The World Needs Real Christianity…Today.

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The past week – or rather, the past year culminating in the past week – has felt like a whirlwind…sometimes more like a downward spiral where it feels harder and harder to catch my breath.

I’ve been watching the news, reading updates, taking in what my friends and those close to me have to say and trying to absorb it all…trying  to take it in and to figure out what exactly I should do with everything I’m taking in. I’ve tried to hold off on getting “too” political, or upsetting the wrong group and have honestly just struggled with keeping my head on straight.

I’m guessing this sounds pretty familiar to you. In fact, I’m guessing you’re feeling the same way.

I’ve seen hurtful things on both sides of the political spectrum. I’ve read mistruths coming from all sides concerning the “others.” I’ve seen insults hailed and lines firmly drawn in the sand.

I’ve watched Christians be accused – sometimes, unfortunately more often than not –  of being hypocrites. Of showing love only when it’s convenient for them. I’ve seen friends who grew up in the church do 180’s and turn away because of it. I’ve had friends told me they can’t pray anymore because what they’re seeing in action doesn’t match what they feel the church is supposed to be. I’ve seen people outside of Christianity share that it’s those of us who claim to be Christ-followers that are doing the most damage.

I’ve seen hurt. I’ve seen pain. I’ve seen terror…and it doesn’t really feel like there’s an end in sight right now.

I’ve also taken things personally. I’ve cried. I’ve held my family a little closer than normal and I’ve prayed for direction. I’ve prayed for a way to be a healer, someone who can listen to those who are hurting…those who are scared…those who feel lost or abandoned, and to be someone who makes a difference.

To stop the spinning…I’ve spent a lot of time in scripture and in prayer, begging for discernment and a path to move forward.

Then it started coming together.

It’s not an answer. It doesn’t replace the need for reaching out to politicians and making our voices heard. It doesn’t fix the very real pain and fear those around us are feeling. But…it’s a start.

Here’s the thing. The world back in Roman times was a pretty tumultuous place to live in. Laws changed daily, Christians were given power and respected then persecuted and nailed to crosses. No one knew who to trust, where to turn. It was easy to let fear being a controlling factor.

But…the church grew even during the worst times of persecution. Right now, it feels like the outrage, the fear is just as real…but so many are turning away.

What’s the difference?

The difference is authenticity. I’m not here to accuse anyone of being “fake,” but, I think it’s time that we all work together to try to right our path before it’s too late. It’s time we go back to New Testament-style Christianity.

It’s time to pull off the labels that turn people away, to stop using our words altogether…because right now, they’re just causing more hurt.

It’s time to stop saying we should “love” everyone while batting people away and keeping those who are “different” at arms length.

It’s time to practice being “pro-all-life,” not just “pro-birth.” To come alongside those who feel like they’re out of options, or who have made decisions they very well might be hurting from. To think before we slew hurt and to pray before we act.

It’s time to open our homes, our arms and our hearts. To listen to those who seem to be on the other side of whatever political spectrum we can claim to fall on. To support those who are afraid, who don’t know what their future looks like because of the craze that has seemed to overtake our country and our world.

It’s time to show our support. To show in real-life-ways that we believe in helping the less fortunate, the refugees, those who can’t stand for themselves.

It’s time to reach out to our lawmakers, to show our support and be a loud and booming voice. To donate to causes that HELP others. To become a political force that leads to action.

It’s time to pray for those in power instead of fixating on the helpless feeling we might have at the pit of our stomachs.

I’m not here to lecture you on the time you spend in prayer, the choices you’ve made in life or what path you may be walking. I am here to say it’s time to turn around…to stop speaking words without action. To stop being the reason that those who need Christ’s love the most are turned off and ready to jump on our words (sometimes because they deserve being jumped on).

If you are a Christian…you have to believe the whole story. You can’t pick and choose the applications that seem easiest for you, or easiest to swallow. I believe authentic Christianity is black and white…right now too many are falling into “gray” areas that do nothing but turn people off.

Guys…we are called to love. We are called to share that love with others. Our words…they’re not going to be what brings others together or changes hearts and lives. Our actions…the way we reflect the love that we have been given without deserving it in the least…that’s where it’s got to start.

Who can you reach out to today? How can you use the gifts you’ve been given to make a difference? How can you help someone today?

The early church exploded because God’s love was so real. It wasn’t something the apostles and early believers spoke of then trampled on with the actions. It was real…it was authentic…it brought people together. Can we bring it back?

Take the time to examine your own heart, your own bias’s, your own motivations. I’ve been doing it a lot this week…and the things that have shown up haven’t always been pleasant. But, until we get on our knees and ask for a true soul-searching and revealing…then get up off our knees and take what we find to the world, we aren’t going to make the difference the world needs.

We can’t cower in corners, we can’t spend our time debating in forums that lead to hurt, not change. We have to start from square one…to act.

We’re called to love, to support those who are oppressed and to live according to REAL biblical standards. How are you measuring up? Let’s commit to being real, to taking the stereotypes that are out there and breaking through them, breaking through fear and negativity in the process.

It all starts now…it starts with us.

 

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Ready to Settle

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For those of you who have been following along with our adventure…whether it’s been for the past few months, or the past few years…THANK YOU. Your support has meant the world!

We have some excited changes coming! We are excited to announce that our house has gone under contract. We received an offer on Thanksgiving Day and have been pushing forward since then! We’ll also be settling on our new home next month.

It all sounds SO exciting..and it IS. But, I want to share a little more about why it’s so exciting…and that starts back awhile ago.

John and I got married young. We went through a few bumps and figured things out, fell short more than we didn’t but eventually found a good life pace. I’ll have more to share about this time period in the future! But, then, in June of 2014, John received an offer for a great job in Asheville, NC with his company. It was an amazing opportunity.

We were terrified to leave, but felt like it was right for us. We knew the move wouldn’t be permanent…to move up within the company he’d have to come back to Harrisburg. If you’ve read the posts, you know our time spent in Asheville was amazing. We grew our family by two, we learned to make it on our own and we developed a new love for an amazing active, outdoor lifestyle. We also developed deep friendships, quickly!

Fast forward a bit…starting back in June of this year, we learned we’d be coming back. We didn’t know exactly how it would look, but the process got underway. Once again, the process had many ups and downs and big decisions, but it was right. We listed our house and hoped for the best! After listing, the election, a gas crisis, wildfires and a number of other events all took place that changed how we thought it would go. I like to think the wait is what led buyers who will make the most of our home to us!

We moved back to PA knowing where we’d end up…but without a way to  make it happen until we had a better feel for our home sale. We moved our 4 kids into a hotel (a great hotel! but, a hotel none the less!). And we waited! We are still waiting, but an end is in sight!

That’s obviously a Cliff Notes version of everything…but, the past few years have felt like a whirlwind…but it has been filled with a lot of waiting as well. Waiting to decide what was right for our family. Waiting for kids. Waiting to feel at home. Waiting to move to new locations. Waiting.

It’s also been filled with lots of movement. Of literal moving between homes (this purchase will be home #3, in addition to the hotel and an apartment back in the beginning of our relationship). Of growing our family. Of running after those new family members. Of trying to stay in touch with everyone back home.

It’s been quite an experience…we’ve grown. We’ve learned. We’ve figured out what really matters. We’ve developed a level of gratitude and living in trust that we never could have imagined in the past!

But now, I’m excited for a change. Obviously, this life isn’t based on our own plans; that is one of our big lessons of the past few years! But, for the foreseeable future, it looks like we’re moving into a period of settling. Of moving into a home that we hope is our forever home. Of moving into the molding our children stage of life instead of starting over. Of getting closer to friends and family here. And, of finding a new routine.

I don’t think we’re meant to feel comfortable in this world…to feel completely settled; so please don’t read this as a “we’re going to sit back and do nothing,” message. We will be starting up Friday night dinners again soon! We will be following where we feel led!

All of that to say…thanks for sticking with us, for supporting us, for listening, for praying and for being available on so many levels! We are very ready to settle!

A Time for Tenderness

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I have to admit. I went to bed early last night. The tension was too high, no one knew what exactly was going on and the pressure from both sides felt immense. I’d never felt so much division in my life, or seen so many people struggle wholeheartedly in how to vote during an election period. It was intense.

What I woke up to was worse.

First, I signed onto the news…I needed to know where everything stood, how the night ended and if we had a candidate that was chosen. We had – you all know the outcome there.

But, then, I signed onto Facebook.

I saw so much.

I saw hate.

I saw fear.

I saw uncertainty.

I saw victory speeches.

I saw celebrations.

When I put it all together…I saw division. Division without thought for others. When division and speech happen without the thought for the people involved in the equation, it comes out as hate. Pure, spewing hatred.

I cried.

I didn’t cry over the new president. That course was chosen months ago when the final candidates were chosen. I cried over the conversations and talk coming from both sides, from people I dearly love. I saw gross over-generalizations and assumptions. I saw talk without thought.

Right now, hearts are tender.

People we love are fearful. They’re afraid for their rights. They’re afraid for the direction of our country. They’re afraid at how their families and lives will be affected on a very real, personal level.

Over the past few months, division has grown like never before. It’s been helped along by social media sites, by the ability to speak openly without the fear of recourse. Friendships have been lost. Uncertainty and mistrust have festered…and the trend is always growing.

Here are a few things we must remember.

Hearts that are tender call for tenderness. Angry reactions, social media fights and generalizations won’t help anything. Stop. Think of who’s reading. Think of who will be forever impacted by your words. Think.

Listen. No matter who you voted for, listen to those around you. Instead of jumping to conclusions and public thoughts that 10 years ago would have been private, just listen. Take the time to try to understand those who are fearful, those who are feeling true hurt and mistrust today and in the coming weeks. Cross your party line and listen. Be there. Be available.

It doesn’t matter what side of the party line you reside on – if you can pick one after this cycle at all. Now is the time to pick each other up. Because, here’s the thing…the hatred that’s flying isn’t coming from the government right now, it’s coming from the ground level – from us. That means it can be fixed by us. We can’t take back the words of others – we can only account for ourselves. But, one small act of kindness, of truth, of letting others be heard could be more valuable with more of an affect than 10 others that are full of hate, pride or other negatives.

Lead by example. Our kids are listening. People new to our country are watching. They feel our emotions, they watch for our cues.

We cannot make a sweeping change to what’s done. It’s in the past. But, we can teach. We can show kindness to those around us. We can show our kids what loving our neighbors really means. We can show that being a good member of society, being good to those around us, that it trumps being a member of a political party every, single, time.

Reach out. You know those that are hurting today. Whether they’ve made it clear publicly or not, you know those who are concerned. Send a message – it takes 10 seconds. Let them know you’re there, that you’re ready to listen and that you’d be happy to grab a coffee or drink. Be there. Be genuine. Be willing to listen.

What’s done is done. It’s over. But, before you celebrate it or mourn it through mass generalizations, before you even try to understand what might seem incomprehensible…just be open. Pay attention, be a light, be a real example of love in a dark and uncertain time.

If you can make a difference in the life of one person today, it will be worth it.

Hearts that are tender call for tenderness – who can you be there for today? How can you make a difference?

When Locker Room Talk Creates Locker Room Culture

I’ve locker-roomtried to hold off for awhile now. But, after much thought, I can’t anymore. I have to add my voice, or at least a small story to the discussion that’s been taking over our nation.

I’m not going to say who should vote for who, who would be the best candidate, or what the solution is, because honestly, I have no idea. I just know that we can do better.

The time to do better was probably a long time ago. Now we are left with what we have. I get it. I’m just as displeased as the rest of the country. So, I’m not here to admonish anyone, or to place blame. As a country, we’ve become what we’ve become.

I’ve experienced my share of shock about the things that have been said; but, I’ve been most shocked by the way people I know, people I love, have reacted to some of those things. I’ve seen hate brewing between friends that otherwise respected each other. I’ve watched cracks in our society grow into full blown fault lines ripping at the seams.

But what has shocked me most, is the way good people have brushed Donald Trump’s “Locker Room” talk aside. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard it excused as “how men talk,” or “something that was so long ago…if you pulled up what I said that long ago you’d probably be shocked too.”

I won’t go too far into that last one, but I can promise you that the men I respect in my life have never talked about taking advantage or assaulting women in a way that’s “funny,” or “just talk.” It’s not what they do.

The worst part is that it’s “okay” because it’s “just talk.” Yes, it’s talk. Yes, it happens. But people, think about it…talk leads to action. Maybe that action isn’t from the person doing the talking, but when that person is an influencer, it leads to action by others, others that think it’s okay because someone that’s in a place of authority has said it is.

I’ve experienced it. It’s not a life altering story; it’s not something I share frequently, but it happened and it did affect me!

Little background: I started 9th grade a few weeks late, in a wheel chair (trampolines…avoid them at all cost!). But, it wasn’t the most exciting way to start high school! It made me stand out and feel uncomfortable! But, it was fine, I made friends and life went on.

Some of those friends rode the bus with me, many of them were a year older. But, we had fun and we got along fine. Often times, I felt the need to impress them since they were older, so it felt like I was walking a line.

One day, after school, I sat in the back where I always did. One of the sophomores – I’ll keep him nameless – hopped on the bus like he always did. Then, while laughing, and with other students on the bus right there as it happened, he held me down, reached under my shirt and felt around.

I was shocked and embarrassed and he could see that. He told me to lighten up, that it wasn’t a big deal and that he could do it when he felt like it because we were friends. He let me know that it would be a thing that was just “okay.” His friends – including some of the girls on our bus – laughed about it and told me to calm down.

So I did. But, it didn’t sit right.

After a few days, as harassment from his friends continued, I confided in my youth pastor’s wife (I remain thankful to her to this day, because the behavior would have continued if she did not encourage action!). She let me know it was NOT okay, that I was RIGHT to feel like the behavior was wrong and that I needed to make it stop.

I told my parents and a police officer from our church, who let us know the next steps. Before we knew it, I was in the principal’s office with my parents and a police officer. The sophomore fessed up, and he faced charges. We chose an option that let him go through a program that kept his record clean.

In the meantime, his friends became aggressive. They threatened me, they told me I needed to tell everyone that I was lying. I had to get off the bus at one of the first stops, at a friend’s house, because I was scared to ride with them. To this day, I still get uncomfortable when I am forced to interact with this individual, who works at a local place I frequent.

Life moved on, outside of our group, the story stayed fairly quiet. He was able to continue in his life, where I hope he learned a little bit from what happened.

I got to remain cautious. To second guess even well-meaning men. To find myself in situations where I even still excused certain behaviors because I didn’t want the fuss that happened the first time. It was small, many women have experienced SO much worse, but it changed a lot.

You see, he was young; his actions were the result of a culture that lets men know that certain things are “okay,” because they joke about them in locker rooms. My hesitancy to react to them was because of that same culture, that informs women that this behavior is excusable because that’s our place.

I’m far from a feminist. In fact, most would call me the complete opposite. I believe in the biblical norms that were established thousands of years ago and do believe that women have a place in our society.

However, I believe that place is one of respect (just as men receive!). I believe that we are to be valued and I believe that we are to be taught from a young age that we have WORTH.

That message should be supported by men, by their words, by their actions, especially when they are in a place of authority, not laughed about, not brushed aside, not excused. Not in this case, not ever. However, until society as a whole starts believing this, and holding men who talk and act this way accountable, the cycle will continue.

I’m  not going to tell you how to vote. I’m not going to declare what’s right, what’s wrong or anything else.

But, I am going to ask a serious question. In what world is that talk “okay?” In what world should it be brushed aside as “just talk?” Does it sit right with you to excuse it, regardless of when it happened? I know it doesn’t for me. I know it doesn’t for those I respect in my life.

I want a world where my daughter doesn’t have to fear the men that surround her. Until the talk changes, until good people stand up against it, that world won’t exist.

 

We’re Coming Home

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We’re coming home. We’re also leaving home.

When we moved to Asheville, we had no idea what was in store. We knew we likely wouldn’t be here forever, that it was a part of our journey, probably not the destination…but something happened that we never expected…Asheville became home.

Coming to this beautiful place, surrounded by mountains and the most natural beauty I’ve seen in one place was exciting…something we thought would feel like an adventure; and it was. But, that adventure became a part of our lives, and slowly, it just became our life.

We doubled our family size (as far as kids are concerned). We gained lifelong friends. Our children gained friends that they can run around the neighborhood with whenever they feel like it. Our oldest started at a brand new school that feels like something out of a story book (it’s that amazing!). Hiking and exploring became a part of our routine. We’ve learned to appreciate amazing restaurants and breweries (something this city is known for!). It’s been an amazing, amazing adventure.

We left our family behind and truly learned to rely on each other (it happens SUPER fast when you move a few states away from everyone you know!). We learned to deal with issues before they became issues and it made us grow closer than ever before. We grew up and we grew together.

This was something we never imagined.

And now we have a date. October 8, we will be moving home.

John has received a promotion that includes a relocation package back to PA!

It’s exciting…another new adventure that has a hint of familiarity to it! We’re looking forward to weekends at Hersheypark…to everything fall in Pennsylvania has to offer (hello corn mazes and hayrides!). We can do family dinners whenever we want. We’ll be close to our parents and siblings, to aunts, uncles and cousins…we’ll get to reconnect with friends without having to start over again. We’ll get to actually connect with our nieces that we’ve been watching grow through photos and videos!

We’ll get to feel settled. To (oh my goodness) go out to eat together with family around to help with the kids (we have not left the kids except when family has visited from PA!). We’ll get to spend Christmas in our own home without having to travel the country to see everyone. To spend weekends at our favorite vineyard shooting the breeze with friends we have dearly missed.

We get to reconnect. This is huge.

This all probably sounds very factual, but it is, in fact, very fueled by emotion!

We are SO, SO, SO excited to come home. But, we are also extremely sad to leave this place that became our unexpected home, the place where our family has become a family! It’s a crazy set of emotions to try to put into words!

When you can…think of us! We are praying for the sale of our home. Currently, there’s not a lot of action happening on the market because of the Labor Day holiday and start of school…but we need our home to go under contract as soon as possible. I don’t do well with unknowns…getting a few of them checked off our list will help with the moving forward business. Please pray!

There you have it…our latest update. We’re coming home!

Tomorrow my Baby Enters the World

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Just thinking about it all brings tears to my eyes and a million feelings I didn’t expect! But, as the title implies, tomorrow my baby enters this big world on his own two feet…tomorrow, my boy starts kindergarten.

Saying those words makes me think back. I think back to the months we waited for his arrival, to the long delivery that we never thought we’d get through…to the first time I held him and smelled him and cuddled with him. To milestones…to his first steps…to a funny dance he did over a gift at his first birthday party that had us rolling with tears…to the day he became a big brother and beamed brighter than any other time in his life. To his first soccer game.

I think of our times together…reading book after book because one is simply not enough. To his questions…to the million “why’s” and “how’s” and other engaging thoughts that show me how his intricate mind works. To the feel of his hair when it rubs against my face. To the way he smiles in his sleep, always cuddled with a stuffed animal, dreaming dreams I can’t imagine.

But now, it’s time for me to step back. To be there for him, but behind him…not right by his side as he takes those big boy steps into his new school.

I worry. Not because he is worried, because I can tell you with certainty that he is not. But, because I’m putting him into someone else’s care. The only people in the world that have watched him are his grandparents, two aunts, one uncle and Miss. Carol. That’s it. I can count them on one hand. These people have loved on him like no one else, but, kindergarten is different.

I want his teacher to see him for who he is…and after meeting her, I know she will! Not because he is “special,” but, because all students are special. I hope he listens and absorbs all there is to absorb and that he remembers his manners, his pleases, his thank yous, his hand raising and his turn waiting.

I hope the other students are kind to him. That they all want to be friends and that no one is excluded. That his “let’s be friends!” comments are met with “yesses” a games of tag and make believe. That his day is filled with laughter and adventure.

I hope his school is safe. I fear, deep down inside like every other parent, because of news stories and the scary world that we live in, that seems so much more scary when we are separated from our children and when they are left to their own devices.

I hope he thinks about me. Not that he misses me, but that he remembers how much I love him while we are apart and that he smiles because of it. That when he gets home, he’ll share with me about his day, about his new friends, about the craft he made, the books he’s read and the things he’s learned. I pray that if something hurts, he’ll share or if he needs a cuddle that he’ll remember that my lap is always open for him!

When my mind starts to roll, I think. I remember that children are a gift from God and that he’s given us the responsibility of raising them to be who he wants them to be, that they are a loan from him, designed for his purposes. I pray that he remembers what we’ve taught him and that we’ve raised him for this day, that he’s ready for the independence he’s about to encounter.

I cry, tears because I’ll miss him, but also because he’s so ready. And I know that’s a gift.

I know I’m not alone…that there are millions of other parents thinking the same thing, ready to send our babies out into this big world. I’m with you all in spirit. We can do this. We can take this first baby step in letting go. Here we go!

World…be kind to our babies!

Stepping on Eggshells

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I don’t know where to start….except to say that, like most Americans, today, I woke with a heavy heart.

Before going on, I want to be clear…this is not a result of last night’s shooting in Dallas, or the live-streamed shooting that went public preceeding it. That was not my tipping point. Although it did cause me to write…for that, I’m sorry…I’m sorry it took so long.

Instead, it’s the culminating effect of what’s been happening for the past few years in our country.

Emotions are running high. Words that feel like they should be encouraging are perceived (maybe rightfully so) as insulting. Friends are taking sides against friends. Feelings that are real are being trampled and broken. The question “why?” Is being asked around dinner tables out loud and inside the hearts and heads of parents as we lay in bed at night. It’s easy to feel like we are walking on eggshells.

The past few years have been a time of great change. We have moved forward in so many ways as a nation. But it seems as though every forward motion has ripped a bandage off an unsealed wound, bringing to light issues that we so often don’t want to deal with. Issues that are real, and raw and hard.

These unhealed wounds are leading to fear…to doubt…and to hate.

I don’t have the answer. But I can say I feel. That’s all, I feel.

I feel for my black friends, for my friends who are parents who have to teach their sons to “comply, comply, comply” and still worry that they might not come home at night.

I feel for my police friends and their families who are in their profession to make a difference, but could be targeted for their uniforms.

I feel for my gay friends, who feel hatred from those who should be reaching out a loving hand, who now have even more reason to fear.

I feel for my Muslim friends, who are questioned, doubted and feared every time they leave their homes.

I feel for my white friends, who cannot understand the emotions of our black counterparts, who feel the divide that’s growing but don’t know how to make a tangible difference without coming across as privileged, or, worse, racist.

I don’t have the answers. But, I know that we need to make an effort to understand one another. Not to be quick with the #alllivesmatter hash tag that minimilizes hurt. Not to jump on a social media campaign. Not to claim to “be there” when we are not.

Instead, we need to reach across these borders and fault lines. To be clear that we may not understand, but that we love those on the “other” side, and that we want to bridge the gap. We need to stop seeing “other” as a thing…period.

We need to be a nation on our knees, willing to get in the trenches for and with our neighbors.

Until we put aside our own “knowledge” and seek to understand those around us, healing won’t begin.

And our country desperately needs to heal. To hear and feel and act in love. To grow closer to those around us rather than farther away.

Who is willing to bridge the gap? Who is willing to reach out in love and say “I’m here. I don’t understand, but I want to. I want to stand with you.”? Who is willing to admit that maybe we have been calloused in the past, but we are willing to grow forward together?

I’m here. I want to learn. I want to understand. I want to put away my own fear of stepping on eggshells. To get dirty, to feel the hurt and to show love in a way that makes a difference…are you?