Heart of the Matter

It’s the time of year when it’s hard to walk into any store: grocery or department and not notice a host of hearts. From t-shirts to boxes, hearts adorn most every surface reminding us that Valentine’s Day is around the corner. One favorite confection certainly speaks to the heart of Valentine’s: conversation hearts. Every year eight billion, yep, that’s billion with a B, hearts tucked neatly away in heart-covered boxes line the shelves of our favorite stores. That is 100,000 pounds of sugar, and most stores sell out within six weeks of stocking the shelves. The original hearts, from over 100 years ago, heralded pleasant platitudes like “Married in Satin, Love will be Lasting” or “Married in White, Love will be Right.” The sayings got shorter as the years progressed and “Be Mine” and “Love’s Kiss” became more popular. A recent update currently leaves us with modern versions of “Tweet Me,” “Text Me,” and “Soul Mate.” It is a fun way to communicate our affection with a favorite confection.

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The Longest Day

It’s the time of year when many of us reflect on all the events of the previous year: the highs, the lows, the mundane, and the unexpected. As many of us look back on 2020, we are likely to see more time spent in the valleys than on the mountaintops. Storms ravaged my state followed by a pandemic that put the globe on pause, yet despite all this year has thrown our way, one day stands alone as the most unforgettable day of the year and perhaps, my life. August 20, 2020. My family and I have kept the events of that day close to our vest because honestly, it kept us all reeling. We’ve spent months trying to put the pieces of our brokenness back together, to undo the damage of careless words, overlooked pain, and a heart so heavy and hopeless that it wanted to die.

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Don’t Waste the Wait

As I was walking my dog Lion this morning, to keep my mind off this horrible cold, I was meditating on the idea of Advent, of waiting. The Holy Spirit gave me two phrases to turn over in my mind: Don’t waste the wait and anticipation not distraction. It struck me as odd at first. Don’t waste the wait. Anticipation not distraction.  

This year has been a year when many of us seem stuck. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s difficult to see progress in our own lives when it feels as if we’ve been stuck at home, stuck in neutral in our careers, stuck in a muddled present as we eagerly await a future that’s free from lockdowns and quarantines. For some of us the waiting isn’t to be free from Covid but like me, it is waiting for God to act in a situation, waiting to see Him work in someone’s life, hoping against all hope that He will step into the situation bringing restoration and revelation. And so this brings me to Advent.

After Malachi penned his last Spirit-inspired word, God fell silent for 400 years. No visions. No prophetic words. No burning bushes or flakes of manna. Silence. Perhaps the Jews thought He had forgotten the promise of the long awaited Messiah. As they sweated and toiled in their daily routines under the watchful eye of an empire they despised, they waited. They wondered. Did they hope or had hope failed? We know that Simeon and Anna clung to hope. We know that Zechariah continued to serve in the temple, waiting, watching, wondering. Then after 400 years as suddenly as God fell silent, He spoke into the darkness. He had been there all along orchestrating His perfect plan in His perfect timing. Advent reminds us of the ache of anticipation, the woe of waiting. 

But how we wait matters. The wait isn’t a time of idle thumb twiddling. It’s an opportunity for soul-searching. Like the psalmist we can cry out, “Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Waiting can push us away or draw us closer. It can embitter us or it can empower us. We can choose grumbling or we can choose gratitude, but the choice is ours. When we wait on the voice of God to pierce the darkness in our own lives do we waste the wait or receive the revelation He is offering us as we draw closer in faith even when can’t see Him clearly?  

And are we waiting with anticipation or are we mastering the art of distraction? We live in an era of distraction. It’s an art form. We can scroll our phones for hours and never reach the bottom of the page. We can binge watch every episode of every show ever produced. We can drown our drudgery in a deluge of distraction, or we can eagerly anticipate what’s next. We can tune out through distraction or we can tune in through anticipation. As I wait, I often find myself seeking the amusement of distraction, so I don’t have to do the hard work of dealing with the discomfort of discovery, of sorting through my own emotions. Distraction means we don’t have to face what needs changing in our own lives. We can put it off for another day. But waiting with anticipation turns our focus outward and upwards. We give our brokenness, our fears, our messes to God and with faith and hope we wait with the anticipation that He is at work, even when we can’t see it. We do our part to grow more like Christ as we eagerly await for Him to reveal Himself and watch with anticipation the work He is capable and faithful to do while we wait.  

Advent means the in-between time doesn’t have to be unfruitful. If anything it reminds us that even in the silence, God is at work. Even in the mess, God is making miracles. Even when it seems all hope is lost, a baby’s cry pierces the silence and when He becomes a man He pierces our heart with His light and love, reminding us that we never have to lose hope again. Hope is ours and it is everlasting. Don’t waste the wait and anticipate don’t distract.

Announcing….

This quarantine has given us the gift of time, and in that time, I’ve been contemplating some dreams that have gotten shoved to the side in the crush of busyness that has become everyday life for so many.  They’ve gotten lost amidst the grocery lists, to-do lists, work, homeschooling, and so many other wonderful, worthy endeavors.  In this time of quieter days and less harried schedules, though, these dreams have been springing up like the green shoots of new life that welcome this season, and I’ve been listening and praying that if this vision of mine is shared by God for me that He would give voice to the vision.

I love stories; I love listening to stories, and I love telling stories.  This love is what led me to major in journalism in college.  I longed to become the next Ken Burns or Charles Kuralt or the first female storyteller in this genre of journalism, but along the way, life happened, and I lost sight of that goal.  Now, with YouTube and blogs, this dream is much easier to grasp.  I am announcing the birth of a YouTube channel to accompany my blog where I hope to tell stories of inspiration and overcoming.  So I invite you to join me on this journey.  Some coming attractions are a series on anxiety, where my daughter and I share our journey with this debilitating disorder, a series on female small business owners, book reviews, and other educational content.  It is much like my blog, a place where I share what I hope are valuable lessons that I’ve picked up on this sojourn through life.  I hope you will join me.  Welcome to Stickseeds, the Channel

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The Tragedy of the Golden Egg

This is a special guest post.  My daughter Annie’s short story 🙂

“Today is the day” said Scarlett.

Emily raised her head up, “What’s today?” she asked through a mouthful of goldfish.

Scarlett gasped, “It’s the Easter egg hunt today, and the golden egg will be mine this year! We are going to crush those puny kids!”

“Aren’t we too old to be doing stuff like that?”

Scarlett grabbed the closest thing to her, which was a pillow, and threw it at Emily. She fell down, picked up the pillow and threw it back. Scarlett pushed the static-y red hair out of her face after the pillow hit it. She got up, grabbed Emily’s hand, and ran down stairs. Continue reading “The Tragedy of the Golden Egg”

What I’m Learning In the Storm

Unknown-2Can I be completely honest for a minute?  This week has been difficult for so many.  I know it has been more difficult for those in the frontlines of fighting this disease, and I don’t want to take away from that fight. While my troubles this week pale in comparison to that, it doesn’t diminish the financial toll this is taking on so many.  My husband has spent most of his week trying to secure a Payroll Protection Loan for his company; he’s attempted to file for unemployment only to be denied.  Our doors have been closed for over two weeks, and who truly knows when this safer at home order will end?  We have no income, and rent for our three stores is past due; vendors are trying to collect payment on invoices.  And this post doesn’t even cover the anxiety or sadness from the toll of the disease itself on so many in the world. We also have our own bills to pay like most families in America who ride this wave of uncertainty in the same boat we occupy, a boat that seems to have no captain, no lifejackets, and no oars, so we drift aimlessly until we either see the salvation of the lighthouse or run ashore and watch our boat splinter to pieces on the jagged coast.

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The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

Not since the Penderwicks have I been so charmed by a family.  The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street does not disappoint.  Karina Yan Glaser creates rich characters with wit and depth.  The Vanderbeekers are a family of seven who live in a brownstone in New York.  When their reclusive landlord decides not to renew the lease to their beloved brownstone, the Vanderbeeker children jump into action with a plan to save their home with help from the delightful neighbors and friends.  The Vanderbeeker children soon discover that their landlord Mr. Biederman hides a painful secret.  The story unfolds with kindness, compassion, and humor.

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Finding Time to Read With Your Children

If you asked my children (or anyone who’s close to me) to describe me, I have no doubt their list would include:

  1.  She loves to serve Jesus through volunteering.
  2. She’s clumsy.
  3. She LOVES to read.

Pretty accurate assessment of their mom.  Anyone who knows me can attest to my love of reading and to the importance I place on reading with my children.  In fact, I’ve written about how important time spent reading with your children is here. While most of you don’t doubt the importance of reading with your kids, you may be wondering where to find the time.

I hear you.  Finding time for our children to read or for us to read with our children can be difficult.  It seems our schedules are crammed with activities from sun-up to sun-down, but it is possible to find more time than you think to read with your kids, especially this summer.  Here are a few tricks I’ve discovered to make the most of our time. Continue reading “Finding Time to Read With Your Children”

Creating a Culture of Learning This Summer

As end of school busyness ramps up to a frenzied pace, it’s hard to imagine that the lazier, slower days of summer are just a few weeks away.  One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to be more intentional in my parenting, and I’m looking forward to the slower pace of summer to implement that resolution even more deliberately. I find it is sometimes so easy to get caught up in the activity of life as my children and I run from one event or task to the next that taking the time to mindfully consider the goals I want to create or the character traits that I want to cultivate in my children get lost in the shuffle of everyday living.  This summer my goal is to create an environment of intentionality in my parenting that hopefully fosters a culture of education, where I continue to model for my children that learning is both a lifestyle and a lifelong endeavor.

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Review of Refugee

Air raids, shoot-outs, taxi holdups- nothing seemed to faze him anymore.  Was he just keeping all his tears and screams pent up inside, or was he becoming so used to horrible things happening all around him that he didn’t notice anymore?

How do you discuss the horrible things happening in our world in a meaningful way with your children when they happen to catch a glimpse of the evening news?  When your little one crawls into your lap and asks what will happen to the children fleeing their homeland in Syria, what do you say?  When they begin to understand that a hurricane or tornado could rip their home or their lives apart, how do you assuage their fears?  For my family, we often turn to well-written books that gingerly, yet boldly, address the horrors, evils, and ills that threaten to rip the very seams of our society in an age-appropriate, hope-promoting way.  Alan Gratz’s Refugee is one of those books. Continue reading “Review of Refugee”