Monday, April 26, 2010

The Shout of God

At church yesterday, we talked about fear. It was the theme in class and the theme in the service. Fear, anxiety, and worry are such struggles for all of us. Quincy's life verse, which our teacher "coincidentally" read is 2 Timothy 1:7 - The Lord has not given you a spirit of fear, but one of power, of love, and of self-control." (J.Rich paraphrase). It is one of those verses that God consistently brings to mind. Fear does not come from God, but God can and does use or allow things we are afraid of to grow us.

In one respect, going through hardship makes you a little more fearless. You realize that you can and have overcome. You realize that in actuality, with God ALL THINGS are possible. It's no longer just an idea or a song lyric. It's an actual experience in your life.

On the other hand, you can also be tempted to develop an even greater fear of going through the same things again.

I guess I have a little bit of both. When I look back on our hardest time though, what I remember most clearly is GOD. I remember His comfort and His tangible presence. I remember His love and His peace. I remember He was there for us. He still is.

In all this talk about fear and struggle, I was reminded of this quote from C.S. Lewis - “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." I think that's what I heard. I heard God SHOUTING above it all - "I AM HERE! YOU ARE LOVED! YOU WILL BE OKAY! YOUR BABY IS LOVED! HE IS OKAY! YOU ARE MY DAUGHTER, MY BRIDE, A CONQUEROR, AN OVERCOMER! JOY COMES WITH THE MORNING, MY CHILD! I AM HERE! I AM HERE! I AM HERE!" This image has just overwhelmed my mind and my heart. I know that God's heart was broken to see me hurting. I know He was holding me close, shouting above it all.

Our teacher, Fritz, told of a time that one of his children had a bad injury and required a Novacaine shot and stitches. He said that his boy was just crying out in pain, and I know as a parent, that it was absolutely breaking his heart. He said how he was up by his son's face, trying to calm and reassure him, even talking about DisneyWorld. Since they were probably in a hospital, I'm sure he wasn't literally shouting at his child, but I know his heart, a father's heart, was SHOUTING to his child. "I AM HERE! YOU ARE LOVED! YOU WILL BE OKAY! YOU ARE MY SON, A CONQUEROR, AN OVERCOMER! JOY COMES WITH THE MORNING, MY CHILD! DISNEYWORLD IS ON THE WAY! I AM HERE! I AM HERE! I AM HERE!" And I'd be willing to bet that his son remembers his father's actions more clearly than he can remember that pain. Our memories of pain fade and muddle, but our memories of those who bore it alongside us stay pretty clear.

So instead of focusing on the issues or the fears themselves, which, once overcome, will fade and distort in my mind, I want to focus on the SHOUT. The shout is the point. The shout is what I will remember. The shout is worth it.

Listening today.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Three Years Old

Ephraim's birthdays feel bittersweet to me. I love that my son is growing up, and I enjoy having fun with him on his special day, but I am also reminded how very quickly his time with me will pass. Three years have already FLOWN by! I can't believe I've been a mom for 3 years. Then again, I feel like I'm one of those people who was born 30, so I also kind of feel like I've been a mom forever.

Ephraim's first year of life was sweet, beautiful, momentous, and life-changing. Babies grow and change SO much in that time, and firstborn children change their parents lives dramatically. Honestly, one of the biggest changes was the whole "run-to-the-store" idea. The time required for this process considerably increased, and everything we did was timed around feedings and sleep. During that time, the Lord used Ephraim to make us more sacrificial, less selfish, and to give us a new perspective on His feelings for us. God knows what we need, and He is faithful.

Ephraim's second year of life was marked with a tremendous and rapid growth in intelligence and communication. It was so much fun to watch his personality emerge. He continued to to require more of us as parents, and God continued to use him to grow us and teach us. He was a huge comfort to us when we lost Ransom. Somehow, he knew just what to do and where to be. I'll never forget the morning after finding out that we lost Ransom. Ephraim came toddling into our room carrying his clothes, matching clothes nonetheless. It was as if God was using him to tell us, "You still have to go on. You still have to get out of bed. You still have to dress this son of yours. He needs you. Press on." I know that loss would have been so much harder if we hadn't had our big boy to be there for us. God knows what we need, and He is faithful.

The third year of Ephraim's life brought new difficulties with learning to discipline, teach, and train him. He required a new and different kind of focus and work. But the third year of his life was also the FUNNIEST! I'm telling you, my kid is hilarious! My sarcasm has rubbed off on him, big time (which I admit is often not-so-cute). His imagination is boundless, and he tells some crazy stories. He's also got this kind of freaky memory. Just yesterday, he asked Quincy if he remembered when it was Quincy's birthday (Quincy's - Nov. 22), and we went to his "blue work," (a place he subcontracts at) and ate cake, and Quincy gave him a carrot. hahaha. How does he remember that?!?! I also love one of his oft-used terms, "lasterday," which is analagous to "yesterday," and actually makes good sense. Ephraim's second birthday was bittersweet because it was also Ransom's due date. How intricately our God weaves the story of our lives. God knows what we need, and He is faithful.

I can't wait to see what the future brings for our son. At his birth, Quincy prayed Luke 1:13-17 over him. "You will have a son... He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." I've kept an index card with this scripture on my bathroom mirror since I was pregnant with him and continue to pray this for him. There's nothing I want more for my son than for him to love the Lord. Hopefully we will point him in the right direction, and when we fail, God's grace will make up the difference! God knows what we need, and He is faithful.

Happy Birthday, Ephraim! God knows what you need, and He is faithful!

Monday, April 19, 2010


I have a new crafting venue to pursue. I've done some hand embroidery in the past (very little), and it turned out SO cute.

This was a quilt square that I appliqued and hand embroidered for the quilt for Sharon, from the "MOMS."  It has a blanket stitch around the borders and free-handed lettering. It says "Ephraim Alston" and has his birthday, April 20, 2007. He will be THREE YEARS OLD TOMORROW!!! Holy cow! How have I been a mom for 3 years!?!? Anyway, Ephraim's room is green and has this tree theme going on, so the tree kind of represents him in my mind. Also, his name means "fruitful."

Quincy actually made this square, sewing machine and all! It is for our little stillborn son, Ransom. The blue bird represents him. If you've seen Quincy's tattoo, you'll know why.

Matthew 10:29-31 - "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."
(And that was a little bit of old-fashioned digression.)

I did hand embroider Ransom's name on the square above, though.

Finally, and FAVORITELY, Aspen's square. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous making this one. She wasn't born yet, and as you may or may not know, we did not have an ultrasound to "confirm" her sex, as we felt the Lord had already done so. Since it was going to be a permanent part of a quilt, I had a few moments of hesitation! hahah But I'm glad I did it! Turned out SO cute. It is appliqued and a blanket stitch was added around the edges. Then I hand embroidered her name.

Here's a picture of the finished quilt, in case you were curious. Several moms made squares, and we assembled them into a quilt to give to Sharon for Christmas.

Anyway, I also made a few aprons at Christmas. They had a pocket with a "reindeer" on it. The reindeer was made of Ephraim's footprint and hand prints traced on fabric. I used a blanket stitch around that as well, and embroidered "Merry Christmas! Ephraim 2009" on each of them. One was for my mom, one was for Quincy's mom, and one was for me.  (I would've put the pictures, but I couldn't get them turned the right direction. hahahah!)

So this is my new idea. I would like to do an embroidery hoop wall!

This is really cute, and actually is "no embroidery necessary!" It's just scraps of fabric inside embroidery hoops, which are SUPER cheap, by the way. Lord knows I have tons of fabric scraps, so certainly some of them will be like this.

But this owl is also awesome!

And these adorable birds!

And, you know, a thousand other things...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Craft Hope and Krochet Kids

I discovered something new today and I'm so excited! It is called Craft Hope. The site's description is below.

"Craft Hope is a love inspired project designed to share handmade crafts with those who need them. It is our hope to combine our love for crafting and desire to help others into a project to make a difference around the world."

I LOVE IT!  I love crafts, and I need outlets for my crafts. Also, they have regular, ongoing projects, so it's really great to have ongoing goals and ideas. And best of all, the crafts will help those in need!

Some of the recently completed projects are knit scarves for The Orphan Foundation and quilts for Margaret's Hope Chest.

There are some other sites out there like this one as well, but Craft Hope is new to me.

If you desire a project for a cause, check them out. Also, try Mama to Mama!

There's another site that I really love, which is kind of similar. It is called Krochet Kids. You have to go read their story. It will crack you up and make you smile. I saw these guys on PBS once and just loved the idea and their hearts, and the fact that they are just a few silly young guys who decided to make a difference (remniscent of Invisible Children).

Anyway, there are a few ways to do good with your craftiness or your dollars, or both!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Roarin' like a Lion!

I just wanted to share these pictures of Ephraim "roaring like a lion." We've been singing the song, "Like a Lion" at church, and it makes him just go crazy!

I wish they would've turned out better, but you get the point! hahah :)  RAAAWWRRR!!!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Holy Days

Warning: I’m about to unleash some crazy on you! This post will take you through my very discombobulated thought process, so buckle up and hold on tight! Also, I’m no scholar or historian, these are just my opinions…. But don’t substitute my judgment for your own! If you’ve got the Holy Spirit in you, do what HE leads you to do. It was for FREEDOM that we were set free!

Over the past few years, I’ve been exposed to a growing number of Christians who celebrate Biblical holidays. I guess maybe 3 years ago, we as a family, took part in our first “Passover.” I put Passover in quotation marks because we did not do a full seder meal, the feast of unleavened bread, etc. This year, we again participated in a truncated Passover seder. There is SO much symbolism in Jewish traditions. A lot of the seder is about remembering how God delivered His people from captivity in Egypt. Well, as believers, a lot of the seder is a direct parallel to our own deliverance. The piercings and stripes in the matzah and the piercings and stripes in our Savior… the hidden piece of matzah… so symbolic. So rich. (I’ll digress if I linger here too long. Look it up. There’s some cool stuff in our Jewish history. :) )

Now, I personally do not believe that we are obligated to take part in Biblical holidays. There is Old Testament scripture that indicates that the Passover meal was established as an everlasting covenant between God and His people. As a gentile, I think it’s probably a judgment call about whether or not we are part of that covenant. I know we were grafted in to God’s family tree through a new covenant, Jesus Christ. The direct parallel that I draw from for this conclusion is the covenant made regarding circumcision.

Genesis 17:9-12 -  9And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a) sign of the covenant between me and you. 12He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."

Part of Romans 2:29 - circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.

Acts 15:1-29 (Read the whole thing yourself, but this is an excerpt that applies.) - The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. 24We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

I love how abruptly those verses end. “You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.” Hahah It seems that the Holy Spirit did not feel compelled to place the covenant of circumcision upon the new gentile believers, so to me it seems like, again, we are not obligated to take part in Old Testament covenantal activities. However, the Jewish festivals and holidays are so beautiful and rich in their symbolism that I think we gentile believers actually miss out on a much bigger picture of our Messiah. So, we choose to participate. This year, we will participate even more fully… but I’ll get to that.

This is another important New Testament comment that speaks more directly to the celebration of feasts.

Colossians 2:13-17 - And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Our covenant has been brought about and fulfilled by the Messiah, Jesus Christ Himself! Praise God for doing the work of our salvation!

What about Easter? Well, if you look into Easter’s origins, you might be disturbed. The word “Easter” comes from a fertility goddess, and that’s kinda weird, and the holiday is certainly extra-Biblical (meaning it is not Biblically prescribed, but there are lots of things that are extra-biblical that are not necessarily wrong, i.e., children’s ministries, Sunday School, alter calls, etc.) So when I thought about this, I was first drawn to the extremes. Maybe we should disassociate from Easter completely because of its origins, regardless of what it means to us today? Well, if I’m going to do that, I should really also abstain from January, February, March, June… hahah It made me laugh to think about it. “I am no longer participating in January.” The fact is, whether we like it our not, our culture is so entrenched in these Greek and Roman gods and goddesses and mythology that we would really have to redefine our entire culture and language to completely be free of them. Likewise, Easter was historically a “month” (and still is on the liturgical calendar). It was a period of time and a point of reference commonly understood. Nonetheless, I continued to think, “Well, maybe we SHOULD just do away with our calendar?” I started looking at the Hebrew calendar more closely. Perhaps this is the calendar we should follow? Uh oh. Bad news. During their Babylonian captivity, the Hebrew people named a month (Tammuz) after a Babylonian god. I forgot that the Hebrews pretty regularly turned their back on the one true God. And I imagine it was really difficult for them, being the first monotheists and all. They were surrounded by polytheists on every side and clearly, they weren’t totally unaffected.

So is it cool that we reclaimed this pagan fertility festival thing for the one true God and use the time to celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead? Judgment call, but I say yes. To me, in my heart (where God looks, not the outward appearance) Easter does not mean what it once did. It is not about a fertility goddess for me, it’s about the resurrection of the Messiah! Just like January does not make me think of the god Janis, but of a New Year and of Aspen’s birth.

So Easter was originally this crazy pagan thing that has been reclaimed, and the same is true of Christmas (sorry if I’m bubble-bursting), but as gentile believers in a nonliturgical part of the body, those are the big 2 celebrations. I thought about Francis Chan’s book, “Forgotten God,” which is EXCELLENT, if you haven’t read it. Do you think the Holy Spirit feels a little jilted that He gets virtually NO recognition from us? I mean, He’s the Living-Within-Us God. Why isn’t this a big deal to us? Why isn’t there a parallel “Holy Spirit Christmas” to celebrate His arrival on the scene? I guess the Holy Spirit gets little recognition because He’s seemingly intangible. At least the liturgical church recognizes the day of Pentecost as worthy of celebration, however large or small.

So my thought process then took me to another place… what about the liturgical calendar? If I’m choosing willingly, to participate in Biblical holidays because of their rich historical significance and solidarity (fist pump) with my Jewish family, can I not also choose solidarity (fist pump) with my gentile brothers and sisters, and their history? Sure, there’s some weird stuff in our gentile history, but there’s also some weird stuff in our Jewish history. I think it goes back to my heart in celebrating. If I’m doing it just to do it, out of obligation or tradition, maybe it isn’t worth the trouble? But if I’m doing it to truly celebrate the King of Kings, then party on!

So what am I gonna do with all these thoughts and opinions? Something CRAZY, of course. In the Old Testament, giving 10% was the principle. In the New Testament, the Acts church gave EVERYTHING. So, that’s what I’m gonna do with my calendar – Give EVERYTHING. This is how I will start. First, I will use the Hebrew calendar to learn my rich Jewish history and of all the pictures that were given to show the foreshadowing of the Messiah’s arrival. I will then overlay the liturgical calendar to learn more about my gentile history and the powerful stories of the saints who have gone on before us. Finally, I’ll fill in the blanks. If I don’t have something that one of “the family” has already established to celebrate on a certain day, I’ll make something up! Every day will be holy and unto the Lord, as it really should be. I’m going to keep it simple and I probably won’t celebrate either the Jewish holidays or the liturgical ones to the degree that the Jewish people or liturgical Christians do. Otherwise, I probably won’t keep it up. But here’s where I will begin.

(As we were coming up with Made-Up Days, we were all just yelling out aspects of God that we are thankful for. Those days will be celebrated by spending some time thinking about that aspect of God. That simple. :) I think it’ll be great! If you’ve got some great ideas for what we could celebrate or if you want to join in the fun, let me know! I’ll try to make a March calendar before March arrives. I’m excited about focusing the ENTIRE calendar on God, by choice, not by obligation. :) )

April 4 – Pesach, Easter Sunday, the Lord’s Day

April 5 – Pesach

April 6 – Pesach

April 7 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate God’s CREATION!

April 8 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate God’s KINDNESS!

April 9 – Shabbat

April 10 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate God’s GOODNESS!

April 11 – Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, the Lord’s Day

April 12 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate God’s CREATIVITY!

April 13 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate God’s SACRIFICE!

April 14 – Rosh Chodesh Iyyar (The new Hebrew month begins.)

April 15 – Rosh Chodesh Iyyar (The new Hebrew month begins.)

April 16 – Shabbat

April 17 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate God’s PROVISION!

April 18 – Third Sunday of Easter, the Lord’s Day

April 19 – Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day)

April 20 – Yom HaAtzma'ut (Israeli Independence Day)

April 21 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate NEW LIFE!

April 22 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate HOPE!

April 23 – Shabbat

April 24 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate God’s PEACE!

April 25 – Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Lord’s Day

April 26 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate God’s LOVE!

April 27 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate JOY!

April 28 – Made-Up Day to Celebrate God’s POWER!

April 29 – Learn about St. Catherine of Siena (Who is she? I don’t know. I’ve never participated in the liturgical calendar. :) Ask me on April 30th.)

April 30 – Shabbat

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Resurrection Celebrations!

I thought I'd share a few of the things we've done so far to celebrate the resurrection!

First, we had a truncated, intimate Passover meal. Ephraim LOVES matzah! He ate about 4 of those ginormous crackers. He also found the afikoman, which isn't saying much, because he had no competition. Aspen refused to look. ;) I can also refer to this as "the-time-I-forgot-to-take-pictures-because-the-memory-card-was-full-and-what-we-were-doing-was-more-important-than-photographing-what-we-were-doing time." (Nonetheless, here are some pics of the kiddo with some matzah.)

Despite the fact that we talked about the plagues and the Hebrew people being rescued from slavery, I would say that Ephraim's main takeaway from this time was the message that Jesus' body was broken for ours, and that Jesus rescued US. I think this because of what happened Friday night. On Friday night, we went to a Good Friday Service at Grace Church of Avondale, where we worshipped and a communion was taken. When Ephraim saw Ian breaking the bread for communion, he said, "Look Mom, that bread is broken just like Jesus was broken. The bread is like how God's heart was broken." Now, neither Quincy nor I said anything, during the Passover time, or communion, to indicate that "God's heart was broken," but the mind of a child is brilliant indeed. It surely did break God's heart when His Son's body was broken.

(Now, we celebrate both the Passover and Easter, and I'll explain how/why we do in a future blog, but it's a ton of information, so you'll just have to wait. So those of you who want to know will soon know.) We neglect the bunny, but I don't think he minds. Even the bunny knows who holds the universe in His Hands. :)
We do dye eggs though... and we tell a little story.

Before Jesus came and saved us, we were like this egg. We were boring and fragile, and if you cracked us open, we would fall apart.

But after Jesus came and saved us, he made us new and beautiful. And on the inside, he made us whole. As you can see, Ephraim promptly took a bite of the "whole" us. ;)

As we dipped the boiled eggs into the colors, we explained baptism to Ephraim, and how it symbolizes the way that God made us new.

We explained how we celebrate Jesus' resurrection on Easter, and that, through Jesus, God has given us new life as well!  As we were taking the eggs out of the dye, Ephraim was saying, "That egg is like you, Momma! That egg is like you, Daddy! That egg is like me! That egg is like Aspen! God made us new!"

Praise the Lord for making us new!

Tonight, we will be making Easter Story Cookies, courtesy of Britney Warner!

On Sunday, we will hide eggs and teach Ephraim about a God who loves us enough to find us, to hunt for us... the Shepherd who leaves the many to find the one.

So thankful to be found.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Free Audio Version of "Stuff Christians Like" by Jonathan Acuff

I think Jonathan Acuff is hilarious, and I was waiting until we had some extra cash flow to buy his book... BUT.... I just found THIS!

Go download a FREE copy of the audiobook and laugh the night away! :)