To Halloween or Not to Halloween – Is That the Question?

You knew it was coming. I’m not the likely candidate to avoid the Halloween topic, as volatile as it can become. You’re probably either ready to jump on my bandwagon or be very angry and offended with my perspective. Hopefully this leaves you feeling neither of those. I have no pulpit to pound, but we are usually a little abnormal in our choices, and this holiday is no exception.

For many people I have known, this is a very confusing topic. Especially as young moms there can be a conflict of wanting our kids to participate in the fun that comes along this time of year but also feeling in our spirits a little compromise of focus, a little dissension between what we are about and what surrounds us through the month of October. Then, for some there is no sense of conflict. No harm done, just a little fun. Some avoid the scary, some avoid the word Halloween, some avoid the costumes, some avoid the candy…avoid or embrace? But maybe the question is not to avoid or embrace. Jesus came so that we always have a third option, what about REDEEM?

I blogged on this subject a few years ago as my oldest became old enough to be aware of what was going on and we began to discuss our stance. It hasn’t really been complicated or difficult to decide for us because we took it through the same grid we take every other day and every other holiday. We try with all of our hearts to make every day in this house about Jesus. We are His. Our interactions, our work, our school, our play, our relationships, our choices, our belongings, our lives. A holiday is just a special day, not a day to take a break from our daily focus, but instead to rejoice in an even more concentrated celebration of what is important to us every day. With most holidays this is quite simple. Not always easy when everything screams at you to put your focus elsewhere, but simple. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. Santa, sleigh bells, getting presents, decorations, reindeer, and all the fun that goes with it has to come second to the focus. Easter is about His resurrection. Bunnies, candy, baskets, and eggs have to take a backseat. At Valentine’s we focus on the love of God and the love He gives us for each other, July 4th we talk about the freedom He has given us in this nation and that the most important freedom of all is in Christ Jesus. Like I said, simple. Then we arrive at Halloween. There is not the same “ready to use” focus on our Lord in this holiday. Ask any kid on the street what Halloween is about and you will hear candy, costumes, scary things, trick or treating, festivals…but good luck getting an answer that includes Jesus. I have seen many, many different ways of addressing this and always love to see God give creativity to a family within their lives for the best way for them to handle the “tricky” holiday.

As I prayed for creativity on this subject and the best way to redeem our focus, time, and opportunity for Him, He gave me an idea. The thing that caused me to want to turn away from the Halloween celebration was its focus on fear. Fear is not of God. All during the year, I choose with my children to look away from those things that cause fear and to set our minds instead on Christ. His blood and sacrifice is too precious to spend even a moment with our eyes on the very things He came to remove. Death, sin, evil, fear, darkness. “Perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18 But I don’t like to just remove things or run from them. God is not about removal but redemption, not fleeing but power over the obstacle. Then it hit me. I knew we would spend the whole month quoting our verses and choosing to think on what is pure and lovely (especially when our neighbors set out their full blown dead people crawling out of coffins scene in the front yard) so we would call our little celebration our “No Fear Party.” This will be our 5th and I can’t tell you what fun we’ve had with this celebration. The first year we had “no fear” because God is powerful and saves us. We dressed as animals on Noah’s ark and had Bible stories and snacks. Year two was “no fear” because God has super powers and we dressed as super heroes. Year three was “no fear” because God keeps us strong when we stick together and the kids were Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach. Last year we had “no fear” because we have the armor of God and we had a scavenger hunt where they found their pieces of armor to wear as they used the verses they had memorized to answer the clues. This year’s theme is that we have “no fear” because God is leading our journey. The kids are dressing as a safari guide and animals and John V came up with the whole idea and planned it out. This is so fitting for where our family is right now and the year we have ahead of us. It is amazing to watch God put just the right focus onto John V’s heart and then we can return there over and over in the months ahead.

So tonight my happy kids will dress up. The kids are given opportunity to witness as they share their excitement over what we have planned with their friends and strangers who ask them about Halloween. We will unveil our best pumpkins EVER for the porch (pictures to follow), hand out candy and talk to neighbors we rarely get to see any other time, and pray. We have spent days as a family praying that Christ will be seen in us tonight. That His love will be shown, that we can SHINE His glory on a dark night. We will play games, make cider, take pictures, eat goodies…oh, it’s a fun day! And they will talk about it until next year when we plan it all again. Another night to bask in the glory that is God’s power over all darkness, sin, death, evil, hate, sickness, and anything else the Enemy has in his arsenal…bring it on! No fear!

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Survival Tip – Household Shopping

I think we all have our list of the cardinal offenses in housekeeping that we absolutely will not allow ourselves to make. Every list would be different because each of us would have our own pet peeves or reasons behind why that issue seems so crucial to success. One might refuse to ever go one hour over their allotted time for using sheets before washing. One might refuse to ever put sheets on the bed without a crisply ironed finish. One might refuse to go a day without vacuuming and/or mopping the floors. Another might refuse to ever have clothes wrinkled or not hung by color in the closet. You know what yours are and I know mine. I know where I will fudge for a short time and where I draw the line.

One of mine is never, ever, ever running out of toilet paper, laundry detergent, or diapers. As in, when I open a last package of any of these (oh, that just gives me cold sweats, even that should just not occur), the top of the to-do list becomes FIXING THAT ISSUE! You would think I grew up using leaves or something and never wanting to relive my outhouse days. Nothing traumatic happened, but somewhere in my head, it could possibly have to do with having lived 30 minutes from town, it became a cardinal sin to run out of things. Honestly, I feel that way about running out of just about anything household related, but I don’t need to blow into a paper bag over some of them. This, of course, means careful list-making since my errand running is not a spur-of-the-moment thing these days. Then a few years ago, “The Hallelujah Chorus” began to play, I smelled honeysuckle, and all my dreams came true when I discovered the ravishing, life-changing beauty of Amazon’s subscribe and save program. I mean, she is amazing. And no, I am not taking this too seriously. It saves me money, time, energy, stress, and what I need shows up on my doorstep EVEN IF I FORGOT I NEEDED IT! Don’t live another day without considering this. You can easily cancel or set your delivery schedule, they notify you that they’re about to ship in case you’ve changed your mind this month, and you don’t pay for shipping. And did I mention that at some point while your children are taking naps a box shows up at your door (you become very grateful you don’t use profanity if they ring the doorbell and wake up the baby), and then you bring the box inside and have diapers. Or wipes. Or coconut oil. Or toothpaste. Or whatever else you need. Obviously you have to compare prices because not all items will be cost-effective this way, but I have found many are. Plus, it feels like Christmas when you get boxes and you always have some for giveaway runs to Goodwill. 🙂

And it costs you less than it would if you dragged all four kids to the store, watched a woman shopping alone and wearing a jogging outfit (I THOUGHT you wanted to exercise!) take the only close parking space while you pulled aforementioned four small kids through the parking lot, dumped them into the only basket in the store that squeaks and pulls heavily to the left so that you look drunk and crazy as you’re attempting to walk in a straight line. After this, you would explain to your children again that we are buying diapers only while you walk past many, many more interesting and distracting items. You would then find some way to put the diapers or other oddly-shaped objects into the offending cart with the disappointed children. Fortunately by the time you got to the checkout line you have trained them well enough that they know asking for candy in line basically results in a fate worse than death for the inquisitive party so the checkout process goes fairly well until your son looks at the cashier and says, “I haven’t had anything to eat and I’m SOOOO hungry.” At this point you would have graciously removed yourself before CPS was called, gone home, made lunch, realized you forgot something you needed, and made a list for the next time you have the insane death wish to go shopping.

Or you could have used subscribe and save. (You could also try cloth diapering but that’s for another blog.) Call me when you’re ready to express your undying affection for how this has changed your life. 😉

The Game

This weekend was one that the world would consider full of contradictions, but if you flip it upside down and start spinning the viewfinder like a kaleidoscope, suddenly a beautiful, full-color piece of God’s art becomes evident. In just a matter of hours with many we loved we were celebrating an engagement, a birthday, new life, and the promise of eternal life. We were crying tears of joy, change, hope, sadness, reunion, and separation. We were able to hug so many that we don’t always get the opportunity to see. Some fighting through unexpected chapters of life, some embarking on the new beginnings of life. As we drove home yesterday, I began to make a mental list of all that was going on with those I had seen and hugged quickly over the past few days.

It included:

  • just separated from a loved one by death
  • about to be separated from loved ones by deployment
  • marriage struggles
  • marriage separation
  • marital unfaithfulness
  • miracle of health in a child
  • new baby
  • new pregnancy
  • engagement
  • newly diagnosed cancer
  • newly married
  • waiting on adoption process
  • anniversary of losing a loved one
  • recently moved
  • new job
  • depression
  • unresolved health questions
  • difficult work situations
  • unknown immediate future
  • financial struggles

This list is not comprehensive in any way and those are only the situations I know! I feel quite sure that beneath the surface, those lives represented in my visits this weekend would cover hundreds more of the deep emotions and life-changing events of life. And again, it’s such a combination of the happy and sad, the beginning and end, new chapters and closing ones. Then God began to give me a picture in my head. You know how the board games work where your little piece is traveling toward some version of “home.” The dice, spinner, or cards may at times cause you to move closer or farther from your end result, but ultimately the road only leads to the end of the board. Maybe another player can knock your piece off momentarily or you can have to sit out for a while as you watch others move forward. Sometimes it looks like your opponent will most definitely reach the end before you and yet with one quick change, suddenly the tables are turned and you are the one with your piece or pieces safely gathered into the fold first. While this all might seem quite all-consuming to my game piece if she is one move closer or farther, in one fell swoop, I could slap my palm on the board and we’d have a whole new game (or a small child could sit there, not that THAT secenario ever happens around here). I could flip the board around, turn it upside down, fold it up and put it away, or another sad possibility often played out, I could cover the poor, afflicted game piece in slobber and chew it for a while before it is hurled across the room.

Whether a pregnancy or Heavenly arrival, an engagement or the dissolving of a union, the diagnosis of illness or the unexpected recovery of someone who has been sick, we are all traveling forward. If we look around at others they can seem to be in a more desirable “spot on the board” only for us to turn and find ourselves seeing them receive a “setback” that changes their entire course. We can one moment see no possible way to ever reach the goal only to moments later find ourselves “one away” from that coveted prize. And every one of us is somewhere traveling, every one of us is not home yet, every one of us has the pains of the battle and the fears of the unknown “chance.” Could it be that there really is no “ahead” or “behind,” no “advantage” or “disadvantage” in this journey of life? Just simply “Home” or “not Home yet?” Simply submitted to the loving guidance of the game’s Master or struggling against the only Hand able to orchestrate peace, redemption, victory, and change wherever we find ourselves?

For some I know the idea of being a “game piece” seems an undesirable analogy, an uncomfortable idea, and it’s obviously not a complete representation because of the choices we are given in the moves that we make. But we all struggle with the parts of life that are unexpected and seem uncontrollable. And our comfort with the idea of being submitting to a “Mover” completely changes depending on your view of the Hand passing out the next move. For years as the header of my blog I had this quote from Corrie Ten Boom. “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” She would certainly know all the challenges of a life that played out completely unlike any she would have ever desired or planned. But she also knew from a lifetime of submission in some of the most heartbreaking circumstances ever known to mankind that better than any spinner, card, or dice is an all-knowing Father who knows exactly how to orchestrate the journey to produce a whole and complete traveler who has gathered as many others as possible on his or her journey Home. Even through the twists and turns and knots and pits of sin. Even with the mess and muck of our fallen state. Even in spite of the choices of others who seem bent upon putting obstacles in our path. You see, if He is carefully watching me and carrying me through the steps, suddenly the fact that I am here or there in the process and where others are around me becomes far inferior in importance to what HE is doing next! When I feel the rumblings of change and a move is coming, that is when how well I know HIM becomes the only important knowledge. I could have prepared with all my energy for the next expected move through education, health choices, planning, saving, prevention, and all the other methods we can use, and still suddenly find myself plopped into a part of the board I was never “supposed” to visit. A place where now my preparations are moot and the only reality is whether I trust and know the Hand holding me. And really, do I want to be left in a place where I CAN rely on my preparations if it’s blinding my eyes and heart from the plan of the Hand holding me? If I can convince myself that I am an independent, little game piece with a great, little travel plan? For ultimately I am just that little piece on a journey and what gives me my value is that HE made me in the first place, HE designed my course, and that HE is at the beginning, and at the end, and in the middle. I can struggle all along to get to “the end” and to “win the game” when He is THE END, He is THE WIN, and He is THE GAME. Maybe if I settled comfortably into that Hand that holds me, I would find that during the whole journey I was already closer to the goal than I ever knew because there is only one Home and that is wherever HE IS.

A Day in the Life of a Homeschool Mom – 40 & 41

We didn't get them lined up very well for their pumpkin patch picture, but they're still my cute babies!

This just makes me laugh. It looks like John and I were using our size advantage to hold the kids into the trailer. Oh wait…we were. 😉 What are the odds that we'll ever get a good family shot again without a professional photographer? I'll post the other pumpkin patch pics on FB soon.

 

 

 

Swallowed Up in Victory

Many of you know of our precious friend Sharon Washburn who, earlier this week, defeated cancer and the grave by the blood of Jesus and is in Heaven where there is no more sin, sickness, pain, or death. My heart pours out prayers and tears for her husband, daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, family, and friends, but there is not an ounce of that grief that is for her now. Maybe a tinge of envy until it’s our turn to join her! I was thinking that I wished for all who loved her to see her for just one moment in all the glory of her homecoming celebration, but then I thought that on seeing that glimpse, our earthly bodies would probably just instantly give up their will to live and we would die on the spot from sheer overwhelming desire to be there worshipping our Lord and Savior. Someday…

Because we live out of town and are making the preparations to attend the funeral by canceling our weekend activities and letting coaches, teachers, teammates, co-workers, etc. know that we will be absent, we have had quite a few opportunities to talk about Sharon. As I began to prepare for these communications, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “Sharon has fought a battle for ME, I am holding her family, I have defeated sin, death, sickness, and separation so that all of you have the hope of one day being here with us. I don’t want you to tell people that you’re leaving town for a funeral. I want you to tell them where she is.” I am not a shy person, but I am certainly not always as bold as I could be. I deal with all the lingering doubts of my own abilities to communicate God in the right way to those who doubt His goodness or existence. I want so much not to say something that could cause them to mock or misunderstand Him even more than they do. But I know I should trust Him for the words. So this week I have tried my best. And whether they wanted this version or not, all of our contacts in Austin are hearing that our friend Sharon is celebrating her victory with her Savior while we go to Fort Worth to love on the family waiting until they can be reunited with her. And it’s kind of funny because once you go crazy, you figure you might as well go all out and it gets a lot easier. 😉

Out of this has already come an amazing email correspondence with one coach who shared that he and his wife have experienced much tragedy and there was such a tone of hopelessness in what he said. How I am begging God to shine hope through our family into that one! Would we have had this conversation without our sweet Sharon’s story? I don’t know. God decided to tell it through her. I have a strong feeling her memorial service will give a powerful message of what God has done in and through her. They are going to be streaming it live on the website if any of you would like to attend from afar. It will be at 11:00 am on Saturday, October 22nd at www.thehills.org.

For thousands of years, ever since the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has been confounding the plans of Satan and of men through the mind-defying aspect of Christianity that in physical death, Christ in us only grows stronger. Martyrs, prisoners, exiles are all willing to proclaim the precious Name of Jesus because it doesn’t stop at the grave! The worst our enemy can throw at us has no power! Oh, if I only lived each day that way! May the way we share His story reflect the absolute fearlessness we are given through His shed blood. I love this passage in 1 Corinthians 15. It has played over and over in my head this week as I have thought about Sharon and prayed for her family. Where is your sting, death? Swallowed up…not pushed down, or lessened, or diminished, but SWALLOWED UP in the victory of the cross! AMEN AND AMEN!

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.