Archive | seasons and holidays

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

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Happy Birthday, Daddy!

I wrote a little tribute to my dad on Instagram for his birthday, and then I decided I should share it here. My dad is truly the best! So thankful to my Heavenly Father for my Daddy!

blog photo-pops

This is my dad.
It is pretty hard to catch him in front of the camera, but I found this shot from Amsterdam on my phone.
Some of you are already thinking about Father’s Day, but I’m going to get ahead by talking about my dad today, on his birthday!
My dad got married while he was in college and they had my brother Joey the next year. He finished college by taking several semesters off to work every job imaginable. He was a janitor, a pressure-washer, and a construction worker. He worked an assembly line, he went door-to-door, he mowed the alligator pen at the zoo!
My dad has not stopped working hard to provide for his family since then. By the time I was born, he was in med school, still working hard. From the moment Joey was born, he’s made sure my mom could always stay home with us.
My dad hasn’t ever had a lot of time “off,” but when he’s off, he’s at home with his family…or taking us on a “vacation” (adventure!)
He used to line us girls up on the bed with our hair hanging off to blow dry it, and then he’d brush it and sometimes even French braid it! He’s a man of many talents!
He builds houses, pins butterflies (but only those that die of natural causes, because he’s awesome,) cooks, bakes, takes beautiful photos (he taught us how to develop film in our own darkroom,) fixes All The Broken Things, and has great taste in music, coffee and cookies. smile emoticon
Now I realize that my dad was really young when he started his family, and was still a young child in the family of God at that point. Now that I’m in my twenties, I see what a remarkable man he has been to love his wife as Christ loves the church, to raise his nine children to follow Christ unapologetically and to otherwise never be a “follower.”
I still learn from him, I still sit on his knee and he still braids my hair sometimes. We definitely still go on adventures!
I love you SO much Daddy! Have a groovy birthday!
P. S. If I never get married, it’s all your fault. You’ve given me such high standards, the guys I meet just don’t usually measure up! That may have been your plan all along…

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Why I’m (Still) a SAHD (Part Three: A Week in the Life)

Why I'm Still a SAHD (Part Three)

My plan has always been to conclude with a post addressing the challenges of staying home as an adult, but the more I thought about, the more I felt that I had addressed the main points in the previous posts. It can be a challenge, but with good communication and grace, the balance of home life and independence can be found.

A writer from the mastermind group I lead suggested I conclude with a “week in my life” post to share how much time I spend at home and how much time I spend on my own endeavors. This season is definitely my most independent yet, so I thought it was an appropriate suggestion. Just a reminder for those who may be new to the blog, I’m twenty-two, single and not in school. Without further adieu, I give you A Week in the Life:

Sunday:

Sundays are my “sleeping in” day because I don’t get up until 8:15! I have an hour before we leave for church, so I eat breakfast and drink a small cup of coffee while I get dressed and ready. We are in a funny and delightful season in which everyone who goes to church in the morning fits in one car! Our SUV fits eight, and eight of us pile in every Sunday morning! (My sister and her husband go to a different church which meets in the afternoon!)

After church and Sunday school, we meet back up and head home for lunch. We spend the rest of the day together at home, except for when it’s time for the youth events in the evening, in which one of my parents or I gives our three “youth” rides to-and-from their various activities. We sometimes cook on these days, but a lot of times we eat leftovers. Naps are in order on Sunday afternoon and, in the evening, Downton Abbey!

Monday:

On Mondays, my alarm goes off at 6:45 so I can get ready for work. First things first: I head downstairs and make a pot of coffee! I get ready of my day, pour some coffee in my thermos and tell my family goodbye. I spend 8:00-12:00 in a general contractor’s office as the front desk receptionist. I really enjoy my job, but it’s pretty slow so I often get to write or read while I’m at work. I also use this time to update my mastermind group and do my BSF homework every day. This is a huge plus to working in a quiet office!

At noon, I head back home for a quick lunch with my family. At 1:15 I leave for my second job! Er…my first job, that is! 1:30-4:30 I babysit for a family who lives on our side of town. I have been babysitting for them for four years, so it was important to me to keep this job when I took the receptionist position! The family was sweet enough to change my schedule to accommodate my second job. I play with a three-year-old and a four-year-old on Monday afternoons and love it!

After that, I often go through the drive-through at the bank to deposit last week’s check, or make a grocery run for dinner. We have a “quick” dinner together before we all head to BSF at 6:55. By the time we get home from BSF, the line for the shower forms and we go to bed!

*Mondays have always been Cleaning Day for my family, so while I’m away, they are all doing housework and yard work. They have all been sweet enough to pick up my slack, for the most part, since I got this job in October. I try to keep our upstairs bathroom clean throughout the rest of the week. For curious readers, my mom does almost all of our laundry on this day (including sheets and bathmats) and it takes her all day!

Tuesday:

Same song, different verse! My alarm goes off at 6:45, my coffee and I are in the office 8:00-12:00 and then I’m home for lunch. After lunch, I try to do thirty minutes of exercise, focusing on strength training. Lots of times we cook dinner on Tuesdays and watch a movie in the evening. My mom and the four youngest kids are getting ready for Classical Conversations on Tuesday nights, so presentations are being prepared and lunches packed.

Wednesday:

Office: 8:00-12:00

Most of my family is at Classical Conversations most of the day on Wednesdays. When my mom gets home, we have all had lunch and we have afternoon coffee together. There are often cookies involved…

After this, I try to spend about an hour on some sort of artwork. This can be hard to prioritize, but so important for me personally! Again, we usually have dinner as a family.

Thursday:

Office 8:00-12:00

Thursdays are my “free” afternoon. Sit on the deck in the sun, play cards with my little brothers, run an errand or two…

Friday:

Office 8:00-12:00

I try to do about thirty minutes of cardio after lunch on Fridays. Power walking (I don’t run!) is my favorite, though biking on my cruiser and dancing in my bedroom are also great! Impressive, right?

Saturday:

On Saturdays, I lead a service team at our church! We usually meet at 8:00 in the morning at the church, which is about twenty-five minutes from Eyrie Park. I have a partner, so my responsibilities change a little each week, but every-other week I pick up breakfast on my way and also prepare a short devotional to start the team off with…hopefully before I’m on the way! I usually get up at 7:00 on Saturdays, because it doesn’t take long to put my hair in a ponytail and throw on some old clothes!

We usually get to our job around 9:00 and work until around noon. Our jobs include anything from yard work to house work to helping someone move. We are usually serving the elderly of our (large) church family. More often than not we’re serving a widow. I love the hands-on work, but my favorite part of the day is visiting with the people who we’re able to help and praying with them. Around noon, we head back to the church to regroup and then head home.

During Lent, and Advent, we do a devotional as a family every evening, Monday-Saturday. We light candles, sing, pray, read aloud and discuss. This often lasts for a couple of hours, since we don’t have any truly little kids anymore and everyone is expected to participate.

My almost-twenty-year-old sister and I share a group of friends, for the most part, and we usually have 1-2 “social outings” with them throughout the week. Maybe it’s a “girls’ night” for movies and dessert or afternoon coffee with just one or two other girls, or going to a play or other event together. My parents let us borrow a car for these things, which is awesome! I got a late start as far as driving goes, but now I’ve been driving for almost five years and I’m comfortable navigating our city, but I don’t have my own car. Borrowing a car is a huge luxury for the technically car-less.

Last week, we met our friend Briana at the grocery store to pick out ice cream together and then head back to Eyrie Park. We ate ice cream, played Dutch Blitz and then she stayed for dinner! A couple of days later, we met another friend in Downton to go antique shopping. These times are really fun and special.

Sunday afternoon found me playing Guess Who with Dorothy and reading her a Disney Princess collection (in it’s entirety!) before my leader meeting at our college pastor’s house. Every week is a little different, but there’s always a lot of in-and-out, eating, borrowing and switching cars and time together. All-in-all, I think my life is pretty great!

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why I just deleted my reading list (+ an update)

silly sisters

2015? Bring it on.

 

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s 2015 and I am raring to go. I have had a lot of time off work over the holidays and I positively drank it all in (still am.) I sat by the fire until my back itched. I played games without thought of “what else I need to be doing.” I got second helpings and chewed long and slow. I cupped coffee in warm mugs and made toasts with champagne glasses full of sparkling grape juice. I read picture books and ebooks (finally downloaded the Kindle app to my phone.) I had late night conversations about all that I hope 2015 will hold and late morning conversations with our feet up in the dining chairs about things that make us laugh like seagulls. I watched many movies, most of them new to us but old to the world. Cleaned my room, bought a tube of truly red lipstick, baked, took walks in the chilled outdoors, played with a downy puppy (you need to meet her!) and slept. so. much.

Oh how my stomach lurches when I remember (100 times a day) that this time is going to come to an end on January 5th. The more I enjoy myself, the more I dread saying goodbye to this holiday. However, I have been very enthusiastic about 2015 and excited to jump into January. It’s just much more fun to talk about goals and plans while sitting by a fire at 11:00 in the morning, scone in hand, than to actually hoist yourself out of 2014’s last sweet slumber.

I have goals, plans and hopes for 2015, some of which I’ll be sharing here in the future, but one thing I am not doing this year is a reading list. In 2014 I had the Read My Bookcase Challenge in which I selected 15 books from my own bookcase which I had never read and tried to read them instead of buying new books, for one year. I think the challenge went fairly well, though I didn’t read all fifteen books. I went through times of reading a lot and reading a little, but I didn’t buy *many* new books. You can’t blame me for picking up a copy of this or that at garage sales!

I also did end up reading a few books which were not on my list, as necessity arose. In retrospect, I read:

1. Pain Redeemed by Natasha Metzler

3. The Hawk and the Dove (Book 1) by Penelope Wilcock

4. Call the Midwife  by Jennifer Worth

5. Illustrating Children’s Books by Martin Salisbury

6. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

7. The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

8. A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

9. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

10. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

and am still working on

#11 The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White.

I have mentioned before that I am not a fast reader. I think I could read faster if I tried, but I wasn’t raised reading books for the sake of checking them off the list, but for the sake of enjoyment and education. I read slowly and I take long breaks. That’s just the way I am, for now.

I absolutely adored several books that I read last year and especially loved getting back into novels. The trouble with novels is that I feel guilty for reading them, as if they aren’t as important as reading nonfiction or doing something like putting away laundry or making a grocery list. I know that isn’t true, but the suspicion that it is sometimes keeps me from reading when I want to.

The Read My Bookcase Challenge did in fact “work” because I mostly read what was already in my own room, on the shelf, and I read a bit more consistently, knocking a few titles off my list that had been there for a while. That’s why I wrote a reading list for 2015 and put the titles from last year’s list that didn’t get read on the top. But then, with all of my other plans to be studious and full of effort in 2015, I thought it best to go without a list this year. I still hope to read-more than ever, if possible-but I don’t think I want to go by a list. I want to see what strikes my fancy when my schedule allows my fancy to be struck, and not associate any pressure, no matter how small or self-induced it may be, with reading.

As far as reading outside of the RMBCC, I read:

1. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Philip Keller

2. Be Still my Soul by Elisabeth Elliot (started a book study with my sisters for this one)

3. The Moffat Museum by Eleanor Estes (reading aloud to Jubilee)

Six books were left on the list, but I don’t feel bad about that at all. I added several books to my Very Favorites list, which is quite an accomplishment in this world wherein there is no end to the making of dumb books.

We’ll talk more about New Year plans later. Have a happy holiday!

~Everly

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12 Things You May Not have Known about Mother Mary

EP 12 things mother mary

Mary, Mother of Jesus has been studied, glorified, admired, iconified and revered. Though various denominations celebrate her life and her role in the faith in different ways, there’s no denying the fact that, for Bible-believers, Mary is an important character in God’s story. We all know that she was chosen to be Jesus mother through immaculate conception, that she journeyed on a donkey and gave birth-to the savior of the world no less-in a stable. We see her depicted as a woman in a blue head covering, a glowing angelic creature, an extremely pious and pure saint. However, there is more to Mary than a nativity scene. We would do well to remember that she started off much like you and I, not knowing what her life would hold, trying to honor her God. Since Christmas is right around the corner, I’ve been thinking about Mary a lot and I thought I’d share 12 things you may not have known about mother Mary.

1. Her name is Egyptian

Well, kind of. The Hebrew form of her name is Miryam (such as Moses’ sister, Miriam.) Some scholars believe that Moses, Aaron and Miriam were all originally Egyptian names, which would make some sense seeing as the Hebrew people had been living in Egypt for hundreds of years. If this is the case, then Miryam was probably derived from the Egyptian words Mery or Meryt which means “cherished” or “beloved” (think “merit.”) There is still debate about the origin of the name, but knowing that God often inspired people to name their children something very particular, “cherished” would seem fitting for the mother of Jesus.

2. She may have made her own match

I was always taught that Mary was probably only 13 or 14 when she was betrothed to Joseph and that it was most likely an arranged marriage, but I’ve recently read that in Jesus’ day, women were often given a say in their choice of spouse. Going back as far Isaac and Rebekah, Rebekah was given the chance to turn down the match that had been proposed for her. Matchmaking was certainly prevalent (and still is in Israel!) but it’s nice to think that, maybe, Mary and Joseph were grade school sweethearts (because yes-she probably was very young!)

3. Betrothal=Marriage

Breaking off an engagement was like getting a divorce. For Joseph to break his commitment to Mary would’ve meant a lifetime of shame. Still, he was a pretty noble person to go through with it considering the unusual circumstances.

4. She was quite the poet

Outside of the Catholic church, Mary’s song (also called The Magnificat) is often overlooked, but it is a beautiful glimpse into her heart. Moments after embracing her cousin Elizabeth and realizing they were both miraculously carrying babies who would change the world forever, Mary bursts out: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my savior!” That is, if she spoke in Edwardian English. I’m sure it was beautiful in Aramaic as well. Read the rest of her poem here.

5. She had some serious doubts

When Jesus’ ministry got serious (and by that I mean He was being so controversial that there was a plot to kill Him,) Mary and her other sons came to fetch Him and bring Him home because they thought He had lost His mind (Mark 3:21.) Verses 31-35 give us the impression that she left empty-handed, hurt and bewildered.

6. She was an early Christian

One of the coolest things about Mary, in my opinion, is that she later came to understand Jesus’ teachings. She became part of the early church and Acts 1:14 tells us that she and her other sons were devoted to prayer and to the new body of believers. I would’ve definitely wanted her to be my Sunday school teacher!

7. She had several children

You may want to sit down for this one. Mary did not remain a virgin forever! She and Joseph welcomed several more children into their family after Jesus was born. His brothers are mentioned many times and his sisters are mentioned in Matthew 13:56, Mark 6:3

8. She also descended from David

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, he actually notes Mary’s genealogy instead of Joseph’s (yay moms!) This family tree shows that she too was descended from the Davidic line. Which is helpful, since Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ biological father, so-to-speak.

9. She was (probably) an introvert

No, I did not ask Mary myself, so I could be totally off. But watching the way she responds and reacts throughout the story, I feel like we have reason to suspect she was introvert. Luke tells us that Mary “pondered these things and treasured them in her heart.” That sounds like a brown study to me.

10. She once misplaced her kid (yes, that would be Jesus)

You know those frazzled moms who accidentally leave their kids at Walmart or lose them at theme parks? Well, Mary was once one such frazzled mom. When Joseph and Mary decided to take their kids on their annual trip to Jerusalem for Passover (I’m picturing a Kosher ren fest,) they had such a good time, they forgot to count heads when they headed back to Nazareth. There were probably several families traveling together and everyone just assumed Jesus, by that time twelve years old, was hanging out with one of his other friends. They actually traveled for an entire day before realizing their mistake and, like any good mother, Mary panicked. After three days, they finally found Him in the Temple, “sitting among teachers, listening to them and asking questions.” I cannot imagine her relief…and confusion!

11. The Apostle John looked after her when Jesus was gone

There really was no such thing as an independent woman in the society Mary lived in. By the time Jesus was crucified, she had presumably been a widow for some time. Though Jesus’ words from the cross, “Woman, behold your son” sound harsh when we read them, this was actually His last act of love and honor to her before He died. Presumable, the Apostle John was being commissioned to look after Mary as if she were his own mother and Mary was being told to rely on John as she would a son. John was called “the apostle Jesus loved” and so it isn’t any wonder this responsibility went to him.

12. She was super brave

From the very beginning of her story, we see Mary to be a truly courageous individual. When the angel appears in her own home, she is startled, but keeps her head. When she is told she will have a child while she is still a virgin, she is puzzled but then goes on to quickly say, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38.) Then she had to go through the shame and torture of being an unwed mother in ancient Hebrew culture, the long journey to Bethlehem during labor and childbirth in a animal’s stall. Then there was the threat on her child’s life which the Maji warned her of, the flight to Egypt and then the job of raising the Messiah as her own child. Then she went through the confusion of His ministry (He wasn’t anything like the Messiah the Jews had been expecting) and the doubts about God’s plans. She had to hear the news when her cousin John the Baptist is beheaded, go through the loss of her husband and ultimately see her son tortured and crucified in the most horrific way. I can almost see the knowing look in her eyes, so full of sorrow and joy, as she breaks bread in the upper room with the early church. This lady saw it all, and through the ups and downs, she ultimately put her trust in God. What an awesome person we will get to meet one day in Heaven! What a perfect choice God made when He sent His son into the arms of a young mother. 

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