How to Talk to Your Children About Death

how to talk to your children about death

by Heather Gilion

“Mom, I don’t want you to die!”

I heard this sweet little voice break the silence before the sun even had a chance for it’s coffee. “Zachy, come here sweety.” Not the words you expect to hear first thing in the morning. I cradled my four-year-old in my arms, “Mom, please don’t die.” My stomach immediately turned over and over as I held my breath. Stroking his hair with one hand and pulling him in tight with the other, I said, “I know death is scary. I want to stay with you as long as I possibly can.” I could feel him hold me tighter. I held him tighter. “I love that God has made me your mommy. I ask Him all the time to let me be your mommy all your days. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we can trust Him completely. I know it’s all hard to understand, but I want you to know, no matter what happens, God loves you and I love you very, very much.”

Noah, barely six at the time, overheard our conversation and chimed in, “Zach, don’t worry. If anything happens to mom and dad we will go to a nursing home.” I chuckled. Pulling Noah into the embrace, I had boys in each arm. “Well, I think you mean a foster home. Is that what you mean?” Both of my boys were familiar with the ministry of Boys and Girls Town since we’d visited there before and had been mentoring a boy that we met through the organization. “Oh yeah,” Noah said. “We would go to a foster home and have a new family.”

Zach lit up, “Oh, well, that sounds fun! Okay, I wonder who would be my new mommy and daddy?”

And just like that, the conversation went from dread of losing me to having new brothers and sisters and “wouldn’t that be fun!” Then something triggered a complete change in subject and they were on to Star Wars, (thank you, Lord!) and I sat there silent, listening to four and six-year-old brother banter. I began talking to God silently over this fear that had reared its ugly head that morning.

I get pretty mad about death, if I’m honest. I hate it. I want to punch it in the face. I want to go to bed and wake up and find that it’s not a thing anymore. There will be a day that it’s not a thing anymore. It’ll be a distant memory. It’ll be like, “Oh yeah, people used to die. Man, I can’t even fathom that.” I want it to feel like we’re talking about when people used to listen to music on their 8-tracks. “What are those? I think I’ve heard about them before, but I’m not sure.”

How do we talk to our kids about death and dying? All of us have been affected by death. I’ve definitely felt the pain of loss. I’ve buried my father, a husband, a brother-in-law, grandparents, and friends. So I’m not naïve to the fact that life can change in an instant! But when you have innocent eyes staring into your soul, begging you not to die, everything in you wants to say, “You don’t have to worry about that, buddy. Momma’s not going anywhere… EVER.” But that’s not the truth and it’s not healthy to set our children up for disappointment and a false hope. Only God knows the days and the hours I am to live on this earth. I’ve heard parents reassure their children simply to dodge their own fears on the subject, and to keep their children from any anxiety. But I believe I have a parental obligation and God-loving responsibility to prepare my children with the truth about death, even when I don’t like the truth. Although the conversations we have with our children surrounding death don’t make us jump for joy, we turn to the Word and anchor our hope in a God that conquered death once and for all!

When your child asks about death:

  1. Be truthful. Your children want to hear the truth. They want answers. Sometimes you won’t have all the answers, and you can be honest about that. But oh how confusing it is for them if you promise that everyone they cherish most will never die, and when someone does they aren’t equipped for this new reality. Death is hard even if you feel prepared, so setting your children up with the truth will be good for their hearts over the long haul. (Deut. 6:7-9)

  2. You don’t need to linger on the topic, but use those moments as teaching opportunities to point to the HOPE and LIFE we have in Christ here and now and the HOPE and LIFE we have in Christ after For a believer in Jesus, we have an amazing home that awaits us. Heaven is definitely a perk when it comes to the subject of death. Although Heaven is real, not everyone will go to Heaven. Heaven is only for those who have put their faith in Jesus. I wish every single person on the face of the planet would understand how awesome God truly is; that they would call Him LORD and follow hard after Him, for He is the only way to Heaven. Heaven is not for the “good” or the “well-liked.” It is for the sinners who have put their trust in God and been saved by grace through Jesus. So for those of us that call Jesus our Lord, we can cling to the hope that when we breathe our last on this side of eternity, our next will be in the presence of God. (John 14:6, Col. 1:3-4, Heb 11:1-2)

  3. God says “Don’t fear” 365 times in the Bible, one time for each and every day of the year, right? Even in death we don’t have to fear. Pointing our children and our own hearts to the truth that we can trust God no matter what is equipping them for what lies ahead. When those we love die before we were ready to say goodbye, we have a choice to anchor ourselves in the God who has conquered death and trust that He can use even death to bring about beautiful things. (Psalm 118:6, Deut. 31:6, Matt. 10:28)

 

To be honest, I hated to even write on this topic because in my messed up mind, I thought, “Oh great, Lord, if I write about this that means I’m going to die isn’t it? You are going to have me write this thing and put it out there for others to read and then I’m going to die in some freakish accident. And then this blog post will circulate like wild fire and my picture will be on the nightly news with that sappy, soft music playing as a smiling picture of me slowly pans across the screen.” Obviously, I’ve already played it out in my mind in weird, detailed fashion, but after I call myself back down from the crazy-brain ledge, I deeply breathe in God’s love for me and my children. The kind of crazy love that says, “Mom, I love them more than you. Can you trust Me?” The Bible says we are but a mist, here one day, gone the next, but we can trust God with our mist.

So what keeps this momma from finding herself in the fetal position, overwhelmed by “what ifs?”

Easter.

Jesus walked straight into death’s face. Was He scared? The Bible tells us He sweat drops of blood the night before. But it also says, “His face was set.” He knew what He had to do and He followed the voice of His Father right to His death. The Son of God allowed Himself to be murdered so our sin would be paid for. So death could never more be held over our heads. He died so that when He rose again on the third day, He could speak straight to death’s ugly face, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) He defeated it.

His Word is clear. We live in a broken world and we will endure hard, want-to-hide-under-the-covers-all-day kind of stuff, BUT God is who He says He is and He calls Himself Emmanuel, God with us. So even when you find yourself walking “through the valley of the shadow of death,” you need not fear, for your God is with you. (Psalm 23:4). I love how one father explained death to his child as they drove home from a funeral. A semi truck was passing by and the shadow of the truck covered their car. He explained that if the truck were to collide into them they would die. But when Jesus went to the cross He took the truck in our place. He took on the truck for us, and now when we breathe our last breath, we don’t experience the crushing truck, we experience the shadow of the truck. On Good Friday, He took on “our truck”—death—so we didn’t have to. Now we experience only the “shadow of death.”

Emmanuel. Jesus. That’s His name, don’t wear it out. Well, actually, NO! DO wear it out! Wear it right out. Cling to it. Cherish it. Call it out. Say it out loud. Beckon upon it. Never let the truth of His nearness leave your thoughts. He speaks into our fears of the unknown. You can trust Him even when you don’t have all the answers. And if you’ve never said it out loud, you can call on His name today.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

 

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To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book, Dancing On My Ashes: go here

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

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{Story 2} The Redeemed “Other” Woman

the redeemed other woman

In this November {Thankfulness} series, we are super-duper proud to introduce you to the woman who changed our diapers and braided our hair. Our mom! She has always been the one we wanted to “be when we grew up!” We could gush all day over our mom, but if we did that you wouldn’t get to hear her amazing God-story! You, or someone you know, might need to hear what she has learned on her journey. We are so proud of her for bravely standing in the light, when most would cower in the closet. We introduce you to, the one and only, our mom, Diane Cary.


God has a plan for your life.
The enemy has a plan for your life.
Be ready for both.
Just be wise enough to know
Which one to battle – Which one to embrace.
-unknown author

by Diane Cary

I was raised in a Christian home, went to church, knew right from wrong, read my Bible on a daily basis as a teen, attended a Christian college, married a Christian man, and was blessed with 6 beautiful children – Holly, Heather, Heidi, Heath, Hannah, and Hunter. So how did I find myself becoming the “other” woman?

My oldest daughters shared their story in the book, Dancing On My Ashes. So if you’ve read it, you know that my husband Evan suffered a stroke that the doctors didn’t think he would recover from when he was 40. You’ve read how there were many ups and downs due to his health. You learned that 9 years after the initial stroke, he passed away. AND THEN… nine months later Holly and Heather lost their husbands, Scott and James. But as you read about our ashes, you also read how our God was faithful. There’s no doubt that we’ve gone through so much, but we’ve also learned along the way, that if we keep our eyes on Jesus and trust God that He will bring us through. HE WILL and HE HAS.

We have learned to take a day at a time.

We have learned that in our weakness, He is made strong.

We have learned that if our heart is broken, we’ll find God right there.

You may think – Wow! What an awesome family because of all the glorious stories you can tell. However, there is one story I am not proud of. A time in my life that I wanted to keep hidden in a dark little corner. A time when I turned away from God and went down my own path. This was a time in my life that I wish had never happened. Have you ever experienced a time like that? Have you ever wished you could go back and change the past because of choices you’ve made?

The Lord has been dealing with me regarding this time. You see, I became the “other” woman. I was unfaithful to my husband. I committed adultery.

I had meant every word of the vows I declared on our wedding day. Every word. So how did I end up breaking these promises? My only explanation: I became a woman who thought only of herself, and as I chose this destructive path, I hurt my husband, I hurt my children, I hurt a dear friend of mine, I hurt her family, I hurt my church, I hurt my Heavenly Father, and I hurt myself.

You see, I had an affair with my boss, the pastor of my church.

It’s still hard to say out loud.

I would like to believe that I was out of my head at this time. I was stretched to the limit. Anyone looking in at my life would’ve agreed. Our daughter Hannah had just been born and shortly after my husband suffered a stroke that put him in the hospital for 7 months. I would drop my newborn baby off at a friend’s home and then spend the day at the hospital. Once Evan was released and brought home, I would get him up every morning and walk him to a lounge chair where he would sit for the day, and then off to work I would go. I spent my lunch hour rushing home to fix Evan something to eat and give him his meds, and then dart back to work. Then at the end of the day, I would race back home to take care of him, fix supper, take care of my children, wash dishes, do laundry, clean the house, make sure homework was done and teeth were brushed. {Moms, you know the routine.} If someone had an “excuse,” I did. But there really are no excuses.

I was so frazzled that I didn’t have time for myself . . . and worst of all, I didn’t “have” time for the Lord. I was running on empty. So when my boss came to me with enticing words, at first I laughed at him and ignored what he was saying. But I think I became a game to him and he began coming on stronger and stronger until one day… one regrettable day…I caved. And once I stepped over that line, I didn’t know how to get back. I wanted to cry out for help, but I didn’t know who to talk to. I wanted to cry out to God, but since I was living in sin, I thought He wouldn’t be listening. I was a mess and felt as if I was all alone. Alone in my shame. Alone bearing my secrets.

Once the affair came to an end, my life did too. I was now a woman of shame. We were shunned by some in the church, which led me to assume my whole church family hated me. I couldn’t blame them. In their eyes I had hurt their pastor. And it was true, I had hurt his family. I was a disgrace to all those I had called friends and family. We left our church home because I was an embarrassment.

A beautiful part of this grace-story was that I was married to a man who didn’t believe in divorce. The fact was: I really did love Evan. Yet when I looked in the mirror, I was face to face with the “other” woman. I didn’t like her. I hated her. Where had she come from? I never planned on becoming her.

For the next 6 years, we worked at putting our marriage back together. It was rough. It was not easy. It seemed impossible at times. There were arguments, days of crying, moments of wanting to give up . . . BUT God.

That’s really it right there: But God, and only God!

He takes our unimaginable, don’t-even-want-to-say-it-out-loud messes and turns them around for His glory and our good! He taught Evan and I how to fill our home and our marriage with grace that abounds. Our Emmanuel, God with us, gave us the fight in our marriage. He also gave us dear friends who didn’t shun us, but stood by our side, fighting for our marriage. During this time, I wanted to move far, far away so we could start over. But for some reason the Lord would not allow us to leave. He forced me to face my past.

When you are a victim in a hurtful situation, everyone feels sorry for you and is quick to be there for you. But when you are the “bad” guy, people pretty much leave you alone. I remember being in Wal-Mart buying groceries and seeing someone from our old church in the distance coming my way. Of course I was nervous to see them, but as we got closer, our eyes met. That, once-upon-a-time friend, stopped, turned around, and went the other way. My heart sank. Didn’t they know that I had asked God to forgive me? Didn’t they know that we were trying to put our marriage back together? Didn’t they know that I was hurting inside? Didn’t they know that I needed a friend?

I think the hardest thing about putting my marriage back together was forgiving myself. Why did I do this and who was I? Many nights I cried out to God asking Him these questions and then one night I felt His tender arms surround me, just holding me. My prayer that night was . . .

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”   Psalm 51:10-12

I felt God’s redeeming love and His forgiveness. God began doing a work in my heart. I was no longer the “other” woman, but God was making me a “new” woman. His woman.

Seven years after Evan’s death, Bill came into my life and what a blessing he has been to me and my kids. A lot has happened since then – even more healing has taken place within me.

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Bill has been God’s gift to me and our family!

Shortly after Bill and I got married, Holly and Heather wrote their book, Dancing on My Ashes. I was so proud of them and so excited seeing all of the things the Lord had been doing in their hearts and lives. What an awesome journey they have been on! Even though they had this beautiful story they were telling, the enemy would come to me and remind me of my past. “Look how your girls have been faithful and strong in God, but you were weak and became an embarrassment to your family. You are such a failure.”

I knew that was my past and I knew that I had been forgiven – it was just hard to forget what I had done. But as God was writing a beautiful story for my girls, He was also writing my story. With Bill’s encouragement, our family returned to my “old” church home! That was a miracle in itself, because for years I had said I would never go back because of what I had done. But “somehow” I found myself back inside those walls. Somehow? No, more like there was Someone wanting me to return to face my past. Heidi, my third daughter, began leading worship there, and asked me to join her as a backup singer. My heart leaped for joy because I love to sing, but at the same time I was apprehensive, I wasn’t sure how the church members would take seeing me again.

I could just hear them: Why is she back? Why does she think she should be up front singing? Can you remember the mess she was a part of? Who does she think she is? Once again, the enemy was beating me down.

One Sunday while I was singing up front, these hurtful thoughts started coming to my mind again. As I closed my eyes in frustration, I felt the Lord gently ask these questions,

“Why are you a backup singer?
Are you singing for yourself and for your glory? Are you singing for these people?
Or are you here to sing to Me?”
And in my heart, I responded, “I’m singing to You, Jesus.”
And He replied, “Then sing to Me.”

As I began to sing, I focused my attention totally on Him and with that, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I felt freedom like I had never felt before. I was so free! Have you ever felt completely free? Freedom that makes you want to dance? Now, I didn’t dance (because I didn’t want to fall over my feet), but I sure was wearing the biggest smile on my face! My heart was dancing, because for the first time I believed God saw me as forgiven, beautiful, NEW! I was no longer “other” I was His, redeemed by grace. He didn’t want my past hurt or sin to haunt me. He had freedom in mind for me. Today my heart sings of His joy and love that makes a “wretch like me” a friend. He is my forever love.

Can God use me with a past like this? Yes, yes, yes!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,
“and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29.11-14

I have experienced His forgiveness.
I have experienced His mercy and His redeeming love.
I have experienced His strength in time of need.
I have experienced a forgiving love from my church body.
I now guard my heart. I make time for my Heavenly Father every day.
I have Jesus! He is my everything! He is my all!

 

wall six

The Wall Six! From left to right: Hunter, Hannah, Heidi, Holly, Heather, and Heath

 


If you missed the first post in this November {Thankfulness} series go here: The 14 questions my husband asked me

To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book: go here

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

What I learned running a 5K with my son

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

Noah, my seven-year-old, was eavesdropping on a conversation I was having with my hubby about an upcoming 5K. “I want to run with you, Mom.” The hubs and I looked at each other and I started coming up with all the reasons why that probably wasn’t a good idea. I mean, he’s never run that far, that I know of. He’s all boy, so he basically runs everywhere, all day, everyday, but is he ready to RUN? Is that DFS hotline material? I mean, it sounds like child abuse if I let him, right? Is he old enough to be doing that sort of thing? But every reason seemed to fall flat as we heard his pleading and true desire to mark this off his bucket list. (If 7-year-olds have those sorts of things.)

We came up with a plan: we’ll do a practice run. If he perseveres through 3 miles running with mom through boring neighborhood roads then I’ll say yes.

We laced up our tennis shoes and headed out on our “rehearsal.” Little four-year-old brother, I’ll call him “Mini Me,” was SO distraught as we were leaving that he convinced me that he was up for the challenge too! (Now you’re calling the cops aren’t you? Well, no need.) Daddy Long Legs came to keep Mini Me company if indeed his legs tuckered out.

So, you’re wondering how did it go?

Actually… It was like eating double-stuffed Oreos. It was better than I thought it would be. And I wanted more. It’s always fun when your kids get old enough to introduce them to something you enjoy. The boys and I discussed what we saw in the clouds, I heard their little feet hitting the pavement, and we laughed about seeing worms and birds and cement trucks. They did great! At one point Noah and I left Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me so they could walk a bit. But Noah and I continued our trek around the neighborhood. When he needed a break, we’d walk. I’d point towards a landmark and say, “Do you think you can make it to the trash can up there?” And then off we’d go. During the last mile, I pointed toward a mile marker to see if he could make it there before we walked and he suggested we pick one farther out. “I like to push myself, Mom.” Well, okay, then 😉

Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me were waiting in our driveway to celebrate our arrival. As we entered our street, I told Noah that I usually sprint the last little bit.

“Why, mom?”

“Well, I know I’m about to finish, so I give it all I’ve got. I push myself, knowing that the end is in reach and so I just go for it. Are you ready?”

“GO!” He said. We sprinted. As fast as we could, we ran. We gave it all we had. Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me cheered for us. We made it, laughing, high-fiving, and beaming because we did it!

We completed our 5K rehearsal!

We completed our 5K rehearsal!

A few days later as I tucked Noah in, I told him I’d be waking him up really early for our race. “I’m going to try and get good sleep tonight, Mom, but I’m just so excited, what if I can’t fall asleep?” Noah said as he yawned and drifted off to la la land.

Morning came and as I woke him, before he even had the energy to open his eyes, he grinned and said, “I’m ready for our race!”

We snacked on a banana and grabbed some toast for the road.
We drank our water, arrived on site, and checked in.
With our numbers fastened to our shirts, we stretched and then went one last time in the port-a-potty.

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Joining the other runners, we took turns grinning and nudging one another during the National Anthem because the time had come! I probably hugged him too much, but then again, probably not.

And without further ado… gunshot! The race was underway.

It’s one of those moments in time that I wish I could mentally have on video to replay anytime I wish. Our feet pounded the pavement and our smiles stretched from ear to ear. We were off. “We’re all running together,” he laughed. I laughed.

One thing that’s pretty unique when you’re running with a kid, everyone cheers when you pass by. I LOVED watching his face light up when someone called out a cheer or encouragement his way. Every time, his speed picked up and I would have to push myself to get back in rhythm with him.

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I love this picture because he’s excited that he sees a water station.

We talked. We laughed. We ran. We passed people. We were passed by people. Strangers and friends were cheering for my little athlete. He was working hard. I felt like every few minutes I’d say, “You want to walk a bit?” Most of the time he wouldn’t take me up on it. Or if he would, someone would pass us and he’d immediately want to start up again. He put me in my place quite often, “This isn’t really running, Mom. This is jogging.” Well, he was right. But we were making good time.

We drank our water and I even showed him how to wear it.

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We talked about school, summer, and what he’s learning. We talked about the horse that we jogged by and how creative God was to make all this. He again, didn’t like it when someone passed him so he would speed up as if he was saying, “Oh yeah?”

As we approached the last leg of the race, the anticipation of finishing started to set in. I was so proud of him. I told him so. As I was explaining to Noah that we were about to enter the park and that the finish line was less than a half a mile away, I started hearing more cheers. Strangers and friends were loving on my boy, encouraging his little heart and his little legs to not give up. His speed picked up. I saw him grab his side at one point, “Noah, you want to walk for a minute? Seriously, we can walk, buddy.”

“No, I’m fine.” This kid was booking it. I was almost laughing at this point and it’s hard to laugh and run at the same time, but I had to focus to keep up with him. The cheering continued and there it was… the glorious FINISH line! Mini Me was standing on the side-line waving with all his might. His brother was trucking along, and we had our sights set on the finish line.

We sprinted.
I was cheering.
Others were cheering.
And TOGETHER we crossed the finish line! Our time was 35:36!

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It was glorious. It was a celebration. My partner in crime pushed himself and completed what he set out to do. Was he tired? Yes! But it was a good tired. A happy tired. A satisfied tired as we told Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me all about our great adventure! Now where are the pancakes?

So, here’s two lessons I learned (am learning) from all of this:

1. Take a walk/run with the short people in your life. Okay, maybe your 13 year old is taller than you now, but you get what I’m saying. There’s something about physical activity that makes you feel good, plus you have a destination and a goal that you are moving toward, and you’re doing it together. The company is sweet and the distractions end up being “good” distractions. They usually lead to some real bonding moments.

2. Encouragement is fuel. Noah ran faster when people were cheering for him, to the point I struggled with keeping up, towards the end. What a picture of how we are to live this life. There will be times when you are running the “race” and at just the right time you hear it—applause, the cheers, verbal confidence that others believe in you—and it fans your flame. In that moment, stopping is not an option, even though you may be at your end, strength rises up and you push harder and dig deeper. You are not alone. As a mom, to see the impact that encouragers from the sidelines had on my sweet boy, it was priceless. They became a part of his race! And that’s how life is, isn’t it? When I look at my life and think about all the times I wanted to give up, but at just the right time, God sent someone in my life to encourage me:

When are you going to write that book?”
“You’re doing a really good job!”
“Are you weary? Can I pray for you?”
“I’ve been meaning to tell you that…”

Words can be like healing salve or gas in your tank. The Lord gave us one another to spur one another on (Hebrews 10:24). Applause should never be the reason we do what we do, but it can be just what the Lord wants to use to help you or someone else persevere.

“Just keep swimming” – Dory in Finding Nemo

This has caused me to evaluate my relationship with my kids. Am I encouraging them enough? Do they hear my cheers? Do they know I’m proud of them? How can I speak confidence into their little lives at just the right times? And then, in my relationship with my spouse and in my friendships—am I spurring them on to run with their eyes fixed on Jesus? Do they hear my cheers? Am I using my words to build up and not tear down? Do I use my opportunities enough to encourage my fellow racers? Or do I just assume they know I’m proud of them?

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” {Hebrews 12: 1-2}

Encourage someone today!

And go run with a short person, you won’t regret it.

{Most of the photos in this post were taken by the amazing crew from the Heavy Duty Rebuilders Duck Waddle 5K Run/Walk.}

Brothers Gotta Hug: breaking up fights and teaching love

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

I LOVE summertime! Being under one roof is one of my favorite things. Yes, yes, I love a good date night or the occasional run to Target without Thing One and Thing Two running the aisles and throwing unapproved items in my cart. But for the most part, I like the relaxing days that summer brings. I’ll admit, we’ve already had a few days of changing out of one set of pajamas only to put on fresh ones for the night. (Don’t be jealous or judge…whichever you’re prone to do.)

My boys are the best of friends.

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{This wasn’t even taken on Halloween. Just a normal day at the Gilions.}

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But…

There are other moments. Moments when their smiles turn into scowls and I can see it in their eyes, they are done playing nice. A car is stolen. A Lego that ought not be played with is now laying in pieces. A beloved, stuffed kitty cat is bait as Thing One runs away from Thing Two. It can happen in a moment. They could have just smiled and given one another the biggest hug while saying, “You are the best brudder in all the world.” But when a line gets crossed, it’s almost like watching the Incredible Hulk take form. Their once sweet little hands that love high-fives and pushing cars through their Lincoln Log city, tighten up into fists. Breathing accelerates, a growl in the form of a war cry fills the room, and one tiny human storms the other. Before you know it someone is crying.

The worst is when you try breaking up a fight when you’re driving, right moms?

The other day, I heard a loud smack and then tears from my four-year-old. “Noah hit me!”

Noah tucked his head in his hands as I sternly asked, “What is going on?!?!” Zach through broken sobs repeated the offense, “Noah hit me!”

I exploded. Even in that moment, I knew it was not the way to handle the situation, but I’d had enough of their lack of love and respect for one another. In my best mom voice I yelled, “No! No! We are not going to do that. God didn’t give us hands to treat one another like that.”

“But why did God make us to hit one another?” Noah asked.

Before I could get out my explanation, Zach, (I’ll remind you again, he’s four!), stepped up, “God did NOT make us do that! We CHOSE to do it!”

The car grew silent. Taken aback, I said, “That’s absolutely the truth. God gave us one another to love, not to hurt one another! As your mom, I’m NOT going to stand for it! It breaks my heart when you hurt one another. But I get it. Sometimes we get frustrated and we don’t know what to do with how we’re feeling, so we lash out. But listen, Noah, God gave you a brother to care for. And, Zach, God gave you a brother to care for. Look at each other. Do it! Look at one another.”

They locked eyes. “You all were given a gift… one another.”

And then Noah asked this: “Who was the first person to ever hit?”

“Two brothers.” Even the answer caught me off guard. The irony of that was almost too much for me.

And then, as if we were in a scripted, cheesy, Christian movie, Noah asked, “What happened to them?”

I’m glad I had cooled down or I might’ve blurted out, “ONE KILLED THE OTHER!” But I have to admit, there was a lump in my throat as the gravity of that sentence played over and over in my head. We arrived at our destination and I was able to turn around and calmly talk to them about the gift of family, the responsibility we have to care and protect one another, and how God has called us to use our hands and our words to build one another up, not tear each other apart.

They were sorry and were soon hugging which turned into another wrestling match. {Yes, right there in the car.}

Two brothers. Cain and Abel. Were these brothers just like my Noah and Zach? Did they laugh and giggle, push and shove, wrestle and joke? Did they laugh at farts and like to be tickled by Daddy-Adam? Did they race one another to the tree or see who could jump higher? The Bible doesn’t give us all the dynamics to their relationship, but they were brothers so I can only imagine how many questions Eve had, being the only female surrounded by testosterone and stinky boys. But unlike me, she didn’t have a mom-gang to vent to via Facebook. She didn’t get those reassuring nods and hugs when they had play dates and shared life over coffee, “You’re not alone. They’re just being boys, Eve.” She had no self-help books on raising boys or how to deal with all the raging hormones. I wonder if she ever tried the get-along-shirt?

The get along shirt via http://danpearce.com

Or did Cain experience time outs or spankings? My thoughts could go on and on…. but the fact is, in the end, one brother was left with the other’s blood on his hands.

As a mom, you don’t get over that, I’m sure.

This mom thing is tough stuff. I want to raise godly men. Men that learn, even as boys, that their hands are not meant to tear down but to build up. For the brothers placed under my care, I want to train them to fight for one another and not with one another. I long to watch two brothers love enough to choose not to raise a fist to the other. I know. I know. They won’t be perfect and sin will raise its ugly head in my children, but I’ll continue to plead for their hearts. Because that’s what it boils down to anyway, right? When we lash out at another it’s because at the root of our disagreement our heart is ugly.

I like what Zachy said, “God did NOT make us do that! We CHOSE to do it!” It is a choice how we respond to one another. We can live always apologizing for our outbursts, (and we should confess and make things right when we sin against one another), but God offers us more than that. He offers strength to overcome the temptation to turn into the Hulk, wisdom to know how to use our words to build up, and love that shows grace even when we believe another deserves wrath. God warned Cain that if he didn’t get his anger under control, sin was crouching at the door. {Genesis 4:6-7} God told Cain that he could rule over that sin. And then in the very next sentence Cain lures his brother into the field and takes his life.

That’s really sad.

I bet Cain never thought that his anger would lead him to that field.

None of us do. So today, as you deal with the anger in your own heart or if you are wearing out your voice breaking up the quarrels-gone-wrong between your children, just remember we all make a choice in how we respond. Dads. Moms. Siblings. Family. Friends. Coworkers. Are you building up or tearing down? How’s your heart? What’s going on in there? What selfishness or pride is leading you to turn into the big green monster?

Part of my role as a mom is leading by example, so today, may I let God reveal the sin in my own heart.

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Happy Mother’s Day: Why I’m glad you’re NOT perfect

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

This year for Mother’s Day, we didn’t procrastinate—we came up with the most spectacular gift for our momma! We are rarely ALL together, so we seized the moment and made plans for a mother/daughter photo shoot.

Here we are.

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Holly, Heidi, Mom (Diane), Heather, Hannah

We spent the night before making flower crowns, (which is not as easy as one might think), we coordinated outfits and tried on each other’s clothes. And ta-dah!

But you’ll never guess what led up to this picture right here.

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Or this one.

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I’m serious. You’re not going to be able to guess in a hundred million trillion years.

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You would never know moments prior to these pictures we almost got arrested, our cars were towed, and we were crawling on our bellies under a chain link fence to escape fines, charges, and mug shots. (Yes, even our Mom! Ooops! Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!) I can almost imagine our mug shots, though. {They would’ve been the cutest mug shots EVER, if there could be such a thing!}

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I told you, you wouldn’t guess, because look at our smiles! And we are REALLY laughing in some of these. We “look” like everything is right in the world. Like we don’t have a past or minutes before we weren’t running for our lives! We look like life is perfect and we are a bunch of flower-lovin’ hippies that just want world peace. Right? (And maybe, just maybe, we’re smiling because we’re not sitting in the back of a cop car in handcuffs.)

Sometimes when you peer into another person’s life via one little snapshot you assume you know their story. But the fact is you don’t know the road they’ve walked or the obstacles they’ve encountered or the mess they’ve made… you may just see a perfect little happy family. But life is untidy and chaotic and we can be careless with one another at times.

Can I take a moment to reflect on family for a minute? It’s a lot like this photo shoot from top to bottom. When we come together there’s opportunity for drama, adventure, trouble, poor choices, forgiveness, grace, laughter, tears… raw life. I can attest I’ve been schooled by all of these lovely ladies at one time or another, in a manner that has led to my growth. They have forgiven me and I’ve forgiven them. (Except for that time Holly called me a klutz or when Heidi cut my hair too short. I’m almost ready to forgive… almost.) But to really love one another we need Jesus at the center. And that’s when you get moments like this:

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A bond. It’s quite special, really. It’s called unconditional love. A love that grows as the clock ticks and tocks.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

In this picture I see it. An awkward, messy, highly hormonal group of girls knowing one another and being known.

Here’s my thoughts on Mothers Day. I’m a fan. Not just because I’m a mom or I have a mom, or that I have the most amazing mother-in-law {Loretta} and mother-in-law {Penny} or because of my “other” mother {Glenda} that keeps me in line. No doubt, these are all extraordinary reasons, but there’s more to it. I think about the times I’ve failed as a mom or the times I’ve been frustrated that MY mom wasn’t perfect. Because of these imperfections I always come running back to grace. I’ve plunged headlong into it’s waters that have no shore. I’ve let His perfection cover my imperfections and I’ve swam in the deep. I’ve needed grace and I’ve extended it. I’ve learned as much by my mother’s shortcomings as I have in the moments she gets it right. In our weaknesses, and downright ugly moments even within the walls of our homes, we hear a whisper, “There’s more.”

This is a weird Mother’s Day blog, maybe, but what I’m getting at isn’t how frustrated I am that these women in my life aren’t perfect, or that I’m not perfect, it is in these shortcomings that I’m forever face to face with the truth that we have a GREAT NEED! There’s MORE to this life than living in the vicious cycle of trying in our own strength and failing over and over and over again. To be in family and to get it “wrong,” is an opportunity for grace to abound—for the gospel to actually play a role in the healing, restoration, and the bringing about of beauty. I’m not excusing our wrongs, I’m just saying, we’re going to hurt one another. But thankfully, if we let Him, He matures us and makes us more like Himself! “I’m finally growing up, Mom!” The ultimate Forgiver gives us this gift of pardon, simply to ask us to wrap it up and give it away to others. When you walk hand in hand with another you are going to be aware of their need for Jesus. {And boy, do my sisters need Jesus! *wink*} So when I look at these pictures and see the smiles on our faces and our flower crowns and our pretty dresses, I also see us crawling under the fence while getting my lace skirt stuck on the barbwire—I see the rest of the story. I see our mug shots in my mind—a picture of what we deserved. I see the entire journey that led us to this money shot. And we smile because we live and receive and give grace.

View More: http://cassieloreephotography.pass.us/wall-sisters

When we look at our family, and we see it’s flaws and shortcomings and if we’re honest all we see is a legacy of let-downs, we can make a choice to stop casting stones and to start using those stones to build. What if we bowed low and viewed each stone as an offering to our God? Maybe you’ve even got your rocks lined up, ready to hurl every last one of them. They deserve it, I’m sure! But what if you took your stones and started to build? Loving family can be messy and draining as well as healing, freeing, and legacy building. But stone by stone we build. Not on the sand that shifts and cannot withstand the waves when they come. But we build our home on the rock… THE ROCK.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

We want to build. Our Mom is a builder. {She’s the one in the middle. You might’ve thought she was one of the sisters.} And she’s raising us to be builders—her baby girls now have babies of their own to invite into the legacy building. I’m not wasting my time on sand, my foundation is on the Rock. And the cool thing is we’re building a safe place where family is welcome, flaws and all. So thanks, Mom, for not being perfect.

P.S. We really, really didn’t mean to trespass.

P.P.S. All these lovely photos were taken by http://www.cassieloreephotography.com

{Story5} A Journey to Adoption: “I would not change a thing”

Through the month of March, we’re going to do a series called “This is my story, this is my song.” There are personal journeys of hope, victory, courage, and redemption that you need to hear!

I (Heather) am about to introduce you to someone very, very special. She is not only my pastor’s wife—but my friend. She is one of those women in my life that I love watching. She makes serving and loving her husband, her children, and her church family, look easy peasy. She’s probably the first face you’d see greet you if you were to visit Lifepoint; with her welcoming smile and sweet southern accent, she invites you into the family. This lady juggles a great deal with ease and smiles as she strives to abide in Christ. I joke with her that on days I have too much to do, I whisper to myself “What would Christin Harrison do?” {So, for all you momma’s with growing “To do” lists, the “WWCHD?” bracelets will be made available soon! heehee}

Maybe I’ll have her share some of her organizational secrets in another post… but for now, you’ve got to hear a piece of her journey that led she and her husband, Lane, to adoption.

So, have you ever wondered what it would be like to write a letter to your past self? What advice would you offer? I asked Christin what she would tell her 20-year-old self about the journey “past-Christin” was about to embark on. I know this will encourage hearts… and maybe, just maybe, cause you to write your own letter. What would you say?

Here’s Christin’s letter…

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Dear Christin,

So you are about to get married. You have so many exciting days ahead as you look towards your future and all that the Lord has in store for you and Lane. You may think the future is going to be easy, fun, romantic, full of wonderful adventures… and at some points in the journey, it will be. But oh how the Lord has an adventure set before you that you can’t even begin to imagine.

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On your journey, you are going to experience your first hardship even before your wedding can happen. At a routine doctor’s appointment, you are going to find out that you have two eight-pound tumors inside that have to come out immediately. But this surgery will not be your last. Five more will come your way during the first seven years of being married, which will even result in a hysterectomy at the young age of 28. It is going to hard. Painful. You will think that you can’t endure the pain your body goes through, the emotional toil that it takes on your spirit, and the sadness that seems to take root in your soul. But you know what? You will endure—the Lord will give you His strength. You will grow in your walk with the Lord during these years. The weeks, even months, of quiet recovery will be times of growth in your love for Jesus. The Lord will be your Great Physician and you will learn to trust Him with your health. Your marriage will be strengthened from the very beginning when you are just newlyweds. You will learn that Lane loves you unconditionally—no matter what—and those years will be what build the foundation that keeps your marriage strong in the future.

During these same years, you and Lane will be praying and planning to have a family. Doctors will tell you that there is a chance to conceive a baby with the small, one-third ovary that you have left before, but eventually, that has to come out too. Those months of hoping that you will find a positive sign on a pregnancy test will come and go and the disappointment will be there with each negative found. But over time, the Lord is going to do something in your heart. You and Lane will feel the Lord leading you to adopt…EVEN while it may physically be possible to get pregnant. That fact alone will shock many people. They will wonder why you would abandon your desire to get pregnant. That desire will not leave, but instead, your desire to be a mom to a child that is already somewhere in this world will be greater than the desire to wear maternity clothes. You will gladly exchange those maternity clothes for traveling clothes and trade the big belly for a big three-ring binder of adoption paperwork.

You know those children of whom you have always dreamed? They are going to come from two different parts of the world! You, Christin, the girl who loves to be home and is not a big fan of risks, are going to board a plane and travel to Russia to become a mom for the first time. You will be scared. You will wonder if this child will love you. You will wonder if you will have a “motherly instinct” without giving birth to this child. And in one split second, at the very moment you see and hold your baby for the first time, these fears will vanish. Instantly. This little blonde haired, green eyed, malnourished, eight pound, six-month-old little boy will change you forever. You will no longer wonder what it is like to be a mom. You will now know that there is nothing like it. This boy will be kind, tenderhearted, love you and all his family, and be filled with a desire to learn about everything. But most of all, he will love Jesus and serve Him and others faithfully.

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The day will come again for you to become a mom for the second time. This will be the result of many prayers. Not only those prayed by you and Lane, but also by your precious two-year-old son who wants to have a sister.  He will pray faithfully for her. The Lord is going to answer those prayers and be the Provider of all the details involved in this adoption as well. Once again, you will board a plane for yet another country, this time to the country of Guatemala. It is there that you will meet your princess! The moment you see her, your heart will overflow with love. That motherly instinct that you no longer worry about, will abound for this precious child. Just like her brother, this curly, brown haired, brown eyed, petite, six-month-old little girl will transform you. This little one will be caring, filled with love for people, and will want every day to be a party! And like her brother, she will love Jesus from an early age, which will enable her to love others even more than she loves herself.

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So, dear Christin, when the road that you travel gets tough, don’t lose hope! The Lord is in control of your life. Just release your grip on anything else but Him. At times, it will be hard and you will want to change His plan—or even give up! But the Lord will be faithful. Trust Him. His desires for you will become your desires. He will take your worries, your sadness, even the pain, and turn it into complete joy. You will wonder if it will all be worth it. Looking back, in complete confidence, I say, “YES!” I would not change a thing—nothing. Nothing. Just like Isaiah 55:8-9 says, ’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (ESV) That is the truth. His ways and His plans are far better than anything we could ever conjure up.

Love,
Christin

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I hope you’ve been encouraged today!

 

 

{Story2} Burying your baby

Through the month of March, we’re going to do a series called “This is my story, this is my song.” There are personal journeys of hope, victory, courage, and redemption that you need to hear!

The story you are about to read is incredible! I (Heather) met Sarah a little over a year ago. You know how sometimes you meet someone and your friendship takes off? That’s what happened with us—a deep friendship emerged so effortlessly. I have no doubt, God had our paths collide. [Not only are we friends, but we also have a side business together called Story Designs {by S & H} – after you’re done reading… check out the pretty things we make!]

I can’t wait for you to hear from her! I’ve been praying for THIS MOMENT since she first shared some of her journey with me over coffee! Our kids were off destroying the play room as we were wiping tears and smiling over God’s fierce love for us. I KNOW this is going to bless your socks off!

I’m happy to introduce you to Sarah…

♥♥♥♥

by Sarah Lombardi

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him,
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for Grace to trust him more

I have been singing that song all my life, but it wasn’t until this year that I began to understand the joy and fullness of putting my complete trust in Him.

Five years ago, on March 29th, I went into labor with our second child. We were very excited about welcoming our baby BOY into the family! Earlier that week the doctor told me it could be any day. I was 37 weeks and full term! We gathered our bags and headed to the hospital. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of fear as we drove in. I prayed silently for peace, and as I prayed, it was like I already knew.

Shortly after we arrived, the nurses got me in a room and started hooking me up to monitors. The nurse could see that I was having close contractions, but she was having trouble finding baby. I continued to pray. After what felt like an eternity, she called in the doctor to do an ultrasound. The on-call doctor wheeled in the sonogram machine and placed it right on Miles. It was very clear—Miles had his hands raised and was still. No heartbeat. Just still. The doctor said, “You see this,” pointing to the screen. “This is his heart and its not beating.”

My world… our world… came crashing down.

Tears came.

All I could do was weep.

My husband and I held one another and wept.

After my surgery they brought in Miles Daniel for me to hold. He was in a bassinet, wrapped in a blanket. They had dressed him in a little hat and a zip-up sleeper. He was perfect. Just beautiful. Miles weighed exactly 4 pounds, so he was little, but oh so perfect. I held him and cried. I just starred at him “asleep” in my arms. I took in every detail because I didn’t want this moment to end.

Baby Miles

Baby Miles

After the funeral and all the family had gone, it seemed like life had to move forward… but I wasn’t ready to move forward. I prayed day and night, “Lord give me faith to trust this is Your will in my life.”

It’s been a process. It’s been a fight. Grieving takes a toll on you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But as seconds turned into hours, and hours to days, and days to months, and now months to years; through it all the Lord has shown me (and continues to show me) how much HE loves US.

Every step of this journey He. Has. Loved. ME!

HE loved this broken momma who had lost ALL of her joy in the Lord.

HE loved this sad wife who became a negative and selfish spouse.

HE loved me and extravagantly poured His love into my heart—healing me bit by bit.

He showed His love through our family, our church family and friends. He took a mother with a broken heart and made her into a mother with a prayerful heart. The Lord has given me a compassion for the hurting, the weary, and the brokenhearted. He has mended our marriage—taking two hurting, selfish people, and showing us how to live and thrive inside a Christ centered, loving marriage.

These five years have been full of tears, but we have begun to see His beauty rising from our ashes. He brought JOY back into my heart and a song:

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take him at his word
Just to rest upon his promise
Just to know thus saith The Lord

I realized how sweet it truly is to put my trust in Him and to believe what His Word tells me. Not just to hear it—but BELIEVE it! Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.’” I began to put my trust back in Him—my Lord, my Savior! I gave Him my whole heart and my life that was broken and bruised… He has healed it!

Exactly two years after we lost Miles Daniel, the Lord blessed us with our third child—our son, Jones Abraham. Jones was born premature at barely 31 weeks. The Lord knew. He knit him together and knew exactly the day he would be born.

Sarah and Baby Jones

Sarah and Baby Jones

I held my precious, Jones, on the EXACT day we lost Miles, two years earlier. “The Lord gives and takes away…” {Job 1:21}

After naming Jones we found out the meaning of his name: “Jehovah has shown favor.”

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. {Psalm 30:5}

We have questions without answers. There are days that I imagine the five of us sitting around the dinner table. I wonder what Miles’s laugh would sound like or how his arms would feel around me. There will be a day that I experience his giggles and his hugs, but until then, the arms of Christ envelop me. His arms are big enough, strong enough, and firm enough to strengthen this momma for the road ahead. He alone holds me together.

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On this road of suffering, I have learned to trust Him. Simply trust. His ways are greater and far better for me! It has been five years and THIS week we will place a stone at Miles’s grave. This year has been a year of freedom and of letting go of heartache. I am ready. WE are ready! “Lord, I trust you!” This stone isn’t for Miles—he is with our Savior! I imagine him dancing along the shore, hand in hand with Jesus! This stone is for mom and dad. We are placing this stone as a reminder: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!

I will forever sing:

I’m so glad I learned to trust thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, friend.
And I know that thou art with me
Will be with me to the end.

♦♦♦♦♦

If you are new to this blog, check out our STORY and how God taught us about rising from our ashes—not to merely survive, but to dance!

Go here to learn more about the book: Dancing On My Ashes.

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Making Room {Are you celebrating the reason or the season?}

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by Heather Spring {Gilion}

Our Christmas construction paper chain is getting SHORTER! My boys (ages: 6 and 4) love to take turns tearing off a chain link as they jump and dance about:

“Only 17 more days!”

“16 more days!”

“15 MORE DAYS until CHRISTMAS!”

The sad thing is, up until now, every morning as they tear off the paper ring, I feel anxiety rush over me. As they are celebrating, my eyes glaze over as I’m internally groaning: “Oh NO! ONLY 15 more days! AHHHH… I have so much to do!”

Until I made room.

Sweet Mary, moments away from giving birth, was told, “There’s no room for you here.”

This became one of the themes of Jesus’ life: “There’s no room for you.” He pressed against culture, religion, purpose, and what others considered truth, as many encounters left Jesus feeling the breeze of the door slam in His face, “There’s no room for you.” And finally, as He died on the cross, wasn’t that the world’s final way of saying, “There’s no room for You here?”

I know God had a plan in all of it. He knew Jesus would be treated in this manner and still sent Christ into a world that could not hold Him. A world that could not understand Him. Among a people that struggled with His very existence. He was “other”—the Word became flesh. Finally mankind got to see – the words that were penned long ago foretelling of His birth, became reality as skin covered bones and came wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. God became man—one you could touch, hear, and see. His name was Jesus! He was sent at the perfect time to share the perfect story as He walked, talked, laughed, cried, loved, saved, and redeemed.

As I still my anxious heart this season, putting away my to-do lists, I can hear this steady knock.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. {Revelation 3:20}

“There is room for you here, my Lord,” I reply.

Christmas is derived from two words: Christ’s Mass. Mass means to gather and “feast” on Christ, much like a church (followers of Jesus) join together to remember Jesus’ life and death through the Lord’s Supper. What a picture of what Christmas means for the world, an invitation to feast on Christ. If we’re not feasting on Christ then we are feasting on something else. So far, this season, if I’m honest, I’ve been shoveling in mouthfuls of second bests. It’s just not cutting it, and I’m thankful. {I’m publicly repenting, here. Thanks for listening.}

~SO HERE’S HOW I’M MAKING ROOM~

In the heart department:
{1} I’m spending time meditating on my great need for Him. I can’t celebrate my “Savior” if I don’t daily come to grips that I need one. I need Him! And His birth is and was a BIG deal. I can say, as of today, with great delight I’m watching our paper chain grow shorter as I remember “the reason for the season”—God’s plan of sending Emmanuel “God with us” to become our deliverance!

{2} Even in this busy season, I’m waging war on my sin. I’m letting God reveal the areas in my life that are not pleasing to him and I’m putting sin to death. I wish this time of year just naturally made me more thankful, but I confess I’m quicker to covet, to compare, to hold things tighter… want.want.want.spend.spend.spend! Giving myself the “excuse” to follow the world’s “Christmas standards” is not acceptable or pleasing to Him, and ultimately not satisfying for me. There’s no such thing as a sin-cation, so as I make room and invite Him in, He reveals the sin in my heart. I must continue to confess and realign my heart with His.

In the decorating department:
Up until now, I’ve focused on making my house “pretty.” My tree stands loud and proud, along with twinkling lights in many rooms, and stockings hung by the fireplace with care; but I’ve missed making it all about Jesus and His birth. A couple days ago, as I took in my decorations, nothing really pointed to Jesus. I’m making room. I’m adding some things to turn my gaze upward. I long to put the focus on my Beloved, making some alteration that speak to my King’s birthday! {Sidenote: It’s not about a list of decorating do’s and don’ts—it’s a heart issue.} For me personally, I knew I hadn’t made Jesus the center.

In the children department:
Little eyes are watching. “What is mom saying {by her actions} is the ultimate meaning of Christmas?” I have great responsibility, as I stand alongside my hubby, to lead our family. Do I talk more about the presents they may or may not get on Christmas morning more than I speak of this baby that came and changed the world? In our home, no doubt, we talk about Jesus, [when Noah used to list our family members, he’d say: Mommy, Daddy, Woah {that’s how he said his name}, Zach, and Jesus!] but am I doing everything I can to “train up my children”—establishing the right traditions that frame my children’s understanding of Christmas for years to come.

I want them to understand
• why we relish this time of year (the promise that was fulfilled in Jesus’ birth!),
• why we decorate (It’s a birthday celebration),
• why we give extravagant gifts (following in step with the 3 wise men as they came bearing gifts as they celebrated God’s most extravagant gift—JESUS).

I’m making room this season, and sharing the spoils with my children as I strive to teach and train my boys that Christmas is not just about nostalgic songs, traditions, ornaments, sugar cookies, and PRESENTS! {Even though I enjoy each and every one of these things.}

In the list department:
I’m not suggesting throwing out the list. But there are times in my day, everyday, that I’m throwing out my list. I enjoy a good productive day, like the next guy, but the list does not need to rule my day nor should it be accomplished through the wrong motive. I’m giving Him my list, letting Him check it twice (heehee)! Yes, I have lots to do. You do too. But as we do and buy and make and bake and set and wrap, may it all be from an outpouring of love for our King that deserves our everything as He equips us to love others.

So celebrate your little head off! He’s worth it! Make some of that creepy Figgy Pudding that makes your guests turn into ungrateful children, ordering you to make it or they won’t leave your house and then on top of that you have to practically feed it to them. The nerve! But when we’re “making room” we can even love those people. 😉

I love Christmas time, but when we start celebrating ritual, nostalgia, and presents we’re not engaging in Christmas {Christ’s Mass}, we push the birthday boy out of the party and say, “Sorry, it’s not really about You.” I don’t want to miss filling myself with Him this season. He always makes good on His promises. So come feast!

Feel free to share some things that you do or your family does to “make room.” I’d love to hear! I may share some of the new things we end up doing… we shall see.

Thanksgiving: One Noodle at a Time

by Heather Spring {Gilion}

photo-51

Since Hobby Lobby already has their Christmas decor out, I can write about Thanksgiving, right?

I can get swept away in to-do lists with calendar alerts dictating my day. Frustrations rise up when I have to tie another shoelace or wipe another bottom. I can also get grumpy when I have to realign the pillows on my couch… one more time! Didn’t they see that I JUST straightened them? Or when my husband ends up having another meeting, I can inwardly throw a little grownup pity party! Seriously, are we going to have some family time or not? When all those frustrations, or {let’s get honest} moments that don’t revolve around me, are really opportunities to release “control” over my day and have a moment of thanksgiving…that my husband has a job, or that I have bottoms to wipe, or pretty pillows for my couch.

Or maybe it’s BIGGER than that: a tire blows, I find out someone I care about is in the hospital…again, a friend’s marriage is falling apart, there’s a school shooting, or a family member’s addictions are leading them to pull away. When things are not in our control, or simply don’t go as planned—BIG or small—I’m quick to get frustrated and short. Hello, didn’t everyone get the memo of how this day should roll?

But lately the Lord has been quickening my heart to pause and give thanks. I’m practicing the art of gratitude. I’m giving thanks when things don’t go my way. I’m trusting He’s in the details of my life and having a peaceful knowledge that He is leading me to holiness not a life of ease… and being okay with that.

So, to celebrate Thanksgiving in my heart today, I’m giving thanks for the times that have shaped me, that are shaping me, and that will shape me.

“In everything GIVE THANKS; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

{1 Thessalonians 5:18}

Giving thanks should be like eating spaghetti… one noodle at a time. So, here’s a list—not comprehensive—but today’s noodles:

1. I’m thankful that my dad told me that I was pretty. When I was a teenager, he wrote me a letter {that I still have today} that spoke more about the importance of inner pretty than outer pretty. I might have acted like I wasn’t really listening… but I was.

2. I’m thankful that God’s mercies are indeed “new” EVERY morning!

3. I’m thankful that in fifth grade, when I decided I was going to start cussing, a couple friends told me to stop it. They said I couldn’t cuss right. Instead of learning how to do it right, I decided to speak like a lady rather than a sailor.

4. Even though I do have short, fat toes; I’m thankful that I have ten toes. {I’m wearing flip-flops today… trying to be thankful.}

5. I’m thankful for a husband that tells me when I’m not being nice. This might seem like a weird one, but this sharpening means that he loves me—that he cares about my heart more than my ego. He was given to me to make me more like Jesus.

6. I’m thankful for my two boys that keep me dancing, make believing, and praying! I love learning more about sacrifice and grace by these two characters.

7. I’m thankful for the still small voice that’s within me that guides me, directs me, and points me to the path of freedom. God’s own Spirit inside little old me! What power and fullness resides within my beating chest! Who am I that I should carry around such beauty and perfection?

8. I’m thankful for friends that I can be vulnerable with. I have friends that know me and still love me, friends that aren’t “yes-women” but are God-fearing, God-loving ladies. Oh, and I love a good friend-hug!

9. I’m thankful for taste buds. Working on a banana with Nutella right now, get you some! Yuuuummmmm.

10. I’m thankful for black… its slimming. {#9 and #10 go together}

11. I’m thankful that in seventh grade Jeremy broke up with me because I told him I couldn’t make-out with him. Oh, yeah… and for the break-up with Chris over not being able to go to dances. Oh… and when I got the big dump-dump-a-roo from Brad, Brian, Jay, and Steven. Tears were shed, but God even protects us from ourselves.

12. I’m thankful that my sister Holly told on me when I started smoking in college. The fear of my dad’s wrath was enough to put out my cigs fast!

13. I’m thankful for music that leads me to see beyond this world and realigns my heart as I meditate on what’s true.

14. I’m thankful for mascara.

15. I’m thankful for the storms that have come in my life. When I think about His nearness during my darkest hours, my heart spills over with gratitude. I have never been alone. NEVER. Even when He allowed storms to come, in His perfect way, He stilled the storm in me. Plus, I have a new affection for rainbows—they are a constant reminder that God’s promises remain.

16. I’m thankful that I am not trapped in a pit of bitterness, fear, or anger anymore: from hole to whole. God rescues those that call on His Name!

17. I’m thankful that people can change. I can always grow, change, and be more of who I was created to be.

18. I’m thankful that He’s made me a dreamer. At times it feels as if I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, without a lifeline, but trusting Him is getting easier and easier as I’m witnessing His equipping the called. I’m joyfully dreaming God-sized dreams.

19. I’m thankful for rollie pollies. Enough said.

20. I’m thankful for really good laughs. The kind that make tears stream down your face. I had one of those the other night watching a new hire at Sonic, delivering food on skates. He was clinging to the side of the building as he maneuvered from car to car. At one point he rolled into the side of a car. It was dinner and a show, people! Tears were shed over the new kid. Now I feel bad… praying for his bruises and skillz!

21. Speaking of laughter, I’m thankful for Zach’s laugh when he watches “crazy cat” youtube videos.

22. This one could actually be my list, just this one. If I would let this take root in my heart every morning, there would really be no need for any other number: I’m thankful that I was loved to death. Jesus and the cross is the ultimate act of love. A love that daily motivates and changes me from the inside out.

23. I’m thankful for pimples… they keep you humble. {Okay, I struggled writing this one.}

What are you thankful for? Join me in practicing Thanksgiving today and every day as a way of fighting the rhythms of forgetfulness and annoyed duty. You have no idea what your day will bring, but thanking God for His hand that is ever present in your life will be fuel to your faith. As the sun breaks through to dawn, may His presence pierce our darkness. His light illuminates and fills.

So, who doesn’t like a full belly and a full heart? Are you ready to devour a giant plate of spaghetti? There’s no need to hurry or worry about etiquette. Fill up your plate. Pick out a noodle and enjoy it. Slurp away. Feast, my friends. A heart of gratitude will leave you full.

{Here’s Noah showing you how to eat spaghetti!}

A letter to my first grader

by Heather Spring

13things

Dear Sweet Boy,

You’ve probably noticed I’ve been a bit weepy this week, as we’ve gotten you ready for school. You are so big!

How did we get here so fast? I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that I was staring at your 6-pound self as you slept in the bassinet a few inches to my left? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was changing your diapers and begging you to say Momma? I know you don’t have those images etched in your memory the way I do, but these were life-changing moments for me that will always make my heart swell when I pause to take them in. So, yes, I’m teary today as my heart plays catch up with your independence. Time does fly when you’re having fun, and as quickly as we’ve gotten here, I’m reminded by just about every parent with older children, that in a blink of an eye, I’ll be writing you a letter as you leave for college. {Okay, cannot go there!} Your daddy and I have worked so hard to teach you how to do things by yourself, and now everything in me wishes we hadn’t. But that’s just a little piece of me. The other piece of me loves watching you do, be, and create. Which brings me to the second reason I’m teary…

I’m sooo stinkin’ proud of you! You are a little person—so grown-up at times. You are becoming generous, helpful, courageous, considerate, and a leader. God has made you super-duper unique and I’m speechless at times as I witness His design through you. There’s nothing like hearing your questions and seeing your brain at work. I pray that your sweet spirit will not be squelched by this world.

I am your mom. I take my role seriously. And it’s hard for me to be away from you for so many hours in a day! So here’s some thoughts to take with you… it’s my way of “going” with you:

1. Tell the truth, even if you think you’re going to get in trouble. I promise it’s worse to lie, or try to cover it up. That feeling in the pit of your stomach when you don’t tell the truth is worse punishment than just coming clean. There will be times you disappoint people in your life, but just remember our love for you remains, and there is an unending well of grace that you can draw from.

2. Listen to your teachers. Show the adults in your life respect. You are going to see some of your friends be unkind to teachers, or not listen to the rules, but don’t follow their example. Teachers are there to encourage and guide you as you grow up. We, your leaders, don’t always get everything right all the time, but even so, show us grace as we grow. You’ll do this momma’s heart good to hear you show the adults in your life proper respect—“Yes.” “Please.” “Thank you.” “I will.” “What can I do to help you?”

{Now if someone you don’t know tries to hurt you or you feel like you’re in danger, remember: NO, GO, YELL, TELL! You can also kick them in that place I told you about.}

3. Eat your lunch. There are starving children in Africa. There really are. Eat your food.

4. See God in others. If you look—really look; you’ll see it—beauty. God has made everyone so special! He’s put his fingerprints on us. It’s one of my favorite things to do, to look for the special qualities in others.

5. Be a friend. I know you’ll want friends, but to make friends you need to be a friend. When you’re bummed that you don’t have anyone to play with at recess, be on the lookout for someone else that might be “all lonely” (as you like to say). To have friends, you must first BE A FRIEND.

6. You don’t have to be first. It’s okay to let others go before you—it can be a lot of fun actually. You’ll be the line leader at times, soak it up and live it up, but there’s other ways of being a leader and sometimes that’s by letting another go before you.

7. This learning stuff takes work. Don’t lose heart if for some reason you’re not getting everything as fast as your neighbor. Just keep after it! We can waste time and energy comparing ourselves to someone else, so instead, strive to keep your head in the game—you’ll get there! I know how easily you get distracted, you might get that from me, but just remember how long it took you to figure out how to put the straw in your Capri Sun? Seriously! That took some practice, right buddy? But now you’re a poking machine!

8. Have fun. Laugh. Be a six-year-old. Talk about poop and legos until your heart’s content. I love your little brain that is obsessed with turtles, Lego-Batman, and revving up your imaginary motorcycle (which is actually in the shop getting fixed, you mentioned). Honestly, I probably don’t have to tell you to have fun, because you can’t help it, you are the PARTAY! So, maybe this one’s for me. I don’t say it enough! I usually hear myself saying, “hurry up” not “have fun!”

9. It’s not a bad thing to be different. I know we’ve talked about how not everyone loves Jesus. I know you still can’t fathom that being the case, but it’s true. Not everyone’s going to believe what you believe and that might make you feel “different” at times. But I promise, this is normal, this is natural, and it’s a reality that you will feel for the rest of your life. But once you really get this, a confidence will trump any other negative feelings you may be receiving from others. He’s worth it, sweet boy! He’s worth it!

10. Kids can be mean, but you don’t have to be. Bullies are out there, unfortunately. And when you come home torn up over what someone said to you—that was intentionally meant to hurt you—it will take everything in me not to go to lunch with you the next day to give them the mom-stare over some s’mac and cheese. But I won’t. But just know, that kids that want to hurt your feelings, probably are themselves…hurting. So let’s pray together for them.

11. Girls can be your friends. Ignore anyone that bugs or teases you about having a “girlfriend.” We’ll talk about girls in MUCH greater detail later, but for now, just remember you’ll want to be nice to girls now because I promise you’ll want to get to know them more later. Dad already had the sex talk with you when you were a day old, so he thinks you’re good to go, but I think we’ll probably have to revisit it later. You finally have come to terms that I am off-the-market and we won’t be getting married, even so, I am more than okay with being the “girl” in your life.

12. You are loved. This really is the most important thing. That’s why I say it so often.  Because when people know that they’re loved, it changes how they live. When you, Noah, really grasp how much you are loved—not only by your momma and daddy—but by the God who knit you together in my womb, then everything else will come naturally. The loving, the listening, the working… all of it, will be an outflow of the inflow. Believing you are loved is empowering. It’s humbling (I know you don’t know what that word means, yet, but it’s a good word). Being loved frees you from feeling like you have to be “good” enough for my love. Your understanding of all of this will grow—but for now, as you walk away from the car and disappear inside your elementary school, hear my words: I LOVE YOU!

13. You are my arrow. There will be a day that I release you, but (thankfully) the time has not come. But even today, you, my arrow, are being made. And over time, by delicate art and focus, your daddy and I, striving to follow God’s leading, are crafting and shaping you into an arrow with grand purpose. Our God will direct us every step of the way. And I have a feeling before I know it, I’ll be placing my arrow into the bow, drawing you back to release and watch you fly.

But even tomorrow, as you’re walking through the double doors I see a foreshadowing of things to come. Go, my little arrow. You are not alone. Our God is with you and your momma is praying for you like crazy.

Love,
Mom

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. -Psalm 127: 3-5