Seeing the World: Kids in Tow

This year has been a whirlwind!

In addition to doing day to day life, we’ve had many opportunities to travel, that we have taken advantage of to the fullest extent possible. So much so, that I’ve had a lot of people ask me to start sharing how we do it. Based on this, I thought I’d share a few lessons (most of which we have learned the hard way) that we’ve picked up traveling by plane, train and automobile – seriously – with the kids in tow.

Before that though, I wanted to share why we do what we do.

I think that this world is an amazing place. But, I think when we stay in one place, our view of the beauty that is “out there” – both natural beauty and cultural beauty – becomes limited. I think that when we think how we do things is the “only” way to do things, we lose a feeling of connectedness that brings people together, that helps us to appreciate day-to-day life, and so much more.

As such, I think one of the best gifts I can give my kids – even if it’s at the sacrifice of how I’d like to see the world – is the opportunity to take it all in. Sometimes that means a road trip a state or two over. Sometimes it means a trip across the ocean (we took on Spain with the twins a few months ago!). Sometimes it means leaving our bubble of comfort and going down town to connect, learn and show a little light to someone who could use a pick me up.

At times this sounds better in theory than in practice. Sometimes it means massive breakdowns that leave people staying. Sometimes it means seriously questioning my ability to parent after I lose it for the 10th time in a day. Sometimes it means tired kids who are off schedule and unable to cope (through no fault of their own).

But for us, the challenges are worth the reward. I love the discussions we get to have as we travel. I like getting to share history with my kids while watching them interact with it in person. I enjoy watching curiosity and comfort grow through nothing I’ve done, but rather, through experience.

Full disclosure: this does not mean we live a life of extravagance by ANY means. I am a bargain shopper. I look for deals like crazy. During our last trip we probably made 50 or more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We find ways to travel in a way that fits our budget and means…which is part of what I’ll share a little as we go along.

Pulling off my last post, I’m grateful for the opportunities we’ve had lately, even when it feels like we are barely keeping it together. I’m learning that a little travel leads to a great desire for more, and I hope we can continue to find ways to see the world as a family. I also hope that by sharing some of our experiences and lessons, that we can make others feel a little more confident in taking that first step or two out into the world…with a kid or two along for the ride.

Next stop: travel bucket list. Have one? Please share!

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The Problem with Prosperity

It feels like we’re bombarded with messaging from all sides some days…right? Sometimes it’s hard to sort it out, to make sense of it and to decide what sits with us for the long run.

One of the messages I’ve been seeing crop up a lot, and discussed even more, is the “prosperity” gospel. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you are not unfamiliar with the concept. In this view, those who trust Christ and live according to his standards are automatically blessed beyond measure. Those who give the most receive the most. Those who live their best lives are blessed accordingly.

Before I go further, just from reading that, I think it’s obvious why there are some skeptics when it comes to Christianity. When these promises fall short, who’s left to blame?

The Problem with Prosperity

Here’s the thing. This life is hard. We’re promised it will be. We will be handed more than we can handle on our own, forced to rely on a God that’s so much greater than us. We will be tested the way a silversmith tests silver until we are refined.

When we focus on prosperity alone, we focus on a half (at best) truth.

I tell my kids regularly that God is not a genie. “Why?” you might ask? Let me walk you through it.

The other day, my kids were with me in a store. I saw my middle one bow his head as we walked to the check out. “Lucas…what did you just pray about bud?” I asked, thrilled that he felt the need in the middle of his day to resort to prayer.

“I prayed that God would make you say yes when I asked for Pokemon cards,” he replied. Cute? Yes. Limited view of how this whole thing works? For sure.

Another day, my oldest was playing a game with his brother. He prayed out loud that his brother would lose, giving him the opportunity to pick the next game.

We have thus had to have some serious conversations about the fact that while God can intervene in all aspects of our day, he’s not to be treated like a genie who grants wishes and all of our hearts desires on a whim. That prayer is so much more than asking and receiving. While this is a Biblical promise, there’s much more to it than this.

When we focus only on prosperity and on the expectation that we will be blessed, we miss out on a few important things.

First, we set ourselves up for disappointment, not only in this life, but in our relationship with Christ. When we expect blessings because we’re following the rules, we fail to prepare for what might feel like very real heartaches and failures. We forget that the Bible also promises that in this world we will face heartaches, challenges and temptations that feel much greater than ourselves.

Second, we develop a limited view of God that looks a whole lot like the view that my children naturally have. We fall into the rut that tells us that we have to behave a certain way to get rewarded, instead of following biblical guidelines because of our love for Christ, for a deeper relationship and all that it entails.

Third, we forget that blessings don’t always come in the shape and form that we expect. We have these ideas about what feels best, what we truly want and desire. We forget, once again, that our view of blessings is limited. We lose sight of the idea that sometimes blessings come from situations that hurt, situations that make no sense to us…and might never make sense on this side of heaven. When this happens, we fail to appreciate the real blessings in life because we fail to recognize them.

The Flip Side of the Coin 

If you’re reading this and thinking “wow…what’s the point?” or feeling as though this is more of a discouragement than anything else, I want to share a little encouragement. What I feel is a more accurate view of real life with God.

Recently I’ve gotten to share really great times with really great friends…people that I know God has put in my life for a reason. Friends who show up for a minute to drop off baked goods. Friends that come over for game nights. Friends that set up picnics, who we can laugh with when we forget utensils and improvise. Friends that we’ve walked through real-world heartache with on more than one occasion. Friends that we’ve hit the ground praying with when that’s the only – and best – course of action we have.

During some of these occasions and during some serious reflection (I feel like the front porch is a great place for this), we’ve gotten to talk about how God really does bless us with things we desire. Perhaps it’s because he puts those desires on our hearts – I think this is absolutely true – but, I also think it’s because he really does want to, just because. I feel like we just get so busy, so bogged down that sometimes we miss out on them.

I thought back to the house we live in right now. It was the neighborhood we wanted to live in when we found out we’d be moving back…but building here would cost more than building the exact same home in a neighborhood down the street. Using logic, we reserved a lot in the other neighborhood and designed the basic layout of the home we’d build. During the relocation, it fell through; we wouldn’t be able to build the home we wanted and take advantage of the benefits the company offered. We were heartbroken.

We were told about a home in the neighborhood we wanted in the first place…a model home that was perfect and could be modified a bit to meet both our needs and budget. We jumped at the opportunity and are still in the process of settling into this new home. While it would have been easy to focus on the heartache of losing the home we thought we’d be building, God had something even better in the works. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how that plan worked out. This home can be a refuge for people who are hurting. It can be a place to build memories with our family. It can be a place that our friends can come for a break and where we can share many laughs (and already have!).

It seems like a simple example, but sharing it with friends, we’ve heard similar stories of blessings in disguise…even blessings that have come after loss and true heartache – life changing heartache that hurts so much it manifests itself in a physical way.

God blesses us – but not because we expect it. Not because it’s guaranteed. And, not in the way we think it should look (although sometimes it does!).

When someone promises an easy life filled with blessings – financial or otherwise, think critically about that promise, and instead, look for truth and balance. The problem with prosperity (aside from almost blatant falsehood) is the limited view of something SO much bigger, that it creates.

What are the blessings in disguise that you’ve seen in your life? Where can you look back with thankfulness, even if it felt impossible at the time?

 

 

Mission: Gratitude

What a ride 2017 has been. Thanks for your patience as I get myself together and get this blog that has seen various shapes and formats over time back on track!

Today, I had the chance to spend the day at Hersheypark with good friends of ours – guys, I’m talking do life together even when it’s gritty friends, the best!

Anyway, we got to talking. I’m not sure if it was before or after our kids (by our kids, I mean mine) lost their minds over the fact that they couldn’t have a soft pretzel because it wasn’t made yet – it was morning. I didn’t say no to the pretzel, it was just a physical impossibility at the minute. And thus it began.

We were talking about how hard it is to accept a lack of gratitude in our kids…that it is absolutely maddening to try to provide extras for them and to have it feel like it’s not enough. About how it’s a frustrating lesson to teach and how the lack of the emotion seems to rear its ugly little head time and time again.

So then…I started thinking.

Are we – as adults – any different? How often do we get frustrated when life doesn’t go the way we think it should, according to our plan? How often are we so focused on what we want, and might not have, that we forget about what we do have?

I’m not coming down on anyone here, not any harder than myself at least. This past year has been a struggle. We’ve tried hard to change and adapt to our lives here, but it has been hard. We get frustrated by long hours at work. We long for the life we left behind. We complain over a lack of sleep. We struggle to make it to dinner, let alone bed times some nights! I’m going to stop there because I think giving more than a few examples goes in EXACTLY the direction I’m attempting to avoid.

Recently, I’ve been trying to change the trend in my own life. When I feel the need to grumble, I replace it with three things to be grateful for: kids to do laundry for. A home that meets the needs of our family. Friends and family that we can do life with every single day. The opportunity to travel and see this amazing world. When I struggle to come up with 3 things, I push myself for 5.

You see, I think a lack of gratitude has serious implications for the rest of our lives. It stops us from living out the calling placed on us, it stops us from sharing our lives with those around us because we’re so stuck in our own circle of selfishness that it’s physically impossible to reach out. It prevents us from noticing blessings that literally surround us at every given moment. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that MANY of our limitations and situations are self-imposed, partially from a lack of doing our best to be grateful.

Once again – I’m not here to condemn anyone. I’m the first to say I have some serious work to do. But, I can tell you, that even when things are hard (which they are…friends…this life is hard sometimes), I’m going to do my best to try to look a little harder at the blessings that abound everywhere. When I feel bogged down by work, by parenting frustrations or by any other thing that gives me a reason to complain, I’m going to slow down. I’m going to breathe in a little deeper and take an intentional look at the sunset, the little ones that give me reason to smile, the fact that I have a home to clean and food to eat and any other number of things I tend to take for granted…care to join?

Relying on Mountaintops

I wrote this piece awhile back, while we were in NC for a publication. Plans changed a bit, so I thought I’d still share here!

 

Where does your faith come from? How do you feel close to the Lord?

These questions rocked my world, brought me to my knees and changed my life for the better not all that long ago. I’m willing to bet they could shape you as well. But first, let me explain.

I grew up in a Christian home. While my relationship with God has been hot and cold, I’ve never doubted him, his power or his might. I’ve always seen evidence of his existence everywhere.

You see, I’ve been to the mountaintops that are so commonly discussed in Christian circles. I was blessed to be a part of an amazing youth group. We had regular retreats and national conferences where I was afforded the chance to worship with thousands of other teens, to listen to amazing speakers and to feel a fire for God in my heart. I felt the same during mission trips to third world countries when I saw his power in action. There’s no denying that feeling, that life-breathing feeling.

It was the time between the mountaintops that became problematic for me. I’d come home and become complacent. I’d even doubt if my salvation was “real” or truly authentic. I failed to grow.

It showed.

My whole life, I’d planned on attending a Christian college in New York. I was accepted during my junior year of high school and never wavered in that decision until one week before the acceptance deadline during my senior year. I panicked, didn’t want to miss out on college “fun,” and didn’t want to lose my boyfriend.

I applied to a state school and accepted their admissions offer without a single visit. Still, I felt I was okay. I went to Campus Crusade weekly, worshipped, felt God’s presence, then, went drinking with my friends. No big deal, right?

During college a lot changed. I could go into thousands of details, but here are the cliff notes. John put his trust in the Lord. We got engaged. We became youth leaders. We got married. We graduated and we started real life. From there, we continued to attend the church I’d grown up in.

I always thought I’d feel closer to God when the “real world” started and the party-happy environment of college ended. But then, I didn’t. I still believed, but there was no forward motion. I’d go to church weekly, have wonderful “mini-mountaintop” worship experiences surrounded by pillars of the Christian faith. But then, nothing would change. I’d get so frustrated with God! “Why do I still feel shaky in this relationship?” “Why don’t you pull me closer?”

My husband, John, and I had two kids with even more news came. His company wanted to move us from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, away from everything we knew, away from the life we were building.

I was terrified. You see, our relationship had been slipping away. Remember how I felt far from God? I felt the same toward my husband. A few months before our move, I distinctly remember sitting in our pastor’s office and explaining that I was indifferent about what happened to our marriage…right in front of John. I just didn’t care anymore.

With the move, I’d be moving away from the familiar life I lived with someone I wasn’t even sure I’d be spending my whole life with. It was terrifying. Still, we prayed. We talked. We felt it was best and that God’s hand was in it, so, we moved forward.

Lots of details were arranged and during one of our first visits, we went to a church plant that fit our denomination. The people were so welcoming and it somehow felt right.

But, it couldn’t be…there were around 20 members. No worship. Just a sermon, serious prayer and a focus on missional living. I remember wondering how I could be “happy” there. See the pattern…how it was all about me?

Then, God’s truth hit me square on the heart.

On what was my faith based? How did I feel close to God? Was it only during the mountaintop moments where the environment led to an emotional feeling of faith? Was my relationship grounded in him or in my surroundings?

Most of all…did he know?

Yes, he did, and Psalm 44:21 made it real, “Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?”

He knew. I knew. Everything changed.

After that visit, we pressed forward with the move. At our lowest point of homesickness after our arrival in North Carolina, we learned we were expecting twins (I know God has a sense of humor, but that is a story of its own!). We were forced to rely on God and on one-another. We continued to attend our bare-bones church plant where we were challenged in our walks with Christ like never before.

During all of this, God stripped away our reliance on other things, on the music, on the surrounding worshippers, on the passionate sermons and the traditional atmosphere. Along with this complete breaking down of what I thought I “needed,” God revealed many scriptural truths that changed my life. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, if you wonder if your faith is “authentic,” or if you’re relying on mountaintops, they might change yours as well.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts,” (Psalm 139:23).

Let me tell you, I wrestled with God during this turmoil I felt inside. But, I submitted. I asked him to search my thoughts and examine my motivations.

It became clear that I was living from Sunday to Sunday, from mountaintop to mountaintop. My faith was shallow, based on others, not a fire burning in my heart. I was falling short…not God.

Let me step away for a second to make something clear: my home church is a fantastic place filled with lovers of Jesus. It’s where I plan to attend if we move back. It was my own shortcomings that were holding me back and the scriptures made this clear to me.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work,” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

If this doesn’t demonstrate the importance of scripture, I don’t know what does. Scripture teaches us. It molds us. It completes us.

I thought I was fine. I listened to scripture each week. I’d participated in Bible quizzing and can literally quote the book of James to you from start to finish. I thought that “knowing” it was enough.

Then, John and I were challenged to read the Bible daily for a year. We decided to jump in. Wow. At first, it was a chore. But then, it became real. I looked forward to it. I learned to grow from tangible expressions of God’s love and power. I grew to need it in my life. I started to feel complete in my relationship with God and grew nearer to him.

Spending time in the word is essential for closeness with the Lord. It removes insecurities, it molds us from the inside out. I saw it happen. I felt it happen.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10).

Once I started to feel the closeness I’d been longing for, I needed to ask God, every single day, for a clean heart.

I needed to pray that he would remove bitterness and barriers that had grown between myself and him, myself and my husband, and myself and others.

I needed to ask every day. And you know what? He did it. I asked him to change me, not to change for me. At the same time, my husband was growing in his own faith and behind changed and renewed. We were closer than we’d ever been before. God was working wonders right before our eyes because we started to simply rely on him.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this,” (Psalm 37:5)
“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them, he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him,” (Psalm 37:39-40).

Here it is. Truth straight from the Word.

Our faith, our reliance on God, doesn’t change because of him. He is steadfast. His biblical promises never waiver. He waits for us and works on our behalf whether we “feel” close to him or not. When we feel as though something is wrong, we need to search our own hearts, our actions and our motivations.

Then, we need to commit what we find, our shortcomings, our failures, our crises of faith, to the one who is waiting with arms wide open.

These truths opened my eyes. I was relying on external people, situations and feelings, rather than my heavenly father. I was relying on mountaintops that could not sustain me through valleys because they were inactive, they were passive; they weren’t alive, living in me.

Are you relying on mountaintops? Do you wonder why God feels far away? Are you frustrated?

God has changed my life. My reliance and my dependence are fully rooted in him. When this focus changes, life changes. My husband and I are now on the same track. We’re growing, we’re moving forward, we’re closer than we’ve ever been…ever. I see a passion in him that I’ve never seen before and he sees that same passion in me. Stripping away everything that we saw as essential made us rely solely on our father in heaven, and that is the greatest gift that we could have received.

He’s waiting for you too. Are you ready to step away from the mountain and into the everyday? I urge you to give it a try. A life that you cannot even fathom is right around the corner.

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.

 

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?