For Katie the Warrior, None of the Above

Thankful, Thankful

My life is not perfect. Ive been super open with the sorrow of the last two years, especially after my sister’s brain injury. But I have to take a moment to celebrate.

I dropped off my two kids to two schools I love this week. I sat in the car grinning that it all worked out. God provided money where there was no money. He calmed nerves, He moved some mountains, He created a way.

In the midst of living through some circumstances I would never choose, and feeling loss in places I never thought would be deserts, I have to shout with gladness that some of my deepest desires have been fulfilled. Staying home with my kids, sending them to schools who teach them to love and revere God, it is a dream come true.

I will never understand the God who did not intervene how I wanted with my sister, yet still cares deeply about the details and desires of my heart. I can say with confidence that He is near. At the end of the day, thats everything.

I hope you all are having a wonderful first week of school if your lives, like ours, are now on a school calendar. I’m praying for safe kids this year everywhere, and that they know God as near.

GCASs3eLTkCkDZmARh3scQ

 

Advertisements
None of the Above

World AIDS Day

Many moons ago, three and a half years to be exact, I resigned at my first “real” job to raise my new baby. I was hired at HopeSprings while I was a senior in college and as my time opened up after graduation my job grew. I loved HopeSprings. It was a difficult job that stretched and changed me in a thousand ways.

HopeSprings is an organization whose mission is to bring hope and healing to people affected and infected in HIV. Everyday the volunteers sit at the feet of people who are suffering and they offer that hope in all different ways.

My time there opened my eyes to know and love people from backgrounds that belong in horror films yet some backgrounds were just like mine. I got to spend a billion hours with people who I may have judged had I not known them; some addicts, some who sold their bodies, many previously incarcerated for violent crimes yet others were college students, or they had blood transfusions, or were in committed marriages when their spouse was not as committed, some had sex at a party or were raped.

I think the most important thing I learned was that the way they contracted HIV didn’t matter. It had no connection with how much they are allowed to suffer, or to experience great sorrow, or to thrive and to live normally. They are so precious in the Lords sight and I am no different. I’ve played Russian roulette in some of the same ways and my ANNUAL HIV tests could have come back positive instead of negative.

This World AIDS day I have a new perspective. I come as the person on the ugly side of a loved ones diagnosis. Although that diagnosis isn’t HIV I come as someone who can no longer turn off the agony(empathy) when I come home. It doesn’t get to leave me anymore. Life altering diagnoses have a way of wrecking everyone including those in the support roles so this year as I’m wrecked I think of and pray for those with a new diagnosis. Those that feel hopeless, those Dan or I personally tested and had to deliver that diagnosis, those who still need to be linked to care. They are precious, they are prayed for, they are loved well by HopeSprings and dear to me.

This World AIDS Day would you consider doing something? Would you get involved in HopeSprings? Would you donate? Would you commit to getting an HIV test annually? Talking to your kids or youth groups? Don’t know what to say? HooeSprings can help with that too.

None of the Above

“No time” food!

I have no time these days. I take that back, I have the same amount of time as everyone else but it seems I’m having less and less time to cook. Some of it is Judah’s needy age, some of it is lack of time to plan and purchase adequate meals, some of it is exhaustion; physical and emotional! Some of it is sheer laziness. I’d rather be___________. (Usually running out of the house when Dan gets home to get a quick visit in with Kate).

So I’ve had a few meals that are literally keeping my family alive. I’m still trying to lose baby weight sixteen months later so I’m trying my hardest to eat well and not carb load. Boo.

Onto the good stuff. I’m listing a few favorite quick, easy, yummy recipes below. Please comment with some other crowd pleasers in your home! The quicker the better!

1. My Dan lovingly calls this recipe “quinoa beef” which admittedly sounds gross. It’s delicious! I tolerate quinoa but I legitimately love this dish.(Gf)


2. Burrito bowl from Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen. It’s super yummy! We make this almost weekly all summer long. (Gf)

3. Ok so this ones more for Dan and I. This grilled cheese is heaven. We don’t do the blue cheese. When I was pregnant with Lillian I would eat two of them. So, so yummy! Especially if you have some fresh pesto lying around, which these days I do not!

4. I’m all about this turkey bolognese sauce. All about it! I just want to eat it with a spoon it’s so good! If I’m making a pound of pasta I typically buy two. It’s in the frozen food section at TJ’s. (Gf depending on the pasta used!)

5. Fall is arriving in Baltimore and that means soup! I’m all about slow cooker soups that I can throw together early in the morning, especially if all of the ingredients are real food! This chicken wild rice soup is a favorite. Certainly not the lowest calorie soup but everyone needs a splurge! (Gf)

Now don’t forget to comment with a favorite QUICK AND EASY recipe! Help!

None of the Above

That Time I Was Held Up at Gunpoint

I have one of those friends that says “yes” to everything. She’s just down for whatever.

Want to fly to Florida for spring break while our friends drive? Yes

Want to stay in a tiny house when we go out west. With our husbands? Yes (more on that next month!)

Want to go to the beach? The mall? The zoo? The small group? The restaurant? Yes

Anyway, we lived together in college (dangerous) and I came home one day declaring that I wanted to study abroad in Spain. I asked her if she wanted to come. “Yes“. Okay. So we booked our plane tickets and were off for fun adventures a few weeks later.

Here we are in Nerja with our new friend pretending to be a statue. Because that’s what you do when you’re in college.

Back to the point. One night I was walking back to our host house from a bar that was showing an American playoff football game and a guy stopped me and pointed a gun in my face. He was trying to rob me but didn’t know English, he was Moroccan so he didn’t even know Spanish. Anyway, one of the guys I was with literally took out a knife and the guy ran away. He took a knife to a gun fight and won. It blew my mind.

I have a distinct memory of what it looks like to be staring down a barrel of a gun. For the rest of my trip I was a little nervous when I saw men walking toward me quickly  but for some reason once I got on U.S. soil I stopped thinking about it. I live in Baltimore, one of the most dangerous cities in America, traveled to Spain which has like five guns total and got threatened there. Only to return home and no longer feel nervous. It makes no sense.

It’s a pretty long story to get to the point. I spend my life trying to live in peace. I will get to the end of my life and it will be one of the things that has gotten a good bit of my time and energy.  Trying to experience peace, to not live in fear, to not share fear with my kids. I should know by now that I have no control. He could’ve pulled the trigger and I’d never known this beautiful life.

We’re in an odd time in history. Maybe everyone says that once they are adults and the reality of our world creeps in and takes the place of wonder and possibility. Either way, I’m there. Seeing the world and realizing its danger. A lot has happened this month. A huge targeted mass shooting, animals getting a bit too close to toddlers whether in a zoo or a theme park. I read two books last week, one about a girl who was divorced by age ten, another about a 12-year-old who was sex trafficked in the Middle East. I go to a church heavily involved in eradicating domestic child sex trafficking.

The ugliness hasn’t necessarily gotten worse, I’m just seeing it through the eyes of a parent versus the eyes of a young person believed to be invincible.

So here we are. What next? Hide in my house with my babies? Last week I went to an active shooter response seminar for our neighborhood association and that seemed like a logical response for a full 24 hours.

The other option–trust God that even if He allows my babies to leave this earth too soon, even if He allows them to go through bad stuff, that He’s still good. That Our lives are a vapor no matter how long we’re here.

It seems crippling at times. Do I let them go to school and hide in closets for active shooter drills and just hope and pray they’ll only ever know drills? Do I pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a more ideal education, using money for that instead of adopting someone whose life is certainly less ideal in an orphanage? Do we homeschool, which comes with its own many sacrifices, the biggest currently seems like my every hour? And that’s just one topic! What about when they decide to start traveling? What about when they organically start belonging to certain social groups? What if they join the military or become missionaries in some far away country? They’ll be targeted for something, that’s for sure-we all are.

I don’t know. There’s running away in fear, there’s choosing what’s best for your own kids even if it’s not what your friends think is best for their kids, there’s having a defense, even if it’s seemingly small to fight bad thoughts or anxieties. It’s bringing what we have even if it’s a knife to a gunfight.

We can hide in fear or we can show up with whatever we have. We can choose which kind of education our kids get or what kind of clothes we let them wear. We can teach them to be comfortable speaking up when they’ve ended up in a sticky situation, to say “no” when they should and stick by it. To bring whatever they have to whatever fight they’re in, whether against an anxiety or fear, or a gun in their face.

But really, the biggest thing I can do is teach them to live their lives. I want to choose to fly across country without them for a friends wedding and not obsess over our life insurance policy or how they’ll sleep at night or if they’ll start calling their grandparents “mommy”. I want to teach them to travel, to make the weird friend, to dance even if they look like they’re having a seizure (poor Elle, it really is that bad). To go to “unsafe” neighborhoods and sign the petition but to know the people for whom they’re signing the petition! One of the most important legacys I could leave is for them to live their lives fully without worrying about the zika virus or the college shooter or the plane ride.

I don’t know how to do this well most days. For now, I’ll be trying to know this intimately:

Ephesians 6:10–18

The Whole Armor of God The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

None of the Above

I’m Twenty-nine!

All day I’ve been having thankful weeps. This is something that started with D and got more intense when I had my babies. Every birthday, Christmas, moms day…I’m a puddle of tears. For days.

I grew up in a house big on celebrating. I had outrageous themed birthday parties, more gifts under the tree than I could count, a childhood for the books. I also lucked out with sisters who didn’t want the chocolate in advent calendars. WHAT? I’m serious, holidays that childhood dreams were made of.

I married someone who wasn’t used to creating the fuss. Don’t get me wrong, he had a great childhood too but he just wasnt used to creating the fuss. I want(ed) to be woken up to fireworks and iced coffee and a spa. With presents all over my bed. And a mariachi band singing affirmations behind me all day. I’m kind of exaggerating. Kind of.

Anyway, here we are the big 2-9. I woke up annoyed that I was awake with the kids. Annoyed that my mariachi band (that I hadn’t requested) had not yet shown up. Wondering why my granola bar didn’t taste like fried chicken and waffles from Miss Shirley’s (I’m serious if you haven’t had them just stop reading this blog and get there to eat until your heart’s content).

Then my actual day started. The sweet words started rolling in–oh the words spoiled me. The lunch and snowballs and voicemails from my people. My three year old wishing me “happy birthday” at least twenty times before noon. Jay giving me his toothy grin and laying his head in my lap for me to scratch his sweet scalp. It’s too much. I’m rotten for even wanting the mariachi band. I just felt this quiet whisper so clearly.

Ashley, let it go. You don’t need these things. I have words for your heart. You matter. Your people love you. They like you. Stop wanting.

So I laid my giggly baby down for his nap, as he put his stinky boy feet all over my face. I layed down with my girl as she told me everything as it was about to happen while we watched Brave. Kissed her cheek for the 300th time as she wished me “Happy Birthday” again. Then I let the tears get our hair all wet. She asked if I was feeling sad inside and I tried to explain my feelings but she cut me off to tell me what Merida was going to do next.

It’s a sweet life. Full of ridiculous expectations and unfathomable grace. My people are saints. Those I chose and those gifted to me. I’m so thankful.

I have some goals for this next year. I’m giving you permission to get all in my business about them.

  • I want to do one thing with my kids each week that they’d love and I hate. (Insert any word here that includes huge crowds). Even during flu season. GASP!
  • I wish I could literally wear a shock collar for every time I use a tone. Maybe I need a reward chart or something. I have a short fuse and it’s just not okay. If you’ve overcome using a tone I am open to ideas!
  • I’m getting a tattoo before I’m 30. D thinks I’m only doing it because my sister said I wouldn’t and I’m a brat. (I do take people doubting me as a dare but I really want one. Probably a compass).
  • Lastly. I want our kids to start participating in generosity on purpose.

If you like SMART goals (like me) you’re probably cringing. Help me! I need your ideas!

None of the Above

The Promised Friday

It’s been a long week. A long seven weeks, really. Migraines and ER visits and a puking kid among personal attacks, and a host of other junk. Trust me when I say we have met some breaking points as a family.

So I sat down to eat lunch with my babies today to realize I have not talked much about Good Friday with Elle. I’ve been cleaning up puke the last few days and am barely awake enough to know my name. So I put Bethel on as has become a lunch custom on and off. Tears stung my eyes immediately as I wondered what I’d say to explain this Good Friday to an almost three-year-old.

I’m not a very demonstrative person but couldn’t help raising my hands to the sky and singing along. She looked at me like I was nuts then put her hand in the air too. I taught Sunday school last week and the curriculum suggested I have the kids raise their arms whenever I said the word hosanna. We were talking about the triumphal entry when Jesus came in on a donkey and the people put their palms in the air exclaiming, Hosanna! I had to quickly move on after seeing 15 toddlers raising their hands shouting Hosanna to not end up a puddle on the floor. (Lord, let it be.)

So I explained that singing with your hand up is kind of like saying Hosanna. Anyway, all of that to say she had a small reference for worship and why you would put your hands in the air.

Then I continued,

“Elle today is called Good Friday. That means that one day many, many, many years ago Jesus died.”

“Jesus who lives in my heart?”

“Yes. Jesus died all those years ago so that we can live with him forever, now in your heart but one day in heaven. We’ll live with him forever there.”

“Grandy gonna be there? And Ephram? How about Mimi? Kevin?”

Lord, let it be.

“Yes, sweetie. Anyone who believes in Jesus will be there.”

“Vera Jade? Uncle Raphy? You and daddy and baby Jay”

Oh Lord,  let it be.

“Yes.”

“That’s silly. Jesus lives in my heart”.

Lord, I beg you,  let that be so.

“Yep he does. But one day we’ll all be in heaven and Jesus will be there too.

“I gonna run with Jesus on the gold streets. I’m a good runner. Why you cryin, mommy?”

“Oh, Elle. Sometimes people cry when they’re happy. Anyway, two days later there was a miracle. He came back to life! He showed up to Mary and some friends and he was back.”

“Woooooow. I Love Mary. Like at Mom moms.

“Yep. Mom mom does have a statue of Mary out front. Anyway, he came back to show people that He really was their savior and to tell them some important instructions”.

<<eyes glazed over eating popcorn>>

Its all somehow new this year. Experiencing this Good Friday with a wondering three year old after a really, really hard seven weeks. I’m stripped bare.
Take everything, Lord. Let my babies love and fear you, everything else is meaningless. Take them over, they were yours first. Help us point them to you.

Can I just say, that’s not the end of the story? These seven weeks have been brutal. Relentless. But there have been moments of incredible beauty. Almost decade long prayers that D has prayed have been answered, (Ask him about it!). The Lord has been so strategic in confirming things that I needed to hear through precious people that I trust. He has filled bizarre, unspoken needs through friends, healed areas of my heart I thought were “good” that He wants whole. He has opened conversations about the miraculous, brought crazy, tear-stained conversations about gifts and the beauty of surrender. It is more and bigger than words at this point. I can’t wait to look back in six months and see a clearer picture of why and how but for now we are happy to be in the midst of relentlessness if it means this crazy beauty. We’ll choose both any day.

Do you have anywhere to go for Easter? Consider coming to Horizon. My hubs is leading worship, there is a greatSunday school for your kids to play and learn, it’ll be great. Are you family? A friend? We want you there-consider this your personal invitation. I swear, we’re 200 normal people, just like you. Join us.

Are you having a rough day? Be thankful your grandmother isn’t making you wear these. 😂


None of the Above

Oh, My Isaac

I should stop being surprised. This week has felt like it won’t end. I texted a friend letting her know I was praying for her test today, thinking it was Monday, because everyday this week feels like Monday. It is not Monday. It is Thursday. Oops.

This has just been a bad week. Elle is getting over a gross contagious sickness and Jay just started it yesterday. D and I are holding our breath, praying that we wont get it and it seems like we have yuck all around us. I went to a doctor on Monday and he gave me news I did not enjoy and tomorrow I get to meet my second opinion to hopefully get news that I can be happy with.

Tonight it all caught up. It always does. I’ve been trucking with the laundry and the sanitizer and the scrubbing and then D called to tell me he’d be later than expected and it started a snowball of not good. With the kids in bed, the tears started rolling. The “red alert” texts started to some of my people that my sanity was teetering and I found myself in front of a devotional I recently decided to finish from a year or so ago.

Let me back up a minute. I have mentioned the If:equip, if:gathering, If: stuff a couple times on the blog before. I picked up a book by founder, Jennie Allen, called Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked my God and my Soul. The whole premise of the book is her story of what happened after she and her husband decided to pray together that God could have anything. They’d do anything, go anywhere, give anything, etc. The book was not an incredible read but it left me pondering what I’m holding back, and what keeps me there. Stuck. Clutching. Grasping.

Its a tricky thing, being a bit of a hypochondriac. Its pride in the worst way, obsessing about yourself and your health and wondering when the things you worry about will come true. It is truly sickening to deal with this, to feel like God can have anything but he has to give me my future, for the length of time I want it. I will adopt, and give away, and share, and advocate, but don’t let me miss a single dance recital, lacrosse game, wedding of one of my babies, date with my man. God you can’t have those. I won’t.

So fast forward to the last few months. I’ve been having crazy migraines. Every day almost for a few weeks. Just debilitating, wake me up at 3am migraines. They’ve stolen precious time with my kids, made me irritable and impatient, probably caused D to wonder why in the world he married me, an evil woman! I asked for prayer from my church’s prayer team and had such a wonderful experience. It had so little to do with my migraines but I felt like in those 10? 20? who knows how many minutes some crazy walls were broken when God let 3 people in on some of my junk. Just put it out there and healed some ugly. But here we are. The night before my second opinion appointment and it feels like the old everything. So I sat down to this devotional. I didn’t even want to, I wanted to watch some tv but we are having a mouse issue so I really cant stand to be anywhere but my bed once the kids are asleep (because clearly, in my world, mice cannot go upstairs. Obviously.)

I pick it up, date it, because I’m me and read the scripture preview. Genesis 22:2 “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.'”. So the whole scripture reading is Genesis 22:1-19 and it goes through Abraham taking his son to the top of a hill to sacrifice… his son. He’s waited for this son, prayed for him, agonized and he finally has him. Vs. 6 always makes me sob, I dare you to speak it out loud in my presence “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together”. Excuse me. No.

Spoiler alert: He takes him up to the mountain and an angel stops him from sacrificing (BURNING) Isaac on the alter and tells him how pleased he is to know his devotion to God. So here we are. This portion of scripture has haunted me from the moment I met it. I remember crying over it when we were trying to get pregnant with Elle and it just was taking forever and we thought we’d never get to meet her. I remember crying over it when all I wanted was to get married and I felt like God wouldn’t let me have D. (clearly I must not have cried that much over it then since I was married at 22.) I remember crying over it when I didn’t think I would be able to stay home with Elle when it was all I wanted. Every time I had some huge desire that I wasn’t willing to give up, I see this verse. So like I said, I shouldn’t be surprised. I read on in the devotion to a poem she wrote entitled “Trust Me with Your Isaac”. (I hope that link works, pp 96-97). God’s not so subtle.

“For every Abraham who dares to kiss the foreign field where glory for a moment                      grasped Is for a lifetime tilled…

The voice of God speaks not but once but ’til the traveler hears, “Abraham!                                Abraham! Bring your Isaac here!”

“Bring not the blemished sacrifice. What lovest thou the most? Look not into the                      distance, you’ll find your Isaac close.”

“I hear the tearing of your heart torn between two loves, the one your vision can                      behold the Other bid above.”

“Do you trust me, Abraham with your gravest fear? Will you pry your fingers loose                 and bring your Isaac here?”

“Have I not made you promises? Hold them tight instead! I am the lover of your                      soul- the Lifter of your head.” 

 “Believe me, O my Abraham when blinded by the cost. Arrange the wooded altar                     and count your gains but loss.”

“Let tears wash clean your blinded eyes until unveiled you see– the ram caught                    in the thicket there to set your Isaac free.”

“Perhaps I’ll send him down the mount to walk right by your side. No longer in                        your iron grasp but safer still in mine. “

“Or I may wrap him in the wind and sweep him from your sight to better things                     beyond your reach– believe with all your might!”

“Look up, beloved Abraham. Can you count the stars? Multitudes will stand to                           reap from one dear friend of God.”

“Pass the test, my faithful one; bow to me as Lord. Trust me with your Isaac–                         see, I am your great Reward.”

So here we are. On this journey, to find my “Anything” while clearly it is under my nose.

Its a process, all things are but I look forward to the day that I am able to tell a story of when I was obsessed with my time here. When I’d chose to give God anything I have except my very life. I hope its on this side of eternity but in the meantime I’ll be nose pressed in my bible reading about how Abraham was giving his “anything” to God who already had it in His care. I hope you believe Him with me. I can say tonight, at 9:40pm, I’m in His care. And that’s a start.