Posts by Jennifer Wells

Jennifer is a client-facing, detail-oriented graphics/video producer who assists companies with their corporate and association events. Calm under pressure, she handles various stages of production including production management, content management, video editing, animation creation, graphic creation/operation, and stage management. She has worked in the Events Industry since 2003.

“The Safety Talk”

DangerCautionIt is back to school time, and I am starting to prepare my girls for school – my 6-year-old for first grade and my 4-year-old for her last year of pre-K. Part of our routine is a basic safety talk that I try to casually incorporate into our daily life every few months. This morning I read this blog about guarding kids from pornography exposure, and it reminded me how important open lines of communication are with our children. It is our job to guard their little hearts, minds, and bodies. So I thought I’d post what I say in our safety talk to start the conversation and maybe some of you can share how your family communicates to protect your children.

The Safety Talk

I always start by making sure the conversation is casual, positive, and straightforward. I let the girls know many times during the talk that they can ask any question they want as we go. Here is what we cover:

1. We review the proper names for each part of their bodies, and talk about how our body is our own property. In our family we began using informal names for body parts when they were little, but we have been slowly transitioning to the correct anatomical terms for each part as they’ve gotten older. So sometimes there is giggling when we talk about the vagina, penis, and anus, but we want the girls to know and use the proper terms for each body part. Research has shown that pedophiles typically use pet names for genitalia, and as our children grow older we can teach them to be alert to manipulation and grooming by a potential predator, as well as we will notice if they suddenly change what they are calling their body parts.

2. We talk about the difference between boys’ bodies and girls’ bodies. Sometimes this can get derailed, as can any conversation with a 4 and 6-year-old, and I just keep it light. I am trying here to establish open lines of communication, even about potentially embarrassing topics, to get them to come to me with questions instead of going to Google or to friends.

3. We discuss what to do if someone tries to touch our bodies or make us touch theirs (say no loudly, try to get away, immediately tell a safe adult). We discuss that nobody has the right to touch our bodies unless it is mommy or a doctor, and then only if something is wrong and if they give permission. As they get older, obviously this will transition to include the Sex Talk.

4. We discuss what to do if an adult tries to show us their body or look at our body (say no loudly, try to get away, immediately tell a safe adult). We gear this specifically to deal with adults, just to prevent them from yelling “danger!” in the girls bathroom at school. (As a funny aside, I asked my 4-year-old what to do if an adult tries to show her his penis, and she said, very seriously, “We tell Jesus.” I laughed and said, “Yes, we do tell Jesus, on our way as we run to tell a safe adult!”)  We also discuss what to do if a friend or neighbor asks us to pull down our panties or to show our panties (one of my daughters has already been asked this by a neighbor, and I was surprised when talking to friends to find out how common this is, which prompted this addition to the safety talk). I am not wanting to develop shame about their bodies, but I want to teach them privacy, empower them to say no, and let them know that they have control over their own body.

5. We discuss how to recognize safe adults. I tell them that in a store or at church, a safe adult is usually someone like a mother with children, a police officer, or an adult woman they trust. Instead of teaching “stranger danger” we try to empower them to find and utilize safe adults when necessary. We practice confidently telling an adult what just happened and what we need. Our goal here is to give our kids a voice and teach them to speak up for themselves.

6. We also talk about unsafe adults. We define unsafe adults as people who tell them to keep a secret from mommy and daddy, people who make them feel uncomfortable or who treat them in a strange way, or people who try to isolate them from the group. We teach them to never go anywhere alone with an adult unless mommy and daddy have given permission and are fully aware of where they are at all times. Our goal is to develop in our children discernment, not fear. A Facebook commenter talked about how her family uses a passphrase to help her kids know when someone is picking them up that they weren’t expecting, which I thought was a great idea. Her comment reminded me of another thing I tell my children, that I will never send anyone to pick you up who you do not know, so if someone tries to tell you that – they are lying.

7. We discuss basic emergency procedures. They love this part. I let them practice calling 911 on my phone and they know how to use our alarm system at home to summon the police and fire department. I have them practice what they would say to the person who answers, including reciting their name, our address, and mommy and daddy’s name. We practice how to call their dad and their grandmother in an emergency if something is wrong and I am not able to help them.

This talk will get more complex as they grow older, and especially so once they begin to utilize social media and the internet. If your children are already there, here is one resource I have found and here is a blog I thought was very compelling about social media dangers for children. Jen Wilkin also wrote a great blog about talking to our kids about bad words they have heard, opening the door to them discussing these things with us and not other people. Again our goal with these talks is two-fold: give them information to keep them safe, and open up honest fearless communication so that they will always come to us first, not last.

Nothing can fully protect children from predators, but with open communication, knowledgable kids, and a ton of prayer, I feel more confident sending my babies into the world. What do you experienced parents have to add to this list?

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in His commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Psalm 112:1-2

Lucy

Forgive me for being a little late writing this – the new baby haze is no joke. But we would like to introduce you to our new little girl, Lucy Taylor.

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We named Lucy after one of my favorite characters in literature, Lucy Pevensie, the little girl who walked through the wardrobe into Narnia and eventually became Queen Lucy the Valiant in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. Lucy was the first to recognize Aslan and faithfully follow his lead, and the person who most fervently believed in the good in people around her. It is our prayer that our Lucy will follow after Christ with that kind of sensitivity, passion, and devotion. Her name means light – and already this little girl has lit up our world.

“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger”.” ― C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia

We are very blessed, and very happy, to introduce her. Thank you for your prayers and your love, especially the last few weeks of my pregnancy when I was sick. We have been showered in every way – with prayers, gifts, meals, encouraging messages and visits. We are so grateful for the family and friends the Lord has given us who show us community and love.

Lucy is the easiest baby – she has a calm sweet demeanor, rarely cries, and doesn’t seem phased by the three-ring circus that is life at the Wells house. She fits in so well! The girls (and even the dog) adore her and race each other to meet her every need – and Justin and I are absolutely captivated. We basically sit around all day holding her and telling each other how beautiful she is and how much we love her – and we don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Lucy is, like Grace and Rebekah, tangible evidence of God’s grace to us and we are so thankful for her.

For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. 1 Samuel 1:27

The Life Free of Disappointment

Sometimes in our world there is news or a circumstance that breaks through the cloud of Christian clichés that give us an illusory sense of control over our life. Do you know what clichés I mean? We’ve all heard them. Someone puts their house up for sale, and it sells immediately, and someone posts “That’s God’s favor, right there!” Or the guy speaks up at community group about how every time they give to the Lord, money just appears out of nowhere.

And I always think, “That’s great, but that’s just not how it goes for us.” In fact, lately, as I look around, many of our friends are in this place with us of trusting God despite great disappointment and amidst the carnage of broken dreams.

  • What do we do when the miracle we hoped for, prayed for, and desperately needed, missed the deadline?
  • When the adoption we knew we were called to falls through, leaving us devastated with an empty nursery?
  • When we feel called to be a wife or a husband, but the years of waiting for a partner has made our hope weak?
  • When we find out that the parent who is the glue that holds our family together has a body racked with inoperable cancer?
  • When the money we needed to make the payment doesn’t show up?
  • When the path we know God told us to take leads us into a valley deeper than anything we’ve ever known?
  • When month after month after month our body betrays us and the baby that we hoped for isn’t there, and we feel broken and forgotten?

Where do we go when life is real and tough and the clichés and “what you give, you get” faith doesn’t pan out? This week I, along with the rest of the world, have watched Rick and Kay Warren face every parent’s nightmare scenario. We all know the fear that we will lose our child, and it is hard to even imagine that these righteous wonderful people are now facing the aftermath of the suicide of their youngest son after his lifelong struggle with depression. I am broken for them.

These earthly realities, and the Warrens’ pain, confronts us with the simple terrible truth that sometimes, in this world, the miracle we need doesn’t happen.

 

What do we do with that?

I think we have no choice, in these places of brokenness and desperation, but to force ourselves to look up to the Lord and look ahead to the next world. To say, with abandon, this place is not our home and the circumstances I see now are not the whole picture. To allow ourselves time and space sometimes to grieve. To cry out in justifiable anger and fear and disappointment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Because, just as the Lord not only allowed but ordained his Son to die on a cross in this world, to achieve a greater good in the world to come, unimaginable sorrow and pain is sometimes allowed in our lives in this world to achieve a greater good in the world to come. And we don’t always get the luxury of understanding why.

The healing we hoped for comes in the next world, leaving only devastation in this one. The investments we are making are in the next world, leaving debt and insecurity in this world. The children we want to carry in our wombs and fill our homes in this world are sent instead to heaven, where we will someday hold them (and hopefully understand). The path we are on will sometimes take us into pain and loss in this world, to reap a harvest of joy and righteousness in the next world.

We do have hope for a future, because of Christ (and for that I am so grateful), but sometimes we need to release our desire to see that hope realized in this world. Because the simple fact is, sometimes it isn’t.

I think that is the hard lesson of the Warrens. They will see their son again. He will be whole, at peace. They will be reunited. But everyday until then, as they walk this earth, they walk it with the weight of grief. And may God help them, and us, to bear that weight well until they can say, with their Savior, “It is finished.”

And then the life free of disappointment will begin.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

Until then, we “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15) and we “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). And we stop with the ridiculous unhelpful Christian clichés that do nothing but add weight onto our brothers and sisters who are bearing burdens.

 

The Lonely Hard Road of Motherhood

Can we all just be honest that this motherhood thing is tough? I’m pregnant, and I’m pretty unfiltered, so buckle up because I have many feelings about it.

Yesterday I read this post on my friend Kristen’s blog, “For When the Mother In You is Desperate,” and the post was great, but the responses stopped me in my tracks. Mom after mom after mom poured out her heart in the comments about how desperate and overwhelmed she felt, and how alone she felt in that place of desperation, like she was failing on a desert island. Woman after woman shared how much she needed grace.

And boy do I relate.

Yesterday my oldest child snuck into Valentine’s candy and ate it all in her closet before 7 am, and in a sugar craze then made huge messes in room after room after room in our house throughout the day every time I turned my back. I spoke harshly to her many times yesterday, which made me feel small and horrible. This morning I spent almost an hour cleaning up glass from the Christmas lights that she unstrung and broke in our backyard (because she wanted colored lights, not white ones) during the 20 minutes I sent her outside to give each of us a small break.

Exhausting.

And although I know, rationally, that the sugar played a huge role, and that these things are her expressing natural creativity and curiosity and I am proud of her and I truly think someday God has great plans for her as a creative artist, I do look at her sometimes and think “how utterly I am failing at this.”

A good friend one time asked me why, when our children rebel or disobey, us moms tend to feel like it is our failing and not just our children’s. And I didn’t know the answer to his question. But I do know that is how it feels. And even as moms, when we see other children rebel, we do tend to blame the parents, don’t we, if we’re truly honest? We forget the sin nature and the curiosity and the immature self-regulation and the power of impulse and instead we just feel like the worst mom in the world. We are so quick to judge, and so slow to give ourselves, and other moms, grace.

What a terrible tactic of our enemy. He lays the blame trap, and so often we fall into it. May God help us to see as He sees and avoid this trap. We need to know that we aren’t failing and that our children are just growing and learning, and that just because this is hard doesn’t mean we are bad at it. We need God to help us see the grace that is ours.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 4

Courtesy graceformoms.com

And to compound this problem, it’s hard to know where to go with these feelings, because it is lonely being a mom. Which is another tactic of our enemy. Isolate and destroy. Isolate and destroy. It’s been his battle plan since the beginning. And he is good at isolating moms of young children.

My friends with children who understand where I live are themselves too overwhelmed to do much more than check in occasionally, and my friends without children have their own busy lives and although they try so hard, the world we live in with young children is hard to comprehend. True friendship is hard to maintain when you are the mom of young children – and it is a season of life where I think we may need friends the most. True friends give perspective when we have lost our ability to see the bigger picture. Thank God most of us have those friends who you can see or hear from once every three weeks and still pick up where you left off, but the hours and days and weeks between significant adult interaction can sometimes spread out before you in an overwhelming chasm.

And social media, although it seems it would help with this problem, just isn’t sufficient to fill that void and I think may even exasperate the problem. I think sometimes we post the fun stuff, because we don’t want to appear crazy and put out there all of the bad feelings, so we fake each other out so we don’t reach out and we don’t know what is on the heart of our friends. We are connected virtually but alone relationally. It’s a bastardization of the true community that we need as humans to grow and thrive, so false and yet what we have settled for. Maybe even what we’ve been deceived to settle for.

And lately, the whole thing has had me on my knees. Justin and I are talking through what to do about the difficulty of parenting and the isolation in the midst of it, and thankfully he understands and relates and takes my feelings and needs seriously. Because I am more needy than usual. I feel lonely and overwhelmed. I want to battle it all – but when we are tired it is hard to battle. So together we are working through what to do with all of it.

  • First of all, I deactivated Facebook for lent to force me to have real interactions with people I love and not settle for the social media fake-out. And in those relationships – I’m trying hard to be real and transparent.
  • Second, Justin and I are trying to talk to each other more about deep things we feel and about our struggles with faith everyday, making sure we connect over more than TV shows and work updates.
  • Third, we’re trying to have more people over into our house and visit the homes of people we love. In-person interactions are truly the best community.
  • And fourth, I’m trying to call or text friends to see how life really is beyond the mask of social media and momentary interactions at church on Sundays, especially when the Lord lays them on my heart.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9-10

For all of you friends who feel unsettled and alone, I guess I just want to say “me too” and I’m sorry you feel that way. For my offline friends, I am sorry for my part in any relationship that is all surface and no substance. I am working on being refined in this area and truly praying for a revival in the relationships in our life. Because we need each other, especially in this season of life. Because we aren’t failing. This is just hard. It is a season, and it will end someday, and for now we just need to keep working, keep trying, stay humble and loving to our kids when we can, and take a break when we can’t. We need naps and date nights and occasional ugly cries and texting each other the terrible things we think when we are just too tired to fake it anymore. We need the grace and perspective that true community brings. We need new mercy each day. We need more grace than we even know how to ask for.

So what do you think? What has the Lord shown you as a trick to maintain relationships when times get tough and schedules are insane? How do you keep a wise perspective on parenting and avoid the “blame” trap the enemy sets for us? Any wisdom for us overwhelmed moms?

Taking Back What the Enemy Has Stolen

The other night I woke up from a really disturbing dream. There is a relationship in my life where there has been confusion, miscommunication, and heartache for a long time. I was trying to talk to this person and reconcile and repeatedly they were walking away from me. As is often the case in dreams, emotions were heightened to an unrealistic level, and I was incredibly emotional as I tried to right this wrong that has bothered me for many many months. I woke up shaken from the hurt and pain of the dream.

And in those moments of clarity in the dark of night when there is nothing to distract me from the reality of the battles I face, I realized something. The pain and heartache of that broken relationship was real. I was just not numbed to it in my dream like I often am in the busy-ness of daily life.

Suddenly in those moments of clarity, I saw my life as a series of battlefields, stretching around me as far as my eye could see. And I saw the scarring on those battlefields – the evidence of great loss and pain. I saw, in relationships all around me, that the enemy has slowly, quietly, and subtly taken ground and pushed me back. I saw that I was losing many battles at once.

And I saw that everyday I am numb to it.

I started praying – asking the Lord for the courage to fight back, to retake ground, to recognize the amount the enemy has taken from me in my daily hectic life, and to claim the victory that is mine. I saw scene after scene of sin and decay in my relationships and in my life. It was a slideshow of burned up ground.

I was humbled and shocked and yet grateful that all of this was being revealed to me. It felt empowering, like victory could be in my grasp. But first I had to see where I was currently losing the battle.

  • I saw the areas in my life of insecurity and the pieces of my identity that I have handed over to something other than the love of the Lord, that are areas of territory that the enemy has taken. My identity and security should be in Christ and Christ alone.
  • I saw the areas in our marriage that are weak, where we aren’t giving our all. Where we take each other for granted and ignore the most basic commandments about marriage that God has given us: for me, respect, and for Justin, love. I saw the time we should be spending in prayer and Bible study growing together taking our struggles to the King who created us, and instead we are watching a mindless TV show each on our electronic devices, barely even sharing time together, because we are just too tired to try. I saw burned up territory in our marriage, and that ground has been taken and we need to take it back.
  • I saw the areas in my parenting where I am harsh and short and altogether unloving, modeling exactly the opposite of who God is to the precious children he has given me and who will suffer in their view of God because of my behavior. I saw the time we need to spend with our children studying the Bible and learning together how to love Him with all our hearts, that we don’t because of dinner and homework and bathtime and the messy house. That is ground that has been taken and I need to take it back.
  • I saw the friendships that have devolved from loving relationships of mutual accountability and knowing the battles each other are fighting, to surface check-ins often over social media that are shallow and barren and not Biblical community. If I sometimes feel like I am drowning and alone, surely my friends feel the same way, and yet I’m not close enough to notice. That is ground the enemy has taken and we need to take it back.
  • I saw the extended family relationships that have been terribly broken for a long time, and for the first time in a long time, I desired to do my part to bridge that gap because I saw that this struggle is not just between flesh and blood, but the enemy has been playing us behind the scenes.
  • I saw the focus on and dependence on financial security I still struggle with as defining our health and blessing, when I know that all we have is the Lord’s and that He holds our days in His hands, and that He always has provided. That is territory that belongs to the Lord that I have given over to the enemy, and it does not belong to Him.

There was a lot of scarred ground. I spent a long time confessing and laying my heart bare before God that night. I had already been praying about lent.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to give up to help me remember the sacrifice of the God who gave His life for a sinful selfish person like me, and I think my prayer was answered in this dream and the aftermath. I think I am going to give up giving up ground. I am going to do what it takes to seek healing and restoration in these broken areas of my life. Whether that is praying or confessing, reading or seeking mentoring relationships or falling on my knees and crying out to the God who made me and knows my weakness, I am going to stop ignoring the battle raging around me and letting the enemy take over areas of my life where he has no claim to victory.

I am my Father’s daughter, and because of Him, and because of Easter, I have victory. This lent I am going to fight hard to remember that. Care to join me? Are there areas of your life where you have ceded ground and you need to start taking it back?

Talking Ourselves Out of Being Flawsome

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our happiness. Stephen Covey

We are all pretty smart people. God gave us brilliant brains that operate simultaneously on many different levels. We have a thought life, and a personality, and a personal history, we have areas of strength, and areas we feel insecure about, and all of those thoughts result in words, actions, and eventual consequences for those around us. Most of the time the areas of our mind work together to make us sensitive and smart and caring toward the feelings of others.

But occasionally, our actions or our personality can hurt someone around us, damaging a relationship. Or we can feel a sense of conviction about an area of our life that maybe needs improvement, correction, or healing. Someone may even confront us about something that we don’t ourselves see, but as they are speaking, something in our spirit agrees that yes, maybe our actions could be construed a certain way that could be hurtful.

And that is a big important moment in our lives. That is the space Covey described above.

When we are convicted, or realize we’ve hurt someone, or are confronted, it stings. Suddenly we feel tattooed with the scarlet “flaw” and we feel exposed to the world. There is no part of that process that is fun or feels good. And we have this very natural defense mechanism that kicks into high gear when this discomfort of conviction or hurting someone happens. Suddenly our brain rushes to our defense. Our rationalization and reasoning and sense of self-preservation are churning in our minds, minimizing the damage we’ve done and shifting the blame to others. And it is quick and subconscious and completely natural to us as humans (a perfect example is Adam and Eve when they hid their nakedness in the garden and blamed someone else for them eating the apple). We may even have friends or family members who also jump to our defense, ready to do battle with not only our own convictions but with anyone who implies we aren’t perfect, ready to take anyone on who questions our motives. Because in our world, our Christian hard-working world, although we know how dependent we are on grace, it is still hard to admit and deal with flaws and sin in ourselves or people we love.

So there are a cacophony of voices in that important moment of choice. There is the discomfort of conviction. There is the loud insistent voice of defense. There is the voice of embarrassment or shame. There is the stranger in our head of another person’s perspective. There is our anger at being exposed or confronted.

And, if we will stop and listen to it, there is the quiet whisper of our Father.

He is HARD to hear in that moment. I would say, in my life, I have stopped and listened to his voice before reacting maybe 15% of the time. The rest of the time? I have gone off full-bore while listening to one of the other voices. His voice speaks, but is hard to hear in that moment not just because it is quiet but because most of the time, in fact in my case always, He is going to say what I don’t want to hear. He is going to call us to “die to ourselves” and to “take up our cross” and to “turn the other cheek” and to “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord.”

And let’s be honest. We much prefer the scenario where the other person is just “too sensitive” or the standard is “impossibly high” or we just had a “moment of weakness,” where we can shrug our shoulders and say “we’re human and we’ve done our best” and we can go on, unchanged but fully justified in our reasoning.

2017

Image courtesy wearealight.com

But when we listen to His voice, his quiet voice, something amazing happens. I worked with a speaker last week who talked about being “flawsome” (and can I tell you how much I love that word?). He said in our failures, there is always an opportunity to grow, and if we could learn to “fail forward,” learning and growing as we fail fearlessly, we could transform ourselves, and our relationships, to where we are truly living a healthy, flawsome life.

It’s comforting to convince yourself that your biggest problems are outside you; the problem is, it’s not true, and for this you need grace. Paul David Tripp

So how do we turn the uncomfortable moment of conviction into the flawsome life? How do we silence the loud voices of rationalization and hear the quiet voice of Jesus calling us to confess sin? How do we go from feeling crummy and flawed to feeling flawsome? I think we do what the Bible tells us to do. We humble ourselves. We approach our God and confess our sin. We admit again that we need his grace. We approach each other with love and humility – even when it is hard. We say we are sorry, even if the offense was never our intent. We lay down our lives for each other. We heal. We grow.

The tragedy is not that we hurt each other or that we fail. The tragedy is that we settle for that – we leave ourselves and our relationships there, instead of growing beyond it. And doing so is beneath us, as Christ followers, and beneath the genuine community to which we have been called. We must confess to each other and forgive each other. I have an aunt who does this so well. She and I have battled, and she has forgiven me and she chooses to love me, despite me. Our relationship is stronger because it has scar tissue reinforcing it. I treasure my relationship with her. It is an example to me.

When we follow Jesus’ way, we all get a little more flawsome, together. It’s hard. It hurts. It means listening to the still small voice. But it is so much better than talking ourselves out of change, and healing, and being flawsome. It reminds us that it has always been not about our goodness, but about his grace. And that is awesome.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. Titus 3:4

Jesus I can talk myself out of so much that is good for my soul. Help me with this. Please help me to not be afraid of the flaws that I know are inherent to my nature. Please help me hear your voice of conviction in my many moments of sin and hurting others, and to act on that conviction without hiding my sin and shame. Thank you for your grace that covers over all that is flawed in us.

2012 Wrap-Up

2012 was a whirlwind (so much so that I’m writing my annual recap on the 19th). Here was our year, in 90 seconds or less:

  • Early in 2012 we celebrated the official end to our unemployment struggle as Justin received benefits and a full-time salary at a church we love. #Praise
  • Grace lost all her teeth and started Kindergarten and Bekah became the most hilarious outspoken three year-old ever. #Woah
  • Between the miscarriage and this little baby miracle girl, I was pregnant and terribly sick for more than seven months of 2012 (And yes, my husband deserves an award). #Mercy
  • I took 26 hours of school at three different colleges, became a senior, and actually made the Dean’s list. #Grateful
  • I had a great year with freelance, traveling internationally for work to both London and Paris and getting to work with people like President Clinton and Sir Richard Branson. #Awed
  • We rejoiced in new and old friends who blessed our world during the tough weeks of the miscarriage and who made us laugh during the rest of this crazy year. #Blessed
  • I wrote less blogs than past years, but because of the election blog and the almost 100,000 views it received, had my biggest blog year ever. #Crazy

It was a year of joy and heartbreak, as our family drew closer together and the outside world in some ways seemed to fall apart. I am grateful for it, but also grateful it is over. He has turned our mourning into dancing, and we look forward to our new little lady’s arrival in May, to the end of my undergraduate career, and to the surprises and blessings that the Lord has for us in 2013. Onward.

Raw – A Response to Newtown

I’m raw. I feel bruised. The light seems too bright, the noises too near. Today, the fact that this world is not our home is overwhelming. We took our girls, 3 and 5, to a restaurant last night and I felt exposed and fearful. I saw adults look at them with kindness and sadness, and even that made me want to hide them away. I live half a country away, my girls are safe, and I feel traumatized. I cannot fathom how people in that tiny town in Connecticut feel, especially the ones who woke up today to realize that the nightmare of yesterday was real and that their home is truly empty. I ache for them.

It is like we are all grieving. And the stages of grief are flowing over us.

Courtesy WKOW

Courtesy WKOW

Denial. Yesterday I kept praying that the media was wrong, that they’d somehow find the children okay. That a survivor would be found. That somehow this was all not really happening.

Anger. I confess – I’m furious at everything. Furious at our enemy (damn you. Your end is certain, and I pray it is soon. Jesus has won.). Furious at sin and the death that has wrapped itself around humanity since the garden. I am READY for its power over us to be OVER. Furious at the killer. Furious that he could get his hands on weapons that are that lethal and quick. Furious at our broken mental health system and the casual culture of violence as entertainment. Furious at everyone who is racing to defend their position instead of putting everything on the table to FIX THIS and STOP IT. I’m livid. I just want it to stop. I hate this fear.

Bargaining. I want it not to be true. I keep analyzing it thinking what would have happened if one factor had changed, wondering why and how someone could EVER do this, and even looking at my own kids and begging God to somehow spare them the hurt of this broken evil world.

Depression. I can’t stop crying. Yesterday a scary part came on a movie and Bekah curled up next to me and said, “Mom, will you protect me?” and I prayed “Jesus please” as I cried and held her tight. I just keep imagining those rooms and what those babies saw and felt. I see my Grace’s kindergarten classroom in my head as I read the stories and my heart breaks for those parents. How do they go on? I pray and I pray all day and although I want this to lift I know that for thousands in Connecticut this won’t lift for years, if ever. So I pray and I ask the Lord to somehow supernaturally let my sadness ease someone else’s – let me, from afar, bear another’s burden and lift their sadness. That maybe a parent or a family member or a counselor or a first responder or a teacher or someone in that town will be able to breathe today because I felt a little of their weight on my chest.

Acceptance. I don’t know how any of us are supposed to ever accept any of this. It is fundamentally against all I believe – life and hope and love and the promise of the future. I am grateful that Jesus drew little kids to himself and I believe that those children are with him tonight, and that gives me a small measure of hope, but honestly even that doesn’t seem enough.

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

So what do we do while we grieve? How do we lift this sadness? Should we even want this sadness to lift? I don’t know. How can we help these broken families? What do we do with this helpless feeling?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

We’re trying to process and yet protect our kids from even knowing it happened. We are letting each other cry and vent. We are praying with all we know to pray for the families in Newtown. We are holding our kids tight. We are trying to shine light into a world so dark, and asking the Lord to renew our hope even in the midst of this sorrow. I know Jesus is the answer – and I pray that somehow in this people will turn to him and find comfort and hope. We are asking the Lord to return soon, and to give us strength in the meantime. We are worshiping and praying – listening to hymns of hope and strength. We are sad and sorry and just trying to stand despite all of those feelings.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can’t let this week pass by without mentioning briefly a few things I’m grateful for.

Justin – He has worked for months on his first Christmas worship project (geared toward small, medium and large churches with orchestra and rhythm band) and today it is finished! I am so proud of him. He has worked for years for different music publishers but this is the first project in his name done mostly in our home studio, so we are excited. We are praying that the Lord would use it to encourage worship leaders and point people to Emmanuel during our favorite time of the year.

Grace – The child is losing teeth at an astonishing rate, growing tall and thin, and amazing us with her creativity, kindness, and brilliance. My baby is growing up! She has really matured lately, is learning self-control and to consider others, and truly is my biggest helper with her sweet smile and loving spirit. She loves school and people and could probably rule the world.

Rebekah – She is three, and she is incredibly good at it. She is hilarious, disheveled, loud, sweet, creative, and absolutely lovable. She keeps us hopping, laughing, and is the reason our entire house needs to be repainted and recarpeted. She also loves school and loves people and is fearless to a point that we are sure we will never be able to rest because she sees the world as one giant adventure made for her enjoyment.

Family and Friends Old and New: Oh how I have been blessed with family and friends. I am so grateful for all of you – you challenge me, bless my life, give me hope, and make me love the Lord more.

Happy Thanksgiving, people I love. May God bless you and give you hope.

Grieving and Hope After the Election

Many people are grieving for our country today. My Facebook feed, made up mostly of conservative Christians, is like the day after a bomb dropped. Early polls showed 80% of evangelicals voted for Governor Romney, and many are shocked and grieved by the outcome of the election.

I am grieving for the church.

Many people are posting on Facebook that this win signals people want handouts and don’t want to work, signals the death of our country’s ideals and an electorate who doesn’t care enough to be informed, and is a national endorsement of abortion, gay marriage, and weed. Most of these posts that I saw came from people who are Christians, and to those posts I have to give the following response:

I humbly and sadly disagree. I think this split in our culture is about the church. I think it is about the marginalized (the people the church should love and support). The Democrats made a compelling case that they cared about those people. We in the church have not made that same compelling argument. Even on election day, in some of our responses, we demonstrated a lack of care for people, a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty, and a lack of obedience to His commands to not fear. I am going to get into the issues and hopefully present a thoughtful view of these things so that we can understand the “other side” a bit better and respond in love instead of rhetoric – but first of all let me say this – Jesus gives hope to each of these issues. We have hope in Christ.

“The Handouts”: On election day, thousands of people tweeted jokes like “Don’t worry if Dems are leading, Republicans will vote once they get off work.” I also saw comments about the over-half of our country that voted for the Democrats that go something like this – “they want something for nothing so they’ll take our country down in debt.” And it breaks my heart. The rhetoric simply isn’t true, and this attitude is what is alienating us from not only the voting world but from the lost world. Our country has one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any industrialized nation. Over 18% of our children don’t get enough to eat. And the assumption and the rhetoric states that is the lazy parent’s fault. But the facts, according to the Institute of Child Development, are that 75% of poor children have at least one parent who works. The remaining 25%? Mostly single women who cannot afford quality childcare to be able to work. And some call them welfare queens. But guess what, 1 out of 4 of those women don’t qualify for any federal assistance whatsoever. And the ones who do face restrictions to protect them from living off “government cheese.” There are some lazy Americans, yes, but for the most part, the working poor are just that, working poor, and not lazy Americans. These are desperate hurting Americans trying to make a living wage and failing. For example, over 50% of Walmart employees don’t make enough to live and because of this, qualify for food stamps. But they are working. Not full-time, because Walmart fights to keep employees at 39 hours per week. But hard. They aren’t looking for a handout. They are trying. And we as the church have bought into the rhetoric and ignored the reality. Church, we have to quit buying into this political “us vs. them” rhetoric of the working versus the lazy and instead buy into church’s command to love the least of these. Because our command to love is absolute, even when people take advantage of the system and are lazy. We in the church certainly do help the poor – but in the last 20 years we have helped the poor quietly and shouted the rhetoric loudly. Let’s stop the rhetoric and instead let our quiet consistent support of the poor define us.

“The Gays”: What if, in the early days of AIDS in the 1980s, the church had embraced homosexuals as they struggled in terror to understand this new disease that was wiping them out? What if we had been the ones known for our care for them? What if instead of fighting them on every right and constantly reminding them of their “terrible sin,” we remembered how Jesus treated the tax collectors and sinners and how he got to know them and ate with them, and they followed him because they loved him and knew he loved them? Dr. Stanton Jones, provost at Wheaton College, said at Dallas Theological Seminary that the church has failed in the treatment of homosexuals by treating “them” as our enemy in the culture war, and considering “their” sin as irredeemable while failing to consider our own sin and brokenness. A study by the Barna Group showed that when asked, 91% of non-Christians defined Christianity as anti-homosexual (in fact, this was the first word they used to describe the Christian faith). We have failed. We have defined the grace, love, and death of Jesus Christ to a lost world as “anti-homosexual.” Father, forgive us. Do you think they would still seek protection in a political party if we had been their ally instead of declaring “war” on them? I think that is what this election was about for them. They were aligning themselves with the party who demonstrated care for them.

“The Illegals”: The Hispanic vote overwhelming went Democratic, despite their dominate Catholic pro-life worldview (much more conservatively pro life than even most evangelicals). Why? I think it was more “us versus them” rhetoric. What if we were the ones fighting for immigrant children, brought here because children have nothing to eat in the place where they live, instead of the ones calling them “illegals” and demanding their deportation, many of them to a place where they don’t know the language and have never lived? What if we not only supported but demanded programs like the Dream Act? And I know there is a legal path to immigration, but I also know it is broken and takes sometimes decades and that path is terribly narrow and needs to be fixed. My friends in ministries like International Friends and refugee ministries, you are doing great work – and we need to partner with you more in those ministries as we seek to reach out to and love on our minority population in this country.

“The Stoners”: What if, instead of seeing the weed legislation movements as “slacker stoners” wanting to toke in public, we recognized the reality that our “war on drugs” has not raised the price of drugs or limited access, but instead only succeeded in imprisoning more Americans than any other country in the world? We have a broken legal system that criminalizes the social and medical problem of addiction. In 2010, 1.64 million people were arrested for drug violations, 80% of those were for possession. A friend’s son took his own life before a mandatory minimum sentence would send him away to prison after a repeat possession charge. The cost of that to my friend is unmeasurable. Over 2.3 million people in the United States are imprisoned, over half of those for non-violent drug offenses. This is devastating the African American community (which plays into both the poverty and abortion problems in that community). I’m not saying legalization is the answer – in fact I think it isn’t, but maybe if we looked at the problem with sympathetic hearts and a willingness to work together toward solutions instead of cynical political goggles, we would join together to find a better solution. Big Brothers and Sisters does great work on the mentoring front, which helps prevent this problem, and Prison Fellowship does an excellent job once people are in prison, but there is room for us to minister alongside these groups to help this marginalized group.

“The Babies”: I’ve addressed this many times before (here, here and here), and my views on abortion are clear. Abortion is terrible and we are all paying a terrible price for it. But even if reversing Roe was a possibility, which I truly am not sure it will be  until there is a major worldview change (which comes from the inside), abortions didn’t start with Roe. My family was affected by abortion long before Roe v Wade. Abortions are a consequence of spiritual, family, and economic factors. When marriages are strengthened and divorce rates go down, the number of abortions go down. When women escape poverty, abortion rates go down. When the healthcare and childcare options for women improve, the number of abortions go down. When women are in community with people who care and feel supported and encouraged, abortion rates go down. When women find hope, abortion rates go down. Legislation is not the best answer to the abortion crisis. Jesus and the church is. Our crisis pregnancy centers have done more for life than any legal battle we have ever fought. Well done friends who are part of those powerful ministries. The church is starting to get this right – and we need to continue on that path.

There is a sense that America rejected God in the voting booth yesterday. But I think there is an argument that we as the Church rejected these groups first, either directly or through the party we have closely aligned ourselves to. Church we are not the Republican party. And by the way, we aren’t the Democratic party either. In fact, the parties may be hurting us not only in mindset but also in reputation. I think we need to remember that both political parties, and partisan media sources, have not only financial interest but ultimately derive power from us suspecting each other, fearing each other, and not compromising with each other. And that is the exact opposite of what our faith is about. We cannot let the “us versus them” mindset of the political landscape hijack our message of love for all people and grace by faith in Christ alone. In this political environment, if you disagree (or even compromise or seek to understand) you are the enemy. But Jesus taught us that we not only love our enemies but lay our lives down for them. We can disagree, but we must disagree well because we don’t just represent us, we represent Christ in us.

We also have to be careful with the reputation of our faith. We cannot let extreme personalities like Trump with his “I’m a real Christian” and his honorary doctorate from Liberty, alongside his twitter rants and conspiracy theories about long forms and secret Muslim allegiances, define us. And why do so many I know believe him, but we have a president who has claimed faith in Christ, but people discount that? People seem to be mourning as if all hope is lost and the President’s heart is beyond God’s realm of control. Instead, we should be praying that the Holy Spirit would convict and lead him. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it wherever he will. Prov 21:1. The President’s heart is in the hand of God – so when we pray, we can affect where it turns. That is power we have in Christ! We should be encouraged by it. We truly have no reason to fear.

It feels like we have forgotten that Jesus is our hope. Jesus alone.

My former pastor, Brandon Thomas, tweeted today “Bringing people to Jesus will build our great nation to its best days, no doubt! Life in Christ = love God, love others.” I say Amen. Max Lucado tweeted “Lord, please: Unite us. Strengthen us. Appoint and annoint our president.” I say Amen. I am not saying compromise on any of these things – nor are these pastors. I’m not saying change your vote or party alignment. I’m not saying you have to agree with the Left or the Right. I am saying let’s assume a position of humility in dealing with these really difficult issues and seek to understand each other so that we can reconcile with each other. I’m saying when we are kind, we lead people to Jesus, and we make our country stronger.

Courtesy CathNewsUSA.com

I’m visual – so I keep thinking of nuns (habits and all). Everyone knows what they believe. But how do you see them portrayed, even in liberal Hollywood? Positively. Why? Because they are known for helping people – for humbly working toward the good of the people around them. So they are beloved. We could learn from their example. We need better PR and we need a return to our true hope.

America is not the hope of the world. Neither is a political party. Jesus is. Church, let’s return to him and follow His lead in loving the hurting.

The Backup:

Dr. Russell Moore on a Christian response to the election: http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/11/07/christians-lets-honor-the-president/

Abortion statistics: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_07.pdf

Prison Statistics: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/20/americas-invisible-incarcerated-millions

Drug War Statistics: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/business/in-rethinking-the-war-on-drugs-start-with-the-numbers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Childhood Poverty Statistics: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/

Dallas Theological Seminary Article on Homosexuality: http://www.dts.edu/read/5-failures-on-churchs-treatment-sexuality-5-ways-forward-jones-stanton/

Non-Christian Perceptions of Christianity: unchristian by Kinnamon and Lyons

Rich Stearns, CEO of WorldVision, author of The Hole in Our Gospel, wrote this response to the election: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-stearns/goodbye-christian-america-hello-true-christianity_b_2082649.html

Tim Keller on Signs of Political Idolatry: http://kellerquotes.com/the-signs-of-political-idolatry/

Ian Simkins on Politics and the Church: http://isimkins.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/politics/

This post has been shared far beyond anything I ever thought possible. Thank you for sharing. I want to clarify a few things. First of all – pretty much everyone I know, love, and respect is a conservative. I am not saying that every conservative feels this way or has responded this way since the election. Most people I love and many millions more have not. And although I am not in the liberal Christian circles, I’m sure there has been a ton of rhetoric in that camp as well. This post was intended as an encouragement for us, in the church, on both sides, to open our eyes to each other and shut off the rhetoric – to see that the things that unite us (a love for country, a love for God, a love for people, and a desire to achieve the best for our family and people we love) are far greater than the things that divide us (our differing ideas for how we achieve change in our country).  I believe in Christ we have hope and in Christ we are brothers and sisters and that disunity, even because of partisanship, is a tactic of our enemy. Thank you again for reading.