Friday, February 22, 2013

Mama - Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday. Write for a timed 5 minutes, no editing or planning, just writing for 5 minutes. Then link up:

Today's Word: Mama


In a word she is, strength. Always a fighter regardless of the fight. She spoke strong words, undergirded in love. She wore strong perfume by the name of Oscar De La Renta. And she rarely took no for an answer. If there was an injustice about, she was on the path to bleat it out and save the day. That's just how my Mama was. She used strong words to show my sister and I how serious she was about her love for us. I remember her saying, "You could get pregnant, rob a bank or kill someone and I'd still love you." We knew better than to do any of the above at the ripe old age of adolescence, but more than that we understood that come hell or high waters she was in it with us for the long haul. Unending, unshakable love. She let us be ourselves and never let anyone put us down. She had a strong inner Mama bear and everyone knew it. She also gives strong. Gives outrageously and generously and selflessly. She sings strong and loud, and dances strong - never one to sit out a dance when there was a dance to be had. She's the tiniest little lady I know, but she is so strong.  She loves me so strong, and I love her just the same!


Five minutes isn't fair with a writing prompt like, "Mama." 

Take 5 minutes to write about your Mom, and then link up here:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Few Pointers for my Kids

As a snapshot in time, and because that's mostly what my blog is for, I thought I'd leave my children a little snippet of advice this morning, sort of on-the-fly, from their Mama in all of her 34 year old nonsense...I mean, wisdom. Definitely, wisdom. Or maybe...well, who knows.

Either way, here goes...

1. God first. He is the only wise, true King. Seek Him, love Him, follow Him, know Him and be known by Him, reflect Him, sing-dance-pray-talk to-scream-shout-whisper to Him, and definitely make jokes with Him. He loves to laugh! He is kind. He will always love you and He will never leave you. He is your provider. He is your healer. He is the standard. He is your Father. And He sent Jesus to die for you. He's serious about you!

2. Love yourself. You were not, are not, and never will be a mistake. (I can't even articulate how badly, desperately, you were wanted!) You are worthwhile, smart, witty, kind, beautiful and generous, and you have been given everything you need to get to where you want to go in life. The desires in your heart came from your King. Trust Him to help you fulfill them. He is faithful! And also, this is so important, are you listening? When you love yourself, you can love others! This is key because we were sent to this world to love. Remember this verse, Love your neighbor as you love yourself? One has to come before the other. I know I'm your Mom, but, I mean, honestly, what's not to love? :) Treat yourself well. Love yourself. And then spill that love all over the entire world, or as much of her as you can reach. 

3. Love your family with all of your heart. Look out for death-by-consumption when you meet your spouse (who should definitely resemble Jesus in some familiar ways), and when you welcome your babies. You will think your will to live has been stolen by an unquenchable love that steals your breath, consumes your thoughts and fills every space of every fiber of your entire being, but you will make it. Pull yourself together and love them madly. 

4. Listen to the small, quiet voice inside. The peaceful, kind one. It will always lead you, and never leave you. Sometimes the world will disagree. I say, carry on. Go for it.

5. Talk a lot. (I'm sorry if you tend to talk too much. You probably get that from me. I believe it's healthy, unless you speak ugly to another person. In that case, hush!) Here's what I mean. Don't stuff things deep down inside. Let them out. If you're angry, hurt, rejected, sad, stressed, worried, fearful, happy, giddy, overflowing...etc. Talk about it...out loud...with Jesus, and also with a friend or someone you trust. Keeping things bottled up is like burying something that's still alive. You can't bury the living because if you do, it will surely resurface, and usually in the form of a violent explosion. This is never good. So, talk it out, work it out. Be honest and transparent and vulnerable, but never try to be stronger than you were designed to be. No stuffers allowed. Stuffing leads to stress. Stress leads to sickness. Sickness leads to death. Don't do it. And, just so you know, your Daddy and I will always be here to listen, and there's nothing you could ever tell us that would cause us to change our opinion of you. Guaranteed!

6. Stay in your lane. (Thanks Brad McClendon.) Mind your own business. Try, really try, not to gossip. Sometimes silence is supreme. 

7. Set healthy boundaries. Help when you can. Do things if you have grace, time and energy to do them, and if not, pass on them. Don't pine for relationships or friendships that require you to constantly kiss hineys. You'll know what I mean. These relationships are toxic. Be yourself. Be genuine. You're super likable!

8. Keep the main thing, the main thing. Like in an argument, for example. Only argue about what you're arguing about. Don't bring the past 15 years into the argument. But, in all things, keep the main thing, the main thing. (Thanks Rick Joyner.)

9. Use the words, "always" and "never," sparingly, especially when talking to someone else or accusing someone else of something. It's rare that someone ALWAYS yells or NEVER keeps a promise. Give credit where credit is due.

10. Try not to say the word, "hate." It's ugly. Unless you "hate" cavities. It's okay to hate cavities. (Brush your teeth.) :)

11. Give generously, excessively, and extravagantly, never believing that giving something away means you will go without. The opposite is always true. Always give.

12. Get lots of sleep. Sleep keeps you healthy.

13. Be on time. Honor your commitments. Keep your word.

14. Close the toilet lid when you flush, and don't keep your tooth brush on the sink. Put it away. Why? Brace yourself. Because if you don't close the lid when you flush, all sorts of funkiness enters the air from the toilet, and I bet it often lands on toothbrushes. So, close the lid. And tuck your toothbrush away. Thank me later.

15. Don't manipulate people.

16. You are never a bad girl or a bad boy. You are always a good girl or a good boy. Decisions can be bad, but bad decisions don't make people bad (most of the time). 

17. Wash your hands when you come in from anywhere. Get dirty? Yes! Play hard? Yes! Live adventurously? For sure! Just wash your hands when you're done! And after you do, don't start texting on your phone that you were just using at the gas station (unless you Clorox wipe it, then it's okay) because otherwise you defeat the whole hand washing purpose. Trust me, you'll save yourself a lot of tissues and trips to the drug store.

18. Vitamin C works. Airborne is great. Water is best! Homemade food rules! Moderation in everything is ideal. Diets are dumb. Exercise is wise.

19. Don't flush public toilets with your foot. It's rude. Use toilet paper if you don't want to touch the handle (and then throw it away). What if the next person touches the handle and then doesn't wash his/her hands? Now they are eating their turkey sandwich with your dirty bathroom floor tennis shoes on their hands. Lets pause and say a prayer for their protection. :) I'm grossed out. 

20. Don't spend money you don't have. Save money.

21. Don't ask for loans you can't pay back.

22. Rise and shine and work hard. And then, rest. Live by faith, but don't live being lazy.

23. Be aware of what's happening in the world, but never let events rule you. Remember your King. He has the final say.

24. Read/watch/listen to the news and talk shows sparingly - they're almost always completely pointless. Do, however, watch Jimmy Fallon. He's hilarious and a-okay in my book! 

25. Listen to music. It usually makes you smarter, and occasionally makes you less smart. It's worth the gamble.

26. Play music if you can. I can't. I probably could. I just don't, so instead, I dance. Definitely dance.

27. Garden.

28. Take care of your belongings.

29. Clean if you want to. I like clean, but it doesn't mean you have to, but I'm not going to lie, I sort of hope you appreciate cleanliness. 

30. Peer pressure = lame. Try not to give in.

31. Dinner for breakfast tastes good, and so does breakfast for dinner. Switch it up. Keep it interesting.

32. Having the best things really doesn't matter. Peace and joy matter.

33. Nobody actually cares how clean or cute your house is, or what kind of car you drive. They care about their house and their car. Period. (Yawn.)

34. Comparison is the thief of joy.

35. You can learn not to lie if you practice.

36. New habits take 21 days of repetition to stick. Same with breaking bad habits. 21 days.

37. Drink lots of water, and maybe no caffeine, like me. Or not. Whatevs. 

38. Cow's milk, no! 

39. Cow's cheese, yes. :)

40. Never move away from your parents when you're good and grown. We will build you a house on our land and come running when you're sick or need help with your newborn baby, or when you've burnt dinner 5 minutes before dinner guests are set to arrive, or when you need anything...literally anything. And if you do move away, promise not to be offended if we follow you. 

41. Be a friend. Listen. Love. Help.

42. Matching socks are overrated. Mismatched clothes are fun. 

43. Be a lady. Be a gentleman. 

44. Be respectful. 

45. Err on the side of grace. 

46. Repent. Forgive. 

47. Try, try, and try again. Quit when, and only when, Jesus says to. And move when He says to. We did. It was scary, but worth it.

48. Spend summer days at the lake or in the pool. Bring fruit, salami, cheese and crackers, or a yummy salad, sunscreen and bottled water, and go home when you're long past the point of being tuckered out.

49. Be adventurous and inventive. 

50. Save your kisses for your spouse.

51. Always, always remember I love you more than life itself. Same goes for your Daddy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jenny From the Block, on Parenting

Here I sit having just finished a piping hot bowl of chicken flavored Top Ramen. The steam from the heat of the remaining broth is still spinning in a spirally little dance upwards. I literally burnt my tongue as I choked my noodles down today. Choking not because the noodles are difficult to eat, but choking because I have that thing in my throat that my mom, sister and I refer to as, the "lump." The one that sits there begging you to just give in and cry. 

I am torn today. Broken. Beside myself and desperate. I don't know how I got here. Sometimes life's all, BOOM, and what can a girl do? I'm just going to say it...I'm scared. My answers are running out, and my control is fleeting and I feel nervous and sort of angry. I really need Jesus to step in and do something because parenting is hard. Nothing big, or dangerous has happened, but I can feel the world creeping in to engage my girls in conversations I want so badly to protect them from. 

My third grader wants to hang out with fifth graders, (note: there is a big difference between third graders and fifth graders), and while she still makes believe and loves to play dolls I can see the transformation happening, and I don't like it. And so from that place of insecurity I sometimes parent from a place of fear. I turn into "Jenny from the block," all ghetto-like, and make fun of other kids, secretly hoping that my kids will fall in line, and also hate the behavior I'm talking trash about and rolling my eyes at. I wish 1,000 times over that I could take back words like, "Oh please, so-and-so better watch her mouth or I will call her parents to tell them what a terrible little person they are turning out, and you know what else? If I hear anymore of this you won't be allowed to talk to her. Ever. That behavior is so lame." 

So super mature. I stink at this. Sometimes. (I have to give myself some credit. I don't always mess up.)

So, today more than anything I want my girls to have an eagle's eye view into my heart where my love for them has drown most everything else out. Where they can see how deeply I love them and how I want nothing more than for them to never feel pain or hurt, or the sting of rejection, or the hate of a mean girl, or the pressure of their "friends" that comes on so strong that they are literally on the edge of giving in. Or worse yet, that they give in. And then become acquainted with regret and secrets. 

I want my girls to know that I'm sorry for being an immature, ghetto mama sometimes. That's not me. The real me wants more than anything to give love and to be available for them always. To be the mama that won't revert to pointed words and ridiculous threats when she feels threatened. Dear girls, I'm sorry. And I love you more than life, and I always, always will.

We are at that weird point in time where my girls don't know the first thing about curse words. They wouldn't know what to do with the f-word if they heard it. They'd probably just ask me, "Mama, what does *#+! mean?" And then I'd have to tell Jenny-from-the-block to back away slowly so she didn't use that very same word to articulate the anger that caused her to fall faint on the floor the very second she heard such fifth coming out of such a pretty little mouth. It hasn't happened, but the stories I hear...the stories I can't believe...those are happening and my girls are out there within earshot of the filth. 

Dear babies, don't let it in. Don't let it affect you. Stay the course. Grab a hold of Jesus and never ever look back. You can do this. You can walk through the grime and the gunk of this world and come out stronger on the other side. You can be the exception. You can be the example. And just so you know, you wouldn't bring me shame if you went a different way. There is nothing in this world that could ever separate you from me. I will love you outrageously forever (here on earth and in heaven). I'm your mama here and I'll be your mama in heaven. Nothing will ever diminish my love for you. That's a promise you can bet your life on. 

And so we are making some changes. Are we pulling them out of school? No. Not now anyway. I believe Jen Hatmaker was right when she said something like, when we keep our kids locked away and protected at home, we are keeping them from the very world they were sent to redeem. Tough words to process, but I believe she's right. Will we ever homeschool? Yes, probably. For extended periods of time? No, probably not, but then again, who knows? Is this right for everyone? No, definitely not. This is us. This is our story.

But we will shift our schedules around to allow our big girls the space and time they need to participate in kids church at a Baptist church nearby. And we will work to plant the word of God so deeply in their hearts, souls and spirits that they are better equipped to fight the battles that I cannot fight for them, which are becoming less and less -- they are growing up, and I hate it. (Oh, if I could only be there for them all!) We will continue to have dinner together as a family because this is where we do our best work. We play games, talk about the day's high and low points, and this is where we sort through the trials of the day. This is also where I vacillate from cool, calm, collected mom, to the occasional, so-help-me mom. I'm sorry for those abrupt moments. I know they're necessary sometimes, but I could stand to work on my delivery. And I will.

So, no real answers here, only thoughts, and prayers, and a reminder that Jesus knew what He was doing when He sent us 3 girls and a boy to parent. He believed in our ability to do our very best, and we are trying. 

Is this scary? Am I at a loss? Yes. Am I giving up? Not a chance. This is good news, I suppose. It quite simply means that Jesus must be at the forefront. That the days of just getting by are tired and over. That if we hope to come out stronger and healthier on the other side we will have to hand the reigns completely over to Him. Everything with prayer and supplication. So there you have it. I'm done being afraid. I'm no good when I'm afraid. I'm weak when I'm afraid. My kids need me to be brave now more than ever. Dear girls, I will be you can be brave. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

5 Minute Friday

I found a new stranger friend who does this cool, 5-Minute Writing Friday Thing. This is mine. Where is yours? Go here to join in Lisa-Jo Baker. I think I could get into this!! Hooray for new friends.

5 minutes. No cheating. Ready, go.

The Word: Bare

How my soul felt yesterday when I stumbled onto Lisa-Jo's blog. It was a breath of fresh air for a young Mom like me always looking for sisters to come alongside me and help me navigate this ship called motherhood, daughter of the King, and wife to the most handsome, loving guy I know. And also, bare, as in the place I'd like to live all of the time. A place where walls are down, worries are situated in the backseat of my car - the one where joy is in the driver's seat and peace is her co-pilot. Bare as in not being in control of my life, but giving all control to Jesus because He's the only One who can protect my family in this big, problem laden world. Bare as in clean floors. I love clean floors. Wait. Is that an area of control? Yeah. Yeah, it is. Bare as in the slate is wiped clean. Today is a new day, and the world will open up to bless me so that I can remain bare. Bare and peaceful and clean and hopeful. I like bare!

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Confession time. My family has not been to church in a very, very long time. Well, not in the, "What church do you go to?" church sense. We've organized 24hr worship with some of the most precious people on earth for the past four years, and that's been amazing, and we attend a Wednesday worship night led by Don Potter as often as we can, but we haven't been in an actual church, like, on an actual Sunday, in a very long time. We've had church at home, complete with all the bells and whistles -- announcements done by my 7 year old, welcome and opening prayer done by my 9 year old, worship led by Josh and accompanied by the Trask circus, books of the Bible memorization song by YouTube, lesson plans done by the Internet, tending to toddlers done by the nursery staff (all of us), and crying time led by me...which leads to corporate crying...over things like orphans, or Jesus dying, or almost nothing. I'm an emotional person. I cry. I lead with tears. The little girl sheep follow. And our Senior Pastor, my husband, looks at us like he's lost complete control of his flock, but he's smiling. We sit pathetic and sobbing, huddled on the couch in our jammies, because Jesus has come, and He's awesome, and we've been wrecked. A sure sign that this Sunday will be a good day. Or whatever day we happen to gather on.

So, why am I mortified when someone asks me, "What church do you go to?" Partly because we live in the South so naturally going to church is the right thing to do, and partly because I know (to my horror) that one of my kids will blurt out, "We don't go to church," which is sometimes subsequently followed by a pointed, "We need to go to church, Mom." I'm always like, "Take me now, Jesus. These kids are total sell-outs." (Hush, child.) And then I try to explain, but it's hard. How do you say, "Yep. We don't go to church on Sunday. We stay home. We do other things in place of Sunday morning church. We aren't backslidden. We love Jesus. We are good Christian people." 

Are you buying it? It's such a hard sell. 

We are conflicted, and you're probably confused. Let me explain. We used to live for church. There was a time when we were so lovesick with programs and meetings and messages that fed our souls and spirits that we became addicted to them, and regarded the people bringing the messages like real life celebrities. Shame. We lived for a good, fiery message that pulled us out of ourselves and threw us into the heart of God, and we still do. These messages are life giving and important, but they aren't what keeps our worlds in orbit anymore. Jesus does.

Over time something has happened at our house. The person we considered our mentor (our former Pastor) became human (he always was) and had personal problems in his life to overcome. And things shifted. He moved away. We were sad, but we pressed on, still staying as amped up about church as ever, granted a little broken-hearted, but still focused. Still church meeting go-getters! And then life happened. Babies came, and then more babies came, and over time church changed for us. Church became real life. Church was in everything - diapers, sleep deprivation, bleeding hearts over the miracle of our children, sharing food with others - just ordinary real life stuff. Jesus was everywhere, and so He still is. We just simply changed. Josh stopped leading worship for a paycheck and started leading only if he felt like the Lord wanted him to do it. We prayed about everything. Where to go to church. When to go to church. Was church benefitting our entire family? IF we should go to church. IF we should continue to teach kid's church. And then, everything about being at church stopped. And I'm not sure exactly when it stopped. I only know that church still meets on Sundays and we aren't there. And it turns out, we aren't the only ones.

According to a recent message by Jen Hatmaker, 

* 3 out of 10 people in their 30's go to church in a 6-month period.
* 4 out of 10 people in their 40's go to church.
* 5 out of 10 people in their 50's go to church.
And the numbers for people in their 20's are so dismal that there aren't any good stats to quantify it.

She also talked about how 90% of church growth is either biological, meaning new births, or transfer growth (people going from one church to another). 

And then she struck a chord with me, and pointed out something that bothered me on a subconscious level, that came shooting to the surface when she said it. What about the world? Why is it an "us" and "them" paradigm? Why do we spend so much time blessing the blessed and ministering to the saved? What about the rest of the world? What about winning new believers? Where are they? She talked about how churches often respond to this problem by upping their game, adding cool coffee shops, more home groups, better phrasing, etc. -- new tactics all focused on getting people to the church campus. The idea being that if we can get them to church, we can win them. There's a lot of focus on the church building and her offerings, and seemingly very little focus on winning people to Jesus. It resonated with me. It made me sad because it's true. So true. But, guess what? Hope is not lost! It's not too late change things. Relationships with non-believers in whatever space they're in, without judging or preaching? Just loving? Making time to be in the world, to love the world? Yes.

You'll have to pop over to to hear her entire message. It's worth it.

For us, not being in church has meant changing the way we meet with Jesus. We haven't stopped meeting, we only meet with Him in different ways now, at different times, still very much a part of the church of God. We've just backed away from Sunday mornings and the unending church commitments and duties that we used to be tied to, almost to the point of suffocation. For some people Sunday mornings are essential, and for those people I say, yes! Be where you fit. Definitely. For the record, I am Pro-Church. It's just different for us. Was it the message being brought in the church that turned us off? Sure, occasionally.  But honestly I can't definitively put my finger on any one thing in particular except that I think that we (the church) have gotten way off-track from the original intent of coming together for a singleminded purpose, and for whatever reason, it's just not working for us in the traditional sense anymore, and that's the case for a lot of others as well. Much of church has become white noise to the world, which has led to "us" and "them" teams, and it makes my stomach turn. We all collectively come from one place. There is but one Creator and He loves every one of us equally, without question.

So, to answer my daughter who says, "We need to go to church Mom," I say: We do go to church. Everyday. It doesn't just have to be on Sundays under the umbrella of a certain church name. But, and this is a big BUT(!) -- we can only say that we go to church (or, rather that we are the church) if we keep doing the stuff Jesus encouraged us to do (which we have some time for now that we aren't volunteering for every program under the sun), and those things are this -- 

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.

I'll end with this. Just the other day I posted about a little boy, Matthew Robert Pierce, battling cancer on my Facebook page and asked my praying friends to pray for his healing. (This boy is precious! Please pray.) My step-sister Melissa posted a comment that almost made me cry. She wrote, "You know I'm not really the praying type, but this sweet boy has inspired me to try to learn how. I've spent countless days talking to car ceilings, shower walls, and awkwardly clasped hands asking for Matthew's miracle."

This, friends, is church. A sweet helpless boy fighting for his life has captured the hearts of thousands of people who, not knowing what else to do, are trying to touch the heart of God in order to save his sweet little life.  I bet Matthew wins more people to Jesus than any church program ever will. The Bible says, a child shall lead them. And also, love hopes all things. It really is time to love everyone. No more "us" and "them." Only "us."

I love this quote-- 
"Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late – and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work." (A.W. Tozer)

And finally, we are open to getting back to the business of Sundays in the future. This is just where we are currently. Our focus at the moment is to keep on keepin' on, find an Awanas type kids church setting for our girls, and get going on a new Bible Study with our friends. One with a structure like this: Meet every Tuesday (1st and 2nd Tuesday - Bible Study; 3rd Tuesday - Bible Study group serves community in some way as a group; 4th Tuesday - everyone stays home to do something to serve your own neighborhood). 

Please know that the goal is to know the Savior. Period. This blog is just a snapshot in time for us. Please, please, be where you fit. Do what you can. And definitely be love to the world. That's all for now.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Looky, look, look, look

The other night at dinner we were playing a game where everyone took turns thinking of a word that relates to Christmas, as we worked our way through the alphabet. When we play games at dinner time we do so in a very quiet, orderly manner, and almost no one screams, shouts, or talks over one another. Ever. We're so proper. Stop in some time and you'll see...that I'm a total liar. It's usually out-of-hand, but always so fun! We love it.  We're making memories here, folks.

When we arrived at "Z" I said, in a very mature, set-a-good-example, definitely not a 5-year-old tone, "Z is for in the number of presents I have under the tree. Ohhhh!!! Or, Z, is for Zilch." Josh and I caught eyes and simultaneously started manufacturing new jokes spun off of my Z words, all while poor Avery held her cute little head in her hands, pounding the table, racking her brain, giving anything to call forth the perfect Z Christmas word. (We aren't competitive at all.) Avery failed. I took a cheap shot. 

Zero and Zilch were honestly the only Z words I could think of, other than zebra of course, but I was hard pressed to connect zebras to Christmas, so Zero and Zilch won. Josh and I laughed because we both know the reality of our financial state at the moment, and it's honestly okay. I'd be death-bed sick if I knew there were loads of presents under the tree with my name on them that belonged to VISA. I like the alternative. It helps me sleep at night. 

Bear with me, I have a point. 

Last night I was at a worship gathering when the two singers started singing about it being Jesus' birthday. And I lost it. I started bawling. I can't quote the words of the song. I only know that the tears came when they began singing about Mary carrying a child and bringing Him into the world in conditions suitable for animals. A King born in a manger. It could be that my Mama heart broke for Mary and Jesus, and led me to uncontrollable weeping. Or, it could've been that wells and wells of gratitude and awe burst and broke, followed by fountains of snot. Or, it could be that I could somehow relate, (not in the birthing our Lord and Savior sort of way, but maybe in the misinterpreted sense). Maybe it was the culmination of a thousand things. 

At that moment I felt reminded that appearances are deceiving, sneaky and secret, (ordered by God)...and really, truly, actually awesome. What looks like poverty and hard times at our house is really just the opposite. We are building. Tirelessly (and tired-ly) pushing for a dream. Too stubborn to quit. And it's exciting!

Calling Joseph and Mary a poor, irrelevant couple, unworthy of a clean bed was actually one of the biggest misconceptions ever made. Mary brought forth the light of the world, but most everyone misunderstood the especially bright star in the sky that night, or why on earth wise men and kings would come to worship a baby lying in a manger. 

But God knew better. He knew how history would unfold. He allowed His very essence to have the most humble, dirty, unappealing (lacking every kind of bell or whistle) entrance to the world. HE PLANNED THAT. HE DID THAT. He wasn't worried. Jesus' destiny wasn't in jeopardy. Sneaky right? 

See, I've understood that our present circumstances and appearances aren't the end of the story, and last night I felt especially encouraged that something is brewing. I was past the point of being okay with the big Z words, I was actually thankful, energized and excited. And I cried the ugly, wipe my nose on my scarf cry, happy as a squirrel in an oak tree. (Is that a common analogy? Squirrel in an oak tree? I made it up. Be free to use it. Or not.)

I'll close with this, appearances are a bummer if you lay it all on the line every day for everyone to see. Where's the magic in that? Where's the testimony? How great is the prize if it's not desperately fought for, or extravagantly paid for, in one way or another? What kind of impression will remain? These questions streamed down my swollen tear stained face as I sat there feeling like the Lord just let me in on a big secret: Appearances are misleading. Deceiving. God works behind the scenes, and below the radar. I suggest saving judgements for later. And maybe even scrapping them all together. Let's do this. Let's plow the field in front of us. Let us not grow weary, for surely this is just the beginning of the beginning, or maybe even the middle, but definitely not the end. Let's be the best darn delivery truck drivers, bankers, post office workers, drum builders and stay at home Mom-ers we can be. Let's trust that if we fight the good fight, with clean hands and pure hearts that we will arrive on the other side, victorious. It's possible. It's certain. It's sneaky. Let's do what our Mom's always told us to do, and not judge a book by its cover. Remember that vision gives pain a purpose (thanks Kris Vallotton), and anything of lasting value isn't built over night. And most importantly, remember that God's too cool, too sneaky, and way too wise to wear His plans on His sleeves. If we stick with Him He's gonna make it count. It's His style. It's His plan. He orders the hard stuff. All we have to do is hang on.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Christmas has been tricky for us. Especially since my husband and I grew up with different traditions. Me, Santa. Him, baby Jesus. It's a hard season to navigate. My kids adore Christmas, and I love it too. I always have. This year, however, has been exceptionally awkward, more so than in years past.

Common question when you're a Christian: "Do you guys do Santa?" My answer, "Sort of." (Read: cop-out.) And then, "Santa only gets credit for stockings. I'm not giving him the glory for the American Girl dolls under the tree. Haha!" (Sigh.) Not even I'm convinced. And then I want to explain, but I'm not sure how to start so we usually just sort of grin and talk about the weather or some less confusing topic. And I walk away half pondering the question that I've been asked a thousand times, (Do we do Santa -- big fat question mark???), but I'm too busy with life to try to untangle the mess in my brain concerning the jolly ol' big guy so I carry on.

But, here's the deal friends - I'm getting off the boat. I just can't do it anymore. I can't skate through Christmas sort of doing something, totally unclear on why, but only because I haven't taken the time to come to a happy answer that would sit well with all of my Trask's, age 34, right down to 10 mos. I owe it to my kids to be more clear, to be more precise in my (in our) belief that the big guy in the red suit isn't better, or more appealing, (or more worthy of our adoration) than a baby in a manger who foresaw his barbaric violent death, thanks to our sin, and still said, yes. It's a hard sell to little ones, especially when the subject matter is so heavy, but I know we can do better, so we will work toward that end. Merry Christmas! Joy! Joy! :) I won't be mad if you stop reading.

I know there are a lot of ways to address this, and certainly every Christian in America varies to some degree on what's acceptable for their home and what's not, so please read this as a, "this is me, and not you" commentary, and please, for the love, don't think I will judge you for doing things differently than we do. Please don't do that. That sort of reaction makes me want to vomit. Okay? Please? I'm not saying we are right. I just can't shake the sickness in my own gut over what Christmas has become so this is my honest response.

So, last night as I'm washing dishes I blurted out, "We aren't doing Santa this year." 
My 7 and 8 year old in unison, "Whaaaat?!! Why?" 
(2-year-old and 10-month old couldn't care less.)
"Because he's not even real." (Slow down, Jenny Trask. Take it easy.) "Do you know who the real Santa was?" 
"Yes," they reply. (Josh told them that story a few years back.) They continue, "Santa's name was, St. Nicholas. He went around giving gifts to people."
"Right. So, there's a real Santa -- St. Nicholas -- and a fake Santa. It's fun pretending, but it's not why we celebrate Christmas."
"We know."
Indignation is rising. I know better than to continue, and anyway, busyness interrupts so that's the end of the conversation for now.

Here's the thing - I love tradition. I like regularity (kids do too). And I love the magical feeling that December brings, but it's all become a big tangly mess in my mind. I also really like doing fun things to make memories for our family to hold onto, and Christmastime is ripe with tradition, memory-making potential so it's fun trying to find traditions we love and ones we can carry on. This year we are scheduled to visit different countries (from home) to see how they celebrate Christmas. It's been fun so far, but guess what? Almost every country has some form of Santa Claus as part of their traditions. Religion too. But mostly some sneaky guy, creepy elf or freaky witch that comes in at night to leave something. This discovery has only stirred the pot of grossness in my guts. My fix? I boil it down to a few fun basic facts about a particular country's traditions, mostly historical, we eat fun food, and that's that. And then I realized that this is the same thing we've done in our own house. Focus on the cute parts, touch on history, eat, be merry and give gifts. I think we'll stay in America next year. Don't get me wrong, we do lots of things that celebrate Jesus, but then we throw Santa in the mix and with him comes a mess...especially since we have no chimney. :-)

This past weekend we visited Old Salem in NC, and learned how the Moravians celebrated Christmas. It was really interesting and fun. The Moravians had simple Christmas traditions, mostly because they had no money, but also because they believed in focusing on Jesus at Christmastime.  Elaborate nativity scenes were found in most every home and they were used to remind children, and everyone, that Christmas is truly a time of remembering Jesus. They also have a tradition of coming together to worship Jesus by singing over candlelight - their Christmas vigil.  The tradition began with children being given a burning candle made of beeswax which represents the purity of Jesus, and also symbolizes Him being the light of the world. The candle was wrapped with a colored band to help them remember Christ's birth, passion and wounds. As special as this history is, it felt significantly dumbed down by the town of Old Salem for the sake of commercialism and appealing to the masses. What has happened?

Christmas is losing it's magic. It's nostalgia is fading. I can't keep up and I feel like I'm suffocating. I need relief. We need Jesus.

Here's where we are headed -- 

Christmas tree - yes. I'm not getting into history here. We like the Christmas tree. It smells good. We do not worship it. It's not a paradise tree (garden of Eden reference) and when we look at it we don't think of it as being a source of redemption (Jesus hanging on a tree). We just like it. It's adorned with memories and warmth and it's not leaving.

Gifts & spending - Americans overindulge. Enough said. We're implementing this for our kids -- something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read, and something to give (all categories with a spending cap, of course), inspired by Jen Hatmaker. I'd also like to think more about giving experiences as opposed to cheap tee shirts or Black Friday Barbie dolls. (Ie. My kids will remember our trip to Old Salem better than they will remember almost every gift they will receive this year. Long after Barbie is headless, the memory of our trip to the Great Wolf Lodge will remain.) There's nothing like Christmas morning with kids. Nothing on earth. Our kids are extra blessed on Christmas morning only because we live across the country from our extended family so they have gifts from several families to open come December 25th. This is special, and we are so so so grateful, but they are not spoiled by us on Christmas. Finances won't allow it, and even if they did, I'm not sure Josh and I would allow it.

We will also continue to make gifts for teachers, friends and family when and where we can. This is fun, and oftentimes the end result is super awesome and usually something you might pay a good amount of money for, so it's a win-win.

Santa - Sorry, buddy. We will watch Polar Express and Elf because they're like any other good kids' movie -- pretend and sweet. We will also encourage our kids to hush about Santa being a big fat faker when they're at school. 
Pictures with Santa, fine. If we happen to encounter a friendly one who doesn't give me the heebie-jeebies or make our kids scream, and they want to get in on that hype, whatevs.
Mailing wish lists to Santa. Nah. It's just a set up to be let down, unless you're Donald Trump, and can (and will) buy everything on your sweet child's list. Note: Even if we could, we won't. This is the real world.
You can't have it all just for being the cutest kid on the planet. Real life doesn't work that way. Character doesn't come that way. Buying love like that is dangerous.
No more milk and cookies for Santa. Maybe we can make a special treat to leave for Daddy as a gift on Christmas Eve instead, to say thanks for providing for us all year? 
Stocking credit will now belong to us, or we might adopt my sister Andrea's idea and make them "sibling stockings," filled by each other, for each other. I like that idea a lot! 

Nativity scene - yes. We have a lovely one handmade by Josh's dad. It's precious.

Other traditions - 
* We will continue to read, The First Miracle by Jeffrey Archer on Christmas Eve Eve (we have plans with friends on Christmas Eve). 
* We will continue to pray on Christmas morning to thank Jesus for being born before a single gift is opened.
* We will write poems called, "Jesus, Because of You..." each year. No rules here. You can list words. Write sentences. Or be a rhyming machine. It will be fun to look back at our answers as the years pass by and the babies get bigger.
* We will read the Bible story of Christmas.
* We will attend Christmas functions.
* We will give to someone we don't know, in secret.
* We will bake and share our treats. We will craft. We will be merry.
* We will always love school craft Christmas presents made by our babies more than anything.
* We will probably only buy small, meaningful gifts for our extended family -- parents, nieces & nephews, and have a spending cap on our own kids' gifts.
* Josh and I rarely exchange gifts. This makes birthdays more special, and we can buy socks any old time of year. Seriously. 

Bottom line: We will simplify. We will remember Jesus. 

Kids are a bottomless pit of questions. 

Why do we get a Christmas tree at Christmas? Who were the first people to have Christmas trees? Do reindeer really fly? Jesus knew me before I was born? 

This blog is my conscious attempt at having some answers - having some black and whites where there've only been gray's. 

So, now when the question is asked, "Do you do Santa?" the answer will be, yes. We most definitely do. We try to give to the poor and sick in secret, just like he did. We try to protect the ones who are in danger of being abused, just like he did. We give without wanting. Just like St. Nicholas did, and just like Jesus wants us to do. 

Oh, you mean, do we try to get our kids to behave in December so that Santa will come? Go into huge amounts of debt so that Santa will be lifted up and glorified? No. Definitely not. If I can't get my kids to behave between my husband, Jesus and I, there's no way I'm handing the reigns over to some strange fat guy to do the job for me. No.way. Plus, I figure they'll end up in counseling eventually for being let down year after year, and never getting that one thing they asked Santa for, so we're really doing them a favor. 

We will make Christmas sparkle once again. It will be magical, and meaningful and special and joyful. It will. It will. I can feel it.

I believed in Santa when I was little. I don't think he ever disappointed me, but then again, fairy tales never disappoint, do they? Life does, however, but the disappointments are always trumped by the man I know as my King. He's the reason for the season. He's the encounter that matters to these kids He's put Josh and I in charge of. He gets Christmas. Period.