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Me+My Family

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why I'm taking a summer sabbatical from social media

This summer, I’m going off-line and taking a sabbatical from social media.

A sabbatical is a short term break that can produce long term results. A sabbatical is another form of practicing the Sabbath, which is typically a day of rest. People will often take sabbaticals from their professional careers for a month or up to a year so they can travel, study, or write. Our souls need sabbaticals so that we can live life in the Spirit. To live in the Spirit, we have to rest in the Spirit.

Read more in today’s post about why I’m choosing to take a sabbatical from social media this summer. Hey, you might just want to take one too!

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how to escape the busyness of Christmas

Does anyone else feel like they are running the 500 yard dash to Christmas? 

From decorating the Christmas tree, addressing Christmas cards, buying and wrapping presents, making Christmas sweets, to attending festive Christmas parties, we jam in so much activity in such a short amount of time. We over eat, over extend, and over buy ourselves into a month-long race, only to end up at the finish line exhausted and wondering why we over-complicated a season that is meant to be rejoiced and savored.

Christmas doesn’t have to be a race.

I was remembering this last night as I was tucking my girls into bed. We’d just finished reading our Elf on the Shelf book and they asked me to sing them their songs. Snuggled up close, I was tired from a long weekend of Christmas festivities but it was in this moment that I realized the true joy of Christmas – it is a reason to celebrate with the ones we love. 

While celebrations so often consume us with rushing and running ourselves ragged, Christmas is a celebration that is meant to happen over time. Daily, we celebrate the advent and discover the timeless story with fresh eyes and ears. We teach these things to our children – through parties, trimming the tree, and baking – but also in a quiet room at dark, with only the words “Away in a Manger” filling the air. 

To escape the busyness of Christmas, we must run the race one day at a time. If we don’t, we miss the beauty of celebrating the birth of Christ. Don’t try to cram all of your Christmas activities into one weekend. Spread it out and keep it simple. Know your limitations and keep time to rest in your schedule. Let the little moments add up to a big, month-long celebration. 

Don’t let the busyness of Christmas keep your heart from remembering the beauty of Christmas.

If you don’t have babies in your house, I encourage you to find a baby to hold during the month of December. Notice the smoothness of his skin, the fuzz of his hair, and the way he feels in your arms. Remember that this was how God humbled himself, to come into this world as one of us, but perfect and flawless and pure. Breathe in His soft, newborn scent and focus on the life that he lived here on this earth with us. Let his ministry guide your month of celebrating. 

This Christmas, I’m accepting that I’m human and flawed. I need rest, and I get worked up over the most trivial things. But, I’m not going to allow the rush of Christmas to overwhelm me this year. Instead, I’m running at my own pace. I want my children to remember a mom that celebrated Christmas.

Take a moment to just focus on what today brings. Hold your day open-handed to God and admit that you are nothing without him. Confess what is making you anxious and what is stealing your Christmas joy. Read and write out scripture so you remember it throughout the day. After doing all of this, think on the things worth celebrating today. 

Christmas is a celebration, not a marathon to be won. How will you choose to escape the busyness of today so you can truly celebrate?

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More Like an Elf

Staring at this picture, I can't help but relate to it.  The quick scribble, the simple word, the smudge that I didn't take the time to correct. 

My thanks is full of haste these days. 

With Christmas just around the corner, I feel more like an elf than Santa.  I've been so busy and past the point of exhaustion that I can barely take a moment to simply enjoy this season.  Instead of being filled with joy, I've got a crick in my neck and a sharp pain in my back.  My eyes are tired and my mind is mentally exhausted.  At night, I lay my weary feet into bed and wish for a day of sleeping in.  This has been my December.

Last week, some of our friends got together for a Christmas Cocktail.

Over a decadent meal of pork loin, garlic potatoes, parmesean-coated asparagus, and molten lava cakes, our friend JW asked everyone what they were thankful for this year besides our families and friends.  Sitting quietly in my seat, I couldn't come up with a good answer.  Silently, I huffed at God asking Him, "What do YOU think I should be thankful for?"

God has been challenging me lately.  Or, better yet, I have been in a slightly annoyed position with God.  I know God has given me so much to be thankful for - the girls' health, Raleigh having a job, our wonderfully supportive family & friends - but I don't feel very thankful.  I feel tired.  And defeated.  I've been in this season of wanting what I don't yet have...and wondering if these wants will ever be fulfilled.  Because, I've been trying to fulfill them - through hard work, discipline, and prayer - but it just isn't happening the way I thought it would.

To put it bluntly: life is hard.

Typically, glass half-full Christen has hope.  She believes.  She trusts that all good things will happen to those that ask.  But, lately I've seen that God isn't a magician and He isn't going to grant me three wishes just because I asked for it.  Instead, He chooses to prune me.

Yep, you heard me right, prune.

John 15:1-2 says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Prune is not a pretty word.  When I looked it up in the dictionary, it literally means "to cut or lop off superflous or undesired twigs." Ouch.  Pruning hurts.  It isn't a fun process to go through but it is necessary to get to become more fruitful.  Right now, pruning feels a lot like getting beat up.  Being in a season of discouragement, the only thing that gives me hope is this one simple word:

Remain.

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me" (John 15:4).

Deep down, I know God has a plan for my life more awesome than I can imagine.  I realize that the more I remain in Him, the better decisions I will make that will ultimately point me down that path.  The Greek word for prune is purge which simply means "to cleanse from filth, purify."  With my stubborn chin pointed accusingly in God's direction, I don't agree that my life is in need of pruning or that my wants need to be made more pure.  I want my wants to come true.

But, is that truly remaining?  Am I walking hand in hand with Emmanuel?  Is that truly believing that God is with us even when we don't immediately get what we want?  Will I remain in faith and trust in the One who gives me Life even if I never get what I want?  Or, will I be dead like those branches?

I want to bear fruit. 

So, I must remain.

And, give thanks.

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

*Pictures are by JW Godwin

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How Christmas Brings Hope in Miscarriage

Maya Angelou says there's no greater agony than an untold story. I've lived in silence for weeks now, swallowing down a story too private for blogs and Facebook. Because this private situation consumes me at the moment, I cannot speak well about much else. I've become mute. Perhaps if I share my story, I'll feel free to move past it.

Today, I am 11 weeks pregnant. Sort of. It is not a viable pregnancy, but my body hasn't figured that out. And so for weeks, I've managed nausea, soreness, fatigue -- the regular gamut of first trimester symptoms -- all without the exciting promise of a child, which would make these ailments worthwhile. Every night, terrible images of half-formed babies fill my dreams, and every morning I wish for any symptom of miscarriage... not because I didn't want this child. I desperately did. But I'm ready to move forward. Yet, instead of cramping and bleeding, I get more nausea, fatigue, and a uterus that is growing still steadily enough to make my clothes fit poorly.

Don't get me wrong. I am positive that God will turn this all around for good (Romans 8:28). I know He's allowing this hardship out of love, even if I don't yet see the benefits of this frustrating phase. I also know there are women in far worse situations than this. Women who deliver stillborn babies in the ninth month. Women who wait a decade for pregnancy. Women who will never know the joy I feel as the mother of two sweet girls.

Still, I'm exhausted and sad.  Yet I feel guilty for grieving... like I should be tougher than this. I wish I knew anyone personally who had gone through this same thing. What I would give for a quicker miscarriage.

My greatest comfort is that it is the Advent season. I serve a God so mighty, He will wipe out every trace of sickness and brokenness and damage in this world. Yet, rather than doing this through lightning bolts from Heaven, He was personal. God came down as a weak human embryo, and because of that, the death of my little embryo will be redeemed. This pain I feel now will have purpose.

Every night, I curl up in bed with one hand on my thickening waist and sigh sad. An empty pregnancy hurts like empty hope. And I remember that, other than Christ, whatever we hope for in this life is as empty as my womb now is. Hope in anything but Jesus leads to pain, disappointment, wasted time, shattered dreams.

But while the Earth may crumble around us, there was a Baby who did come. Emmanuel, God with us. And while He came small and humbly, He is unshakeable, eternal, reliable, our hope, and our God.

"Jesus is my hope

and I know He stills the wind

so take my very life away

as long as I get Him"

-Mandi Mapes

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how to say goodbye to the ones you love {a tribute to my grandfather}

Today would have been my grandfather's 85th birthday. 

He's been gone now for nine days, and it is still hard to comprehend that he's gone. The thing with death is that it always comes before we are ready to say goodbye. We all long for just one more day, one more hour, one more second with those we love. But death, like so many other things in this world, is not something that we can control. I can't live in regret, and neither can you. What we can live in is the memories that we shared with the ones we love. We can celebrate their lives and believe that we are made for #connectionnotperfection. 

Join me on the blog today as I pay tribute to my grandfather, a Veteran, an athlete, a man who loved the Lord. As we celebrate his life, I pray it gives you comfort in saying goodbye to the ones you love. 

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