HOPE

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and never finished it or posted it.  After the events in Connecticut on Friday, it seemed appropriate, and timely, to revise a bit and post.

A while back I saw this picture on instagram.  A friend had posted it.


And when I saw it, it was like the Lord spoke right to me. 

Because lately, I am facing challenging situations in my life that seem to have no resolution in near view.  I sense God asking me to trust Him, and yet I feel sometimes like there is little chance that things will change, get easier, or get better--at least anytime soon.

And I have accepted that there will be challenges and difficulties in life.  I know that is part of living in this world.  Wrestling with sin, suffering, sickness, injustice, evil, death.  Those things are here to stay, until the appointed time when Christ returns, rights all wrongs, and sets straight all that we have mishandled in our efforts to rule our little areas of this great big kingdom.

I know that evil is real, and it is not just external to me.  It starts inside of me.  And as much as I long for God to set all things right, to come and punish injustice and bring peace, I know that I am the first one in line deserving His wrath.

And this is where the narrative gets beautiful, and it's especially wondrous this time of year.  Because God did not leave me in that fearful place.  HE CAME.  Emmanuel.  God with us.  A child, and yet a King. The HOPE of nations.  God became flesh and dwelt among us.  And He came to die.  

The manger in the shadow of a cross.

He came to make right all that I have done wrong.  He came and brought HOPE. 

So while I acknowledge the affect of sin in my heart and in those around me, I believe I have a choice to make.  Will I believe that it can be different?  I know the power of the One I follow and the miracles He can bring about.  Will I trust and hope in things I cannot yet see?

While I want to always be willing to face challenges with grace and trust, and accept whatever comes from my Father's hand, I also want to believe the impossible--that God might chose to intervene, act miraculously, and demonstrate the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

And it is not something of me, mustered up or manufactured by me.  HOPE has been given to me, to possess and to cling to when everything around me gives me reason to doubt.  

David Wilcox wrote these lyrics:
You say you see no hope, you say you see no reason we should dream
That the world would ever change, you're saying love is foolish to believe
'Cause there'll always be some crazy with an army or a knife
To wake you from your day dream, put the fear back in your life...

Look, if someone wrote a play just to glorify what's stronger than hate,
Would they not arrange the stage to look as if the hero came too late
He's almost in defeat. It's looking like the evil side will win,
So on the edge of every seat, from the moment that the whole thing begins
It is...
Love who makes the mortar
And it's Love who stacked these stones
And it's Love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we're alone
In this scene set in shadows
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play...
For in this darkness love can show the way.

So given the choice I have, to despair and give up or to have hope--I choose HOPE.  Darn it!!  I choose stubbornly in the face of much opposition to hope in faith that my God CAN and WILL act on my behalf, and on behalf of so many I care about whose burdens seem too great to bear.  His ways are not always mine, often they are above me and my ability to understand.  But knowing His perfect LOVE and His perfect goodness, I'm going to believe and ask with boldness for Him to work out what He knows is the BEST.

"But as for me, I will always have hope."
Psalm 71:14

When I feel beaten down and tired, I will always have HOPE.

When I have failed yet again, I will always have HOPE.

When reality falls short of my expectations, I will always have HOPE.

When I am not all that I know I should be, I will always have HOPE.

When the mountain is higher than I could have ever expected, I will always have HOPE.

When it seems like someone will never change, I will always have HOPE.
 
When evil seems to triumph over good, I will remember that it has not had the last word.  It's day is coming.  

And I will always have HOPE.

(P.S. I highly recommend reading the entire chapter of Psalms 71.  See if it doesn't bless your socks off.)
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Burlap Banner & Rosie Wreath crafts

 

Well, What better time to post a couple of fall crafts that a week before I decorate for Christmas! LOL  Better late than never! ; )

I used to make crafts all the time when the kids were little, but it's been a while since I've let my creative juices flow and actually took the time to make something with my hands.  This particular evening last month, Danielle and Abby and I had an evening to ourselves, so we set to work making a couple of fun fall decorations.

The first was a burlap banner.  I combined a couple of ideas I saw on Pintrest to do this.  I had printed on burlap before when we did a banner for our mission trip last year.  So I created a template for the banner on my computer, picked a font I liked, and printed the flags.  (Tutorial for printing on burlap here.)  It's actually really easy, usually just a couple tweaks to make sure it doesn't jam in your printer.



 Then I used a brown pompom strand I got for a buck, hot glued it to the burlap, and then added a few of my silk cocoon flowers from Sabahar in Ethiopia.  That put it over the top for me. : ) I love it.



  
 The second craft was a wreath I saw on my friend Lizzy's blog.  The link to the tutorial is here.

Danielle worked on the roses while I was working on the banner. 

 

Hot glue hurts.  We decided to give Abby foam sheets to play with. : )
 
 

We actually finished it the next day. What can I say, we're out of "crafty" shape, we tire easily.  Decided to watch a movie together and finish later.  I really love the way it came out!


 It was a fun time with my girls and felt good to get "back in the saddle" of crafting again!  I'm inspired with Christmas right around the corner now!  : )  Maybe you can adapt one of these for a Christmas-themed craft, since most of us will be taking down our fall decorations next weekend.  Or, just pin it for next year! ; )

Happy fall, ya'll!

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When elections end in invasion

Whether you are pleased or disappointment with last night's outcome, there is one thing I think we can all agree on.  It is a privilege to live in a country where we vote to elect leaders. And, every four years, despite some heated campaigning and sometimes nasty bickering in the weeks prior, we watch as a peaceful transition of leadership occurs--or in this case, peaceful continuation of leadership.  It is also amazing to me, politics aside, that in light of the marred history of this country, we have an African American as our president, now for two terms.  While this doesn't make him more qualified, it does speak to the leaps and bounds this country has made and speaks to great opportunities for my daughter in the future.

But as wonderful as democracy is, it is also a scary thing.  Decisions of choosing rulers left in the hands of imperfect people.  The responsibility of the leadership of millions of people left in the hands of imperfect people.  Because no matter who you voted for, it would have been impossible in this election [or any other for that matter] to elect a perfect president. He doesn't exist. You will inevitably take the bad with the good because that is the best they can offer, as human beings.  And if we place all of our hope for our futures and for the future of this country in the hands of a man, we have trusted big things to small hands incapable of containing them.

And so as thankful as I am to be a citizen of this democratic country, I know my residence here is temporary.  And my hope and peace is not in where I live right now, or what living here affords me.  Greater and wider and weightier is the monarchy in which I reside, and in which I will permanently reside--a kingdom that has no end.

And it is written “He removes kings and sets up kings.” (Daniel 2:21)  God is sovereign over our elections, and while I'll never fully understand the balance of His control and our vote, I believe He is much bigger than the electoral college.  He appoints our leaders.  

And for those who think I just said Jesus is a democrat, let me say this: God does not always appoint worthy leaders, or wise leaders.  His end goal is not our earthly comfort or security, and often His will includes oppression and hardship.  So--side note--enjoy our freedom and peaceful political processes while we have them in this country, because there are no guarantees for tomorrow.  Blessings come in the form of both prosperity and suffering, and we should be prepared for both and looking for His purposes in both.

Mostly, today, I am reminded that there is a day coming when there will be no election.  And this is a wonderful thing.  Because we do not know how to govern ourselves well. We are too marred by our own selfishness and pride and greed.  But there is a perfect King, who is perfectly fair and perfectly kind and perfectly just and perfectly wise.  He will take His rightful place, and decision time will be over.
"So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:10)
You may or may not be reeling after last night's outcome, you may or may not feel ready to deal with the ramifications for the next four years.

But are you ready for that day?  Because we do not know when, but that day is coming.

Often we cry out when there is injustice and suffering in this world--where is God?  Why has He not intervened?  But I wonder if we know what we are asking for.  Do we really want all things made right?  Because if all is made right, and sin is punished, and we are all accountable, and justice is served--how will you fare?  

CS Lewis writes:
"God will invade.  But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does.  When that happens, it is the end of the world.  When the author walks on to the stage the play is over.  God is going to invade alright: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else-- something it never entered your head to conceive-- comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left?  For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature.  It will be too late then to choose your side.  There is not use saying you chose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up.  That will not be the time for choosing; it will be a time when we will discover which side we have really chosen, whether we realized it before or not. 
Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side.  God is holding back to give us that chance.  It will not last forever.  We must take it or leave it. "
You made your choice yesterday for the next four years.  How about for eternity?
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And four teen[s] don't keep

A few weeks ago I read this poem on Lovelyn's instagram feed.  I'd heard it before and it fits her season with twin babies so perfectly.  It's not my season, but it's beautiful. (I would've linked to her image, which was also beautiful, but I couldn't figure out how to do that since it didn't post to facebook.)

I decided I needed to write a version of "Babies don't keep" for my season.

Because it has beauty all it's own.

My daughter Hannah turned 14 yesterday.  So I decided to title it

Four Teen[s] Don't Keep

Get it?!  four teens? fourteen? : ) (Technically Danielle's a preteen but I decided I was allowed some wiggle room.  I'm raising teenagers after all.) : )

So without further ado...


Four Teen[s] Don't Keep


Mother---uh, Moooooooom!
come tidy your house.
Do some of the dishes,
get the laundry off the couch.
Put away all your papers, for once make up your bed.
Do you remember how to iron, or make homemade bread?

Where is this mom whose house is so shocking?
Who used to return phone calls and enjoy friends and talking?
Who's pace was slower, and routine simpler back when
the kids were all home doing school in the den?

The crockpot was always simmering with stew
and 'round a large table she fed all of her crew.
Back when days were spent at the library and park
and mommy and daddy had quiet evenings after dark.

I found her!  She's in the suburban again
driving the road to the school that she's been
back and forth to ten times already this day
picking up and dropping off different kids on the way.

Then to youth, then to games, then to the store for some socks
Oh and don't forget to pick up the friend down the block!

They need money for this, they need money for that.
And she's looking for someone to pull it out of a hat.

'Are you late, mom, I had to wait TEN minutes today?!'
'Sorry your sister's dismissal was delayed.
As hard as I try, I can't be two places at once.'
A sigh, a latte, and a prayer for patience.

Get some pizza for dinner, I've got nothing at home.
We'll have to eat in shifts and then get homework done.

And as I collapse on the couch for a chat
my man is pulled into ensuing combat
And what could've been shared quality time
Becomes an evening spent mediating and disciplining crime.

For as you let out on the strings inch by inch
they grab and they tug wanting more, and you wince
Because sometimes more slack is just what they need,
but maybe they need practice in how to concede?
And there's no one to tell you how far and how much
There's no book or expert to act as your crutch.

Each decision is different, and each kid more still
You pray and you trust that you're doing His will.
Because they're yours for a season, a season is all
And you're sensing it's fading to colors of fall.

That soon they will leave, and while this always a home
It will be visits and short terms... more often they'll roam.
And the evenings will echo with absence of life
void of selves colliding in laughter and strife
no guitar riffs or pleas of injustice amassed
no noise of the chaos of bedtimes long past.
And my favorite chair will always be mine
No one to fight for my spot all the time.

Where will we go and what will we do?
Riding around in a suburban, just us two?

It's crazy and hard, and some days nothing's left.
But it's where I am called, no one promised me rest.
And ease, ha! I laugh to think how that could be
With four teens to raise, their decisions unseen.

The driving, the noise, the hard of these days
They are my gifts, my invitations to praise.
Soon all this will pass and become memories
I don't want to miss the glimpses of Glory.

So brew me some coffee, and make it real strong.
Put it in my to-go cup so I can take it along.
No more time for writing, there's no time for sleep.
I'm chauffeuring my teens, and teenagers don't keep.


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To Make a Life (Happy birthday Emma)

I have been excited for weeks to write this post. 

And yet, as I sit here to do so, tears are welling up in my eyes and I am filled with sadness.

This is a happy day.

But it is also a sad one.

How it is possible that it could be both all at once?

I don't know.  I just know that it is.

Two years ago my niece Emma Jo was born.  But she never took a breath.  

I miss her.  I miss all that I could have fussed over and fawned over and bragged about, because she would've been the cutest kid ever.  I miss seeing her with all of her family--aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins-- because everyone else would have fussed and bragged too, and she would have been so adored.  I miss seeing Dan & Julia raise and mold and nourish her little soul, because they would have been the best parents ever.  And at times, when I'm reminded that this is forever their story--it knocks the wind out of me, and I just hurt for them.

But I think it was Ann Voskamp who reminded me, who are we to label circumstances and events in our lives as "good" or "bad", some as "blessings" and others as "curses"?  All is gift.  All is grace.

Emma, as brief as her life was, was a gift.

Part of what has been so beautiful to me, in these last 2 years, has been watching how honestly and openly Dan & Julia have grieved, celebrated, hurt, cried, laughed, and struggled.  It has strengthened my faith and shown me what trust and hope really look like when the world is turned upside down.  And I'm so excited that now even more people can share in that encouragement.

Dan wrote a book.  It is being released today, on Emma's 2nd birthday.  I know, I know--I'm the aunt and of course I think it's awesome. But I'm not kidding when I tell you--it's one of the best books I've ever read. 


This is where words fail. Words are tools for me, but I do not know how to use them like Dan does.  I structure and build thoughts with them.  He makes art with them.  I make them useful.  He makes them beautiful.

So instead of me telling you about his book, I will let him do so.  Here is an excerpt from his prologue in the book:  To Make a Life:
Our journey is garnished with unique experiences, singular twists and turns that we've navigated, particular scenes we've played a role in, but in truth, our narrative is no different that yours, than any human being's on this earth.  You too were given breath out of your mother's womb.  Your eyes were opened on a world teeming with possibilities unnumbered.  You grew.  You witnessed.  And what did you see?  What did you feel?  Whether you were thirteen or thirty-three, and whether you articulated it or not, you felt at some marked moment the piercing pain of being cut by a shattered cosmos.  A tear in the fabric of your soul.  A cannon shot that propels you to a place where for the first time, you feel the mileage between yourself and God.  And it's always paired with a paralyzing fear that you are all alone....we all know the rumble of that distant human cry rising from our depths, the core lament of a created being wailing out in the middle of the storm begging He that commands the winds and the waves to make it stop.
I want to invite you into my storms and my confrontations with the God who claims, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."  My prayer is that we might stumble together, heal together, and find hope together.  We who often grapple around in the dark trying to make a life on this ever mysterious planet, may we see that God is, even now as you read these words, the light that will never fade, never falter, and will always lead you to the greatest treasure on earth: Himself.
I can't think of a single person I know who wouldn't be blessed to read this story.  Go here and get yours:


 You will thank me.  That I promise.   : )

And Dan: To try and tell you how I feel about your book, I feel like a kindergartner with hands covered in finger paint telling Michelangelo--hey, I like what you drew on the ceiling.  We have the same medium to work with, and yet my words feel inadequate and clumsily pasted together when I try to express how I have been impacted by your words.  So I'll keep it simple.  TMAL is beautiful.  I mean it.  It's breathtaking.  You created an amazing gift.  I am so, so thankful.   And as I read it for the third time [this time with a fancy cover! : )], I would do well to just be silent, and let Glory seep through the cracks of your words and reveal Himself yet again to me as the loving, faithful, perfect Friend that He is.  Love you ALL so very much, Aunt Rachel
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Insta-summer

Joe has a recurring dream that he signed up for a college class, forgets about it until the end of the semester, and then realizes he has to take a final for a class he never went to.

Last night I dreamed that I had a blog I used to write all the time, but I forgot about it and went about my life and then one day realized I had not actually posted anything in months.

Then I woke up.  And I realized I wasn't dreaming. : )

I'm not sure where summer went--it evaporated.  My only proof that it did in fact occur is my instagram feed.  So to share a bit of my life the last few months, here's a sampling of what's been on my instagram feed----hence the title: insta-summer.

[Appropriate in more ways than one, I'd say, since it felt like an instant, and then it was over.]

 
My kids grew up.  Three of them graduated from 8th grade.
I have this picture as the background on my phone and I love it.
It reminds me how fast this time goes...reminds me to stop and savor the moments.

Josh and Nathan turned 15.
Could not be prouder of the men they are becoming.

Both of them got these.  Pray for me.
I hate being a drivers ed teacher.

Celebrated the best father on the planet.
He makes it look easy.

Spent some time with my buddy Jessica from NJ.
Guess what?!  She and her hubby will be adopting their first kiddo!! Yay!

Spent some time in Californ-I-A
being refreshed and renewed with my hubby.
Thankful for this retreat that is a gift from our network & our church.

Love him.

Had never had it.  Had to try it.

 Flew through Dallas.
Providence had this directly across from our gate.
Proof that there is a God and He loves me mucho.

 Spent the weekend with these amazing ladies at
the Gospel Coalition Women's Conference.

 Fed by Piper...among others.
A privilege to be there.

 
 I've been reading alot this summer.
This blessed me and made me sad at the same time.
So well written and a touching story.
 I just get sad when the beauty is celebrated over
the One who makes all things beautiful.
But I guess that's another blog post...



Annual fireworks stand for the church.
GREAT fundraiser and lots of fun!

So we fell in love with Downton Abby.
Last episode of season 2: AH-MAZING.
(This was our set-up before they added Hulu to apple tv. : ))

Mom came to visit.

We had a blast.

And Joe baptized her at the beach!
So blessed by all God is doing in my mom's life.

 We had a week where all the boys were gone--
it was just us girls.
It was busy.  But we squeezed in an evening of girl's time. : )
Dinner.  Shopping.  Starbucks.  Chick flick from Redbox.
One of my favorite nights of the summer.

 Why do we need Trader Joe's in Tampa?
2 words:
Cookie butter.

Hannah decided we didn't have enough excitement in our lives.
It was just a few stitches and actually the most pleasant trip to the ER I've ever had.
Except when she screamed from the shot and scared the poor 4 year old next to us. 
We did alot of this in the evenings.
Just hanging out together.

Yea, I spent my fair share of time at the apple store this summer.

 Working with out BridgeKids staff, 
prepping for our kickoff Sept 2nd!!
I am so blessed to serve alongside some pretty awesome folks.

 Joe has many gifts. Making these is at the top of the list.

The kids had a busy summer--not too much down time.
Hannah had color guard practice all summer,
including a week of 8-10 hour days at band camp.
So glad she's found a place she enjoys to work hard with a team.

 Danielle went to adventure camp.
I think she kinda likes the big kids moving on to high school,
and coming out of the shadows a bit. Having her own turf.

 
My boys spent a week at Masterpiece Project,
a Christian arts camp.
Lucky ducks.

 
I stalked the facebook page every day to see pictures from camp.
I missed them more than I thought I would.

 
Refferalversary #2! 
Can hardly remember life before
this energetic and joy-filled presence entered our family!

 
In a matter of weeks,
our church was offered this building to rent,
made the decision to move,
prepped and painted the space,
and made the move.

 
A shot of before.

 
A shot of after.

 Working hard or hardly working?

 LOTS of painting.
 
 Our prayer wall, underneath the final coat of paint.
God moved us into a more diverse, more impoverished area,
and we couldn't be more thrilled to be there.
May we be known by our love.  For His glory.






First service!

Our puppy Cupcake got very sick, very quickly.
We thought she had some sort of stomach bug.
Turns out she was experiencing full on kidney failure.
We'll never really know why, but we knew we had to let her go.

 We all loved this dumb dog.
She brought our lives much grief in her 6 years,
but she also brought us great joy.
It was a huge loss for all of us.

We all claimed her, but she was my dog.
I still miss her.

 
 It's surreal to me to have 3 kids in highschool.
Since I just graduated a couple of years ago.

 I am so thrilled for Abby to start school.
This one has needed a classroom setting and some structure.
I just know she will thrive!


So there you have it.  It isn't everything, but almost.  It flew by.  


Now let's hope I'm a little better about blogging so we don't have to have insta-fall! : )


Are you on instagram??  Find me @rachelwalser and let me know where I can find you!

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