Tuesday, January 9, 2018

you don't go first...

You're 15 months old, Annabeth! Wow! I remember how excited I was for you to turn 3 months old. You were such a cute, little chunky thing. That was your first month to go to the nursery at church, and I was so nervous to leave you with people I didn't know. They, of course, turned out to be wonderful women and you loved them! Hard to believe that was a year ago, especially now that you're running around and talking up a storm!

You took your first steps a few weeks ago. I didn't push you to walk or really even practice with you because I knew you'd start when you made up your mind that you were ready. That's how you've done most things. I am learning so much about your personality, and I still think you've got more of your dad's traits than mine. That's okay. He's full of good ones! You have also started showing great affection and wanting to be held. I don't know where that came from, but I love it! Your kisses and hugs melt me every single time. You aren't overly generous with them so that makes them even more precious. You're full of giggles and squeals. You are adventurous and fearless. I haven't found anything that you're scared of and you're not afraid to try anything. You're also super smart and have figured out way more than I'd like you to know at this stage. You're still a busy body but have an obsession with the move Sing, which is the only time you'll sit still. You're constantly amazing me each month! I took dinner to a friend who recently had a baby and as I held him she said, "Do you miss Annabeth being that small?" I smiled and emphatically said, "No way! The older she gets, the more fun we have!" I meant it, too!

I've been thinking about what piece of wisdom I wanted to share with you this month, and the topic of dating has been rolling around in my mind. Clearly you're too young for that, but I know the days of boys will be here sooner than we think. You're one of very few girls in the nursery at church and are outnumbered by the boys. I joking told you dad that I wondered if you'd grow up to marry one of them. What a weird thought, right? I've read many blogs written by moms who say they're already praying for their baby's future spouse. That's a sweet thought, but there are so many things I am more concerned about praying over before you get to that stage in your life. Truth be told, I don't even know if that's God's will for you. Or, if you'll even want to get married. Selfishly, I hope that you do simply because marriage is a sweet gift (a good marriage, I might add). But I want you to also know that it's totally fine and wonderful to be single. In fact, Paul (in the Bible) advocates for it for many good reasons. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that despite the message society sends to those who aren't in a relationship. God calls some people to singleness for His own purposes. He calls some people to marriage. So, regardless of whether or not you get married, I just want you to submit to God's will for your life. That's really my prayer for you. That throughout your entire life you submit to His will and are obedient to His calling. If you are, you'll always be in the right place!

Being a mother, and a woman, I do know that there will come a day when you begin showing interest in boys and it's returned. To the dismay of all parents, this happens earlier and earlier. Your dad has been planting the thought that you won't date until you're at least 25. I don't know how effective that's going to be, but I certainly don't disagree with him. I know, I know, we're your parents so maybe we're being a little extreme. The truth is, we care so much about you and about your precious heart that, if we could have it our way, we'd find you the most respectable boy God ever created and match you two up in high school so that you could be high school sweethearts forever and never endure the feeling of heart break. But since arranged marriages aren't a thing in our part of the world, I figured I'd just share with you some of my best advice that I've learned over the years with the hopes that when the time comes, you'll consider taking it. 

The first thing I have learned is that being in a serious and long term relationship while your young is often futile. For the sake of this advice, I am going to consider young and under the age of 18. At that point, you can't get legally married without our consent anyway, so see, there's no point. I know you probably don't believe me here because you may see me as old and not with it, but dating really hasn't changed much over the course of time. You might call it something different, but it's the same. You need to enjoy your life, learn new things, and have memorable experiences. You don't need to be tied down to a boy. I didn't have an actual boyfriend before college. It's not that I didn't want one. Oh, I did. I just wasn't "dating material" in the eyes of teenage boys. I later discovered that prudency (I think I may have just made that word up) is not on their list of attractive traits. Honestly, I thank the Lord that He kept me non-girlfriend material for all those years. If not, who knows what my life would have looked like. It's hard enough to grow up much less to try and figure out the complexities of relationships when you, yourself, are changing so quickly. Young love rarely survives. There are the exceptions, but I only know of a handful. You will have your whole life to worry about boys and dating and marriage. My advice to you is that you spend at least the first 18 years free of said worries. Have friends, have fun, and don't spend your tears over boys who don't really care for you. When you finally find a boy who doesn't make you cry, then I'd say it might be a good idea to make him a friend.

Boys need to pursue you, Annabeth. It should never be the other way around. He needs to be the one going after you, but it's impossible to pursue someone when you're being chased by them. And so don't throw yourself at boys. It's his job to win and keep your heart, and if he really likes you and cares deeply about you, he will do exactly that. You don't need to be the first to approach him. You don't need to be the one asking him on dates or initiating phone conversations. Social media will be a big part of your life, so he needs to "friend" you first. At school dances, he should be the first to ask for a spin on the dance floor (although I think school dances will be extinct by the time you get to that age). And if you are dating a really wonderful and upstanding guy for quite a while, don't even think about showing him affection first. He needs to be the one to hold your hand or lean in for a kiss (and I mean a little peck on the cheek, you know). You aren't the one asking him on a date, he should ask you. I know I sound really old fashioned here, but I've witnessed old fashioned and it works. People often call this tactic "playing hard to get," but I call it, "letting him take the lead." God has called and commanded our men to be leaders and leaders take the initiative. He needs to take the initiative from the start, sweet girl, and you need to be patient and wait. Let him. Don't rush him. He goes first when it comes to saying "I love you," and don't start planning a wedding until he brings it up. Let him open your doors, pick up the check, and always be sure he treats you with the utmost respect. If he can't respect you, then he doesn't deserve you. And trust your momma on this one. It's worth waiting on a man of great respect, character, initiative, and integrity. You'll be glad you did!

God's word also tells us that we should be equally yoked. This is more than whether or not he proclaims to be a Christian. Does his life reflect Christ? What kind of fruit does he actually produce? If he didn't tell you he was a Christian, would you know by the life he leads? Examine his words, his actions, his motives, and how he treats others. And do not make exceptions. Ever. Never ever make exceptions or assume that you can change him. You can't. If you can't love and accept him for who he is now, you'll have a hard time being able to in the future. And, you know, although it doesn't always feel that there are plenty of fish in the sea, there are. God is creating new ones every single day. If you happen to come across on that isn't for you, release him so can end up with the right girl. Don't feel bad about it. You're doing everyone a favor. There will be one for you, and while you are waiting you can thank God through the process of elimination. You may not know who the right one is, but you know who it's not and that's helpful! He will work things out for the both of you, according to His will. Your dad and I are living examples of that, and we'll tell you all about it when you're ready to hear the story. It's a story that is free of exceptions, however, if you ask me, when it comes to men, your dad is quite the exception! I can tell you think he is, too.

I don't know what God has in store for you, Annabeth. I know He's got a good plan, and I am so thankful that He is allowing me a part in that. I am glad I get to watch you grow and learn every single day, and I would do anything in the world to keep you from ever feeling heartache, pain, or disappointment. Unfortunately, I know I can't prevent those things, so the least I can do is share what I know in an effort to help you navigate through the tricky waters of life. You know I'll always be here for you, praying for you, and loving you every day! And I know that God will show you the path to walk if you'll trust in Him and lean on His understanding. That's all we can do, sweet girl, and God will be faithful to get us where He needs us to be. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

#momfail...

I bent over picking up glass shards from the kitchen floor. Annabeth had dropped one of my favorite watches and the face broke. I didn't notice it was broken until I handed it back to her and, moments later, felt little pieces of glass brush down my arm. I was thankful that she didn't swallow any of the glass since she had been chewing on the watch strap. I was also thankful that, although it was a favorite, it was inexpensive. I've come to learn that you can't expect to have nice things when you've got a toddler. It's a good thing they're small because they can be quite destructive. Things tend to get broken, scratched, and permanently stained. It's something many mothers have to accept during the early years of child rearing.

I asked Annabeth, "Do you see any other pieces?" not fully expecting her to understand the question. Sure enough, she pointed to a piece I had overlooked. I continued searching for any other small pieces that might end up in her mouth (because everything she touches finds its way in her mouth) as to avoid a future catastrophe. She wandered away into the sun room to explore the same spaces she's seen a hundred times, and she found something new. Something she hadn't seen before. She picked it up and made her way back into the kitchen to show me this new found prize. With a clenched fist held up in my direction, I unfolded her tiny fingers to find a squished piece of dog poop. Not the norm, but thanks to the cold weather and my choosing to keep the dog door covered, Scout felt that the rug was as good as the grass and did what she needed to.

I grabbed said prize from Annabeth's hand with great disgust while ordering her NOT to put her hands in her mouth. I inspected her mouth hoping she hadn't done a little taste test. I've become accustomed to poop over the last year, but I sure don't want to hold it in my hand. If only my child knew what it was and felt the same. Anyway, we scrubbed our hands with soap and water, and by the end of a most eventful morning, I was surprised that we had made it out uninjured and alive.

The more I venture through this journey of motherhood, I've learned that the feeling of failure does its best to ride shotgun. Sometimes we feel that way over something we've done, a decision we made, that didn't turn out well, and sometimes it stems from something that was totally out of our control. (Like dog poop on the backdoor rug.) Regardless, we all have moments when we feel like we've failed as a mother, and the enemy never ceases to look for an opportunity to point it out. But if caring for your child as best you know how, if loving them fiercely, and if meeting their every need somehow leads us to the feelings of failure, then I don't even want to know what success looks like because I know for certain I'll never get there.

I'd be lying to you if I said I don't struggle with feelings of failure and inadequacy. I felt totally responsible for the bad morning we had although Annabeth wasn't doing much to help out. But if I had gotten up before she did, if I had paid better attention to our surroundings, if I had taken Scout outside like I always do rather than assuming she'd bark (like she usually does) then none of those things would have happened. And I've noticed that when I start to feel like I've failed and when I start to blame myself, I lose joy in the process. I started thinking, "My goodness! If I can't even keep things some what together with one, why do I think I'll ever be able to handle more?" But the Lord spoke to my heart, amidst a chaotic morning as my frustrations were rising and my child was being challenging, and reminded me that He gives us children to enjoy... at every stage!

Is every moment of child-rearing enjoyable? You bet it's not. Do we all look back through rose colored glasses. Of course we do! And the one thing I hear experienced parents say over and over and over again is, "Enjoy this time! It goes by so quickly! These are the best days of your life!" Psalm 127:3 tells us that children are a reward from God. Failure does not receive a reward. No one gets a reward for losing a race or bombing a test. No one is rewarded for poor job performance or a lack of service. And when a reward is given, the expectation is that it will be appreciated, valued, and enjoyed. Our children are rewards given to us by God to be appreciated, valued, and enjoyed.

That's our challenge as parents. One of them, at least. To enjoy our children. And quit feeling like a failure! It's hard to enjoy something for which you're constantly berating yourself. See the tough moments for what they are - learning and growing experiences - and then move on. Enjoy what you can while you can because as I keep hearing for those who've been there, these are the best days of our lives!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

may it be more...

It never ceases to amaze me at the speed of which each year passes. It's like we just begin the year and the next thing you know it's Christmas. 2017 has been no different from any other year in that regard. But 2017 has certainly been different than any other year we've yet to experience, and that's not a bad thing.

We started the year out with a tiny baby. A little bitty human being who was only capable of crying and eating and had just recently figured out how to smile. We spent our evenings doing things like "tummy" time and waking up a few times during the night to feed her. The days were far from fun or glamorous and they were long. Really, really long. I've discovered that having a baby in the fall is beneficial later in life but makes for a tough first few months. It's sick season, and it's cold outside, so you can't leave the house often thus infecting one with an intense bout of cabin fever. I was more than relieved to start a bible study at the end of January and a moms' group in February. A very, very, very small sense of normalcy was returning to my life, but with it came a lot of concerns about what the upcoming year held. Little did I know, it would be a year of more changes than I was anticipating.

I had quit my job mid-December and decided to stay home with my little darling. It was, absolutely, the best decision for our family and I don't regret it a bit. I did, however, (and often still do) miss the sense of satisfaction, purpose, and fulfillment that comes with work. I missed dressing up and having a project list of things to do. I missed my co-workers. I missed having adult conversation all day. I missed sitting at my computer and drinking coffee each morning while checking emails and deciding what I would work on for the day. And I really missed having a paycheck. Admittedly, I felt lost. I felt insignificant. Here I was, doing, in my opinion, one of the most tasking, exhausting, and difficult jobs on the face of the earth and I felt like I no longer mattered. Like I wasn't contributing to society. I felt guilty, I felt lazy, and I felt unimportant. But things began to change once I settled into my new role, and I hoped that I had made the right decision and was really understanding what I felt God was calling me to.

Being the Davis family CFO, it was a concern to me only having one source of income coming into our bank account each month. Initially, I thought to myself that as long as I could make it at home at least a year then I'd be okay entering back into the work force. It didn't take long for me to change my mind. A year is hardly any time, you know. And so then the question was whether or not I would ever enter back into the work force. When? What would I do? Where would I work? But I decided not to entertain those thoughts and just wait until we came to those bridges to cross them. Around March, Aaron and I started toying with the idea of moving. Why? I'm really not sure. We put our house on the market and prayed that if it would be a good decision to move, God would open the door. If it wouldn't be in the best interest for our family to move, we prayed that God wouldn't allow our house to sell. As you well know, God worked out the details in a way only He could, and we ended up in our new home. Our new fixer upper. With a baby... and one source of income.

August hit and I began to panic. We were spending money hand over fist, our utilities had gone through the roof, and my car began to have mechanical problems. I got online to look at our bank account, which I rarely did before our renovations began, and I about dropped my teeth. I texted Aaron with a sense of great urgency that it was time to pump the breaks. We could not keep moving at the pace we were going or I would be sending out resumes within a few weeks. My heart was heavy at the thought of doing such. Not because work is the worst and staying home is the life. I'll be honest and say it's quite the opposite. There are days when going into the office sounds like the life to me. Staying home has been quite a humbling experience. It's been far from easy or relaxing. It's been challenging and lonely and there have been many days where the idea of letting someone else keep up with my child for 8 hours while I do "grown-up" work sounds really nice. But the thing about God's will is that when you're in it, you find peace. Even if things are tough and not what you expected them to be, there's peace and so you know you're right where He wants you. I began praying, as I've done so many times before, that God would remind me that He has called us to this season and would not abandon us or fail to provide for us. He would keep His promises, we just needed to continue you to seek, honor, and trust Him. And we needed to be mindful and wise with what He had and was entrusting to us so that we could enjoy this season of life because nothing lasts forever.

Four months later and we're ending the year with a little girl who is walking and talking (in her own language) and sleeping through the night. She's well into the stage of toddler hood, and we are having so much fun! My car is hanging in there with no other issues (hallelujah!). We have renovated 3 (almost) rooms in our house, and it is looking more and more like our home with each passing month. We've been challenged and stretched, and so has our faith. We've had to relearn a few lessons as we've gone through these changes, but God has been faithful to help us through each one. Just as our home as changed, so have our hearts. He has been breaking us of pride and impatience, of egos and doubt. He has been teaching us that we only have anything because He is gracious and generous to give. We are learning that things take time and that's okay. That eventually, we'll get there, and we'd rather arrive happy and joyful than irritable and exhausted. And we're believing that 2018 won't be the same. That God has so many more things in store for this next year that, hopefully, will grow us more and more into His likeness. 

Our pastor preached a wonderfully convicting sermon this morning about goals. He posed the question, "What is your 2018 goal?" To live in a way that brings glory and honor to Christ. That is our goal. That whatever should happen in 2018, we live in a way that brings glory and honor to Christ. And so here is to a new year filled with anticipation of new things. May our 2018 be nothing like our 2017. May it be more.

Friday, December 29, 2017

because it will...

We had another good Christmas. Annabeth! I've been wanting to sit down and write about it for 4 days now, and I'm finally making a point to do it before the season is over. Better late than never, right? I've come to learn that Christmas with children makes for an interesting celebration. Truth be told, you did a great job participating in all of our Christmas activities. I do, however, look forward to the holidays in a few years when you actually understand what's going on. Nevertheless, I am thankful for every Christmas we celebrate because it is the most wonderful time of the year!

Being a parent gives one a new perspective on Christmas. Not just because Christmas is magical through the eyes of a child, but because there is a small level of understanding about what happened that night. The night Jesus was born. It's hard to grasp the concept of giving birth and becoming a parent until you actually do. And these past two years, as we've celebrated Christmas with you, I think about Mary. I certainly can't fathom what it's like to have a baby on a barn floor, thank goodness, and I hope I'm never able to relate to her in that way. But I think about how nervous Mary must have felt that night as she labored and waited on her child to be born. Did she take a Birthing 101 class before they headed to Bethlehem? Did she even know how to deliver a baby? Did Joseph have any sort of preparation in this department, too, or was he just trusting that her body would do what it was made to do and there wouldn't be any complications? Was she scared about becoming a mother? This wasn't just any ordinary child. She was tasked with raising the Son of God. Was she anxious or at peace? Was she excited or petrified? I have no idea how Mary actually felt, but I bet you anything that as she laid on that dirty floor, the pressure and pain intensifying with each contraction that came, she clung to the promise that God had given her. That a child, the Messiah, WOULD be born. That all of this 9 month journey ending with great pain and work would not be in vain. And even though she had no idea what to expect, what the future held, or what to do once he got here, she could trust that God would work it all out according to His perfect plan. After all, he had gotten them this far. And, like the angel said, "For no word from God will ever fail." (Luke 1:37 NIV)

That's what we have to remember, Annabeth. No word from God will ever fail. Because there will be moments in life where you start to question Him. Moments when you're afraid. You may feel unprepared for the task set before you. You might feel lost or surrounded by darkness. Maybe you feel alone and the future is really unclear. You may find yourself in a season of desperation, pain, uncertainty. You might, like Mary, find yourself in a moment in time that doesn't seem possible. A moment when you're facing, what feels like, the impossible. Occasions when you'd rather skip the valley and go straight to the mountain top. Fast forward and get to the good part. Avoid the suffering and only reside in the rejoicing, but life doesn't work that way, sweet girl. It never has, and it won't until Jesus returns. And so when you come to those places that are hard. Those places you'd rather not be. Those places where hope might seem lost and the future dim, cling to His promises and remember that He never fails. Even if you don't feel it, believe it and keep hanging on. Keep pushing and waiting and laboring until you see it come true. Because it will.

For Mary, it was the cry of a baby. Her son. Her Savior. And in that moment in time, it didn't matter where they were or what they had been through. All that mattered was that He was here - that God's word had come true. More than that, His Word had come to be with us. To save us. To give us hope in the hopelessness. Purpose in the pain. Joy in the struggle. And light in the darkness.

"Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her." - Luke 1:45

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

what joy...

This season is a bittersweet time. Sweet for some and bitter for others. The end of the year has a great way of making us reflect, and depending on how your year has gone, you may be weeping with tears of joy or sobbing with tears of sorrow. I totally get it. I've been there in both ways.

Christmas is a sweet season for me, and it always has been. I look back on my hardest year and even that Christmas was a blessing in many ways. But in 2012, Aaron made the most of the holiday to plan out an elaborate 12 days of Christmas proposal that concluded on Christmas night with a ring and a question. A question I began hoping he would ask me not long after we met. A question that changed the course of my life, for the rest of my life. That night, I laid in bed thinking about what a stark difference that Christmas had been from the year before. Because 365 days earlier, I was laying in bed on Christmas night with a hurting but hopeful heart that was quite uncertain of God's plans for me.

On Sunday morning our pastor preached from Psalm 126. This one is near and dear to me as I found comfort in the promise of its verses many years ago. God often chooses the regular moments of life to teach me and speak to me. It's usually the ordinary, quiet, and simple times. A small thing, kind of like the whisper on the mountain when He revealed His glory to Moses. Not often has God sent a flaming bush my way, although those moments are certainly welcome! But it's usually in the mundane moments of life, when I'm not expecting it, that God brings his word to my mind and my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude every time he speaks.

When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem,
it was like a dream!
We were filled with laughter, 
and we sang for joy.
And the other nations said, 
"What amazing things the Lord has done for them."
Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!
What joy!

Restore our fortunes, Lord, 
as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Psalm 126 (The Message)

Annabeth and I started our morning with a visit to the doctor. A quick check up from a diagnosed ear infection a few weeks prior. A clean bill of health was received, and we pointed our car towards the closet Chick-fil-A as we left the clinic parking lot. In case you were wondering, the best time to visit Chick-fil-A is around 9:30 on a weekday morning. The parking lot was virtually empty, a rare site to see. We placed our order and our food was ready before we had even picked our a table in the nearly empty restaurant. Window seats provide the best distraction for my little one who refused to eat anything that didn't come from the extra fruit cup on our tray. Fine by me. That meant more chicken biscuits for momma! I cut all of the fruit into tiny pieces for her little fingers to grab while making small talk. Story of my life. This is what my day looks like every day. It's not fancy or exciting. I tote a tiny gal around from place to place, doing my best to keep her safe, happy, and healthy. I'm often found with remnants of dry goldfish crackers on my shoulders or dried boogies on my sleeves. Some days I look more put together than others, and most days I'm tired. Not being a high energy person myself, God saw it fit to bless me with a precious babe who goes about a hundred miles a minute. All day. And so we just try to find things to keep ourselves busy until that glorious moment around 5:30PM when our hero walks through the back door. When the cavalry arrives! I certainly don't lead a glamorous life. It's nothing to write home about. But it's the life God has given me, and as I pulled my sweet sugar out of her cracker crumb infested car seat when we got home, she wrapped her little arms around my neck, I kissed her cheek, and I thought to myself, "If it weren't for all those years ago, I wouldn't have you!"

The time in the valley happens. The hard moments, they come. We can't avoid them no matter how much we try. And when it was me, I found great comfort knowing that it was okay to cry. To weep. To despair and feel heavy hearted. There's no issue with our tears, but it matters what we do with them. They say the valley often has the most fertile soil. It also receives the least amount of light. It's cooler, it's darker. But it's a place to plant. A place where we can bury our tears confidently at the feet of our good Shepherd as he leads us through it. It's not wasted space. It's actually necessary. And the promise is that when we sow with tears, we will - not might, or maybe, or perhaps - we WILL reap a harvest of joy! What a trade off, am I right? We plant the very thing we don't want in faith that God will work it all out for good, and then we collect something we could have never accomplished on our own. Joy and goodness from the bitter seed left underground. A harvest to sing about! A harvest for which we give shouts of praise!

I planted so many seeds that were watered with tears. Seeds that are still being harvested! God grows them as he sees fit, and at the right time, allows me to harvest the beautiful produce he grew. Things I had desired, things I had asked, and even things I had forgotten about until he brings them back to mind. And as I relished in the short moment of my baby's precious embrace, I realized that she is part of my harvest. This life I live, the one I so often take for granted, is part of that harvest. Of a promise that, in due time, God would bear something fruitful from the tears that were planted. That weeping would turn into joy and the sorrow into gladness.

Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for me! What joy!

Monday, December 18, 2017

trapped...

I had the morning by myself, a few baby free hours, and I've come to appreciate those moments of silence and solitude. I love my busy body, chatter box baby, but she doesn't make shopping an easy task. Needing to mark off a few last minute gift items from my list that have been pending for weeks, I was determined to get it done today. I planned to have it all done before December even started, but that was wishful thinking. Christmas music filled the car as I sipped warm coffee, staring blankly ahead while mentally mapping out my shopping adventure. I finally notice the vehicle idling in front of mine. The white, barred window van. I didn't think much of it. White vans aren't a rare sight to see, but I noticed a silhouette moving in the back. It appeared that he was sitting to the side. I couldn't see his face, but I could tell he was looking around. The light turned green and as I passed the van, I read DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS printed on the driver's door.

I was haunted by the thought of this man being transported to prison. Here we were, both driving across town, but our destinations couldn't have been more different. He was imprisoned while I was free. I tried to think of what it would be like to sit in the back of that van peering out and watching people live their lives in freedom. To see the rest of the world continue on in their daily tasks of work, errands, and taking care of their family, while your day is spent in a cell. What it must be like to have shackled feet and hands. To have lost the ability to make any decisions but rather to be told what you will do. To wish you could be living in the joy and blessing of freedom but to be stuck in the darkness of prison. To be held captive. To be trapped.

And yet I realized that as alone as that man may have felt, he is in good company. Because that's exactly where many of us live. Trapped. We may not spend our days imprisoned in a physical jail but we're held prisoner none the less. Prisoner to sin, to addiction, to the approval of others. We are trapped by anxiety, envy, by trying to keep up appearances in a world that is constantly changing. We are trapped in brokenness, in disappointment, in the hurt that we just can't seem to heal from. We are imprisoned in failing bodies, wrapped in sinful flesh, with frail hearts and forgetful minds. Maybe it was a bad decision we made that got us here, or maybe it's a series of unfortunate circumstances that are out of our control. And so we feel stuck as we watch everyone else walk around in the joy and freedom of unburdened living. Or at least, that's what it seems.

But the joy of Christmas is that Christ came to set us free. Free from sin, from darkness, from hopelessness. Free from all of the things that weigh us down. From the shackles and the burdens that the world tries to place on us. On that silent night, when the cry of a baby pierced through the darkness, everything changed. He came so that we would have the ability not just to live, but to live unburdened. He didn't come so that our lives would be easy or free from trails and challenges but so that when those things happened, we could find help and hope. He untangled us, he freed us, and he brought us peace. Peace and joy. Victory, new life, and abundant life in Him.

"I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

wish list...

Fourteen months, Annabeth! (Actually, you were a week ago!) We're almost to the end of the year, too! We have officially made it through all of the seasons together. These last few months have gone by especially fast. I think the older you get, the faster time passes. I don't know if you feel the same way I do, but one day you'll find yourself declaring this very statement and you'll be surprised at how quickly you got there.

All of your one year molars have come through, which surprised me! I was looking in your mouth one day as you protested your diaper changed, and I spotted them poking out of your gums. As with all of your other teeth, they didn't seem to bother you and I just have to say, thank you for being such a good teether! Your personality is growing by leaps and bounds, and you've become quite a little chatter box. No surprise there. You've also started walking, and I am so glad that I was able to witness your first steps. I am constantly impressed at how smart you are and how quickly you learn. You have finally learned how to properly feed and pet Scout. I didn't anticipate happening anytime soon. I think she's starting to change her mind about you. I'm still holding out that you two will be best buds in a few years.

We are a couple of weeks out from Christmas, which is a wonderful time of the year. One thing I like to indulge in during December is Hallmark Christmas movies. Honestly, they all have the same plot and highly predictable endings, but they're so heartwarming. Plus, the scenery and fake snow really makes it feel like Christmas for those of us who have yet to pull out winter coats. I'm not sure if you'll enjoy romantic comedies, but I hope that one day down the road we find ourselves watching sappy Christmas movies together while decorating the tree or drinking hot chocolate. I always did that with Grammy, and I loved every minute of it!

I began a movie the other night about a girl who went home for the holidays to visit her family because she had been laid off from her acting job on Broadway in New York. She and her mother stopped at the local Christmas tree lot and ran into Santa. He asked her what her Christmas wish was and she told him what she thought she wanted at the time. Anyway, I won't spoil the rest of the movie by telling you that she fell in love with a hometown guy who had been her friend for years and gave up her dream of making it big on Broadway so she could marry him and become the school's choir teacher. This was not her wish, by the way, but it was much better than her original wish. And as I watched this movie, and thought about this time of year, the idea of a wish list rolled around in my mind along with the thought of something I wanted to share with you.

Wishes aren't exclusive to Christmas. People make wish lists at Christmas, but they do the same for pretty much every holiday that is accompanied with gifts. When new homes are bought or car hunting ensues, wish lists are made of what the buyer is looking for. And if wishing was only relegated to lists, that would make it easy, but wishes are made in many ways. People make wishes when they blow out their birthday candles or throw pennies into a wishing well. I remember wishing on lost eyelashes when I was a child. If you just so happened to find a lost lash on your cheek and could wrangle it before it fell away, you'd place it on your finger tip and blow it off with a wish. The same with those little white dandelions, too. There are nursery rhymes and songs about wishes.

Star light, star bright
The first star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have this wish I wish tonight

People wish on shooting stars. In fact, according to Disney, "When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. When you wish upon a star your dreams come true."

And maybe we don't find ourselves wishing in superstitious ways on stars, eyelashes, and birthday candles, but maybe we find ourselves wishing with our words. Saying things like, "I wish I had hair like that. I wish I had long, skinny legs. I wish I had her job or their house. I wish I was taller, faster, stronger, or smarter. I wish I lived there. I wish I could visit that place. I wish I had more of this or less of that. I wish, I wish, I wish...". You get the idea here. Wishing for things we don't have or wishing away what we do. Of course, I'd be lying to if you I said I haven't made these statements before. Actually, I probably say it more often than I think I do. I find myself wishing for "the days" or wishing to fit comfortably in my jeans. Wishing for more sleep, for different weather, for new opportunities, or for changes. Clearly, wishes come in all shapes and sizes. But what happens when your wishes don't come true?

The Bible doesn't speak of wishes. God doesn't work in superstitious ways. Rather, He masters in the supernatural. God tells us that we should pray about everything. That's right, everything. That we should ask and expect to receive. But here's my thought, often times rather than asking, we need to give thanks. That's what we supposed to do anyway. Give thanks in all things. Pray about everything and give thanks in all things! (Philippians 4:6 & 1 Thessalonians 5:18) We need to shift our perspective off of ourselves and open our eyes to see all that God has done and is doing for us. And rather than wishing for things, we either pray about them or we praise God for them. Maybe we do wish for a new job, and so we pray for it and then we thank God for the job that He has currently provided us. Or maybe we wish for different hair and then we giggle because we've got own on head of custom, God designed hair, we just need to learn better how to manage it. Because when we begin to present our requests to God, and when we step back and look at our lives through the lens of gratitude, we see that God is so faithful to take care of us and lavish his love on us. He meets our needs and then goes above and beyond in blessing us more than we deserve. But when we let envy and coveting (this means you want what other people have and not what you have....or you want even more than you already have) become a part of our lives, we end up thinking we don't have enough or that what we've got isn't really good enough. We think that we deserve more, should be given more, and in return we want more, more, more.

But contentment is a good thing, Annabeth. Being content and grateful for what God has given you. For the healthy body that you have, for the family that loves you, for the roof over your head and the food that fills your belly. Grateful for the opportunities you are and will be afforded, but most of all for the fact that God loves you so much that He sent Jesus to be born in a manger and die on a cross so that you have the opportunity to know Him and receive the gift of eternal life. No amount of wishing could ever accomplish something as great as that!