Faith · Family · Love · Perspective

merry MeRrY MERRY Christmas!

I don’t think we hear it enough. Sure, I heard a few Christmas songs on the radio this morning, but are we really hearing it? The love, joy and goodwill that Christmas is really all about?

Are we just seeing the consumerism side? The “is your tree HGTV or Better Homes and Garden” quality? Do you need a “Star Shower” to project Christmas onto your home? The “is my display up to the par of my neighborhood” moment.

Are we taking the focus off of the Divine and directing it to the Dollar Store (or Macy’s or Kohls…) accompanied by a sense of obligation and dread?????

Or are you FEELING and EXPERIENCING Christmas in your home?

I believe that a few thousand years ago, God became Man briefly. He took on our own skin, but not because we deserved it. Goodness no! Read the Old Testament and parallel it to modern man today. We couldn’t be farther from deserving then or now.

God gave us His son humbly as a gift. Humankind, of course, destroyed the gift. We really do excel at ruining good things. God knew we would ruin it and thru the Easter miracle graced us with forgiveness and love if we will just humbly admit we need it. We need Him.

That is where we base Christmas in our home. Is it because my parents told me to do it this way? No. It’s because I experience my Creator’s corrections and blessings on a daily basis.

Do we do stockings and gifts? Yes. Do we have a (mostly) glowing Christmas tree? Yes. Do I have a hugging Santa and Mrs. Claus on my counter next to a reindeer? Yes.

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We celebrate in our home and out in our community because we received a gift that we didn’t deserve. We happily give out of love because God gave us the gift of Love.

Give to your family or friend. Give to the local Angel tree (kids in need). Give to CarePortal (supporting families- things like beds, carseats, sheets, clothes). Serve at the food bank. Serve at your church. Serve at the local school.

If you aren’t physically able or are financially strapped, be kind. It doesn’t cost a thing to say thank you or to hold a door. Smile.

Whatever you do, please serve, provide for, or treat others with a happy heart. We don’t have to agree on faith matters and theology to be kind to one another. If your heart is hurting, I hope you encounter kindness and compassion today. I’ve been there too.

And if I pass you on the street, Have a Merry Christmas!

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Family · Love · Perspective · Uncategorized

Goodbye

Tough tough week.

Amongst the normal chaos of trying to be places on time with stacked meetings and schedules, there was also projectile vomiting, water spraying a basement wall, and having to say goodbye to our cat.

I always kind of scoffed at the idea that a pet could bring out such deep feelings of grief. I lost a lot of cats and dogs growing up on the farm. As my sister pointed out, having a pet for 15 years- daily feeding, brushing, petting, snuggling, interacting at every point for 1.5 decades- makes that animal more than a pet. It makes him family.

He was stress relief for my husband after a long day and late night company after the kids and I had cashed it in for the evening. He was wordless comfort when my  husband experienced the loss of loved ones.

He was always on the floor or furniture right next to the kids. In the middle of our Candyland board game, sticking his head over the edge of their infant/toddler chairs when they were little, being ‘accessorized’ by my little girl- tolerant and engaged. Touching them with his nose to check on them. Licking their hand or forehead to say “you are my kids.”

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He was my early morning reading partner. Although I wasn’t a big fan of the indoor cat idea, I grew protective and wanted him safe from the plethora of outdoor threats.

He never had enough fight in him to keep him alive outside. 13 years ago, my father-in-law found him half dead in the yard with a nacho Doritos chip bag stuck on his head. Presumably, he was trying to get the last cheesy crumb. Tugging the end of his tail softly brought him down and he’d just lay there looking peeved.

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He was adamant about his small feedings three to four times a day. Voicing his frustration if we missed one, he would expect a bonus feeding later to make it up.

All the way to the very end he was social and loving. After his initial trip to the vet for his diagnosis and return home, his first instinct was to go find the kids. He searched their bedrooms for them and then assumed his place in the sun until they walked in the door from school.

We spent our last evening and morning gently and genuinely loving on him. It was clear that he wouldn’t have much more time before we needed to take him back in to the vet. He had quickly dehydrated (complete kidney failure). I’m grateful we were able to say our goodbyes and provide him that pain-free care.

Rest easy. We miss you.

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I didn’t mean to make this a long post, nor a sad one. This is part of life. It is a blessing to be able to love a person or a pet. It is a gift to love and be loved.

Much love this week-  Jen

Faith · Love · Perspective

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your’s! It’s about being thankful for all you are, have, and don’t have.

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Big, small and all things in between, spread thankfulness, kindness and gratitude. ❤️

Although we celebrate this day once a year, share this spirit all year long.

It may be surprising how much it lifts you up to project gratitude outward to others. Celebrate your tiny mundane daily details.

If you think my life is perfect and that’s why I’m spouting such positive fluff… As for personal examples this morning: I’m not letting a root canal yesterday, child with strep throat, or this huge two week pile of laundry get me down!

I’m thankful for teeth and dentists, access to antibiotics for strep and likely an ENT visit (4 rounds of strep in 5 months), and for clean clothes for my family.

Not perfect. That’s not real or attainable. Just thankful for life and grace.

Much love– Jen

Faith · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Pink Slime – Not a Good Hair Accessory

So… this walked in off the school bus yesterday….

Hair with slimeRight.

It was accompanied by a puffy red freckled face that had obviously been crying. Likely because her brother had spent most of the 20 minute bus ride to our office telling her how deeply in trouble she was going to be when she got here.

They hopped off the bus just when the phone was ringing constantly, a customer was at my husband’s desk, and another couple was waiting patiently for my husband to finish up with his current customer. The bus driver was walking in with them.

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That is never a good sign. People- you usually don’t want the bus driver to escort your children in. My kids aren’t without fault. About a month ago, we’d been informed that they weren’t sitting and staying in their seats. (After following the bus one day as it left town, I realized that few of the kids were… but that’s another story.) From that day on, they had been instructed to sit at the front of the bus.

The bus driver explained that it was “slime” another child had brought on the bus. She was fine, but he wanted to let me know. Points for the bus driver walking my obviously distraught child in.

I looked at my husband and calmly said that I believed my office work today was done.

Loading up my crew, more of the story came out. Another little girl had put it on her hair, but it didn’t stick to it. She thought it would be ok. Apparently it does stick to freshly washed very fine hair.

I messaged my sisters and mother, who have proved to be a font of wisdom, asking for suggestions. Suggestion #1 was vegetable oil, then warm water and a clarifying shampoo. And on top of that, I added in a lot of patience and tried not to laugh. I mean seriously, what can you do? A good sense of humor is paramount to peace at our house.

I could tell this would require me being wet. My little girl was sobbing at the idea of vegetable oil in her hair. Why? Not sure. You’d think pink slime was worse than vegetable oil.

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We stripped down and hopped in the shower with a bottle of oil, a fine toothed comb, and a cup to catch the Slime chunks. 30 minutes later…..

Slime be gone! With a few good rounds of clarifying shampoo, most of the pink dye was out as well.

After the de-sliming, we had a little talk about not putting things in our hair that don’t normally go there: Yes’s are limited to hair ties, barrettes, and headbands. No’s (all of which we’ve tried and scrubbed out) include things like gum, sand, paint, mud, glitter, and now….. slime.

Did I mention we were destined last night for a youth program where both kids would be up at the front singing and dancing? To the best of our abilities, we roll with the punches. This time it was a slime covered one.

Much love — Jen

 

Faith · Love · Perspective

Anxious & Ichthus

Yesterday morning my anxiety was running high, like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai high.

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Photo Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

After getting the kids around for school and on the bus, I told my husband that I was going for a quick 10 minute run. That was all I had time to squeeze in. He didn’t argue. I know he could sense my anxiety.

On top of our normal parent – work schedule, this week includes a lot of extras and one long car trip to a specialist. But I think the thing that really unnerved me was something our guest evangelist at church said yesterday.

His message was that God’s love is PERSONAL to each of us. (Heavy faith talk to follow)

Matthew 5:13-16 New International Version (NIV)

Salt and Light
13 Jen – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 Jen – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light” – Jen- ” shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

I thought this was all very uplifting. Not giving myself any credit, but this is humbly encouraging to do good works in whatever way possible for the glory of my Heavenly Father.

He closed his message by declaring that the signs for the Lord’s return are visible and increasing just as the old and new testament’s discuss. While we aren’t able to discern all those signs and know not the timing, each moment of time here is a moment gone and one closer to the next. The part that caught me is when he said we should all be looking toward this with joy.

I’m being very raw and honest here — I’m mixed with joy and worry when I think about this. As I internally debated these feelings for the past few days, it occurred to me that if I’m conflicted in my feelings it must partially be because I’m still holding God at arm’s length in some parts of my life. More internal reflection is currently focused on exactly where.

Absolutely I look forward to no more illness, sadness, injuries, and no more gut-wrenching evil. I desire more of that amazing joy and peace that I occasionally feel pass over me for all eternity. Have you ever felt that? It is truly hard to put into words – warm, not just happy but deeper than that – joy, light, peace, complete love. I don’t feel it with my family or friends, although I do feel deep love and comfort with them. It is much Much MUCH deeper than that.

My worry is about how bad it has to get. Am I equipped to handle it? Not alone, I’m sure. What about my children? What will their relationships look like? I know I went through a period of time in high school and college where I did things that I hoped God would just overlook. Pay no attention to the person behind the curtain (me) doing these things that I want to experience, but know are bad news… Not earned, not deserved and yet I asked and am graciously forgiven. Saved thru Grace not works.

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What about my high school acquaintance who proclaims himself an atheist, but rails angrily against God on social media? He curses against the God he declares not to exist. He is so wounded by his current situation it is hard for me to fathom. What about those who are so cushy and comfortable in their own situations that they are oblivious to the emotionally, spiritually, or physically poor and needy next door? What about the people being led astray by the glitz, glamour and empty promises of success?

I just finished a life application study of the book of Acts. I know that people will hear the message and choose not to believe in God or the Gospel. In these situations, Paul had to shake off his garments and walk away. He still cared for all people, but realized that his mission was to present the message and pray for the people who heard it. He couldn’t work in the hearts of the people. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.

As I write this, my anxiety diminishes. My job is to love the people and give them the message that God is real. He loves you regardless of your previous or future choices. We’re fallible, breakable humans. God is not the hypocritical religious leader or megachurch preacher asking for your money while ignoring the needy. He is love. His Spirit flows in the hands and feet of those serving others humbly. I suspect that almost everyone on this planet has encountered the love of God regardless of if they’ve recognized it as such.

Upon returning from my run yesterday morning, this was laying in my yard by my sidewalk. Keep your head up and your eyes open. God’s love is everywhere. Be the good and give that glory to Whom it belongs.

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Faith · Love · Perspective

Be the Good.

What to say and how to say it? I’m not sure as I start to type.

I’m reeling from Sunday night’s events in Las Vegas. I sat at my desk this morning and listened to the first responder’s audio. Tears streamed down my face. For those experiencing this tragedy firsthand, I offer my sincere condolences. I weep with you.

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As more details become available, a slightly clearer picture of this man comes into focus. Alone. Premeditated. Succumbed to evil. Apart from love. Was he mentally ill? I don’t know. Depressed? Maybe. Angry – ABSOLUTELY.

We may never know what spurred this on. It will leave us all with a shard of fear, questions about that person living down the street or in the hotel room next to us, a hesitation about crowds and what’s on the other side of the door. That is EXACTLY what evil wants for us. To worry, hesitate, and isolate ourselves. To withdraw. To lose trust- in ourselves, in each other, and in God.

Free will. The ability to make our own choices. I’ve said it before. It is a double edged sword.

We have the CHOICE- good or evil. We have the CHOICE- help or hurt. We have the CHOICE- forgiveness or retaliation.

He CHOSE evil, hurt, and retaliation. He CHOSE to inflict pain on innocent people.

This is where we have to fight back. I CHOOSE good, to help, and to forgive. I CHOOSE to love my neighbor. I CHOOSE to shine with the love God gives me to use.

Yes, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been damaged and flat out broken at points. Some moments in life take your breath away, sink you all the way to the bottom, and suck away the life you are clinging to.

I’m also redeemed, accepted, forgiven and loved for all my low and high points. If only the shooter had felt a small portion of that, I can’t help but think he might have chosen differently.


Yesterday, on top of the sadness about Las Vegas was a bitterness that I’ve not experienced before from someone I personally know. It was directed at people who are praying.

“Frankly, if you’re still just thinking and praying, you’re an asshole.”

Ouch! Whoa buddy. Hold that rancorous, spiteful thought for just a moment…

I’m not “just thinking and praying.” I’m currently working with youth at a welcoming faith-based outreach program. I’m also active at my children’s school- not just as a PTO member, but as a caring person willing to stoop down to help tie a shoe, hold a door, and say good morning or hello to that sweet little face that is scowling on his way in or out the doors. I don’t know what they are experiencing and absorbing at home, but for the love, I am going to be a positive influence on them!

I’m doing my little piece as big and as wide as I can. And YES. I’m praying.

I challenge you if you find yourself not only sad, but also bitter and angry, to find a way to positively interact with those around you. This world is broken. It always has been. It seems that more of the pieces keep shattering. But in this, I keep seeing the good. The good surfaces where there is brokenness – in the aftermath of the hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and crimes – neighbors step up, charities step in, people start looking outside themselves and praying for the benefit of others.

The GOOD rises.

Be the GOOD.

 

Family · Love · Parenting

Morning Glimpse

It isn’t a great picture. I was trying to be covert.

Aside from the obvious imperfections in my photography skills, I love this picture. It illustrates the love between a little girl and her father. Hugs are given each morning before she or he leaves for school or work.

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The bond between father and daughter is truly a special quality.