Redeeming Death and Darkness

In our stores this month, death has been for sale. Have you seen it? People actually pay their hard earned cash, people actually spend REAL money… on death. I don’t get it. Here’s what I know about death – it stinks, it rots, it decomposes and it’s ugly. So why do we pay to display and dress up in it? At Goodwill recently, I ran across a statue of a vampire holding a head. The lovely piece of “Art” was on sale for $79. Yes, you read this correctly. It was once sold somewhere else, then donated, then re-sold at Goodwill, where everything is supposed to be ‘cheaper’ for $79.

We buy death. We decorate with death. We display death around our homes and neighborhoods. Halloween has become an opportunity for companies to make money off of selling items, which if portrayed in real life, people would be arrested for. One would be incarcerated if found dressed up and holding someones cut-off head. It is disgusting.

The United States of America is a very interesting place. In many other countries Halloween is not celebrated. We have friends who live in Austria where Halloween has only gained popularity in recent years. We are confusing our neighbors across the pond with our obsession with darkness, death, fear, scary costumes, gore, horror, and the list could go on and on. We spread it around our lawns and like this house I often go running by, we hang it from our treeeeeeeeeesssssssss.

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Yes, visiting our neighbors houses is fun. Collecting candy is fun. Decorating is fun. Costumes are fun. Games are fun. But glorifying darkness, death and fear? Not fun. And this goes beyond Halloween… What are we portraying day to day with our time, energy, actions and money? Life or death?

“Oh death, where is your sting? Oh death, where is your victory?” Jesus conquered death. We have no reason to fear. If we are Christ followers, we no longer live in darkness, we live as Children of the Light. We are called to walk as sons and daughters of God, as children of the Light. The same power that raised CHRIST from the dead LIVES within US!

Friends, this is our time to shine. Shine with the light of Christ. In a season where death is glorified and darkness overtakes our neighborhoods, we have an opportunity to shine as fierce as the sun! In the past our family has hibernated and hidden away from Halloween, and we’ve missed opportunities to talk with our neighbors. I’m not proud of this. A few years ago, we spent Halloween being a “fun house” on the block, and hosted a carnival style party where games, candy and fun spilled out of our house and driveway and onto our neighbors. At our house tonight, we are planning to shower our neighbors with friendship thru games, candy and fun as we shine the light of Christ thru our actions.

Perhaps nothing will change from this simple blog and these humble ideas. But perhaps… perhaps some of you will decide to do something different next year. My one suggestion would be – trash it. Don’t pack it up and donate it to Goodwill to be re-sold. Perhaps there will be a new generation of Halloween participants who will share light instead of darkness, fun instead of fear, and shower this world with the Light of Christ proclaiming LIFE over DEATH!

Thank you for reading and sharing in our journey! In Him, LRB

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Worship and Worry ~ A Tale of Two Sisters

Worship and Worry ~ A Tale of Two Sisters. Luke chapter 10:38-42  ~ The tale of Mary and Martha. One sister, Martha invited Jesus to her house. Yet, she is worried, distracted by many things.  Frustrated she has no help getting the meal ready, angry her sister Mary is doing ‘nothing’… Yet she is doing something… she is doing the one thing that matters. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His teaching.

If I could walk in the sandals of these two women, I can see myself in both of them. I am not easily caught up in housework and fuss. I can easily let go of the daily tasks, to-do-lists and leave the house-mess. But. I am still easily caught up in the net of worry. I am distracted by many things. I might not be actively avoiding tasks for the sake of time with Jesus, but I am actively accomplishing much worry.

I am sitting at the feet of Jesus, yet immersed in worry while I’m there. I am actively sitting at His feet, but worry is looming while my soul is longing to be engaged. I am distracted by the many things I am not accomplishing while I am longing to hear the heartbeat of Jesus. This is not where Jesus wants me to be.

“It’s impossible to worship and to worry at the same time.”

I sang this phrase in worship over our church a while ago. This Truth saturated the room thru a lyric He stirred in my heart. I can not be fully in the presence of God, in worship, and worry at the same time. I must choose. 

I know the truth of both Mary and Martha. I have experienced both. I have been overcome by His presence, fully engaged in worship while doing the dishes and cleaning toilets. And I been embraced by His arms, settled in His love, simply Being with Him and doing nothing else. 

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Today I was given a gift of opportunity. I went running. walking. strutting… whatever you want to call it… huffing and puffing… I slow down. I see. She’s standing there. Beside her car, cigarette in one hand. Leaning back against the passenger door. I hear three words: Abused, hungry, rejected. “Hi” I greet her. She responds with a “hello” as well. This was a moment. God was opening a door to show His love to her. But I walk on…  I’m in a hurry. I am distracted by many things. I need to finish my run, walk, putter… I only have a set amount of time before I must be home. Before I need to pick up the kids from school. Pay the bills. Finish the chores… my mind is spinning.

I keep walking, 1 minute passes, maybe even less. Damn you, Time! And the lie I believe there is a lack of it. I turn around. Screw time restraints. Forget the rest of my putter… I stop. I turn back. I missed it! She’s gone. She’s driving away.

I won’t miss this gift again. I long to be in a routine of worship. I wrongly believed I was. It changed oh so subtly. I have been in a routine of worry. In worry I miss worship. In worry I miss Jesus. In worry I miss the gift to show His love. In worry I miss His presence. In one minute I missed her. 

God still loves me. This is not a beat myself over the head, I suck at following Jesus moment to bemoan and drive me into despair. This is a moment to listen. To learn. To sit at the feet of Jesus. In worship there is never a lack of time. In His presence, He fuels all that we need. In distraction and worry, everything can be stolen. This is a moment of repentance, humility and growth. I am learning ~ I never want to miss the One Thing again.

This is a moment to share. If this encourages you, pass it on! I am thankful for your reading.

In Him, Leslie

blackout

This poetic piece of awesomeness is a finally-finished post I began writing a month ago… Enjoy!

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A  month ago, we experienced our first Portland blackout. We were without power, internet and phones for 6 hours. <gasp, I know> We couldn’t watch the tele or cook or use the internet or make phone calls or go on Facebook or participate in any other nonsense we need electricity to take part in, and guess what…?

We survived. 

How, you might ask? 

We played outside soaking up our last bit of evening sunlight, we snuggled under blankets and read books by the light of a candle. We talked. We told silly stories. We laughed. We played games with the flashlights… and then we went to New Seasons for dinner.

We survived #Portlandblackout2014 by having fun and going to the grocery store. YES. You read that statement correctly. I said, we had fun going to the grocery store. 

We are experts at surviving blackouts.  

We’ve been thru several blackouts before. From Ohio to New York City. Remember #Northeastblackout2003? Yep. We survived it. We were living in NYC at the time and working at our church. When the city went dark, everything shut down… except for the people. People were still on the move. We responded by handing out water to thirsty tired travelers from the steps of our church in mid-town Manhattan. The city air was thick with August humidity and millions of people sweating their way thru the city. People were still on the move. They needed to get home, to pick up their kids. People had basic simple needs – like water.

The truth is – we are experts at enjoying simple things – such as going to the grocery store. In fact, the simpler, the better. If a task is too complex, detailed or complicated – forget it. Anxiety will overtake me and… the end. I will shut down. 

When there’s a blackout, life shuts down. There are fewer options and simplicity takes center stage. When there’s a blackout, I can only see what’s right in front of me. In the dark sky, I can see the moon and the stars. Oh, how I long to take joy in seeing the simplicity in front of me! Take it all in. Breathe in the wonder. Trace the stars. Stare at the moon. Soak in the sounds of my children. Slip into the arms of my husband.

I come alive when I ‘shut down’ and enjoy the simplicity of who is in front of me… My family. My friends. My neighbors…  The blackout forces life to slow down. To darken our ‘world view’ momentarily. To take hold of what we can see. The blackout changes our lens to purely see. An unfiltered view. To truly see. What is right in front of us.

In the blackout, life can shut down… And in the simplicity, we can thrive.

Do you thrive in simplicity? Please share! Our story rages on… In Him, Leslie

All I really wanted this Christmas…

As Christmas day quickly approached a few weeks ago, my house was filled with shrieking, jumping, and count-downing [yes – that is a word, I declare]. The month of December was literally laughing in my face as it slid on by without a hint of showing mercy and slowing down. Our house filled with shrieks, jumps and countdowns expressed by my children – yes… and also, by me.

I was throwing a fit of anticipation, resisting the temptation to be suckered into Christmas anxiety. I was the one shrieking, declaring – I will not lose my cool this Christmas! I was the one jumping, staking my claim – this would be the Christmas I would enjoy every moment of! I was the one count-downing, sweating as each day passed more quickly than the last – with more to do and less time to finish … Christmas.

Finish … Christmas?! What the heck is wrong with this statement???

As December 25th drew near, I almost lost all I really wanted for Christmas. It was subtle, and it crept in momentarily… I was the one setting ridiculous impossible enjoy – every – moment of Christmas goals for our family. I was the one losing myself in the chaos of my mind wrapped up in thoughts of presents, coupons, sales, mailing and wrapping packages, decorating the house, cleaning the house, and planning the meals… I was the one having an anxiety attack in Target, pacing the aisles, waiting… for our eldest daughter to pick out elf pajamas she absolutely had to wear for the Christmas party she was hosting with her friends.

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She does look pretty darn cute as an elf 😉

Snap. That’s when it happened. In the Target aisle.

“I can’t do this anymore! I won’t do this anymore!”

I stopped the madness and took the kids outside of Target. “Let’s go back to the car, pick up the reusable bags I left in the trunk, and start over.”

Okay mom.

They understood. They saw me unraveling and helped me pull it back together. We went to the car, picked up the reusable bags, went back into Target and all I really wanted for Christmas wasn’t lost anymore. I found it – again.

Wonder. The Wonder of Moments. Joy-filled Moments. The Wonder of laughter, peace, simplicity, enjoying each other, being fully present together. (Even while shopping at Target.)

The next day, after the Target panic attack, I went to my women’s Bible study. Just a week shy of Christmas day, naturally the conversation turned to the potential –and sometimes inevitable– stress of Christmas. Why do we always put this pressure on ourselves? To create the “perfect” Christmas? Why do we put ourselves thru this year after year? *One friend described Christmas as an orgasm that never happens. Another friend piped in – I don’t want to fake it! HA! We were rolling in laughter – yes, at our women’s Bible study. Because the truth is this – There’s this pressure to have a grand, unforgettable, life-changing Christmas experience, and sometimes it just. doesn’t. happen.

All I want for Christmas is to be wrapped up in The Wonder of Emmanuel ~ God. With. Us.

Every Christmas, the dreaded gingerbread house taunts me. I suck at making them. The kids have made them at school, and I’m at home, praising the Lord I didn’t have to. It is always a chore. But this year the kids are being homeschooled, and Trader Joes came to our rescue! We decided to buy a Gingerbread House kit from TJ’s and the kids were excited about it. Whew. I stopped sweating over that stress. Every time we went into TJ’s to pick up groceries, the kids would ask – can we get our Gingerbread House this time? No – next time.

Until the next time they were out of Gingerbread Houses!!! Noooooo!!! Say it isn’t Soooooo!!! 

I briefly freaked out and calmed down, and said “Kids, I will get you a Gingerbread House kit if it’s the last thing I do!!!” I scrambled and called the next Trader Joes closest to us, desperation in my voice – “Do you have anymore Gingerbread Houses in stock? Ummm… let me check. (pause – panicked – moments – waiting). Yes, we have TWO left! Okay-can you put it on hold for me? We’ll be there in the morning to pick it up.”

The next day, we went to pick it up and the TJ’s associate I had spoken to went to the back to find it. He came back – ma’am I’m sorry, it was sold. I had your name on it, but someone must have sold the last TWO we had. I almost started crying… no – not really… but he could see the disappointment in my face and the kids. “Is this a gift?” He asked. “No, my kids and I were going to put it together for fun.” …you know, making Christmas memories that could be destroyed and possibly ruined forever if we don’t build a Gingerbread House together!!! “Well, we do have a few left we were planning to donate because the boxes were damaged slightly. If you don’t mind.” What?! Do we mind?! No way!! This is the Best. News. Ever!!! So the associate came back a few moments later with the perfect Gingerbread House box kit just for us. The best part – it was free 🙂 Thank you Trader Joes!!!

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After all the fuss, we had a blast making it, but it didn’t taste very good. Similar to cardboard with sugar on top. Oh well, it was all worth it – no doubt 😉

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All I wanted for Christmas was to lose myself in the Wonder of it all. The first time Jesus came to earth. The first Christmas as a baby. As Emmanuel God with us. God coming as a child. The Wonder! I want to be wrapped up in the child-like Wonder of it all. Now Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is in full swing. Yet nothing about Jesus has changed. He has been, still is and always will be Emmanuel ~ God. With. Us! He is with me. I can forever be wrapped up and lost in His Wonder. And that’s all I want for Christmas ~ and every day in between.

What did you want this Christmas? Did you lose yourself in His Wonder or in stress and anxiety? Please share – don’t be shy – we’ve all been there!

In Him, Leslie

*I hope you won’t be offended – all stories necessary for the authenticity of this post!

A.L.W.Y.P. (Adults Living With Your Parents)

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Sometimes it happens. Adults need to move back in with their parents. Dear ALWYP, we know how you feel. It’s not easy. You’ve moved back in with your parents after living life on your own – you don’t have to explain. We understand. When we moved from Ohio to Oregon in September, we began our Oregonian lifestyle by living with Adam’s parents… because we’re so cool. It might be hip to be an ALWYP … or … it might not. Either way, that’s what we did… for 7 weeks.

Adam’s parents graciously made room for our family of 5 in their 1,600 square foot house. We crammed ourselves and a lot of our crap into 2 small bedrooms and their garage, while the rest of our belongings spilled over into a friends storage space. It’s very humbling to be an ALWYP. You appreciate your parents opening up their home -again- yet you want to move out ASAP.

So our journey to finding a rental home began… We were looking for homes in the Portland burbs, an area nicknamed the Silicon Forest of the Northwest because many hi-tech and well-known name brand companies such as Intel and Nike are headquartered here. The rental market in this area is nuts. Places turn over fast. We found cookie cutter homes, with identical floor plans, and a 6×8 foot strip of grass for a “backyard”.  We found a place where the management company was showing the house from exactly 2:00-2:10pm, to our family and a “few” others. I mean 20 others showed up to see this house. We weren’t prepared for a brawl over a rental house, so we left. We found a place with “good energy” filled with fumes of incense and marijuana, Catholic altars and a picture of Jesus on every wall. I love Jesus, but…no. We found a place with a strange landlord and so many mirrors thru out the rooms, my hunch was it might have been used for porn movies. aaand… No. We found a place that was smelly and dark and the tenant had so much stuff in the home, we could barely walk thru it. As we toured the home, her two adult sons —ALWYPs— were on their computers glued to the screens playing video games in the living room / bat cave. Umm. No. I was bound to have nightmares if we would’ve rented that house.

After searching several weeks and becoming discouraged we might be ALWYPs, forever… we found a home we loved. With a ginormous backyard, a tree house, a chicken coup, and a hot tub, beautiful hardwood floors, an open living room, a wet bar – turned coffee bar, well taken care of and best of all – very reasonable rent. When we walked into this house we knew – this is the one! As we were leaving, another family was coming to see it. In Oregon, it is first come first serve. The first ones to have their application in have first dibs on renting the house. The landlord didn’t have an application printed, but she emailed one to us. We knew how quickly decent rental houses turned over and we should not waste any time.

We left the house and went to see one more property in Portland we had previously scheduled. As we were rushing around the city, dinner time was quickly approaching. Our plan was to see this last house, go to the church, print the application, turn it in, secure the house and get some dinner! We saw the last property and headed to the church. The printer was out of ink! So we went to the store for ink, grabbed a quick dinner, filled in our applications and headed back to the house. I called the landlord, and she still had not received any other applications. By the time we got back to her house, the other family had already applied……

Ugh. We were SO frustrated. For certain we’d be ALWYP’s forever… we went back to our friends home we were staying in while they were out of town. We were so thankful to be staying at our friends house, in the area we wanted to find a house. Our van was not working and needed new tires and a new battery, so we left it at Adam’s parents house for the week, and we were driving Adam’s car around, while staying at our friends house. Then his car broke down, and thankfully – we were able to borrow their car, while another friend was able to repair Adam’s.

Car-less and Home-less, we slumped down on our friends couch and prayed. We prayed the other applicants would fail their application or background check or credit check or all the other checks … and prayed WE would get this house! A selfish prayer – yes – but we were desperate! The next day, discouraged, Adam went to work and we went to homeschooling. After lunch, we got a call – the other applicants FAILED! Praise Ye the Lord, Hallelujah! The house was ours! I felt a tinge of guilt celebrating their failure and our win, but it passed quickly.

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Our story rages on. We are now moved in and so thankful to have this home. Built in 1949, It’s a quaint 1280 square feet. The floors are slightly slanted and they creak. The heat wasn’t working the first 2 weeks. We’ve had to call the furnace guy, the plumber, the locksmith when the front door knob came off, and fix the disposal. But it’s ours. Next door, they have a rooster, chickens, a dog and peacocks. All of our neighbors are very friendly and have young kids as well. We live conveniently close to everything, and there is a beautiful park within walking distance. We love it!

After living in transition for several months, selling our home in Ohio, moving across the country, living as AWLYP’s for seven weeks, unpacking and setting up house again, we have found a place to dwell and we are home. Thanks for reading and sharing in our story! In Him, Leslie