Goodbye, Clickety-Clack

We've Moved!

Dear, Dear Readers,

This is not goodbye. I repeat, this is NOT goodbye. And it’s not even au revoir. You and I will be together at my new blogging home, Sweet is the Light, which you can find at carolinerosekraft.com. We are only walking through the empty rooms (and not so empty rooms) of an old house, breathing in the dust and familiar smells of almost nine years of writing in one place, and walking out the door for the last time.

It’s not emotional for me or anything.

The other thing we’re doing together (because you’re with me, right? RIGHT?) is learning to call me by a new name. I started going by Everly Pleasant in 2007 when I finally convinced my parents to let me start a Blog Spot. They weren’t keen on me sharing personal information online, so I created a pen name. It’s 2016, I’m twenty-three years old and we’ve realized there is no such thing as privacy online. On Sweet is the Light, I’ll be going by my full name, my real name: Caroline Rose Kraft. You can call me Caroline.

Or if you want, you can still call me Everly. I mean, it’s super confusing for everyone and still so sentimental to me, so just do what you want. But for the sake being grown-up and clear and organized and totally professional, I’m using my legal name everywhere now.

In other news, I’m very excited about this fresh start. The blog was designed by the talented Charlotte Boyer. She has so many gifts, from designing website to singing with The Boyer Family Singers! Give her website a little love. The behind the scenes was made possible by the noted Gretchen Louise, who continually blows my mind with her skills in coding, writing and, since visiting her late last year, being a wonderful farmer’s wife, mother and homemaker. If you’re a blogger, you definitely need to sign up for her “tips” newsletters.

At Sweet is the Light, I’ll still be blogging about everything I’ve always blogged about…adoption, gender equality, my kooky family and the God who loves me. I might be blogging about adoption a little more than I have in the recent past, as I’m closing Pineapple Siblings as well and kind of combining both sites into one.

There is a new Facebook page, a new email address and I’m opening Instagram up for my readers for the first time, so you can follow me there as well. Please be nice…I had a hard time letting that personal space go! (My handle is @carolinerosekraft)

You can subscribe to receive Sweet is the Light posts in your email, but if you’ve already been subscribing to Clickety-Clack, you will find you continue to hear from me as usual. If you experience any problems with the emails or website, etc, please let me know!

And now, I close the door on this wonderful, influential chapter. Clickety-Clack will remain standing as a monument and reference point for some time, but I hope you follow me through a brand new door and into a new home. Walk through the yellow entryway, down the hall a bit to the wood-paneled study. There’s a lovely, golden afternoon sun coming through the sheer curtains, a small vase of hydrangeas on the desk, lots of colorful books all around and me, Caroline, clickety-clacking on the keys. I turn and see you, a familiar face, in the doorway and smile. Welcome to my home.

See you there,

Caroline Rose Kraft

1

The Christmas Letter that Wasn’t

The Christmas Letter(that Wasn't)
This year I tossed around the idea of writing “a Christmas letter.” My family has never been one to send out long missives full of detailed accounts of all of our accomplishments. Maybe we had too many kids…or too few accomplishments. ;) Maybe it just isn’t our style. But this year, I was feeling rather adult-ish I guess, because I thought about writing a Christmas letter myself, printing a few copies and sending it to my friends. Different friends knew different highlights of what 2015 held for my family, but I wanted to do a recap. The recap would, I hoped, both keep me feeling connected to my faraway friends and explain why I was so bad at keeping up with everyone for the past twelve months. The point is: 2015 was a whopper. So much so that a Christmas letter never even began to happen. For this reason, I am proud to introduce you to my New Years’ Recap on the Blog. Enjoy!
Near the end of 2014, my sister and her husband announced they were pregnant with their first child! We were all elated. Caitlin had a very healthy pregnancy, outside of the fact that she’s automatically considered high-risk due to type-1 diabetes. Early in the pregnancy, we had a big scare. She went so low in her sleep that she went unconscious and we were unable to wake her up. It was very dramatic, we called an ambulance, but ended up not transporting her. After that, her pregnancy became increasingly high-maintenance. Thankfully, Simeon came in June as healthy as can be, but only by the grace of God and lots and lots of hard work. Caitlin managed her diet with indescribable meticulousness. She was never alone for more than about five minutes (literally) and never drove during her pregnancy, due to the risk of quick, severe lows with no warning. She set alarms to wake up and test her blood sugar several times every night and my mom went and checked on her every night as well, especially on mornings when my brother-in-law went into work before dawn. Everyone told Caitlin to enjoy her sleep while she could, but from what I’ve heard, waking up to feed your baby is way better than waking up to test your blood sugar! We had a few more scares, particularly in April when she came down with a stomach bug and had to spend 24 hours under observation in the emergency room. Vomiting paired with diabetes and pregnancy is one of those things to make you thank God for modern medicine. When she came down with the virus, we were preparing to leave for Europe. The plan was for my parents, my two youngest sisters and I to all fly out of Houston, but my mom very nearly stayed home. Thankfully (the word of the year, right there) Caitlin was finally able to eat before it was time for us to leave. She was released, returned to Eyrie Park and held down the fort for us while we were gone. Jeweliet helped her a lot during the nineteen days we were abroad and, in June, she was induced and gave birth to Joe Simeon Giles.
The past six months with Simeon “on the outside” have been a delight. He has been very healthy and is a great eater. He is continually chubbier, has rosy cheeks, blond hair and bright blue eyes. He loves to play peek-a-boo, sit up and “join” in the conversation, eat cereal and especially mashed peas, take baths or be naked in general, lie under the Christmas tree and drum on the table. He loves music, his Winnie the Pooh bear, patty-cake, rolling over and anything and everything “Grandaddy” does.
Caitlin, Joe D. and Simeon all still live with us while their home is under construction next door. The painstaking process of building the house ourselves (literally, my dad and brothers driving the nails) has been delayed time and again. My dad has worked extremely hard on the house…but he also works extremely hard at the emergency room, where he works about double an average full-time job and always in twenty-four hour shifts. Finally, a couple of months ago, my parents hired a crew to finish much of the house and it really is getting close now. It’s an adorable, two-bedroom one-bath with green siding and two big porches. I can’t wait to help Caitlin decorate, unpack (her things have been in a storage building for years now) and settle in!
As I mentioned before, April found my parents, two youngest sisters and I abroad! The goal was to take Dorothy to Latvia one more time to secure her permanent visa. Since she was already “ours,” for this trip, we were able to travel around to other countries while we were there if we chose. My parents told me that if I could save up for my own plane tickets, I could accompany them. They then decided to invite Phoebe to come along, since she and Dorothy are pretty inseparable…and what could be better than getting to see your BFF-sister’s home country and experience new countries together?
We flew into Amsterdam on Good Friday and had a great time exploring Holland. To keep things brief, we went to The Van Gogh Museum, the Rikes Museum (Rembrandt!) and Hillsong United, Amsterdam. We stayed on a houseboat on the canal, did a lot of walking, jumped on a lot of trams, almost got hit by a lot of bicycles and narrowly avoided the red light district! We then took an over-night train through Germany and woke up in Zurich, Switzerland. Switzerland was truly lovely and I wish I could have spent more time there. We took the Bernina Express through The Alps, which was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. Switzerland was breathtaking. And so clean, which I appreciated after The Netherlands!
From Switzerland, our train journey continued into Italy. Who knew you get on a train in one country and the landscape slowly changes and you’re suddenly in another, totally different country? Europe blew my mind. Italy was hallmarked by our ridiculous, stressful, hilarious train travel mishaps, but I’ve blogged about that already. We got to spend a night in The House of Juliet and a day in fair Verona. This was another major highlight for me. Verona was our warmest destination, which went over well with a family from Texas, and it was truly beautiful. I dropped a letter in Juliet’s mailbox, stood on her balcony, ate pizza, toured cathedrals, sat in The Arena and left too, too soon.
From there we went to Venice, which was a life-long dream of mine. Venice did not disappoint. We fed pigeons in St. Mark’s Square, went on a gondola ride, admired the unreal mosaics around every corner, ate sandwiches outside out a little cafe on the cobblestones, ate gelato as we traipsed around, bought glass necklaces and drank cappuccinos while casually leaning against building the apostle Paul probably leaned against. No big deal.
From Venice, we flew through Moscow and into Riga, Latvia. We were nearly not allowed out of the Riga airport because flying from Moscow is considered suspicious and we were already considered suspicious! Dorothy’s name and old name were not matching up on all her documents. There’s just not a good way to travel with a child you’re adopting internationally, because of the order everything must happen in. We were held up for some period of time at every airport, but we were finally released into Latvia. Latvia is really a hidden gem in Europe. It’s quaint, the people are kind, the scenery is lovely and the whole country feels like a private corner in the world. The poor of Latvia pulled at my heartstrings more than anyone else we encountered, perhaps because of our personal connection the country. We drank lots of good coffee, toured a real, ancient castle, some beautiful churches and lots of lovely shops and restaurants. We stayed in an upper apartment in Old Riga, across an alley from a children’s music school. They opened their slats in the afternoons and sang a cappella. It was enchanting.
Saying “goodbye” to Latvia and the wonderful women who helped bring Dorothy into our family (through the host program and adoption process) was sad, but we still had one country left. We flew into Stockholm and were taken to a very nice apartment in Kungsholmen. We really enjoyed Sweden…especially their practice of Fika (afternoon coffee and pastries.) But of course, we had already instituted that at Eyrie Park! Stockholm was fascinating and beautiful. One of the best surprises was the Vasa Museum, which is constructed around a ship which was restored after 300 years on the sea floor. We adored watching the changing of the guard at the royal palace, had a blast shopping in the little stores, popping into the Nobel Museum, touring the church with the famous statue of Saint George and the dragon, going on a boat tour of the archipelago and spending nearly a whole day at the zoo which takes up an entire island (Skansen.) We really liked the city as a whole, the culture and the views. From there, we flew home…happy to be back at Eyrie Park. We used only backpacks as luggage, so throwing those off at the end of the nineteen days put Pilgrim’s Progress in a whole new light.
May was busy, as usual. We opted out of our usual Galveston beach trip for the second May in a row (2014 we were waiting on Dorothy, and 2015 we were waiting on Simeon!) Jeweliet and I were both bridesmaids in our dear friend Lauren’s wedding. We threw a baby shower for Caitlin and a wedding shower for my long-time best friend, Katie, both at Eyrie Park. Katie’s shower was a bit like a bachelorette/last time to all hang out as single girls day. The end of an era for our friend group! Our family also has three May birthdays, so there was also a Nancy Drew scavenger hunt at the end of the month!
June brought Katie’s beautiful wedding, in which I was honored to stand as a bridesmaid. I turned 23 on the 23rd (my Golden Birthday) and Jeweliet surprised me a day early at work with friends and shopping down town and just the best day ever. There were flower crowns, sparkling grape juice, tacos, Shop Around the Corner and the best girls in the whole world. Yay. On the 23rd, Caitlin went into the hospital for her induction and Simeon arrived on the 24th!
July would’ve been quite full enough with the brand new baby, without the things we will always remember July of 2015 for. My grandpa went in for heart surgery on the same day my cousin was in a horrible car accident. To make a long (painful) story short, my grandpa and my cousin ended up in rooms next to each other in the ICU in Houston, and actually both coded at the same time. We nearly lost them…both. It was traumatic and then it was miraculous and it’s still insane to look back on. Jeweliet and my parents spent several days in Houston during all this and I stayed home with Caitlin and the baby and the other kids. Both my grandfather and my cousin are recovering well now.
August came in sliding. My older brother got married in Dallas on the 29th. We are so happy to have Amber in our family and the wedding weekend was great. We got to stay in a hotel with a pool (always awesome,) meet Amber’s lovely family and hang out with several of my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. It was amazing to see my grandfather there after everything he had been through the month before.
September sent us to Galveston at last, with Dorothy and Simeon both in tow! Our week in Galveston was a dream. Relaxing, sunny, happy. I wish I could relive that week! September 27th marked one year of Dorothy at home. There’s no place like it!
When the Fall semester began, homeschooling was launched once again. Teeko and Dorothy continued in Classical Conversations while George and Phoebe started an entirely online curriculum at home. I continued leading The Serve Team at our church, Teeko’s football team went to state…and won! In October, Jeweliet and I flew to Oregon and spent eight days in the Pacific Northwest with friends. We got to see the Peckovers in Oregon, which was fantabulous. My beloved, long-time pen pal, Lydia, came to Portland to meet us and basically made my year. We cried when we left Oregon. In Washington, we got to meet Gretchen Louise of Kindred Grace and her family, Jennifer Miles and her family (also a writer for Kindred Grace!) We also got to meet Eddie Ogan, the inspiring woman I’m writing a book about. It was a monumental, once-in-a-lifetime sort of trip.
November was the mudslide to the end of the year. I hardly remember it! Thanksgiving, a family reunion, football and the chaos that is the end of the school year. Everything had to be wrapped up and finished. Hustle and bustle! The curtain opened on December. Advent whirred by, despite our best efforts. Saint Lucia’s Day was very happy, and it wasn’t so hard to say goodbye to Joey and Amber, knowing we’d see them again at Christmas. We went to a Christmas parade, saw the lights in the trees downtown, shopped till we dropped, shopped some more the next day. I won a Christmas costume competition as Cindy Lou-Who! My parents surprised Jeweliet and I with our very first car (to share.) We named our VW “Pigeon” and we are quite in love! Freedom tasteth sweet. Dorothy turned 11 with a Wizard of Oz shindig. Joey and Amber came back, Jesus was born and celebrated! A tornado ripped through Dallas and made the week of Christmas a bitter-sweet one. Joey and Amber returned to Dallas. We finally finished watching It’s a Wonderful Life.
Between all of this, we had our normal stuff. Eleven people in one house. Drought. Flooded living room and leaky roof. Ice skating lessons. Jaundice and spit up. Arguments and tears. Cars in the shop for long periods of time. Christmas parties. Birthday parties (GALORE.) Lost grocery lists. Dust bunnies. Dance parties. Movies and popcorn (GALORE.) Political discussions at breakfast. Life advice at dinner. Coffee (GALORE.) Walking into church…late…again. Working nights and sleeping days (in the case of my dad.) Big plates of sandwiches at the picnic table. Lessons at the kitchen counter. Laundry (GALORE.) Baby snuggles. Answered prayers.

With all the ups and downs 2015 brought us, I found myself entering December with trepidation. I wasn’t sure I wanted to start a new year. I wasn’t sure I was ready. But as it is fast approaching (I am writing this on December 27th,) I am becoming more excited. God had everything in control in 2015, He’ll see us through another year, and I’m curious about what He might have in store. I have plans, I have a deep belief that some of my plans will be overruled and overturned and I have both trepidation and faith as I say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new…

3

Well hey, y’all!

If you’re not following me on Facebook, you are probably wondering “where in heck” I’ve run off to. I don’t know why I never thought of posting an explanation here! Truth be told, I still adore blogging (I will probably blog my whole life!) and plan to do so more and more. The hang up is, I’m not going to be doing it here.

Yes, you heard me. I’m hanging up the key to Clickety-Clack very soon. After more than eight years of blogging here, it is time for me to move on to a new, more accommodating space. The lovely Charlotte Boyer (of The Boyer Sisters) is designing a brand new site where I will continue to write all the things on my heart, including the posts about adoption which used to pop up on Pineapple Siblings.

It’s going to be très chic, super user-friendly, organized, clean, new and fresh! Merry Christmas to me!

So do not despair. I’m still here, I’m still writing, I’m still a blogger. I’m even writing (and illustrating) a book!

Oh, and one more thing. It’s actually the thing I’ve had the hardest time with. On the new blog, I’ll be using my legal name. Everly will forever be an old nickname which will bring back lots of happy, bloggy memories…but I’m going to try to make my life, on and offline, more seamless in the future.

We’re not crying, are we? Perfect.

See you on the other side, my dears!

One last time as,

Everly

caroline's portrait

10

I’m a Perfectly Normal Person (with Trichotillomania.)

One girls story of plucking, praying and finding peace.There is something I have never told anyone outside my immediate family and a very, very small circle of friends. As a matter of fact, as I once heard a little girl say, “I haven’t even told myself.” Or, I hadn’t until not long ago. Turns out, “telling myself,” and then others, was the absolute best decision.

There’s this thing I’ve dealt with nearly my entire life that I thought was just me. I thought I was alone in this, I thought it was a character flaw. I thought I was just a freak, and I used to cry myself to sleep over it, frequently. Good girls don’t have character flaws like this. They control themselves. They get over it. They grow up. I told myself.

And grow up I did. And yet, this thing stayed with me. As a matter of fact, it grew with me. It grew until it had me in a tizzy. It had me on my knees in prayer, it had me staring at myself in the mirror asking hard questions and (don’t laugh,) googling “what is wrong with me?!” Now, I’m not claiming to have been officially diagnosed. I have not sought psychological, professional help (more on that later,) but I know that I have Trichotillomania, because I live with it every day.

What is that?

Trichotillomania (trick-o-till-o-mania) is related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is a disorder that causes people (like myself) to obsessively, compulsively pluck their own hair. According to the inter-webs, it’s “chronic and difficult to treat,” the peak age of onset is 9-13 years of age, it may be triggered by depression or stress, but this is unknown. It is estimated to affect 2-4% of the world’s population, and out of those, 80-90% are women.

When did it start?

The first time I can remember plucking is when I was about four, but my mom tells me I started earlier than that. I became extremely aware of it when I was about seven. Ten and eleven were awful. Periods of stress during my teen years were also traumatic for my hair. I always thought it was just a bad habit, so I tried my best to stop, but I couldn’t.

Why do I do it?

Well, it’s an obsessive compulsion. For me, it’s primarily my eyelashes that take the hit. I used to think stress was my biggest trigger, but I think boredom is an even bigger trigger. Do you ever mindlessly scroll through Facebook or Pinterest when you know you should be sleeping? You just keep scrolling and scrolling, even though your mind is half-asleep. You are in a bit of a trance, and you’re decision-making is dulled. That’s exactly the same state that finds me pulling my eyelashes. We revert to these self-comfort, mind-numbing activities frequently when we’re stressed, so stress is related, but it’s the trance-like boredom that triggers the mania.

And by “mania,” I mean that quite literally. I go on plucking sprees against my better judgement. I often start without realizing it (especially when I was kid,) and then I have irrational thoughts like, “I’ll just get one more, then I’ll be done.” But you know how your brain is in that state. There’s never just one more. You have to put your foot down, or it will go on and on. And I desperately want to put my foot down, but I’m arguing with myself. Like you might say, “Gosh, I have to go to bed. This is ridiculous.” But your body just stays on the couch, flipping through the channels.

I sometimes cry while I’m plucking because, 1. it hurts! 2. I know, deep down, that I’m going to regret this “spree” in the morning, but I can’t bring myself to stop. But the more I pluck, the more sore my eyelashes become, and the more sore they are, the more I feel the urge to remove them. Some folks with Trichotillomania report an irrational notion that certain hairs are “evil” and must be removed because of this. For me, it’s more like, I just don’t like that one and need it gone and think I will feel “all better” once I pluck it. Of course, I don’t. I feel deep remorse and a stronger urge to pluck.

I have spoken to people with O.C.D. who cut themselves in this same way. It is not the result of self-hatred. It is more like scratching an itch, only the itch is in my mind. We simply have a irrational notion that we will feel relief if we cut or, in my case, pluck. And, in a way, that relief is there. Sometimes I even convince myself that it’s a good idea, in this “special case.” That’s why it’s a mental disorder. But I wake up the next morning and look in the mirror and cry, because no woman wants to go to work or to hang out with friends and have no eyelashes. It’s painful to see yourself and think, “I made myself hideous.”

What helps?

Like I said, I haven’t been “officially” diagnosed, but reading about the disorder has already helped me more than words can say. The most helpful thing I read was that this isn’t a character flaw, but a disorder and I’m not the only one who struggles this way. That may seem overly simplified, but it’s true. It helped me in leaps and bounds. The second-most helpful thing I learned is that triggers are very real. I try to avoid that mind-numbing twilight time when I’m most likely to start plucking. I try not to be alone during this time, because it is embarrassing to pluck in front of people and, if I catch it that early, I am still “in my right mind” enough to take heed.

Another thing that is helpful is keeping my finger nails long because it’s very difficult to pluck anything that tiny with long nails! Simple and almost silly, but very real for me! Also, wearing mascara, as finding the mascara under my nails grosses me out and tips me off that I’ve been plucking. Touching my eyelashes every once in a while, without plucking seems to help. I think about my eyelashes, I acknowledge them physically, and instead of plucking, I think, “Wow, it feels like my eyelashes are getting really long and thick. That’s great. Let’s keep it this way!” And move on.

The other thing that is hugely helpful is refusing to abuse myself for my own self-abuse. I used to get stressed or bored or what-not, start plucking, go on a plucking spree and wind up bawling my eyes out in the middle of the night, thinking about what an embarrassing failure I was. I felt ugly and out of control and deeply ashamed of myself. Now that I know it is a disorder that lots of other people have, I still sometimes pluck, but then I think. “Okay, I wish I hadn’t done that, but it happens sometimes. I’m not going to dwell on it. That will only cause more stress. I am going to move on and put that behind me. Maybe next time I’ll be able to resist.”

Other things you should know:

It helps me give myself some slack when I think about how many other people have Trichotillomania. I mean, I don’t want anyone else to go through what I go through, but seeing them live normal lives helps me live mine. Or their not so normal lives. Many famous people have Trichotillomania, such as actress Megan Fox. She has been treated in-hospital on three occasions and is very open about her disorder. Singers Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry have both “confessed to being trichsters” in interviews. (At least according to the internet…I’m not that great at keeping up with celebrities!)

There is not a defined way of treating Trichotillomania, such as a pill, but because it is thought to be a type of or closely related to OCD, help can be found in various types of therapy and anti-psychotics.

One girls story of plucking, praying and finding peace.

The rest of my story…

After years and years of struggling with Trichotillomania and not even knowing it, I finally made a Google search that changed my life and learned that I am not a freak. At this point, I talked to my sisters and, later, my parents. They all knew I had struggled with plucking as a child, but didn’t realize it was a disorder or that I still struggled with it as much as I did. (Though there were definitely times when the results were very noticeable, more often than not I was hyper-aware of how my eyelashes looked. It wasn’t as noticeable as I thought!)

At this point, my parents talked to me about getting help and, if recommended, medication. As of now, I’ve opted out. After all, this doesn’t really have a negative effect on my health and I am better controlled now than ever. I still pluck, but I don’t freak out when I do, and I think I do it less and less. I have thought about wearing false eyelashes, but I haven’t had a serious bald spot in a long time! For now, I want to do three things:

1. Blog about it and raise some awareness and simply let people know that I’m a perfectly normal person (with trichotillomania.) There is no shame in being diagnosed with a mental disorder, because it has nothing to do with the awesome person you are. My sister is diabetic, my brother has asthma, I have trichotillomania. If anyone has more questions for me, please feel free to leave a comment! If you are a fellow “trichster” who wants to talk, leave me your email address.

2. Donate to Wigs for KidsBecause the hair on my head happens to go untouched by my disorder, I have plenty of it to spare! I have donated my hair several times and, most recently, to Wigs for Kids. I chose them because they donate wigs to kids who experience baldness due to trichotillomania. Yes, I think it’s very sad when children lose their hair due to cancer treatments, but I also find it very sad to think of the shame a little girl feels at pulling her own hair. It is self-inflicted, but also unwanted, and those kids deserve wigs too!

3. Live my life without stopping every five minutes to worry about not having enough eyelashes! Like I said, I have more control now than ever, but I will probably struggle with this for the rest of my life. I might as well make the best of it and learn to live with it, rather than to constantly fight myself about it. Avoiding triggers, helping myself when I can and, when I can’t, not beating myself up about it—these are the things that keep me going. Life’s too short to worry about if my eyelashes are. ;)

“Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30

resources:

The Trichotillomania Learning Center

Wigs for Kids

What Christians Need to Know about Mental Health by Ann Voskamp

Any and all kind and helpful comments are welcome. I would love to hear from folks who have overcome this or similar struggles! 

 

20

who is invited?

Is the family of God exclusive or inclusive?

When I was about seventeen, I was attended a soiree. That’s right, not a party—a soiree. “Who is invited?” I had asked. My brother and sister who were sure the invitation included me, though that wasn’t completely evident. They were friends of the family hosting the event and I was an acquaintance of theirs. I put on my satin skirt and a black top, my mom gently suggested I put a little effort into my hair and we took the long drive to their secluded home.

It was Christmastime, there was wassail on the stove and horse devours on the coffee table and a shining grand piano that it would seem every guest knew how to play, but me. Everyone was very nice and I enjoyed my wassail and the live music, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I was out of place. The group seemed very exclusive and I couldn’t help but wonder if I hadn’t been invited at all.

Have you ever felt that way? It’s not the most pleasant feeling.

Now imagine receiving an invitation to a big, wonderful party (or soiree!) There is sure to be food and drink, live music and games, lots of laughing and talking and good times. Anyone is welcome, but you have to bring an invitation, and invitations are sent out at request. Would you consider this an exclusive party?

This is similar to a question a lot of people have about Christianity. If God is good, if God is love, how can He “send people to hell”? If you really loved people, you would be more tolerant, more inclusive. All people should be able to go to heaven when they die, right?

First of all, don’t take my word for this. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, emphasis mine.) It doesn’t take a scholar to interpret that verse. The great news is, everyone is welcome into the Kingdom of God, but there is only one road, one gate, one key that we all must use.

The Bible doesn’t just say, “God is loving,” it says “God is love.” (1 John 4:8.) That means that everything He does is love, even his “severe mercies” as Elisabeth Elliot called them.  Making only one “key” to heaven’s gate, that excludes all of the other keys we could possibly try, and that’s done out of love for us. He isn’t trying to trick us, there is no riddle. There’s just one key. And the other keys? The key we make ourselves, the key someone else presses into our hands, the key we found somewhere along the way–they won’t turn the lock.

There was a time when God spoke to people only through occasional prophets on misty, glowing hilltops. He gave us the law carved in stone, there was no “buts” about it and we were swallowed by the earth if we failed to live up to those expectations. He was already Love, but His love for had not been consummated on the cross, yet. Out of love, He showed us that we cannot work for love. Love that we have to work for is not love at all. He chose a high priest, a Jewish man of a certain line, to communicate with Him. Communication was more tense than any meet-the-parents dinner. The priest entered God’s presence only once a year, and with so many particulars, Moses wrote an entire book of instructions based on God’s words to Him. The priests wore a rope round their waist when in God’s presence so their dead body could be dragged out if God struck them down for some reason (no one else could enter The Holy of Holies to retrieve him.)

When Solomon built the temple, the people who wished to worship were segregated into several sections. The Most Holy Place was for The High Priest only. Beyond that was the Court of the Priests. Beyond that was a court where men were allowed. Then there was a court outside of that for women. Beyond that was The Court of the Gentiles were non-Jews were permitted to enter. (Here’s a little diagram.) The curtain that hung in front of the Most Holy Place was a physical and spiritual barrier between God and you and I. (Personally, I am not a priest or a man or a Jew.)

However, when Jesus died, a miracle occurred.

And then Jesus cried out once more, loudly, and then He breathed His last breath. At that instant, the temple curtain was torn in half, from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51)

I can’t get over the way the author of Hebrews puts it:

So, my friends, Jesus by His blood gives us courage to enter the most holy place. He has created for us a new and living way through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. Since we have a great High Priest who presides over the house of God, let us draw near with true hearts full of faith, with hearts rinsed clean of any evil conscience, and with bodies cleansed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The curtain that God Himself instructed man to create, was torn in half by the power of God’s love. His message was loud and clear: all are welcome in His presence, in his family and in His unending love. Men, women, Jews, Gentiles…absolutely everyone. 

That doesn’t undo what Jesus said about Himself. He is still the only way into God’s presence. We must come through he new and living way, through His flesh. That’s the only way we can have “true hearts, full of faith…rinsed clean of any evil conscience.” The party I was speaking of, is still invitation only. But there’s a catch: the invitation is open to anyone. As a matter of fact, when you come to the door empty handed, Jesus opens the door and gives you His own invitation to use as passage.

All you have to do is come to the door, knock and say, “I don’t have an invitation, I can’t get one on my own. But I want to come into the party and I know you can help.”

“It will not be just the children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob who celebrate at their heavenly banquet at the end of time. No, people will come from the East and the West—and those who recognize Me, regardless of their lineage, will sit with Me at that feast.” -Jesus Christ, Matthew 8:11

0

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes