Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We don't do zombies.

Today, due to wonderful weather, and the fact that my daughter, who had been battling Influenza B for five days straight was finally fever free, the kids and I found ourselves headed to the park for some fresh air.

It was a delightful hour, for the most part.

Except that period in the middle where I was the uncool mom on the playground.

Now, being uncool doesn't bother me.  In fact, I have spent the majority of my 33 years being "uncool," and that suits me just fine.

My kids generally think I'm pretty cool though, especially on the playground.  If I don't have an adult companion around, I find myself up and wandering the play area, pushing kids on swings, following them up and down steps, helping them on monkey bars, chasing them, climbing up the ladders, and so forth.  The kids appreciate that about me.

Most of the time.

Then, there's days like today, where there are moments in the middle where my oldest asks "why are you over here watching us?"

"Because I like to be with you," is what I said.  It is truth.

However, today I had another reason.

I was sitting on the picnic table seat for a moment before then, sipping on my cooling coffee, when I heard someone yell "I'm gonna slice your head off!"

I looked over, and there was a taller boy chasing my oldest, hands in the air in front of him, pretending to be a zombie.

We don't do zombies.

Aside from the fact that my youngest two had nightmares the night they went to the zombie walk, and periodically since then, my middle son has asked "mom, are zombies real" as we drive to daycare, following with me saying "No, buddy, they're not real," and then "Okay, they're scary,"  I don't see the purpose.

Now, I know people will wildly disagree with me on this topic.  Popular culture dictates that zombies are fun, entertaining, imaginative, and so forth.

But I don't see the value in them.  I have a six-year-old, a four-year-old, and an almost three-year-old.  I know we can't escape this zombie culture, but they seem so young to have knowledge of it already.  Call me old fashioned, call me a prude, call me whatever you want, but I prefer my children to have wholesome, positive imaginative play.

That, and to be quite candid, zombie apocalypse play and zombie-slashing fun go against the God-centered child-rearing I am attempting to live out.

I know that some people, again, may argue "well there are zombies in the Bible."  Okay, so maybe I can see where you're coming from there.  Except I disagree, and instead of forming my own argument against that, I'll link you up with one that fits my viewpoints and leave it at that.

So, I hear this child threatening, though pretending of course, to slash my kindergartner's head off, while his younger brother and sister are two feet behind him.  My four-year-old yells "NOOOO! Don't KILL HIM!  He's my BROTHER!"  He knows, I assume, that it's pretend, but I also know that he's still working to decipher reality from make-believe on a regular basis.  (See above about whether zombies are real, and add in "Do ghosts exist? Do werewolves exist?  Do unicorns exist?" and so forth.)

My youngest is yelling "That's not kind!"

She's right.

We have been working on our family identity recently, and our is "we are kind."  We talk about it daily.  We pray that God will help us be good friends, to bring people joy, to show people love, to not hurt people, to not cause people to cry.

I approached my oldest, and I said, "Buddy, we don't play zombies, do we?"

"No, mom."



Knowing full well all these other children (roughly 8 of them) are running around pretending to kill and eat each other, and they have taken notice to the fact that I pulled my child aside, I said, "Because it's not kind.  We are kind, aren't we?"

"Yes. I love to be kind!" he replied.  "But it's pretend."

"But it's violent, and it goes against what Jesus asks us to do. It goes against what God wants for us to be.  It goes against the Bible."

He looked at me, with his "Play Hard, Pray Hard" t-shirt on, a shirt he chose himself to wear to the park, and shook his head. "Okay, mom."

Then, came the sly kids shouting "Well, raise your hands if you're playing zombie apocalypse!"

He wanted so badly to raise his hand. I raised my eyebrows, and he kept his hand down.

"I love you, buddy."

"I love you, too, mom."

And then he ran off to play alongside the other kids.  He slipped up once and pretended to shoot someone as they ran by.

"Why are you over here watching us?"

I wanted to say 'to hold you accountable and make sure you're making good choices,'  but instead, I gave the answer above and let him decide what choices to make on his own.

I was proud.  He didn't play zombies after.

I played alongside, hearing them laugh, seeing them smile, and looking when they'd call "Mom! Watch this!" as best as I could with all three trying to show me things at once.

The older boy ran by again, and pretended to spit on my children.

"What are you doing?" I asked him calmly.

"Spitting poisonous venom."

"We already talked about this.  My children don't play zombies.  You may stop now."

He ran off.  I know he snickered and the others looked at me.

I didn't care if I was uncool.

I felt a little guilty that I may have made my kids seem like they were "uncool" to the other kids, but really, if being kind and playing wholesome, positive, laughter-filled play on a playground, without dark, violent themes is uncool, then they can be uncool.

They're only little once.  Some day, I won't be on the playground with them.  I am not always on the playground with them now, and I don't intend to be breathing down their necks at this age either.  Sometimes, I'm right there though, and I believe it is my job as their God-focused mother to intervene in situations like this, to teach them Bible-centered morals and practices as best as I can.

 I will pray that when it comes time to decide if they're going to join in with the make-believe bloody murder and flesh-eating attacks with their peers, they will choose our God-focused morals and remember why, right now, we are kind and we do no do zombies.  I will hope and pray.

I can't control what other parents do, and their rules on zombie play or murder themed make-believe.  My children even asked why the other kids play that way, and I said "their families don't have the same rules as I do."  It's as simple as that.

But I do hope that if you're one who allows that sort of play, you perhaps talk to your children about playing it on playgrounds, especially those with young children and toddlers, who don't need to be and/or whose parents do not want them to be subject to such dark and gruesome themes.  If that's something you allow (although I wish it wasn't), I hope that you could request your children save it for private locations, like their homes or friends homes.

Personally, I have no taste for any sort of zombie entertainment. I know tons of my friends do.  That's their choice.  But I choose to not have that in my own home.

I'm not a "helicopter" parent and I don't intend to be. But, I do believe that young children, mine specifically, should be allowed to enjoy positive themed play as long as possible before popular culture and dark themes of the world become more prevalent with age and their peers.

For tonight, I will pray that the themes and impressions from the pretend slashing, decapitation, and cannibalism at the playground will not leave lasting impressions on their hearts or infiltrate their dreams.  We will pray again, as we do every night, that Jesus fills them with peace, joy, and good things.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I'm Anchored.

For quite some time now, I have had it in my mind that I wanted a very specific, simple tattoo on my left wrist.

On my right wrist, I have a simple tattoo that reads "I love you" in my grandmother's handwriting.  In fact, multiple female family members have similar handwriting tattoos on their wrists or clavicles.  We all went together and had a tattoo party when they heard of my idea and fell in love with it themselves.

My left wrist, though, all I wanted was an anchor.

When I was younger, I would have never suspected I would adore the image of an anchor as I do now.  I thought of them simply in terms of sailing and pirates and such.

But then, my faith was tested.  I guess that's a silly statement, because throughout one's life, faith is continually tested.  I'm no different in that regard, and I have had many tests under my belt, each time, my faith in God remaining.  From time to time, I may have distanced myself, but He's always been there.

But recently, over the last few years, my faith has been tested in ways I never dreamed of.  From finding out my former husband was cheating on me with men and women alike, to threatened homelessness while I had no job and three children ages six months to four years old, to living in a homeless shelter and transitional housing, to being abandoned financially and emotionally, to filing for divorce... to self-sufficiency (for the most part, with occasional blessings from trusted family and friends) and single parenting in a God focused home, I've done nearly a complete 180 degree turn around in my life, and all the while, my God has remained, pulling me through, guiding me, walking beside me, carrying me, fighting for me, and calming me.

This anchor...

This anchor is my reminder.   It reminds me of my past and my victories.  It reminds me of God's sovereignty and steadfastness.    It reminds me of hope.  

You see, through everything in my life, my hope has remained.  I've never been hopeless.  I've never been completely alone, because I've known God to be with me always, even if I was refusing to acknowledge him.  Even in my deepest despair and my darkest times, my hardest routes and my scariest valleys, I've had hope in a better tomorrow, and I've had hope that God would pull me through, as He has.

One of my most well-loved bible verses is Hebrews 6:19.  It's beautiful in multiple translations.  "This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.  It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary." NLT

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain." NIV

Hope is an anchor.  What a beautiful image.  In all that life throws at us, this hope keeps us steady.

What is this hope?

God is this hope.

"The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope." Lamentations 3:24

"Sovereign Lord, I put my hope in you; I have trusted you since I was young." Psalm 71:5

"Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him." Psalm 62:5

"We put our hope int he Lord. He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust His holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in You alone." Psalm 33:20-22

"You will live secure and full of hope; God will protect you and give you rest." Job 11:18

This tattoo is also my reminder to seek God continually, through my life. It's permanency shall remind me to enter my secret place and to pray.  Sometimes I forget. Often, actually, I forget.

"Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times."  Romans 12:12

And, it reminds me that God has a plan for me, even if I feel things are out of control, totally random or uncertain, or make absolutely no sense.  Because God says so. 

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11

The bible talks a lot about hope.

But so does music.  Many know that God speaks to me often through music.  I will hear a song a hundred times, and on the 101st time, it speaks in a new way, or I hear a lyric I had never heard before.  Many songs that resonate with me deeply talk of God as an anchor for us, or his hope as an anchor for us, or him carrying us through storms.  

"Let the King of my heart be the wind inside my sails, the anchor in the waves, oh he is my song." -John Mark McMillan, King of my Heart.

"When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace.  In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil." Hillsong United, Cornerstone

"In the eye of the storm, You remain in control, and in the middle of the war, You guard my soul.  You alone are the anchor when my sails are torn.  Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm." Ryan Stevenson, Eye of the Storm

These are just a few that came to me at the moment, but I know that there are more.

I don't always have my bible with me. I don't always have music with me. I don't always have my phone with me. But, I do always have my wrist with me.

And now, on that wrist, I'll always have my anchor with me, to show me, to remind me, to inspire me.  Maybe someday, someone I do not know will ask about my anchor.  Maybe they'll assume I'm a wannabe pirate. Maybe they'll think I was in the navy.  Maybe, just maybe, they'll ask.  And my God will fill me with bravery and grace, and I'll step out in faith, and I'll testify.  I'll tell them all about how I've been through quite a storm,and my God, my Hope, my Anchor held me steady through it all, and I am no worse for the wear as the sunshine came out.  I'm stronger.  I'm braver.  I'm calmer. I'm more rooted in my faith than ever before.

Because I'm anchored.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This morning a lifetime ago

It was barely past midnight this morning when I felt the ground give way beneath my feet and the air I tried to breathe suffocate my airways as I heaved violent sobs in the dark of the night. Up until this point, she had always been there as a pillar and a safe place.

It was so early this morning, a horrible ending to one day and the devastating beginning of another.

It was ten years ago.

It feels like this morning.

It feels like a lifetime ago.

She waited until we all left and she breathed her final breath, and in the quiet of her hospital room, my grandma passed away.

I miss her still, every single day.

The ground has given way a few times since then, and still she is gone. Her arms aren't waiting for me in a loving embrace. Her ear isn't there to listen when I cry.

But she didn't leave me completely:

The prayers she must have prayed unceasingly have come to fruition, as I have God at my side, and Godly people in my life who can help stand in where she used to be. 

I wonder though. I can't help but wonder.

Would she be proud? Would she think I'm extraordinary? Would she think I'm brave? Would she think I exhibit grace?

Somehow she's gone and her opinion still matters.

So much has happened in the 10 years since she was laid in the freezing cold ground as I crumbled in the wind. The ground is frozen again. But in a weird way, as I sit here missing her so, I feel comfort knowing she's safe inside the very ground I stand on, while residing up in the heavenlies with the Jesus she loved so much. Her love is written permanently on my wrist, her ring on my finger, her voice in my head, and her warm brown eyes staring up at me through my beautiful young daughter. 

I ache. I pine. I cry. But I find rest, I find peace, finally, ten years later, realizing she's still so close by.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cautious Bravery

When I decided to blog after church today, I heard the enemy telling me "People are going to just think you're crazy, hearing voices, and psychotic. You didn't 'hear' God or 'feel' Him. It's all in your imagination."
Screw you, Satan.


Recently, there's been a change brewing in the life of me and my children.  Something unexpected happened, and as a result, I had to make some decisions I wasn't mentally prepared to make.

I prayed about it for days.  I took a break from social media and filled the time I would have spent catching up with friends online praying and seeking wisdom as to how to proceed.  I sought advice from trusted companions, and found confusion in doing so, with divided opinions and advice coming from multiple avenues, so I kept on praying about that as well.

After about a week, I had what I decided was the next step, and proceeded with cautious bravery.

Cautious bravery.

I'm not sure that's a thing.  If you google "cautious bravery," you find a few different takes on it.  On one hand, people seem to think you can't be both cautious and brave or courageous, and then on the other, it only makes sense to do so.

For example:

That said, this new juncture and all of the possibilities of what could happen based on whichever decision I made was nerve-wracking, slightly terrifying, anxiety inducing, but also hopeful-exhilarating.

As I mentioned, I took my options, prayed about them, tried to imagine probable outcomes, and went with what I thought God was calling me to do.

I was afraid of being wrong, afraid of interpreting what I thought God was telling me wrong, and afraid that even if I was doing what was right, it could all go wrong anyway.  But, I owned the decision, and I stepped forward on faith.

I decided, in doing so, that if I was going to just assume it would all go awry, I was speaking words of death over the decision, and also placing my faith, trust, and hope in humanity instead of God's divine sovereignty.  I decided to anchor myself on hope and God's ultimate goodness, and I committed myself to continued prayer, because I know that human emotion can be wishy-washy sometimes, and I knew myself well enough to be able to foresee that I wouldn't always be completely hopeful, and the old patterns of condemning thoughts and negative assumptions would slither into my mindset occasionally.

I told myself that even though the decisions I make affect more than just myself, and that all people are infallible, God can use everything and anything that would come from it for His ultimate good.  I know that while it is best and important that others in my life have God in their lives, all I needed to rely on was Him, and who I am in Him.  I know who I am in Christ, and I believe I have a good idea who my children are in Christ, and that was enough to solidify my choice in proceeding.

Now, I acted on my decision, and so far, good things have come from it.  I give each day to God, and when I start to fear and worry, if I turn to my closest confidants first instead of God, they remind me to give it to God.

Today, in church, I had a big God moment.  During the beginning of worship, which is generally the part I connect with most emotionally, I was singing along, but struggling to be emotionally invested in it.  I kept having random thoughts filtering through and I realized partway through the second song, if I recall correctly, that I just couldn't "see" or "feel" who it was I was singing to.  Usually, this is not an issue for me, but today, I just felt disconnected.  Realizing that, I decided it was probably an attack from the enemy, and with the knowledge I've gained through the past couple months, I decided to use Jesus as my ammunition and attack back.  I had a moment of bravery, in that I would normally be apprehensive that others would hear me or notice, and I spoke aloud, "The enemy MUST go NOW in the name of Jesus Christ.  You have no business here."

It sounds silly, I know, and I've felt that it was silly on the multiple occasions that I have needed to conduct warfare in such a way.

I continued on, praying audibly, "I feel like I can't see you Jesus, and I don't know why.  I know You're always there."

I stopped singing almost instantly, and tears started falling.

"You can't see me, because I'm hugging you."

That's what I heard him say.

And it made so much sense.  I was suddenly flooded with the image and feeling of a warm embrace, my head buried in His shoulder, as I heard him tell me that he was proud of me, that He has made me strong, brave, courageous, and that it is okay to be cautious.  He knows that I worry sometimes and I fear other times, and He understands how sometimes I find it difficult to come to Him first, but He forgives me, accepts me, doesn't condemn me, and appreciates my honest attempts to keep Him first. I am okay, I am perfect.  He told me that what decision I made recently didn't matter as much as the fact that I sought His counsel and waited earnestly before acting, choosing what I believed He was telling me to do over what the world told me to do.  He reaffirmed that no matter what, because my hope is anchored in Him, it's going to be okay.  He reminded me that He has been there through every peak and valley so far, and that He has ultimately won it all for us anyway.  He reminded this little quiet warrior girl that she is filled with His peace and grace, and that good things will come from the trust I've placed in Him.

While I don't know what will come from my decisions and what is in store for us, I trust that it will all work out for God's good.

Sometimes, it's scary to not know His plan.  Sometimes, I fear I don't know if I'm listening or hearing or interpreting correctly.

Sometimes, I just have to latch onto the cautious bravery he's formed within me.

Not oddly at all, the next song in worship was about sitting with Jesus, being with Him, hearing His heartbeat, and so forth.  The pastor spoke how the Holy Spirit was heavy within the place.  He spoke of God's gifts being imparted right then and there, and the sermon was about healing.

It made sense.

I've found freedom, healing, and seen myself through God's eyes this year.  It's amazing what will happen when you give it to God.

Friday, January 6, 2017

You've Got a Friend

It's been said many times that as we get older, it gets more difficult to make friends.  Maybe it's not necessarily difficult to make them, it just isn't as easy to come across them, I suppose.

I have found this to be true.  I look at my children, and they will make friends almost instantly. Sure, most won't be lifelong friends, and half of the time, these "new friends" are people they'll never see again, but they're so non-judgmental and uninhibited in their friendship making that it's something in which I find myself awestruck.

I remember being in kindergarten, like my oldest is now, and making new friends.  Thanks to the technology of my generation, I am actually still friends with many from my youngest school-age years, even if we aren't close, we can connect on Facebook and keep up with each other's lives.  I am still friends with my high school best friend, and my college best friend as well.  I have a handful of online best friends who have also been there for 16 years or so.

I have been blessed with the fortune of making a few really close friends in the end of my college years, as well as a really close friend in the beginning of my motherhood years.  I have one close friend from my the end of my childbearing years as well (that makes me sound much older than I am, I suppose).  

I then found my world quaking and myself withdrawn and secretive about it.  My walls and my guard went up, and I shut myself down in many ways.  I got a new job and met new people, but I didn't really allow myself to make friends with them for a while. I was terrified that what they would find, they would not like, and then I would be an outsider who was nothing but drama and chaos.  

As time went on, I opened up to some, and grew quite close.  I gained a few of my current closest friends in life at that job, and I am so very blessed.  Through that job, I began attending my church, where I have met even more people, that I would consider to be more than just acquaintances, they're my friends.

Much of these friendships, while I wouldn't say are superficial in any way, are not deep-rooted at this time, though many have the potential to be so.  I hope that more become rooted as time goes on.

That said, this evening, I had an experience that caught me off-guard.

It was a transitional experience, I think.

I think I made a new friend.

This friend.. well, I've known her a while, and I thought of her as my friend at church anyway, but as I said, not necessarily a deep rooted friendship.  But tonight, I found myself feeling like a school-age child as I went home, realizing I had exchanged phone numbers with my friend and text her a couple times.

Now, this friend, I've seen her and conversed with her many times, topics both light and deep, and we've exchanged quite a few hugs. I always enjoy seeing her, and I have hoped she felt the same.

Tonight though, I don't know what really switched.  Perhaps nothing really did, except that I really sat down and realized I had this friend, who had been there for quite some time, and she really did want to pursue my company and my friendship.  She told me "I love your heart."

Immediately after, the enemy was on my back telling me that people couldn't really "love my heart," it was just something you say to be nice.

Ugh.  At least I knew it was a lie.

It got me thinking about making friends as an adult.  As a mom.  As a single mom.  As someone who had recently let down her guard in a big way, and is allowing new people in without them really having to "prove" that I could trust them, because I'm not nearly as guarded as I was even a few months ago.

Where I am in life, I do not get out much. I go to work most hours of the week, I go to church, and I go to the grocery store.  That's pretty much it for any invested time regularly.  So, in line with my invested time, most of the meaningful friendships I've been blessed with over the past two years are through work, and one that was mostly through church.

But tonight, I realized I made a new friend, in my new season of life, with my new hope and my new faith.  And for some reason, that seems like a big deal. I am excited to get to know her better in the time to come, and I am so very thankful that she feels the same way.  

I have been so very blessed by the rich friendships I carry in life, especially through the hardest struggles and deepest valleys I've been through.  But, there's always room for new friends, too.