of my mind in gut-wrenching honesty and glorious renewal. A process of simplifying my life, stripping away the fluff and flounce to access the eternal fixtures. 

I've noticed some sort of holy discontent creeping up in my heart lately, an unrest signifying that I'm just not at home anymore. It's caused me to be quite edgy as I've struggled to make sense of it. A few weeks ago, as I traveled the two-hour trek to Auburn to serve there on our church's worship team, I used that time of solace to pray and seek the Lord. It was a rare treat to have a car ride that wasn't spent pointing out every red car or yellow bus we passed by or singing silly songs to entertain my boys. And it was in that moment of quiet contemplation that the Sunday School truths I've been fed my whole life worked their way from my head down to the core of heart.

I was created for Him. I wasn't created to grow up, go to college, start a career, get married, buy a house, have two kids—possibly a dog, too—and ritualistically fill my time and my stomach with worldly delights that have no eternal significance. (Don't get me wrong; I love my family fiercely, and I am overjoyed that God brought them into my life. They are certainly part and parcel to His purpose for me.) But I wasn't created for church on Sunday, a quick little devotional every morning, and a string of temporal activities in between. I was created FOR HIM. 

In His desire for companionship and intimacy, the Lord created us. In His sovereignty and omniscience, He created us. In His infinite grace and love, He fashioned and formed us and saw that we were good. Just to love Him back. To listen to His purpose for our lives and then rejoice at the opportunity to fulfill it. To worship Him in everything, rule and reign with Him as royalty, to take delight in Him and be in awe. I was in cardiac arrest of the most sacred kind. I longed to abandon everything and run away with Him for eternity.

But...I'm still here. Here, sitting at my computer while my baby naps and my toddler flips through a magazine. (It's Southern Living, and he's drooling over the strawberry layer cake on the front cover. So am I, and somewhere in my mind I'm thumbing through my pantry, taking inventory of the ingredients I have to make said cake.) Life is going on, only it doesn't feel like my life anymore. It feels strange, like I'm stuck in a dream—albeit a happy dream—but I desperately want to wake up and get on with the real life I was created for. There's that impatience lurking, the unrest that just wants God to get on with it already and whisk me away to help orphans in Africa or share the Gospel in the Amazon.

So where does that leave me? Now that this revelation has taken siege of my soul, what do I do now?

Make room. I can't stop making turkey sandwiches for toddler lunches and changing dirty diapers. There is laundry to be done, groceries to be fetched, little hearts that look to me for guidance. But what do I do with this life which I feel is so foreign now? How do I answer this longing in my heart that cries out for a different world, to be one with the One who really captivates me? 

The answer may be to simply de-clutter. Get rid of the excess: the nagging issues that plague my relationships and sabotage true intimacy, that send my emotions in a tailspin and rob my heart of peace. The mounds of material items that sit, unused and unappreciated in our home and cause distractions with spiritual implications. Prune back the items in my schedule that fill my time but don't fuel my purpose. Refuse to answer the call of chaos and drama and just...simplify everything.

I need to make room for the new. Let go of the former things to create margins for new growth. And then, sitting in the expanse of those margins, I'll be ready to respond. To what, I'm still not sure. It could be that I am called to hunker down where I am but serving with more efficiency and passion, but nonetheless, I will wait with bated breath. And perhaps a piece of strawberry cake in hand.

Monday, March 17, 2014


I'm a little late in posting these photos I took of Riley last week, when he hit his nine-month milestone. Happy nine months, Rileybug!

At Riley's checkup last week, he weighed 18 1/2 pounds (25th percentile) and is over 28 inches tall (60th percentile). He had to get two shots, and Liam hid in a corner so he wouldn't have to get them, too. (I can't blame him; I did the same thing when I was his age.)

This boy eats EVERYTHING! There's not one food he hasn't wanted to devour using his four little teeth. He's mostly eating finger foods now, which is something Liam didn't enjoy as much because he didn't like getting his hands dirty. NOT RILEY. One of his favorite things to do is mash his food in his fist until it oozes out between his fingers!

He says mama, dada, owl, yum, hi, and an assortment of strung together syllables, along with a few animal sounds: monkey, owl, and lion. He'll also do his best to mimic our sounds. He hasn't quite figured out how to crawl or pull up on furniture yet, but Riley does love to stand up holding on to something (until he lets go and slowly topples over).

A new challenge: Liam likes to walk up to Riley while he's sitting down and push him backwards. Or take his toy and place it JUST out of Riley's reach. He's turning into a full-fledged big brother! But he does make the cutest little photobomber...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Meet Mutebi!

Happy Wednesday! Hope you all are having a grand week!

In case you didn't know, twenty percent of all profits from my personal and event stationery business, Liam And Eva, go to support a school for deaf children in Uganda through (Un)Adopted. It's a cause that's very close to my heart, and last week my contact with (Un)Adopted sent me a testimonial from the school! I actually cried when I read Mutebi's story:

Hi! My name is Mutebi and I live in Uganda. Over the past 2 years, the Lord has given me opportunity to learn through (un)adopted’s partnership school, Busega Community School for the Deaf.  At school, I learn sign language, math, reading, computer, and about Jesus Christ. I am very thankful that the Lord has given me this opportunity. Two years ago, before I started at the school, I did not go to school, did not have any friends, and was very sick.  Pastor Raphael has helped get me medical treatments which I am very thankful for! I get excited on days that I have school because I have the opportunity to learn 5 different subjects and get to spend a lot of time with my close friends!

I absolutely love that Mutebi, and other children just like him, are given the opportunity to find their purpose and learn skills that will allow them to be a part of their communities. Who knows what's in store for this smiling face down the road? He could be a world changer!

If you would like to find out more about (Un)Adopted's ministries in Uganda, visit their site at www.unadopted.org/Uganda.

But don't just stop there—there are plenty of ways you can help!

Pray—Pray for these children who are often tossed aside in their society. Pray that not only will they grow in knowledge, but that they will also understand and pursue their purpose in life. Pray for God's provision to keep the school thriving.

Share—Share this link. Share my etsy shop. Share Mutebi's story. Let's spread the word about these amazing children!

Give—You can always give, in any amount, to the school through (Un)Adopted. Click here!

Shop—Twenty percent of every purchase you make through my Etsy shop goes to support the school in Uganda. Need some thank-you notes or personalized stationery? Birthday party or wedding invitations? A quick gift for a friend? Shop my growing collection, or let me create something just for you. And know that your purchase makes a difference!

Monday, February 17, 2014


My best friend's twin girls just celebrated their first birthday this past weekend, and I had the extreme honor of documenting their big day! Oh. My. Word. Can I just tell you how much I love these two little darlings? And their mommy did an incredible job with the party: a girlie milk and cookies theme, "Because some things are just better together." Adorable, right?

Amy came over today to pick up her photos on CD and stayed for a mini playdate. Maci and my little Riley really took to one another: Maci was patting his shoulder and poking him in the eye and just couldn't quite sit close enough to him as they played. Meanwhile, Liam played big brother to Claire, showing her toys and then snatching them away (we're working on that!), and crawling around after her. I love that our littles will grow up together!

Here are my favorites from the party: