Every Family Needs an Easter Tree

There’s something about experiences and experiential teaching and learning that somehow sticks with kids on a deeper level than reading and listening.

Or at least it does for mine…

..and I’m seeing that more and more as they get older and we begin and continue yearly traditions.

For example, in December the simple act of lighting candles, singing Christmas carols, listening to a story, and moving Mary and her donkey around our advent wreath really affects our kids. They LOVE Christmas and advent, and can tell the story of Jesus’ birth forward and backward… they remember just about every detail! Much more so than if we were just to read the story and call it a night. And that’s not because of anything we’re doing right or wrong… But because of the action involved that makes it fun, makes them look forward to it, and makes it stick!

So when Easter rolls around, we all get super excited to get our Easter tree out!

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Every family needs an Easter tree. It’s springy, and colorful, and most importantly - points to the reason we celebrate Easter. Because Christ is risen! And Easter baskets, hunting for candy filled plastic eggs, and a fairytale bunny that chases teenagers (if you’ve been a student at NCPC in the last eleven years) will never teach our kids the resurrection story! Those things are fun, and don’t get me wrong, we do them all… but we needed something they could experience that would help them remember what this holiday is really about.

We needed an Easter tree!

So we found this beauty on Amazon, and bought this AMAZING set of Resurrection eggs, and put the two together to create our Easter tradition.

Chris drilled a little hole in the top of each egg, tied them to strings and they hang from the tree. Each egg has an item in it that points to the death and resurrection of Christ. The booklet that comes with the set has scripture and an explanation written for a young audience explaining the significance of the item found in the egg. It’s short, and super easy for littles to keep up with and hang on to. There are twelve eggs, so for the eleven days before Easter Sunday, we open an egg and read the accompanying story. On Easter Sunday, we open the very last egg, the white one, to reveal…OH! I better not share! I don’t want to ruin the surprise!

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What really blew our minds when we set up the tree this year was Mercy’s response…. she’s six years old. She started naming things that were in the eggs before we had opened a single one! After a little over a year she remembered several of the items and what they represented… things that even I didn’t remember! Then she told us which one is her favorite egg of all - the WHITE one! And she told us exactly what’s in it and exactly why she loves it.

There may have been a few tears in this mama’s eyes! Such a sweet and proud moment for me!

And totally why every family needs an Easter tree! Or something like it, something to engage your kids in the Easter story, something they’ll remember year after year and look forward to. Not just a bunny, presents, eggs, and candy - something real, meaningful, eternal. Because Christ is risen! He is risen indeed - and, friends, that is a gift far bigger and better than anything we could fit into an Easter basket!


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​the time we said “no” to foster care

She called me today, like she does every few months, to tell us how she’s doing and ask about the kids. She always calls from a different number, but for ten years now she has remembered mine.

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She used to spend holidays away from the group home with us, and we loved her so very much… but we told ourselves we weren’t ready to start a family, so we continued to spend holidays and weekends with her until she was moved to a group home too many hours away.

Today I got to tell her about our new baby! Baby number three, another girl! She was excited and laughed, asked some details about the baby and congratulated me. Then she broke me with one quick question: “Miss AK, why when I was young you didn’t want all those kids?”

Holding back tears, I responded, “I think about that often, and I so wish we had been ready back then.”

“Y’all did so good with me, I woulda thought you were ready.”

I wish we had been, and truth be told, we talked about it a lot… and if we’re really being honest, we could have been ready - we had room, we loved her tremendously… but we were scared. We were still fairly new to marriage and Louisiana, we couldn’t see past what our lives looked like right then and there.

Several years after she moved, she was back in south Louisiana and we got to see her again and introduce her to our first daughter. She was 16 by then. She sat across the table from us, asked us a question, and answered it before we had a chance to respond. Since that day I have not been able to get these words out of my mind:

“Today my worker told me how many placements I’ve had since I been in foster care. I was really shocked. Do you know how many he said? Fifty eight placements.”

Fifty. Eight. Placements.

Between the time she was eight years old and that visit. Eight years. Fifty eight placements. And zero families willing to commit to love her and call her their own for the rest of her life. Zero. Please let that sink in.

And don’t assume those years had no effect on the outcome of her life. She’ll be 21 soon and since we’ve known her she’s been in and out of jail, back and forth from foster home to group home to shelter, aged out of the system, been rejected by family, suicidal, used illegal drugs…. She calls when she’s doing great, she calls when she’s in jail, and she calls when she’s feeling depressed. I’m so grateful she calls, I hope she always calls for the rest of her life. But even more than that, I wish we had been ready. She was worth being ready for.

Are you ready?

Put Your Jesus Glasses On

My big girl got glasses yesterday.

The doctor told us that she’s farsighted. This means she has a hard time focusing on things close to her, and focusing in general is very hard work for her eyes.

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This answered a lot of questions for me… like why she gets headaches after learning times, and why she’s so grumpy after school, and completely uninterested in reading after just a few minutes of work. These are things that are super hard on her eyes, and she has to work a whole lot harder than we realized to do simple things that we take for granted. And because she can see, and things aren’t blurry, we literally had NO clue that she was struggling!

And then she put the glasses on. She cried, she wept, she begged not to wear them… then, as she calmed down, she began to see that her new adorably pink glasses were doing all of that hard work for her eyes… and her world seems to make a little more sense now.

Today I watched her walk into school excited to show her friends her new glasses and to experience learning in an entirely new light.

And in a way, I feel like I can relate to Mercy and her adorable new glasses when I look at my own world that doesn’t always make sense and when I look at the way Jesus has taken the hard work out of life, decisions, salvation, and eternity…

That’s not to say that life isn’t hard, or that we don’t cry, weep, and beg for different circumstances… but it means that He’s taken that hard work off our backs and is replacing it with peace and opportunities to learn and grow in the hardest times and the easiest. It means that even while we’re crying and fighting, we can trust that He’s got us covered and He has a purpose and plan. It means that when we don’t understand what He’s doing, we can clearly see and believe His promise to work all things together for our good. And it means that we can walk ahead with excitement to share what He’s doing in our lives and how He’s growing us and molding us through both trials and exciting changes! It means salvation, and the work that is completely impossible for us to do, so HE did it for us… similar to the way that Mercy’s pink glasses are doing the hard work for her eyes and making life and learning a whole lot clearer.

#putyourjesusglasseson #everydaymercies

Roots

I took these photos in the spring with full intentions of writing a beautiful post about ROOTS, faith, and growing.

Buuttt.... you see all those tiny growing plants in the pictures?
Some had good roots in place, some were just cuttings hoping to shoot out some roots... all of them are now dead.

ALL of them. Even the ones my sweet kids gave me for mother's day. Every. Last. One of them. Dead.

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Like us, right? Dead in our sins and trespasses... completely hopeless in our pursuit of greatness and perfection... a mess on the inside, trying to keep it together on the outside, even though we know deep down that we are what we are... 
BUT GOD...

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ..... For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,"
Ephesians 2:5-6,8

Y'all, we planted, we watered, we watched our little plants grow, then we watched them die, and I'm so glad life got in the way and I never got around to writing that original post! One dramatic event or emotion after another over the course of the last several months has left me SO grateful that, no matter how rooted I am in the Giver of faith, I am not in the position, nor is it my role, to grow myself. Because, if I'm honest, my faith would be as dead as my plants are if it was my role to do the growing.

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And that's where I want to encourage you today. Because I know you're weary, too. I know you've worked hard, and I know some days you're closer to the end of your rope than you would ever openly confess. I know that days, weeks, maybe months pass and you don't see the inside of your Bible or utter a word to your Father. I know some days it's hard to climb out of bed, be a wife, or the mama your children need. And I know some days you feel resistant to growth of any kind, because how can we grow when we're stuck in a dark hole of loneliness, anxiety, depression, overwhelm...?

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."
1 Corinthians 3:5-7

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Friends, God is the Giver of growth. Not you or I... Our faith is a gift, and so is our growth, our sanctification. If you're climbing a mountain today, and you can't see the top or what lies on the other side, please grasp onto this promise with all that is in you, "that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) Be encouraged, you cannot stop Him from growing you, pursuing you, and molding you into His image.

And today, I'm praying this scripture for both of us as we look toward the Light that is shining in our darkness and growing us despite our resistant hearts:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Everyday Mercies is for ME

One morning about two years ago, I woke up in a hole and I couldn't find my way out.

I called it depression and so did my doctor. Eventually God picked me up and pulled me out of that hole, but where I found myself at that point was in a MESS of... well... mess!

Totally disorganized and trying to get back on track in His Word, my prayer life, teaching and learning with my kids... and to be honest, I was just struggling in the mess that depression left in its tracks.

Chris handed me a Spiritual Growth Journal he had purchased years ago, and I looked through it thinking I NEEDED that kind of accountability and organization as I sought the Lord's guidance in getting my faith and growth habits back on track.

Buttt... I needed it to work for me, and that specific journal was a little too intense and overwhelming.

I needed something with calming colors and a minimalist design that wouldn't overwhelm my eyes when I opened the cover. Something that wouldn't feel like growing in my faith was a chore that I could never complete, but instead something led by my God who will complete His good work in me.

After a few days of trying to make it work, but never actually writing one single word in it, I told Chris, "I can't use this, but I'm inspired by it. I'm thinking I should create something like it that won't freak me out... you know, something pretty and mom-ish. Maybe something I can use with the kids!"

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I started writing things down and working on some ideas that day... The more I worked on it the more excited I got about the idea of being organized and having a record of how God would grow me over the time I used this whatever-it-was that I had begun. I kept adding things and pages that I needed for myself as I walked through the mess I was still surrounded by. I began searching God's word for scriptures to pray weekly over my family, and asking myself questions about my mission and purpose as a Christian mom of two wild kids. I found myself being led through my mess and into the mercy of God every day.

You see, Everyday Mercies is for me.

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It's been the title of this blog since Mercy came home from the NICU but it's not named after her - it is named for the mercy God shows us every new day through His Word and the time we spend in prayer, in fellowship, and in walking with Him daily.

His mercies truly are new every morning.

And as I worked on the journal, it became evident that this project wasn't just for me... Everyday Mercies is for you too.

Over the course of two years, there were hiccups, distractions, both significant and insignificant obstacles that threw me completely off course, and if you'll remember - finishing is not my strong suit, so most of the time I assumed this project would remain half-finished until the end of time.

But God... right?
By His unending grace and mercy, He faithfully led me through each ordeal the world and my head threw in my path to stop this journal in its tracks - and here we are, y'all! 
Because of His everyday mercies, this journal is being used by other moms like you and me - struggling, disorganized, distracted, but growing by His grace, learning His promises, practicing His Truths.
...and that is very humbling and very awesome.

Thank you for supporting this journal and supporting each other!