This has been a picture taking week, so I will let those drive the blog tonight!
Today is Easter Sunday! Being on staff at a church, Sunday mornings can get busy. But this morning we were able to snap a quick photo!
This month marks year 10 of being youth directors at our church. Just as a re-cap, Jake is a math teacher and I was a special education teacher…we never expected to be doing ministry part time…let alone for ten years. Ten years ago a few people from the church showed up on our porch and asked us to consider becoming the youth directors at our church. After praying about it we accepted the position and here we still are.
Each year Jake and I spend time in prayer about whether or not God desires for us to stay in that position. And each and every year He makes it clear that we are right where He wants us to be. It continues to be challenging with our unique circumstances but being able to walk alongside our teenagers as they develop a walk with God is such an honor.
Looking back I can see times where we thought we had it all figured out, and God refined us even more through our ignorance and our pride. Being in this role has brought a level of accountability in my walk with the Lord and I am thankful God led us to where we are. Watching kids fall in love with God has been such a faith building thing for me too and we genuinely love studying the Word with them each week.
Alright, now let’s talk about these wild boys.
Both Levi and Malachi have hippotherapy sessions each Monday with a wonderful physical therapist. She saw a post about our friends exotic animal farm and decided to make a trip happen, inviting us along for the fun. I had Jake drive the little truck over so I would be able to get Malachi around without too much of a backache later.
I could post about 30 more amazing photos but then I would be ”that mom” in your eyes so I will refrain haha.
The day was so much fun for both boys but it also served as a reminder to me that the older and larger Malachi gets the more difficult it will be to give him these experiences safely. I find myself wavering between living in the moment and mourning over the future. Inclusion will always be possible and something we prioritize, but the level of inclusion will inevitably have to change as he grows and I am not sure I am ready to process that.
So for now we load him on a camel. We carry him across fields. We sit on milk stools. And we try to make him feel like the 9 year old that he is.
Malachi has a difficult time when he is outside and there are multiple senses being required. He especially has a hard time in sun and in wind, and unfortunately our farm visit had a blend of both. When that happens he shuts down a bit in a protective manner (see the camel photo above as well as the Easter photo), but he does this so he can fully mentally experience what is happening.
In fact, here is a stark contrast to help you understand a bit.
Earlier this week Malachi played with some of his favorite friends right after the sun set. The temperature was comfortable, and there was no wind or sun to distract his senses. And this was the result.
But back to the farm visit. One of his favorite parts of the day was driving in the little truck and beeping the horn. And just look at those freckles popping out from the sun that day. Sweet boy.
One of the unforseen joys from the day was the dogs sniffing him all over after we returned home, trying to figure out the new animal smells.
We spend a lot of time on the playground when the sky is overcast, trying to accommodate both boys! I am continually thankful for a playground at the house to help me be a ”typical mom” but still be close to home base.
Levi is really, really entertaining these days and says so many fun things. This week we have been ready the Holy Week book from the Baby Believer series and we got to this picture:
I asked Levi, ”What is Jesus doing to His friend’s foot in this picture that is so nice?”
And Levi replied, ”Cooking it.”
Oh boy. There are so many humbling moments within parenting.
If you have been reading the blog over the last 9 years you will know that Jake and I are a little unconventional when it comes to holidays. And admittedly we aren’t ever sure what we want each one to look like. Due to surgeries, hospitalizations, and ICU stays we haven’t always had the luxury of planning things out.
But I do know that I want each holiday to be an opportunity for them to live out their faith and think of others before self.
Somehow every single holiday in America has been rearranged to involve receiving things. Yes, there are other elements and takeaways sprinkled in but there seems to always be the underlying focus of self. While I don’t feel that holidays are inherently bad I do feel that they have the potential to create an inward look instead of an outward one.
Please know that my kids are well taken care of, spoiled with hundreds of toys, and frequently get and eat candy. They are not deprived of these things. And we participate in things like church egg hunts and we choose and decorate a Christmas tree. But we don’t have many traditions in our home for these holidays as we want to leave room for God to create the framework for those.
There are two specific scriptures that play often in my head around the holidays. The first one is Romans 12:2 ”Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Let me just stop right there and note that Romans 12 is an amazing chapter. If you need a good, thought provoking read this week I would highly recommend spending some time with Romans 12 and a highlighter.
There are several words that I am drawn to in this particular verse, but tonight as I read it I keep settling on the word ”renewing”. This word reminds me that the process of sanctification isn’t a one time deal. It is a continual thing that we have to prioritize and welcome into our lives on a daily basis, allowing God to transform and renew us.
But the other phrase I tend to get focused on is ”the pattern of this world”. What are the patterns of this world? Have you ever stopped to process what patterns of the world exist in your life?
For me, holidays are a prime example of those patterns. They are special days that originally were built on very wonderful principles and we have come in and create a pattern to lay overtop of those. And we look at the person next to us to make sure out pattern is similar to theirs.
WE create the pattern based on others instead of allowing God to guide us, stitch by stitch.
Read the final line of that verse: ”Then you will be able to test and approve that God’s will is- his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
When we are busy focusing on patterns we can allow ourselves to become distracted from hearing the prompts of God. I know myself pretty well, and I recognize my weakness in this area. I can get focused on something and somehow remove God from the process as I take over. Because that is my specific nature and weakness this is something I am trying to stay sensitive to.
I would never be so prideful to assume that you all will share these same convictions, and I hope you are able to see my heart and know that these words are ones of self reflection rather than judgment.
The second verse that often plays in my mind during holidays is James 1:27 ”Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Ahh I could spend so much time on this verse and go so many different directions. Focus, Leah.
This verse reminds me that religion has the potential to become impure and defiled. And when I take time to really reflect on that I can spot times in my own life that I allowed my religion to drift this direction.
But for tonight I want to focus on the final line, ”to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
This. This is the verse. This is the one that drives all of my hesitancies and challenges all my traditions.
If we are called to keep ourselves unstained by the world, but also called to be in this world, are we not being given an impossible task? This is where the grace of God comes in!
But I find myself often questioning how hard I am attempting to keep myself unstained by the world. If I am wearing a white shirt and I desire to keep it unstained, I will avoid putting my hands on all potential causes for stains. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever leave my home or enter an environment with potentially messy things. But instead when I enter ”the world” I will be watchful and cautious, evaluating each things I put my hands to.
So I guess that is the phase we are in with holidays. We are cautious, trying to decide which traditions honor the Lord and which traditions feed self worship.
I am sharing this final thought with you as a testimony, not as a brag moment so please read this knowing the motives of my heart in sharing this are pure.
This year for Easter we talked to the boys about an orphanage in Uganda that was trying to raise money for an Easter dinner for the kids. We talked about what it means to be an orphan and talked about what Jesus would do for those children. Levi was captivated. The concept of not having a mommy or daddy stretched his mind, but then the concept of not having food took it to mind-blowing status. We decided as a family to take the money we could have spent on an Easter basket, candy, toys, or new church shoes and sent the money to the orphanage.
Levi has been thrilled all day talking about them getting to eat a nice dinner. And then my phone dinged and much to my surprise we received a message from the orphanage. They had sent photos from their Easter dinner, full of smiling children with full plates and full bellies. We sat the boys down and flipped through each photo and I watched the light dance in Levi’s eyes as he recognized the joy and power of being the hands and feet of Jesus. And I listened to the happy squeal from Malachi as we described the faces of the children holding their plates.
I don’t know that I am getting this parenting thing right. And I don’t know that I am living out these verses in the way I truly desire to. But I feel this overwhelming call to do my best to keep my family unstained and un-patterned by this world.
This week I will personally be evaluating the ways I have allowed myself to become stained. It is rarely an intentional process, but rather one that happens when we take our eyes off of Christ in one area of our lives and wander away from the Vine for a moment.
But the good news is that the Easter holiday reminds us that Christ shed blood for our many, many sins. The ugly sins, the little sins, the embarrassing sins, and the shameful ones. Ours stains can be washed by the blood of the Lamb.
Happy Easter and may God bless you,