I remember it being one of my favorite games to play as a kid.
I am not a scrooge or a Grinch or a weird fanatic (although you may think so by the title of this article or by the end of it…and that’s ok..)
I am not even particularly concerned with cavities caused by too much sugar in small children
You can ask my husband…he knows about my slight holiday obsession. During our first year of marriage whenever I would mention that a holiday was approaching – he would take a deep breath and ask “do you expect a gift for that holiday?” and “do you celebrate that holiday?” ( I think secretly hoping my answer was NO!)
He knows, that holidays are a big deal to me – and that at times I have been known to manufacture my own holidays – if only for an excuse to eat good food, connect with others and forget about the cares of life.
Tomorrow I am going to tell you about the best holiday I ever invented: Fall Extravaganza!!! What is Fall Extravaganza? I can’t wait to tell you about this epic holiday…tomorrow!!!!!
To me a holiday should bring joy and hope into our lives, it should provide opportunities to reflect on the most important things in life, most of all I desire holidays to draw me closer to God. What are holidays about to you?
If Halloween was only about carving happy pumpkin faces, dressing up little munchkins in fuzzy animal costumes and going door to door saying “trick or treat” I wouldn’t have a problem.
But there is so much more that surrounds the holiday in our culture that causes my issue with Halloween:
I find it ironic and disturbing that in our American culture where news reports and social commentators condemn scenes of mass genocide and murder (which should be condemned!) that in the same nation we allow scenes of death and decapitation to cover our front yards, public areas and even our school corridors.
2 years ago I substituted in public schools for primarily kindergartners. 5 year olds, innocent children who still take naps, need snacks and cry because they miss their Moms. In the hallways where these 5 year olds walked to the cafeteria, the gym, library were displays that featured bloody ligaments, frightening masks and creepy scenes portraying decay and death.
We don’t allow weapons at school, but we are ok, with images of the grim reaper displayed on the walls.
I didn’t just find this to be true at one elementary school, these displays were rampant across an entire community. A community where most people would claim to believe in God, be a good Christian and go to church every Sunday. I am not saying that people are not saved if they celebrate Halloween. But I am commenting that even amongst those in the Christian community there is a often a collective blind eye to what we are inviting into our neighborhoods, schools, and homes when we celebrate Halloween.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Images of de captated heads, the grim reaper with a sheath in hand ready for destruction, bloody costumes are not appropriate for children, period. And they are not appropriate for ME!
Phillipians 4:8-9 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I can’t think of how any kind of bloody, grotesque or scary Halloween display, movie, image or costume could fall into the pure or lovely category.
I can’t put it in there – so even if as an adult I could rationalize “that stuff doesn’t affect me” – God says to not even think about it.
Whether you have children or not you are responsible to protect the innocence and purity of children. You don’t know who is driving by your house, walking into your home or viewing pictures of your Halloween costume on facebook or instagram.
God is fierce and clear about the protective heart He has over children and their innocence. He is also very clear about our role in protecting children.
After Jesus answers the question about who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven by placing a little child on His lap (Matthew 18:1-5) He then says:
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Jesus is not neutral on this issue (protecting children’s innocence) – He is extremely blunt…it would be better for you TO DIE a painful death than for you to cause a child to stumble. Whoa…that is intense…ok…take a few deep breaths.
How is celebrating Halloween causing a little one to stumble? You are inviting fear into their lives.
I have worked with kids in a lot of different capacities: children’s pastor, substitute teacher, nanny, and camp counselor. Kids struggle with fear, because kids are human – and humans struggle with fear.
When you allow decorations that are scary and grotesque to cover your home, watch movies or tv shows about vampires or the walking dead, when you take your child to a haunted house to “get scared….” you are inviting fear and his close relatives death and evil into your house….pulling out your recliner for them to sit on and offering them cream and sugar with their coffee.
I don’t think most people are aware of what they are giving partnership to when they watch horror films or set up inflatable witches in their front yard.
I believe most Americans just think they are celebrating another holiday – and to them it’s the same as turkey carving or setting out cookies for Santa…but its not!
So how do we respond to Halloween, in a culture that seems to be embracing the celebration of the gory parts of Halloween more and more? Lock ourselves in our bedroom and try to pretend its not happening? Dress up like a vampire to make ourselves culturally relevant? We are going to look at some practical ways we can respond to Halloween as believers – TOMORROW!
Until then, I would love to hear your thoughts on Halloween. Do you celebrate Halloween, why or why not? Parents of children how do you approach Halloween?
Hi Friends! I’m back =)
Thank you for all your Anniversary wishes. I am thankful for the sweet time my husband and I got to spend together.
Part of our anniversary trip included hiking a natural wonder, in the heart of Texas. I was not born and raised in Texas, so there are still quite a few “Texas” things I have never done. One of them is climbing to the top of Enchanted Rock.
I grew up surrounded by the mountains of Washington, so whenever I picture “hiking” I remember walking under the shade of gigantic pines, my sweat barely glistening because of the cool breezes sweeping through the mountains. Around the bend there is always a water source whether is a stream, creek, or a water falls.
If you have visited Enchanted Rock are laughing right now, at the surprise waiting for me.
All I could see was rock. All I could feel was heat radiating around me, as the granite magnified the heat. We were walking straight up a giant rock, all my romantic notions of an idyllic stroll beside an enchanted rock vanished. This was war! I was going to make it up this monstrosity. I started walking forcefully upwards, when my sneakers slipped and loose gravel tumbled down the side of the rock.
My husband gently instructed me to walk at a diagonal angle so that I would not slip as much. I walked at an angle catching a glimpse of the scenery behind me. It was a beautiful world of trees, enough green and lushness for even this Northwesterner to gasp.
I looked ahead, again faced with the glaring heat and enormity of the rock but I felt joyful and lighter. I was looking at a huge rock, but behind me was a luscious forest. There was beauty, shade, and refreshment right behind me. I kept glancing back at the vegetation, whenever the rock seemed to steep to keep climbing, and in almost no time I had made it to the top.
When I only looked forward, eyes glued on the biggest piece of granite I had ever seen, my heart became weary and the task of climbing felt slow and overwhelming. However, just a brief look back at the beauty behind me gave me renewed hope and joy for my climb.
I thought about how much of my life currently feels like climbing a giant rock. As I have shared previously, losing 2 babies this year has brought grief and moments of despair and hard questions.
Even as the Lord has brought healing and continues to heal, the journey of waiting to get pregnant again and all the “what if” questions, feels like climbing a very big rock. Some days, I feel like I can’t wait another second to get pregnant again. I want to give up and find comfort in self pity and despair, instead of doing the hard work of taking my pain and longing to the Lord, again and again.
But when I am tempted to despair, if I can look behind me – and remember – the beauty He has brought from ashes before. The miracles he has brought into my life in the past, then my spirit is able to carry on in faith and hope. When I remember there may be a mountain in front of me, but directly behind me is my testimony, the testimonies of other believers, and the multitude gathered in heaven right now – witnessing the glory and goodness of God, I can keep walking.
Its becoming a bit of an anthem for me in this season of waiting and longing for a baby, reminders to stop…take my eyes off what to me seems like the insurmountable obstacle, and to focus them on God, to focus on who He is – not what I am trying to accomplish.
Bless the Lord O my Soul and FOREGET NOT all his benefits. (Psalm 103:1)
When I forget –
I get overwhelmed
When I’m not
Who redeems your life from the pit (Psalm 103:4)
He’s the Redeemer
He takes the mess, the hurt and the brokenness and replaces all of it with His beauty and goodness.
Who satisfies your desires with good things (Psalm 103:5)
When I take my desire to the Lord, I am satisfied and filled with His peace and hope – regardless of what my pregnancy test says.
Does anyone else feel like they have a tendancy to keep staring a problem, head on for so long that it becomes consuming and overwhelming? What do you need to step away from and remember the hugeness and goodness of God today?
As I mentioned yesterday…. in Part 1 of “Advice on Having Successful Long Distance Relationships”– If you missed it: http://claritywithcharity.com/?p=544
My husband and I spent the entire course of our relationship before marriage being separated by a approximately 5 hour drive. I say approximately because my husband always managed to make it in 4 ½ hours and it always took me at least 5 hours. I can’t help it that I drive like a Granny who is perpetually paranoid of getting a speeding ticket, and that when I would call friends on my drive I would get so absorbed in our conversation that I would catch myself driving below the speed limit.
We met on e-harmony, and like a growing number of couples who are dating long distance because of making an online connection, we navigated some untraditional methods of communication and dating. Skype and our cell phones were our primary tools but despite the incredible technology we used, we found ourselves facing a unique set of challenges than a “typical” dating couple.
Today I am sharing with you the top things we learned about how to thrive and find success in a long distance dating relationship.
1. Plan times to talk: It may not sound like the most romantic thing in the world, but because we were long distance it was important to talk about our schedules at least the day before so that we could find a good time to talk. When we didn’t plan in advance, inevitably I would miss his call when I was at my work out class or a meeting. Instead of playing phone/skype tag, a few moments of conversation can give you some clarity as you plan your day.
2. Sometimes there will be awkward pauses: I am a talker, I have never met a stranger, and could carry on a conversation with a brick wall if necessary. There are few times, and even fewer people that I feel ok just being quiet with. This isn’t one of my greatest qualities, and I am learning to be better with the silence…but I was not ok with the silence on the phone or skype with my boyfriend. Especially, at the beginning of our dating relationship, I would wonder,
“Why is it quiet? Is he thinking I’m boring…oh no…must think of something cool to say!”…than I would end up asking some dum ice breaker question like “what kind of animal are you most like?”..and the silence would get even quieter….because my husband hates those kinds of questions.
One day it hit me….
When you talk to someone on the phone or skype everday 5 days in a row, sometimes you aren’t going to have anything to talk about. Because how many people do you talk to 5 days in a row for at least an hour straight without the interruptions of eating, watching tv, folding the laundry, going on a walk ect..?
There is going to be silence…and that is ok!
Some days we would talk for an hour and a half and it felt like 15 minutes, some days we both had boring days, were tierd and really just wished we could be chilling on the couch together watching tv. Our conversation was about 20 minutes those days.
You don’t get chill time in a virtual relationship so it is normal to expect some silences. You can make them awkward moments of panic where you worry that maybe you aren’t compatible or the other person thinks you’re boring. Or you can just remember, its normal to have silences even between the best of friends. Silence can be difficult to handle over the phone, but don’t decide the health of your relationship based on that.
3. Beware of In person disillusionment: Rene and I saw each other almost every weekend when we dated, but I know many long distance couples who maybe see each other every month or even less. I noticed that every Friday night when I was driving the 5 hours to visit my husband or waiting the 5 hours for him to get to my hometown, my expectation of our “reunion” would grow with every mile.
I would imagine him greeting me with a huge smile, jumping up and down for joy as I pulled into the driveway and then letting out an exuberant scream, “You’re here!” while a few tears would roll down his cheeks as he exclaimed, “I missed you soooooooo much!”
If any of you know my husband, you know this is not his personality at all. What I am describing may have been my reaction upon his arrival, but I can’t think of a single time, Rene pulled up into my driveway shrieking with delight. That’s not his personality or how he reacts, but for some reason I expected our reunions to look like a Hallmark movie scene where a war hero is reunited with his family.
Weekend, after weekend I would feel disappointed as his arrivals were marked by that romantic declaration, “I need to use the bathroom.”
That is the reality of dating long distance, you may see eachother after long weeks, long hours on the road or on a plane and if you are expecting to meet a cheesy character from a Nicolas Sparks novel when you get out of the car, you will be disappointed.
However, if you are expecting to say hello to: a real life imperfect person, with emotions and exhaustion – who has fought traffic and ran through airports to get to you – and this is a person that you love and care about – that you would rather be with more than anyone on the planet – even if they are jet lagged and exhausted..than be thankful because you are living in a real life love story.
Next Week I will share a few more thoughts to wrap up our series on successful long distance relationships. I hope you will join me!
Let me know: Have you or are you in a long distance relationship? What has your experience been like? What advice would you offer?
Monday, the world stopped as news of the royal baby’s birth was announced. This news stopped my heart. Our first baby had almost the same due date as the royal couple’s little one.
If you have been following this blog, you know that I have mentioned that my husband and I have lost two babies in the past year to miscarriage.
As I have journeyed through the pain, grief, and questions I have found that hearing someone else’s story is part of the way to healing. Hearing another’s story helps you realize that you are not alone if you have had a miscarriage. It is an experience that can feel lonely and isolating because there is no cast to wrap your broken heart, no casket to bury your memories in and too often no one knows. Even if someone knows, they may not know how to respond.
I am sharing with you my personal reflections about miscarriage, because God has given me hope in the midst of devastation. I am praying that this series provides comfort and hope for those who have walked through a miscarriage, and insight for those with friends who have experienced one.
From the moment I saw the faint pink line turn brighter and then deeper and darker on the pregnancy test, I was absolutely head over heels in love with him. By the time I had seen one plus sign and the word “pregnant” on the 2 different digital pregnancy tests my husband had me buy “just to be sure,” I was shrieking.
I squealed and jumped in delight, begging my husband to let me call and tell someone. Although what I really wanted to do was to run down my street screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’m a MOM!” “I’m a MOM!”
After getting married at the age of twenty – nine, helping seven friends walk down the aisle as a bridesmaid and with most of these friends having their second little bun in the oven I felt that God was redeeming my years of waiting for my children.
As a little girl, my favorite toys were my dolls and my favorite activity was pretending to be a Mom. My love for children continued through my adulthood as I worked as a nanny, camp counselor and children’s pastor. I went on mission’s trips and worked with orphans, I made friends with any child around me. I have left adult conversations at parties, to find the kid’s table where I have spend the night, giggling, playing and reading.
Even in my professional life my student staff lovingly nicknamed me “Mom” because of the way I nurtured and cared for their spirits and even bodies, constantly “nagging” them to make healthy choices in the school cafeteria and to start a work out plan. I had held them while they cried about boys, grades, and life direction. I had also screamed and celebrated with them about boys, grades and life direction.
It has brought immense amounts of joy to my heart to know that around the world I have many spiritual children. I had already been a “mother” to children and young adults offering counsel, correction, a listening ear, prayers, meals, snacks and of course hugs. But I never felt more like a mother than the day I saw that faded pink line turn a deeper shade of rose. I was a Mom forever now, I knew no matter what happened in life, no matter where I went or where my baby went, he would always be my baby and I would always be his momma.
I remember that day so vividly like a beautiful dream you don’t want to wake up from. My husband and I ate dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant. I spent the entire dinner asking him if there was anything in the dishes I couldn’t eat because I was pregnant. As an engineer, my husband researches everything and had already learned more about pregnancy that evening, then I had learned in a lifetime of being female. After dinner I insisted that we go to the local used bookstore and look for pregnancy books. We bought a baby name book and a book about eating healthily while pregnant. I then came home and promptly ordered “ What to expect when you’re expecting.”
That same week, Prince William and Kate’s pregnancy was announced. As the whole world watched Kate’s belly, I watched mine with the same force of anticipation and joy as a nation of people awaiting their royal baby. To me this was my royal baby, the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to me that I would be a wife and a mother.
I asked the Lord for promises for my baby. One was so clear to me, this little one would be a person of influence and draw the nations to knowledge and belief in Jesus Christ. To me, this was the dearest promise that I could receive as a mother.
At first I was sure my baby was a girl, Rene was sure the baby was a boy. We would joke about who was right or wrong. I had called a friend to tell her I was pregnant, and she prayed for my pregnancy. While she prayed I saw a picture of my baby Alexander, which would become such a treasure to me to. In the picture I saw my little boy probably about a year old, crawling on hands and knees smiling with dimples just like my husbands’ into his chubby baby cheeks. His dark brown eyes sparkled with mischief and his dark brown hair was wavy and thick, how I imagine my husband’s would have been as a child. He looked sharp in a plaid blue vest with gray trousers and in my opinion was the cutest baby I had ever seen.
Then the bleeding started.
I went to a doctor who was unable to tell me much except that my blood needed to be analyzed again in 48 hours to see if my HCG and Progesterone levels had increased or decreased.
Those days of waiting for the blood work results felt like the longest days of my life.
Then the phone rang, it was “the call.” My body grew cold, my heart stopped in my chest. I answered steadying my voice. The nurse delivering the blood results was short and abrupt. Her tone sounded as empathetic as a piece of steel. “Your progesterone and HCG levels have dropped dramatically in the past 48 hours and we are certain you are miscarrying.” As her words stabbed through my heart, my husband miraculously walked through the door home, home a few hours early from a work project.
He held me as the nurse asked if I had heard her because I hadn’t uttered a word or sound since she had spoken. My mouth couldn’t move because I was deafened by the sound of my heart shattering into a million pieces. My baby was dying, “My baby is dying!” I wanted to scream at the nurse and tell her, “YES I HEAR YOU! I HEAR YOU CLEARLY,” But I couldn’t say a word, I was in shock, and all that spoke was the scream inside my heart…”NO! NO! NO!”
I knew my baby was with Jesus. That my baby would never know the pain of earth and the brokenness of humanity, they would only ever know the love of Jesus and the love of their mother and father.
But I wanted them to know pain! I wanted to kiss every scrape and bandage every wound. I wanted to see them fall bump their head on the coffee table as they learn to walk, I wanted to help them get back on their bike when they fall off their new two wheeler, I wanted to help them find the pieces of their heart after their first heartbreak, I wanted to have a continual drippy and snotty hand because I have wiped their eyes and noses from the sting of this imperfect world. But I knew I never would and I wanted to, more than anything I have ever wanted in my life.
That night I collapsed on the couch holding my belly and cried, a deep soulful cry from my gut that had been building and I yelled until it was only a whisper, “I want my baby, I want my baby, I just want my baby.”
I wrote him a letter that night, I told him all about his life and how I felt when I found out he was inside me, and what we did that night we found out we were pregnant. I told him he was wonderful surprise, the best kind. I told him about eating Vietnemese noodles and buying every pregnancy book in the store. I told him I loved and missed him. It helped.
For anyone who has walked through a miscarriage I think one of hardest parts are the questions. What is the gender, what does the baby look like, what is their personality like? God was so kind to me to give me the gender, a glimpse of Alexander’s sweet face and then my husband named our son. Shortly after the miscarriage I was resting in my husband’s arms, thinking about our baby boy and as hot and gentle tears streamed down my face, Rene said, “his name is Alexander.” I sobbed with relief, he had a name, our son had been named by his father.
I looked up the name Alexander in the baby name book I had bought the night we found out we were pregnant. Alexander means “helper and defender of mankind.” This bothered me a lot. I wanted his name to mean what I needed most at that moment: which was faith, hope or redemption.
How could my baby Alexander bring help to mankind now, I wondered? How could he defend mankind when he had never set foot on this planet? I struggled with the irony that the meaning of his name seemed to pose. Yet, I knew the meaning of his name fit perfectly with the prophetic words God had spoken to my heart about Alexander. God had told me Alexander would have great influence and favor with people for the Kingdom of God. God had told me that Alexander would have an inheritance in the nations of the earth for the glory of God.
I do not have an answer for how Alexander will reach the nations of the earth. However, I feel nudges of hope from my Father, that as I write and share with others about Alexander’s life, that it will bring the hope and life of Jesus Christ to others, even in the furthest corners of the earth. There is a joy and peace to be found when we know Jesus. He is the restorer, He is the redeemer He alone can do this:
“comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated” Isaiah 61:2-4
These are the promises I cling too. There will be joy for my mourning!….there will be for your’s too sweet friend.
To continue this series:
If you have been through a miscarriage, what verses and promises from God have brought you hope? I would love to hear about your sweet baby – What is their name, did you do something special to remember their life? What has been helpful for you in the healing process?