Love

From the Archives: The Little Things

So often, small happy things get lost in the whirlwind. It’s refreshing to come back to in the middle of everything right now.

Originally published: 6/2/17


Life is busy. Pretty much anyone who ever lived would agree. There’s work, school, family, sports, church events, and everything else that claims hours and days of our lives. Most of that stuff is really good. We were made to live full lives and glorify God with our work. But often, we let it overwhelm us and forget to enjoy it.

I’ve been noticing the little things lately. And by little things, I mean the stuff that I would usually ignore in favor of all the work (or made up work) that I have to do. Why would I watch my little blonde, blue eyed sister pick flowers on a hill when I have a book to read? Why would I listen to my brother whistle whatever song is stuck in his head when I have finals to study for? And why would I lay in the hammock with previously mentioned little sister when I could be writing a blog post?

Reading books, studying for finals, and writing blog posts are all excellent things to do. In fact, I partake of them quite regularly. But it’s also good to admire how your sister’s hair glows in the setting sun, to appreciate the cuteness of your brother’s off-key whistle, to let a four year old crawl all over you as you sway three feet off the ground.

A lot of times, I deny people my time and love, even in small increments, because I “have too much work to do.” It’s ultimately denying myself something good as well. There’s always more time to do that work, but my sister won’t be four forever. I won’t live with my siblings for much longer. Appreciating the little tiny things now is just as responsible a way to use time as is scribbling away at notes for a test.

Yes, sometimes we do have to ignore the little things in order to get our work done. But how often could we postpone the work for five minutes to trace a hand with a crayon, climb a tree, or walk down the street?

I’m not only talking about time with siblings – that’s just the biggest way little things are manifested in my life. Maybe a little thing for you would be reading a chapter of a book, actually tasting a few sips of morning coffee, or staring up at the clouds to think for a couple minutes.

The little things are good. They are refreshing. They stay in your memory and make you smile. People are often included in little things. A fifteen minute walk with my sister gives us time to talk. Sitting next to someone silently can be comfortable. The little things are what strengthen important relationships – the ones we don’t want to lose.

Little things are smelling the summer air, snuggling under a blanket at the end of the day, warming your hands by a bonfire in the middle of friends on a late July night.

What little things have crept into your life lately? Take a minute and enjoy them. You won’t regret it.

Kira

What are some of your favorite pockets of joy? Have you stopped for them lately?

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From the Archives: Book Review: Crazy Love

I only read Crazy Love a few months ago, but I’m already looking forward to reading it again someday.

Originally published: 5/23/17


There’s nothing quite like a book that makes you take a good hard look at yourself. Crazy Love is one of those books.

I mentioned Crazy Love a few weeks ago in a different post before I had finished reading it. Now that I’m done, I had to review it because I absolutely loved it.

Francis Chan’s Crazy Love is about how incredibly out of this world God’s love for us is. It comes through in His every action – from salvation to the creation of caterpillars. Our sin left us with no claim to His love, but He poured it over us anyway. By the bucket full. When we stop and actually try to fathom for a moment the depth of this love, we are left with no other reaction than to pour out our lives in service to Christ.

We have no reason to fear death, no reason to conform to this world, no reason to worry or stress or be caught up with ourselves. This life is about God, even though we’re the ones living it. Chan makes that incredibly clear in his book.

Crazy Love is not overly eloquent or complicated. While I usually enjoy finer language in a book, Chan made his point simple and I appreciate that in this case. Rather than detracting from the book, the simplicity of the writing allowed me to focus on the message and how it applies to me.

It took me awhile to reach the point spiritually where I can see the benefit of conviction when I first feel it, rather than wanting to run in the other direction, toward complacency. It has led to a deeper appreciation of books like Crazy Love and how God uses them in my life. Francis Chan is not shy about saying that the church as a whole is not following God completely. But he doesn’t just leave it there. In “A Conversation With Francis Chan” at the end of the book, Chan stresses that he’s not attacking the church. Rather, he loves the church and wants to urge her to follow Christ’s calling.

“I’m not coming up with anything new. I’m calling people to go back to the way it was. I’m not bashing the church. I’m loving it.” (Crazy Love, pg 180)

Over all, Crazy Love was a convicting and, more importantly, encouraging read. It has led me to examine my own life and walk with God and to spend more time focusing on Him.

Kira

You can find Francis Chan on his blog: crazylove.org

And his Crazy Love website: crazylovebook.com

Have you read any convicting/encouraging books lately? Any that you can’t wait to read again?

You Can’t Handle This

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“Just remember, God won’t ever give you anything you can’t handle.”

Those words make me want to shake my head, groan, glare, and sigh. It’s one of the go-to statements of friends of the hurting and often pops up in Bible studies about suffering. And the words sound good. They really do. When I’m struggling and wrestling with something hard, it would be nice to believe that it’s all okay and God wouldn’t let it happen if I couldn’t handle it.

The problem, though, is that it’s just wrong. Of course God will give us things we can’t handle! In fact, that’s basically His plan for your whole life.

We were not created to be self-sufficient and able to do all things by our own power no matter the pain. Also, God does not take a look at us before sending something hard in order to evaluate how He thinks we’ll hold up.

God puts us through things we can’t handle on purpose because the benefits are light-years greater than the pain. When we are in the middle of something devastating is the time when we have to look to God to step in and deliver us. They are the times when our faith is stretched farther than we thought it could go and our Lord proves Himself once again.

If you think back over your life, aren’t the really difficult times the ones that made the biggest impact on who you are today? I couldn’t handle my little sister being taken away by my own strength, but my faith has grown. And aren’t they generally the times that are followed by God’s great provision?

We are made to need support, something that today’s culture is trying to erase from our minds. Feminism tells women that they are strong and independent and don’t need men to help them. Movies and books tell kids that they’re better off without their parents or teachers, who lack the intelligence to present themselves respectably.

The Bible tells us the exact opposite. It contains countless examples of community and fellowship. Paul traveled with lots of different people and mentioned how they helped him in his ministry and persecution in his epistles. Adam was given Eve as a companion and helpmeet. Even Jesus brought His disciples with Him.

More important than human community is community with God. As I read 1 Corinthians a few days ago, a verse really stuck out to me. Paul is talking about how there shouldn’t be any divisions in the church between people who want to follow him or Apollos or anyone else. We should all be following God. So he is explaining how the church is built and grows by God’s work through us.

For we are God’s fellow workers. – 1 Corinthians 3:9a

Very short, but very powerful. We are not called to brave this life on our own, fighting every villain and slaying every dragon. Our God is there for us and we are called to work alongside Him. How humbling is that?

God will give you things you can’t handle – you can be sure of that. But when He does, He’ll also help you through, which is infinitely more encouraging.

Kira

How did you grow or learn when God gave you something you couldn’t get through by yourself? How did it lead to where you are now?

From the Archives: Mask

I wrote this post about six months after I was finally able to open up to people in order to become closer to them and to grow myself. I’m still a firm believer in breaking the mask.

Originally published: 12/9/16


Are we happy plastic people?

Under shiny plastic steeples?

With walls around our weakness?

And smiles that hide our pain…

I’ve worn a smile that hides my pain more than I care to admit. And the walls around my weakness? Yep, been there. The mask of plastic? Worn it.

Casting Crowns’ Stained Glass Masquerade does quite a good job of capturing just what it is to hide your true self behind a mask.

And I don’t mean that stuff about who you really are in a Disney way. I mean it in a Christian way. Even though I had the head knowledge that I could exchange man’s judgement for God’s, I didn’t believe it until this past summer.

“Yeah, okay, I’m being who God wants me to be. I don’t worry about what other people think about me because I don’t have to.”

Right. That’s what I told people. “It’s all under control.”

But that’s part of the mask. It’s not all under control. At any given point in time, something’s not going to be perfect, but why does anyone else need to know that? I just kept it inside. As I smiled and said I was doing splendidly, my inside voice whisper-screamed, “No! I’m not okay! I can’t do this any more!”

That’s one I thought over and over again. “I can’t do this any more!” Meaning school, friends, church, family. It’s exhausting to be acting constantly. But guess who I told? No one. Because what if they judged me? What if they had it all together and I would just look bad if I told them I didn’t?

It turns out, no one has it all together. And it also turns out that a lot of other people don’t want to share their problems either. That’s what I learned this summer. Written like that, it looks pretty depressing. But when you add the third thing I learned, it sounds a little more comforting.

Everything is better when you share your life with other people.

They can pray for you, they can hold you accountable, they can comfort you. The people around you are struggling too. And they want to help.

I refused to realize that completely until this summer. When I had to, I would give some small struggle that wasn’t really the whole picture. I thought that would fool people. It didn’t. When I finally opened up this summer, or, rather, took off the mask, I found out that you can’t actually hide yourself from the people who love you and that it’s not worth it to try.

I don’t have some huge climax to this story, but I will tell you that it’s made my life so much better to let other people see that I’m only human. I feel free – I’m not locked behind an image that I wanted the world to see. Now I can actually care what God thinks. And people still love me.

But if the invitation’s open

to every heart that has been broken,

maybe then we close the curtain

on our stained glass masquerade.

Kira

Is there anyone you can open up to? Do you find it easier to bear your burdens when others know them?

Setting the Example in Self-Image

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Countless articles promote the idea that you are beautiful just the way you are. “Be satisfied with the body God gave you.” “Love yourself.” “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

There are studies of the psychological benefits of being happy with yourself, statistics about how many people aren’t, and expositions on how to be content. But I believe they all miss a very important point: the effect your self-image has on other people.

A few days ago, my four year old sister was playing in my room and randomly started doing all the stretches and exercises she knew. I smiled at her pushups and the way she flicked her hair out of her face with a serious expression. But my smile disappeared when she told me that she was doing it so that she could have a “little tummy.”

This girl doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her body, but she decided that she needed to exercise so that she could look better. That her tummy wasn’t little enough. What on earth possessed her to think that?

There are, of course, the TV shows, toys, and ads to point to. She was born into a world that teaches her to look a certain way – to get there however she can.

But what about the people around her?

I would like to propose the idea that when you show contempt for your body and appearance, it has a real effect on those around you. How many times has my sister seen me look in the mirror and say it’ll have to do for the day? It’s obviously stuck with her.

The way we look at ourselves says a lot about who we are and other people pick up on that. When a girl that you think is especially pretty complains about the way she looks, your heart falls a bit. If she isn’t good enough, how could you ever be?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build one another up.” It’s not encouraging to lead someone into discontent with how they look.

I’m especially speaking to those of us with younger siblings. Part of our job is to set the example for them in godliness. They do follow us, whether we realize it or not. They look up to us and want to be like us, and we must turn that to their benefit. It pained me to hear my sister talking about why she wanted to exercise. I don’t want her to think that way about herself. But that way of thinking is a direct reflection of the people she is around, including me.

How do you want your friends, siblings, peers to view themselves? Set an example in that, not in dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Encourage them and build them up by having a healthy view of yourself. They’ll catch on.

Kira

How do you lead people to see themselves in a godly way? What’s the hardest part about it?

From the Archives: Amazing Love

Presenting the first of my favorite posts from my previous blog: Amazing Love.

Originally published: 7/2/14


Foster care. It’s a pretty big part of my life. Here’s how it started and how it’s continued so far. It still hasn’t ended, thanks to God.

When I learned what a foster family was, and that we were going to become one, I was overjoyed. The prospect seemed so exciting – getting new brothers or sisters who came to live with you all the time. But my visions were not entirely realistic.

For those of you who don’t know the details of foster care, here’s a brief overview:

When a child enters into foster care, it is often because their parents are unable to care for them or are in an unstable situation. Less commonly, the child him/herself is the reason they have to leave their home. The child’s appointed social worker then calls a number of families to see if they can take care of the child. All of these families have gone through training to learn how best to care for the children, many of which come into their home with a broken past.

The social worker then chooses one of the willing and available families for the child to live with. They call that family again and ask when the child can arrive.

When the child and social worker get to the foster family’s house, the child usually has little more than the clothes on their back, so a shopping trip is necessary to buy clothes, toothbrush, etc. After the social worker leaves, daily life goes on from there. A court date is set for reevaluation of the child’s case and everyone tries to settle into a new routine.

This whole process is full of mixed emotions for every party involved. The parents will be taking care of someone they know extremely little about, the family’s children have to try to be accepting and loving to this new sibling, and the child in foster care has an entirely new situation to deal with in the midst of complications with their birth family.

We got our first placement when I was about 8 years old. I was so excited – I couldn’t wait to meet our new, if potentially temporary, siblings. When we got home that day, the children had already arrived. We were taking care of two brothers aged 3 years and 18 months. Our family had met these boys before because our friends had also taken care of them a while beforehand.

The next year or was filled to the brim with anxious court dates and different worries about visitations and the boys’ futures.

Finally, the boys were up for adoption. This doesn’t always happen. The boys could have gone to live with another family member or foster family, but they didn’t.

I hadn’t realized until now how much time and prayer my parents put into making the decision to adopt those boys, but they chose to do it. They are now part of our growing family: Brad and Eric, who are currently 8 and 6 years old.

But not all foster placements play out that way.

In August 2012, when I was 11, we received our second placement. This time it was a baby whose name I should not disclose as she still has not been adopted. We got her from the hospital when she was two days old and brought her home to love. She was a tiny baby then, and now, though she’s almost two, she’s still tiny.

We were blessed with the first four months of her life to play with her and take care of her – four very important months. We took her to appointments and fed her special formula all they way through to her court date. That was the day she left.

I’m pretty sure I can safely say that was just about the worst day of my life. We were crying all day, especially when Daddy left to take her to the waiting arms of her loving grandparents. No one wanted to give up this precious little girl who had become such a huge part of our family. We sobbed and sobbed. It was tragic. I personally was heartbroken.

About a month later, her grandparents called us, asking if we wanted to come see her. We were again overjoyed and filled with excitement. After the 10 minute or so visit, we were told we could come back and see her more.

The next month we got another phone call from her grandparents asking if we could babysit for a day. That day soon turned into an over night, then a week. We now get to see her all the time and “babysit” about one week out of two. We still love her immensely and pray for her to come to God as she gets older and for Him to put her in a safe place to stay where she will be well taken care of, whether we get to help with that care or not. As I write, she is dancing through the living room with complete excitement all the way from her spinning feet to her flung-out arms to her laughing smile. She is totally precious.

Believe it or not, there are ways that anyone can help those in the foster care system. One thing you can do is consider becoming a foster family. It seems that there are never enough. Another is to donate things like clothes, blankets, toiletries, or school supplies to your local Department of Social Services. The last and most important thing you can do is pray. Pray for the kids in foster care, for the foster families, and for the birth families of the kids in foster care. I have personally seen how God answers prayers about these kids. And His love is amazing.

Kira

P.S. In our county, another way to help out is to help wrap Christmas gifts for kids in foster care. It’s fun and a real blessing to many people.