Christmas

What about Christmas?

That time of year when we reflect on the manger. The baby. CHRIST. But it has dawned on me that the manger is empty. The few who knew, who saw, who met the Messiah are long gone. Their faith though rings true even today. A baby born of a virgin. Mind-boggling! But true. A baby born to an elderly couple. Impossible! But true! Prophecy fulfilled at its best. We see the lowest of lows and the richest of rich brought to their knees because of an infant. The Holy One, who crossed time and space and met mankind where they were, because that is what we needed.

We seem to loose the mystery and awe of the birth of Christ because of familiarity and tradition. When did an old man dressed in a red suit enter God’s Word and become truth. He didn’t. Christmas is about Christ’s birth.

Have you ever pondered what it was like for Zaccherias to recieve Gabriel’s message and watch it play out before his mute mouth? What about putting yourself in Elizabeth’s shoes, think of your grandma being pregnant and nursing a baby? Those shepards had to have as many musings about what they experienced, as they were numbered. Have you traveled in your mind with Joseph and Mary across the sandy and crowded path to Bethlehem? The innkeeper missed it, don’t you wonder if he ever stopped to think about that pregnant couple he let shelter in his stable and kick himself for being inconsiderate about their needs? We tend to hold Mary up high, but have you truly seen her as a teenage girl, barely out of childhood herself, in labor with all its ugliness and pain? We usually see Joseph as noble, but have you wondered if he wasn’t just a normal husband, worried about his wife, scared and torqued because he is helpless to change the circumstances? Can’t you smile at the wiseman’s faith in the heavens, which God created, leading them to an unknown location, don’t you think those they encountered on their journey thought them to be fools? Poor Simeon usually gets forgotten in this story, picture your grandfather waiting for his true love, this was Simeon! Anna in the temple was a widow, who also gets forgotten but picture your own mother prophecying in church for years on end, you may write her off as off her rocker, huh? The dedicating priest–having you ever been slightly jealous that he got to hold Christ as a baby and not you? Have you ever seen the story through a parents eyes, watching Mary as she appears to have turned her back on all you’ve taught her? Or Joseph’s parents, who smile and cringe over his decisions and devotion regarding Mary? What if you were one of Joseph or Mary’s siblings, how would you handle those who you heard talking about your sibling, could you defend your flesh and blood? Do you know what it was like for John the Baptist to grow up knowing he was told to arrive by an angel, what kind of weight did he bear? Then you have the ordinary people in the story, those who the couple traveled with to Bethlehem, those who registered them for the census, those who boarded in the inn and kept their animals in the stable, those who were on the streets before and after Christ’s arrival, those at the temple, those on their way to Egypt: all these people were going on about their daily lives as if nothing ever happened, babies get born, they missed it, they missed Him.

We don’t know the little details like these but let Christ guide our thoughts as we ponder the Nativity and the baby who came to save the world by meeting us where we were at. Will we allow Him to meet us where we are at, as he did those many years ago? Are we willing to see Christmas through a different set of glasses, rather then the ones put forth by society or tradition? Are we will to not miss Christ, as a lot of people have in the past?

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One Year, One Life, One Soul

I never would have imagined myself to grow complacent in this thing called life. To see my life as ordinary, mundane, or even average. Yet, somehow over the last handful of years that is how I have viewed, even acted out my life. Aren’t we called to more? Hasn’t God put us here for a greater purpose?

If you have known me for any length of time, you know that having a family was not on my 10 year goal list when I was in high school or the years that followed. With that said neither was God. When God got ahold of me and opened my eyes to His hand of grace and mercy in my life; when He called me to acknowledge my sinfulness and the truth of His love and His Son, that all changed. My priorities switched and God’s will became mine and I longed for a family, children of my own. He has blessed me abundantly above more than I could ever have asked (2 Corinthians 9:8). Though I know that with my head, some days my heart fails to grasp that truth. The very truth that is interwoven through my entire day, I am blessed with this quiverful (Psalm 127:5). I am called to love them, nurture them and raise them in the truth of our Lord. Why is that so hard to remember? Why can’t I allow that calling on my life to hit home and motivate me to greater things?

Then it happens-that one event, that one moment that puts you in your place and the brevity of life is realized. All of the sudden this passel running circles around me faster than I can blink, isn’t a burden but a blessing. All of the sudden the life with in me is a fragile piece of china, begging to be handled with care, because it is fragile. In that moment, life stands still, priorities are rearranged, and I realize how “everyday” my life has become.

That moment…That event that woke me up….April 25,2014 and the life and sudden death of my nephew Zayden Rufus…Why? Because I too was carrying a child. They were suppose to be born within weeks of each other. My hidden hope, days within each other. They were to be close in age and prayerfully close friends as well. And though I never met him, Zayden left an amazing impact on my heart. My life now has this amazing void that no one can fill. It may be trivial to some but Zayden lived and he died. I was left terrified for my own baby. All of the sudden pregnancy became a high and holy calling and not something to take for granted. My life will never be the same because of Zayden.

With each new milestone my heart has ached for what my in-laws are missing out on. My thoughts wander to where Zayden would be in his development. Would he have started to roll the same time as my baby? Would he be cutting teeth now? Would he be walking yet or content to let his siblings carry him around? For once in this parenting thing, I don’t think about me and my children. I have this daily reminder of a life lost, a soul so precious to God that He needed him more than we did. My daily reminder begs me to pray, calls me to cry, longs to hold those whose lives are missing their son and brother. My daily reminder keeps me heaven focused, life focused and other focused. Because with each milestone my baby makes and I rejoice (though I ponder where Zayden would be too) I wonder more about how Zayden’s parents are? Is his month-iversary anguish or sweet this time around? Are they awake at night wishing he was in their arms needing to be held? Are his siblings missing teaching him to walk? Are they silently aching because they want to be strong for mom and dad?

You see Zayden left me with more questions than I already have as a mom and relative. Zayden called me to Jesus’ heart. His heart for the hurting and grieving. His heart for the never answered what ifs, whys, and hows. Because of Zayden, pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) has taken on a whole new life. I am not just caught up in my thoughts of where Zayden would be, but driven to pray for his parents, his siblings and the ministry he was (and is) a part of. Because of this one life, I have been called to pray and remember.

Life isn’t fair. God never meant it to be. I have had my eyes opened up to the pain that many of our friends have endured. I can’t see an article come across my facebook feed about abortion, adoption, foster care or miscarriage without getting teary eyed and feeling a hint of frustration for what could have been. Through Zayden I have learned that life matters. I knew that before but now it has a face, a name, a life, meaning. Somehow their loss awakened within me a piece of God’s heart I refused to allow be seen, and that is scary. Why do we stuff those feelings God wants us to have? Those feelings that show us who He is? Those feelings that deepen our relationship with Him and remind us of our dependency on Him?

Unborn babies are children, they are loved and waited for. Their parents have dreams for them, hopes for their futures, ponderings that only a parents heart can entertain. These children aren’t a burden, they are a gift. Each milestone is a major accomplishment, it is one more step into becoming fully God’s creation for His glory. What have I learned over one year?

Each child is knit in their mother’s womb (Psalm 139:14). God has called each of us before we were born. He numbered our days before we were born. He knows every detail about us hidden or seen. I have learned that I need to hold my children tighter, tell them they are loved, let them see me cry, let them hear me pray, rejoice in the big and small victories of childhood, because believe it or not they won’t always be this small. I won’t always be picking up socks off the floor or scattered magnets or wiping noses or pushing swings. I now know that in the blink of an eye things could change and I won’t have these moments. What has one year, one life, one soul meant to me? More than any words written on this page. More than the numerous tears I have cried for what could have been. One year has awakened a piece of God’s heart in my own that I don’t want to let go dormant again. I don’t want Zayden to be forgotten. I don’t want any lost child to be forgotten because they lived. They touched lives. They brought a piece of heaven down to earth and showed us a small part of God.

One Year, One Life, One Soul…..may God help me to hold onto these lessons and help me learn more through the life and in the memory of my nephew Zayden Rufus Ebersole. It is a happy birthday for him, spent celebrating with Jesus.

Beef Barley Stew

I have been told time and again that not following recipes or making up my own and not writing them down will bite me some day. Well, it did. Last year I froze a bunch of beef stew and gave it as meals to friends who needed a little extra help. At least two of them asked for my recipe. What was I going to do? I never use a recipe for it. So I humbled myself and let them know that I didn’t have a recipe but I would be willing to show them how I do it usually. So here we go….

In the morning I start soaking barley and lentils in hot water and some salt. This sits on my counter until I am ready to begin the stew.

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When I am ready to start the stew I begin with some left over beef roasts I have frozen. I usually let these sit out to thaw before cooking begins. This is an awesome way to start the stew. The meat and stock already have some kind of seasoning, depending on what kind of beef roast you did.

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After I have the beef roasts dumped in to the pot and starting to cook down I dump the soaked beans, water and all into the pot with them.

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Next step is adding some beef broth for some extra flavor and liquid.

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Here is where it gets tricky. Besides not knowing the seasonings I used on the roasts, I don’t measure these ingredients but these are the ones I use to flavor the stew.

Worcestershire Sauce, Marjoram, Ground Mustard, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Cinnamon, Franks Hot Sauce, Paparika

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Once all the flavorings are added stir and let simmer down and flavors blend.

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Next add vegetables. The roasts had some potatoes and onions in them so we just decided to add carrots this round. But I have been known to add green beans, soybeans, lima beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery and/ or any of these combinations. Use your judgment and family preferences.

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Simmer until vegetables are cooked and the family is ready to eat. Hope that helps some. We love to freeze this if there are any leftovers. Lately there hasn’t been any seeing that we have two growing boys and two growing girls with hearty appetites. 🙂

ENJOY!!!!!!!

Of Mom’s and Angel’s

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I refuse to let myself complain about being a mom. I have numerous friends and acquaintances who either struggle with infertility, foster or adopt. To say I am richly blessed by my 5 littles is an understatement. I love them. Yes days get hard and I need God’s grace more then ever, then there are the days that are peaceful, like dandelion fluff floating by. Each day has its own challenges and blessings. And the longer I am a mom the more I believe that God grants numerous angels to both the children and the mom. Where would we be without these heavenly beings protecting all of us from unseen harm or calamity? I have seen it more then once around our house. I am pretty sure each of our children have been held onto tightly by heavenly hands when they should have been hurt.

The more I am a parent the more I realize how much these wee-ones need to be bathed in prayer. They need to see us praying for them, they need to be told they are loved, they need to see that their Heavenly Father loves them. I am a slow learner. I have been told time and again time flies with raising children. More keenly then ever I am aware of this. In one short week I will have an 8 year old. Ack! How did that happen? Almost half his time with us is gone. Also with having an unexpected hospital stay last week and a scary interaction in our neighborhood for one of our children. I am again put on my toes, grateful for each new day with them, for each personality, for each strong will, for each skipped heart beat, for each disobedient act, for each hug and kiss, for each tear, for each struggle and so much more.

I am convinced we all survive our childhoods one because of the many angels that surround us and two because of the moms that pour many silent prayers over us day in and day out. I don’t claim that I do this enough. I don’t think we can ever bath our children in enough prayers.

Of moms and angels….. what more needs to be said? These heavenly beings are instruments of our Father, given charge to watch over us and keep us….We may not see them but they are there….drawing us closer to God through their protecting hands….If God cares about us sooo much to have angels watch over us and protect us…..Then we need to do our jobs and watch over and protect the little ones He has placed in our charge, as well.

 

The Unexpected

Life has been crazy to say the least. Lots of twists and turns, trials, changes, let downs, questions and so forth.

But we wouldn’t be continually growing, we wouldn’t have a cause to draw closer to our Lord if it weren’t for such “disturbances”.

Are they really disturbances? I am a type A person. I like things in order, logical, explainable, routine, predictable. I have learned that when MY plans get disrupted or changed I feel like I am in a spiral spinning fast out of control. But then I am left wondering who am I to be in control. It’s not for me to be in control, not now not never. That’s God’s job. He is the creator, author, finisher. He sees the chaos (or so I feel that’s what it is.) He knows my heart longings, my desires, my confusion. He meets me where I am at, even on days when praying is hard.

These testing and trials are only momentary. I know they are meant for growth and a deeper relationship. But what my heart says and what my head say are conflicting. Where is my trust? Am I adult enough to trust in My God to work it all out for good?

In the past two weeks our plans have been disrupted, faced with tons of unknowns, left confused, asked tons of questions, seen loss, cried numerous tears, felt heartbreak for numerous reasons. But with all that we have also seen God’s faithfulness in things not being worse, His protection, His provision, His love and care, we have felt His peace, rested in His comfort, and laid a lot at His feet. He is ever present, even in hard and trying times. Why does it take highly emotional and unexpected things to bring us to the ultimate point of yielding and surrendering to our Savior and His plans for us?

Do I want to repeat these past weeks? No. Do I wish them on anyone? Never. Do I understand them? Not really. Am I willing to seek God and learn from what He is trying to teach us through it all? Yes. Am I willing to lay my desires at His feet? Yes.

These past two weeks have reinforced the truths I hold dear about my Lord.

I was reminded of this song I was taught when I went to Nigeria.

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In English it reads—

I must go with Jesus anywhere

No matter the roughness of the road

I must go, I must go

It doesn’t say I will go, I may go, I might go….It says I MUST go. “When God calls us to it, He will bring us through it.” As a child of the King, we are obligated to go where He calls us to, go through what He has laid before us and to seek Him in the process. So despite the aching we are feeling now, we know it’s only temporary. How great is our God to love us through good and bad, easy and hard? May we continue to feel Him close no matter what we are going through.

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

“Let us love without hypocrisy, abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, perservering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:9-15 NASB

There are some who say this is impossible to live by. A lot of people know this verse but how many of us are challenged to live it out day by day. I must say I struggled with it. It seems too much to do, almost, unattainable. But God would not have put it in His word had He not intended for us to strive for the excellence that it calls us to.

Romans is my favorite book of the Bible. It was the book that pointed me to Christ himself as I searched for the answers of life and living. Romans has lifted my spirits in hard times, clarified life issues, solidified my calling to be His child, and so much more. It is such an important book that my husband and I choose to take the scripture above and base our wedding vows off of it.

I never thought moments would come into our lives where we would refer to these vows and use them to steer us back to the right track. The right frame of thinking. It shouldn’t surprise me. Vows are Holy, they are serious, they are a covenant between you and God. Why shouldn’t we be striving to live by them day in and out? We strive to live by our baptism vows each and everyday. How come we tend to grow complacent to our wedding vows?

We have personally come through some very trying days (not because of each other but by others who sought to cause stress and harm), but you know what; God is at work. Whether the people who have hurt us realize it or not, they are instruments of God. His hand is working, writing our story, shaping our lives. This situation has provided for some sound scriptural teachings to our children. It provided the opportunity for us to show them that we get hurt to, and that its okay to cry. It has shown these children that even in hard and trying times, we can respond with Christ’s love and feel a peace that only God can give. Are we still sad? Yes. Are we hurt? Yes. Are we going to allow this to make us bitter? No. Are we going to forgive? Yes. Is forgiveness hard? Yes.

As I work through all that has happened. As my husband and I have talked and processed our thoughts and feelings regarding the past week. I am struck by an odd sense of peace. Really I shouldn’t say odd. God grants us “peace that passes understanding” (Phillipians 4:7)  as often as we seek it and need it. I find myself having pity on those who wronged us. I find myself challenged to define firmly my world view. I am finding an assurance that this trial is bigger then us. I rest knowing that God truly is in control. I smile knowing that our lives rub shoulders with Christians and non-Christians alike, and both are watching to see how we handle being wronged and how we respond. Christ calls us to be peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9) , I am challenged once again to be just that for those whom we may be the only Christians in their lives.

God never promised us an easy road, but He has promised to help us along the way (1 Cor. 10:13). We would  never choose to learn these lessons the hard way but God saw it fit, to ordain a situation that will bring glory to Him in the long run. May we always be vigilant for moments to draw us closer to Him and to see Him in action.

Letting Go!

This has been a post in the makings of my mind for over a month now. It’s amazing that no matter how many times you sit in front of the screen, something that is so dear to your heart just won’t come to words, so the screen has been blank but my mind full. Today I am attempting again, feeling inspired and renewed.

Childhood…This period of time that only spans for a few short years in lieu of a lifetime. A series of years filled with awe and wonder, growth and curiosity, hope and trust. Childhood…What do you remember about it? Your friends, the games you played, the toys you had, the adventures you had (even if they were only in your imagination).

This topic of childhood has fascinated me since we started schooling our boys last year. I have moments where I feel an overwhelming guilt for the things their going to miss out on. I crave to pack lunches and write notes on napkins. I long for them to be able to dig deep into the depths of their memories as adults and walk back through the school in their minds and remember how big everything seemed. I ache for them to have that one teacher who made all the difference in their education. It may seem silly but these things, though they were insignificant as a child, seem real and important to me now as a mom. Are my kids missing out?

The age-old question every parent wrestles with, whether homeschooler, public or private schooler, we each have our questions and doubts about what is best for our children. What will they experience? Some say homeschoolers are sheltered and unsocial. I am realizing how untrue this statement is. My children are getting some similar opportunities as those who go away. And though I may not be packing lunches everyday, hearing the horrible jokes that another student taught them, or even going to parent teacher conferences; I am going to be that one teacher that changes who they are.

Today, we embarked on a new step in this parenting and childhood area. (This year we joined a homeschool group.) My boys, went away with other mothers and students on a field trip (4 to be precise). And though they aren’t back yet. I am feeling my heartstrings pang. Pang with excitement, nervousness, praise, fear, hope, and more. I rest in knowing they are in good hands with friends they have grown to enjoy. I am nervous not knowing how they will behave away from me. But this is all a part of parenting. I need to give them wings to fly. Yes it may only be a field trip, today, but tomorrow it may be something bigger, more daring, are we ready for it? Today will show if we can give a little more freedom to grow, or if we need to do more training before we try again. And you know what. I got to pack lunches, draw cool pictures on their bags, write on their napkins, and my husband got to make them apple puzzles. Who needs a formal school setting to have similar experiences? We need to be open and alert to those opportunities before us. Each new day offers us choices. Will we see them?

So today, I relinquish my hearts longings for my kids to experience similar things as I did and I rest in knowing that God has their story planned out and it is far more amazing than I could ever imagine.

Oh to be a child again.

“Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Luke 18:16-17 NASB