Friday, November 13, 2015

Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas - Why it Doesn't Matter to Me

Good morning Friends!

This morning my thoughts turn towards a familiar holly jolly Holiday that we all (well most of us anyways) know and love...yes I’m talking about President’s Day...just kidding...Christmas of course. :)

We’re just barely into the season and already it has begun..the heated battle over “Happy Holidays” vs “Merry Christmas”.  I know at this point you’re probably either bracing yourself to defend your position, or checking outta here to avoid the whole spiel.  If you’re hovering over that x-button right now I encourage you to just stick it out with me for a few minutes - I swear it won’t take long.
In previous years I know I’ve been guilty of being involved in the heated battle with my “Merry Christmas” guns ablaze in the passive-aggressive posts of social media.  It can happen all-too-easily...we see a meme, a joke, or an article strongly defending our point and we think, “perfect...that’ll get the point across without me having to do too much work”.  However, I’d like to challenge us this year to do better.

As Christians, do we really believe that Christmas is about Jesus?  “Of course we do; why would you ask such a ridiculous question?” you’re probably saying, so let me follow up with another question.  Do we really believe that Jesus is about love? Love that compelled the King of the Universe to lay aside His Divinity and come down to earth to be born in a dirty, lowly stable for a lost, messy, broken world?  Love that came down for the individuals who have a pretty good life and for the most part have it all together?  Yes, yes, yes you’re probably thinking.  Glad you’re tracking with me...allow me to continue.  
If we as Christians truly believe that Christmas is about Christ, and Christ is about unconditional, sacrificial love; then allow me to ask: are we loving well this Season?  
The sad fact friends is that often times, in our zeal to tell the world about our Saviour at this Season that’s supposed to be a reminder of Hope stepping into our World, our message of Hope and Love get’s muddied, clouded over, and lost in our method’s that can be completely devoid of the very thing we are trying to portray.  It’s no wonder the world doesn’t want to hear our message...we have no platform to stand on when our attitudes don’t match our message.  

Note that I said not just loving, but loving “well”?  Don’t get me wrong; I love to hear Christmas carol’s about Jesus and be greeted with “Merry Christmas” in the stores just as much as the next Christian, but when my focus becomes more about the technicalities of whether a tree should be called a Christmas tree or a Holiday tree, or angered over the fact that a Jolly Fat Man is getting more attention than a Baby in a Manger, am I really loving well?  

So this season I challenge myself and I challenge you dear Christian friend to do something radical.  Instead of being quick to share those angry posts on Facebook, or to kill that poor barista with scowling reprimands about the simple red cup (you know what I mean), or of “I think you mean Merry CHRISTmas”, let’s get our point across with our actions.  This doesn’t mean that we need to tone down our message or begin replacing our “Merry Christmases” with “Happy Holidays”, but what it does mean is that when we say it, let’s mean it….let’s say it in the way that Christ said it when He came as a small, dependant, humble baby in a smelly, unclean manger in the dead of night to an unsuspecting red carpet rolled out, no throngs of people waiting to catch a glimpse of Heaven’s Arrival...and just like room for Him then in the busyness of everyday life….let’s say it with unconditional love, because even if the world doesn’t acknowledge Him this Season...Love never fails.

Love Crystal

Friday, October 9, 2015

Searching for the Hidden Blessings

As I'm writing this blog it's a chilly, overcast, rainy fall day but I'm as cozy as anything in my joggers and wrapped up in my daughter's fleecy blanket with my warm cup of coffee close may call me crazy, but that is my idea of an absolutely perfect Friday morning.  I'm sure there are a million other things I could be doing right now, but this week has been busy enough that I'm just enjoying this moment of peace.

For all of my fellow Canadian friends, we're approaching our Thanksgiving weekend today and with that I thought it would be fitting to share a few words on thankfulness.  Earlier this week I was doing anything but giving thanks.  Let me explain.

On Tuesday I had to take a trip into the city with my two daughters in order to get fall clothes for my youngest (unfortunately they were born in opposite months so the poor little dear has nothing but summer clothes to adorn herself in in this chilly weather...not cool..well cool literally but not slang-ly speaking..and no I'm fairly certain that is not a word but I went there anyway's, you'll just have to deal with that) ;) Sooo, where was I?  Ah yes, shopping.  I'm not sure if you've ever shopped with a 4 year old girl and a 9 month old, but if you haven't let me just shatter any dreams you have of this being a wonderfully fun experience to say that it's not...try more so pulling-my-hair-out-stressful.  Add in the factors that the 9 month old is very busy and not a fan of strollers; we are not shopping for the 4 year old who looooves clothes as much as her mom, and on that note, the fact that we're not shopping for the desperately-shopping-starved, outdated attired mama, and mix in a mama who is a high C (DISC profile test) meaning she needs to see all of her options first, assess and very carefully chose the best deal before purchasing...blend that all up and you have a recipe for disaster.  I am however pleased to say that we made it out without tears.

Where things got really messy, was when we arrived home.  I had left myself enough time to unload our purchases and change a diaper before we had to go to the bus stop to pick up my son.  Well, I know you likely won't believe me, but things don't always go according to plan with children.  My older daughter, who normally only plays outside with her brother, wouldn't come in the house with me.  Being in the rush that I was in however, I decided she would be okay and I'd head in to quickly change my other daughter's diaper before heading to the bus stop.  Everything was going just dandy until I began to hear these horrific screams coming from outside, it only took me seconds to realize that it was my older daughter Quinn.  I quickly wrapped up the diaper change, scooped Lucy up and ran outside to find my neighbour on my lawn reassuring me that another neighbours' dog had startled her but that all was well and Quinn was in the backyard now.  Across the road was another neighbour holding said dog, and when I reached my back porch, yet another neighbour was reassuring my daughter. Quinn screams like crazy if a dog get's too close to her, whether it's a teacup poodle or a black lab; this dog was no different, he was just wanting to play, but the poor thing picked the wrong child to initiate with. Not wanting to be insensitive to Quinn I calmed her down, helped her with her shoes that had came off in the craziness and hurried her along as best I could to get to the bus stop in time, which I knew was cutting it very close at this point.  Long story short, I didn't get to the bus stop in time, but was glad to find out from another neighbour girl that my son stayed on the bus and the bus driver would be checking for us when she swung by our house again (it goes by our place twice fortunately after our bus stop).  Sure enough, the bus came around and my son emerged safe and sound.

Talk about an epic fail for me though; by that point I was feeling like the worst parent alive as I thought about how I'm sure the other mom's at my bus stop could hear my daughter's screams and saw me missing at the bus stop, and then the fact that not just one, but 3 of my neighbours all came to my daughter's aide before I arrived on the scene.  :(  Ugh, fail indeed.  I'll come back to that I promise, but let's move onto Wednesday and Thursday.

So on Wednesday I opened the diaper bag to find a ring with a tag on it that I did not purchase, but I recalled my daughter playing with and asking for, laying atop everything.  Noooo!!!  Now if you live in the city, this isn't a big deal, but for me it's a 45 minute drive, which means it's a huge inconvenience.  At first I thought, I'll just take it back on a day that I've only got Lucy with me, but then the responsible side of me kicked in and I knew I had to do another day trip with both girls so that a lesson could be learned here.  So yesterday, back we went with two daughters and ring in tow to say our apologies and make things right.

Now I say all of this to say that there were many points throughout this week where unfortunately I was anything but thankful, and was even downright miserable.  I didn't feel like there was much to be grateful for, and I didn't want to think about it even...I was feeling like..."don't try to make me feel better..just let me wallow in this".  Yes, sad and quite pathetic, I know. But here's the ray of light in all of this: things could have been much worse and I could have missed a lot if I kept my head in the sand.  I realized that I could have beat myself up over my shortcomings on Tuesday, or I could be grateful that I have many amazing neighbours who care about my children, and other amazing neighbours whom I've yet to meet but who send lovely apology notes for their stray dog when they could have blamed me for not being outside.  I realized that I could have considered the two trips to the city as wasted, stressful days, which would have made my daughter feel like a failure, or I could choose to see it as a wonderful learning opportunity to teach my daughter about the importance of integrity and honesty, and that a mistake doesn't make you a failure.

Although this week had it's up's and down's and several inconveniences along the way, I am thankful for the things that I learned as without these experiences I wouldn't have had the opportunities to find the blessings that can sometimes be hidden or taken for granted.  I challenge you today, regardless of what you find yourself facing; to look for the hidden treasure in your circumstance.
 It won't be shouting as loud and proud as the call to complain or accept defeat, and it may only be one good thing in a long list of bad, but I promise, it will be there, quietly beckoning you to see the light and to shift your focus to gratitude.  Don't miss the opportunity in your mess, don't waste the pain without finding the treasure buried deep, and don't miss your blessing by focusing on your circumstance.  Just like this rainy day, there is blessing in everything.

In this with you,


Saturday, October 3, 2015

In the Face of Fear

This past week, the topics of fear, courage, and love have been swirling around in my mind, and all of this prior to the recent Oregon School Shooting.

I've read Facebook statuses of friends and acquaintances shaken by daily headlines of ISIS, Planned Parenthood, and Shooting rampages that have become all too common; and I've felt the fear myself of raising my children in a world filled with so much pain.  Amongst all of this I've come to notice a familiar reaction, which is turn our eyes away, cover our ears, and bury our head in the sand...a conscience choice to "live in a bubble" so-to-speak.

I can totally understand why we choose to react this way because I think I'm guilty of it in my own way too.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not the type to hit the "x" button on any link to negative news, in fact, sadly, I think I'm quicker to get all of the facts that I can; however, the bubble I live in is still very much present and accounted for.  This "bubble" I'm referring to exists in my heart; it's in the way that I tiptoe around controversial topics by pausing over that "like" or "share" button instead of clicking it because I'm more afraid of what other's might think of me than of being real and true to my own convictions; it's in the way that I backspace those Tweets or Blogg's that weigh heavy on my heart because I may receive angry judgement or be misunderstood; it's in the way that I don't speak those caring words of concern and sometimes hard questions to those closest to me because it's easier to just appease them; and it's in the way that I don't pursue my passions because I don't want to risk failing.

Although not anywhere near comparable to the fear of losing one's life, these things are all still bubbles, and they all amount to nothing more than living a life filled with fear.  You see, this fear on a large scale still affects us.  Oh we may think that we're immune to it's crippling affects, but every time we find ourselves living in one of these bubbles we are in fact, allowing that fear to seep into our hearts.

So what do we do in the face of all of this fear?  I believe, no, rather, I know with all of my heart, that the answer lies in this, "love".  Love, real love, doesn't fear; real love lays it all on the line courageously because it does not depend on the other person's response or their reciprocation; it gives without any expectation of anything in return.  That kind of love enables us to be brave, to be true to our convictions, to embrace our dreams.  It's love that causes us to come running out from retreat to face the injustices surrounding us, to stop the cycles of hurt by forgiving the unforgivable, and to not be silenced by the screaming voices of control and hate that masquerade as bold and courageous but are at their core filled with the very fear they promote.  Courage does not come in the loud, controlling, dominating voice; courage comes in the still, strong confidence of love.

The voice of fear may be loud; but it can not, and will not ever, overpower love.  Love is stronger every time, love never fails.  So today, in honour of the lives that have been lost at Umpqua Community College, let's step out of our bubbles and allow love to be our stepping stone to courageously face whatever obstacle of fear we are facing today.  It may seem like a very insignificant act in the big picture, but it is these very insignificant acts, when in great numbers, which make very significant impacts in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  

Keep moving forward friends, 

Love Crystal

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

For all you mom's of JK's

It's been forever since I was last on here and life has gotten much busier with an almost 9 month old in the mix but as summer has come to a close things have begun to get back to normal with my son now back to school in the first grade and my daughter to follow tomorrow. Yes, you heard correctly, my sweet little girl of just barely 4 years is beginning Jr Kindergarten tomorrow.  She's been there often enough in the past two years; to drop off her brother with me, or meet his teacher, see a Christmas concert, hear about bus safety, and just today to meet her teachers, however it didn't really sink in that she'd be going herself until tonight. You see, tonight as I went in to give her a kiss after she was asleep, she had her little arm wrapped in a cozy hug around her white, falling-apart sheep pillow... The sheep pillow that had wrapped around her most favorite baby blanket and that she had slept with every night (except when it was in the laundry) until she was three, at which time she had moved into her big girl bed and the sheep pillow and blanket went into hibernation. Not seeing that pillow for over a year made me realize how much a child can grow in a year and how quickly life can pass by and change in that time. It seems like just a heartbeat away that I was laying with her in my hospital bed for our first night together, literally nose-to-nose and lip-to-lip; the first snuggle of many with my affectionate little girl. And now tomorrow she'll be going off to school with her big brother.

I'm trying to convince myself that it's not a huge deal and that she'll do great, but I think that's part of what makes it so difficult for us mom's. We know that our children are resilient, we know that given the opportunity, they will rise to the occasion, we know that these amazing little people will make friends and win hearts, and I think that's what can scare us, or at least me.

Yes, there is the part of me that worries about her getting hurt or feeling alone, but there is a bigger fear than even those; it is the fear that my children won't need me, that the voices of friends, teachers, and even scarier, media and society will begin to become more appealing and louder than mine. It's the fear that snuggling with mom will be old news, and hanging with family a chore, ultimately, it's the fear that says "your job here is done"; and I'm not anywhere near ready to hand my job off to a big scary, ugly world.

So what do we do as mom's, as dad's, as caregivers to these precious children with whom we've been entrusted for such a short time? What do we do to battle these fears? How do we cope with the overwhelming desire to white-knuckle parent our children?

For me, I'll do the only thing I know to do, sometimes only daily, sometimes hourly, but today and tomorrow, by the minute... I'll hand these children off... Not to the hands of a hard, calloused world, but into the hands of my loving Heavenly Father, Who wants the best for them and Who loves them even more than my own love for them.  I'll choose to trust Him, sometimes trembling, and when I feel weak, to call out until His hands grasp mine.  You see, if I don't do this, the only other option is for my fears to control my actions; and instead of being free to guide, nurture, and teach my children allowing them to choose and make both good and bad choices, my hands become closed and clenched around them and the very things I fear will become my reality.

So tonight I take a lesson from my four year old daughter, the one who conquered her lifelong fear of swimming this summer, who finally let go of the steps and swam into the deep and who will bravely walk into her JK classroom tomorrow...I let go... I let go of the fear and the control, and I grab onto perfect love, the perfect love of my Savior.

"You make me brave... You call me out beyond the shores into the waves..." 
(You Make me Brave, by Amanda Cook, Bethel Music)

~ Crystal

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In Memory of a Very Special Life

Today I’m working on a sign, but it’s not just any sign.  This sign has brought tears to my eyes from the moment I received the request, and even now as I design this small token to honor this precious little life that ended the same day it began.  

It brings back memories of the day that my second child was born.  Our hospital room was filled with the sounds of newborn cries, overjoyed parents, laughter, smiles, and the awe of new life.  Yet at that same moment of our rejoicing in this new life, in the same hospital and on the very same floor there was mourning taking place as another mother had labored all night, only to have the life of her precious newborn end moments later.  My heart broke for that mother; I couldn't imagine giving birth to such deep grief, pain, and sorrow after carrying and being connected to that little life for nine months of time.  All I could think, was “how is this fair?”, and then offer my silent prayers as the nurses shared with me the news of this unnamed mother.  There are no words for times like that, and even less when you are leaving the hospital with your new baby, knowing that this mother would give anything to experience that same joy.

So the thought of being invited into the life journey of another to honor the life of a child who only lives on in their memory makes me feel incredibly humbled and inadequate for the task.  Again, just as I silently prayed for that woman in the hospital two and a half years ago, I can only pray that God will use this sign to bring honor to their child, and to fill their hears with His peace and healing as they remember this life.

I can’t answer the question to why these kind of things happen in life, because to be honest, there really is no pretty packaged answer, wrapped in bows and ribbons, but I can tell you that there is One, Jesus Christ, Who counts every tear shed, Who sees every angry, confused fist shook towards the heavens, and hears every staggered breath taken and He offers His arms of comfort, healing and peace, and yes, even the ability to love again.

This song describes well the pain of loosing a child, but also the comfort found in knowing, as the song says, that “you're in the arms of God. Just a moment there is better than here”.

Whatever pain you’re facing today, I pray that you will find comfort in Jesus, and when the time is ready, healing in the love of God.

My deepest sympathies to the family of this precious young life.  I respectfully pray that this sign brings you peace and comfort in knowing that your son is in the arms of God.

♥ Crystal

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thoughts from a Reluctant Mom

* (Note: This is a past blog that was originally published on "Uniquely Yours Ministry Blog") *

Hey there friends! So great to be back here with you on Kerrington's wonderful Blog.  As you may have already guessed, I'll be talking to you today about Momma Life in celebration of Mother's Day (which in my opinion, should come at least once a month! hint hint, nudge nudge to all of you Father's reading).

When I was asked to write about this topic, you may be surprised to know that I had absolutely no idea where to start (and truth be told...I'm still feeling my way around as I type even now. ha ha).  I blame this in part on my placenta brain (did I mention, I'm pregnant with #3 right now?), but I think the greater reason would be due to the vast importance of a mother and all of the responsibility, challenges, and joys that come with that title.

It now shames me to say it, but as a teenager and even into my mid twenties it was never really my "dream" to be a mom, let alone a stay-at-home mom.  I had always looked on that title as a poor excuse to stay at home and relax while the rest of the world worked at "real" jobs.  When I saw mothers in stores with 4 children or (*gasp*) even more I would immediately classify them in a group I liked to call the "Crazy Van People", and I would think "that will never be me!".  (I'm pretty sure this is why God doesn't paint the whole picture in advance).

Well fast forward to a strong-willed four year old boy, a dramatic two year old diva, and baby number three on the way, and not only have I made the change from working mom with my first child, to stay-at-home mom after my second, but before the end of the year I am also joining the "Crazy Van People" Club.  Talk about eating my words, right?  (I'm sure God had a good laugh over my plans).

So what have I learned about my assumptions since wearing the title "mom"?  A lot.  I've learned a lot.  Such as firstly, how unbelievably wrong and naive I was to think that being a mom was not a real job.  I've experienced many challenging times in my life, from personal and marriage, to friendships, school, college, and careers, however none have been as challenging or rewarding, and caused me to grow as much as being a mom has.

I always say that being a parent is like holding up a mirror to myself because children are the most demanding and selfish little people you will encounter...and rightfully so...they don't know otherwise yet...they just speak what they think.  (If you don't have children you may think I'm being cruel here, but trust day you'll know!  I say it in love for them, and I'm even laughing as I think of the crazy things my kids have done or said that are so ridiculously selfish you have to turn away to hide the laughter.)  On way too many occasions God has shown me my own selfishness reflected in my response to my children's demands for my constant attention, assistance, and time.  The giving and serving can't just be turned off like a tap when you are a parent; kids don't filter when you are tired, grumpy, or busy...and it has shown me how easily I can switch out of serving-mode and into self-serving mode.  At these times, I am so grateful for Christ's forgiveness and grace to strengthen me when I least want to serve, and I am left in awe at the way Jesus continually selflessly served during His time on earth, regardless of how tired He was.

That being said, I have also learned much about a child's ability to love, to forgive quickly, and to forget.  Again, this has been a mirror to me; it amazes me the times that I've messed up, being too quick to an angry response and too slow to apologize, to see how willingly and easily they embrace me and say "it's okay mom" when I've come in tears, sorrowful for my behavior.  It causes me to ask myself, "am I that quick to forgive, to forget, to understand and embrace another when they have wronged me?"  I can only pray that I will be.

Although I can still struggle with feeling significant in those hum-drum days when nothing spectacular happens, it is a process that I am working through, and the more that I find my significance in who I am rather than what I do, the less this struggle has power over me.  I am realizing more and more that I am of value and importance because of how God views me, and as I become secure in that I am free to be a better mom because my worth isn't dependent on how well I "perform" and my children are learning that mistakes (both mine, and theirs) can be valuable lessons.

I'm so happy to say that this past week, although I was sad that I had to miss out on a conference with my husband, I took joy in knowing that I was right where I was supposed to be, loving the responsibility I've been entrusted with, and making an impact on the people who are the most important in my life ...the sweet one's who call me "Momma".

Happy Mother's Day to all of you fabulous Mother's out there - you make a difference, you are valuable, and you are worth celebrating.  Don't forget to take a few moments out of your weekend to let those special women know how loved and appreciated they are. (We love to hear it! Flowers are never a bad idea either) ;)

♥ Crystal

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Art of Rest

So I know you must be wondering where I've been for the past two weeks.  Wandering the globe on some fantastical tour...doing big busy important business....ignoring my beloved blog readers.  The answer somewhat sadly, is none of the above (although I would never take joy in ignoring you my faithful readers, just to set the record straight).  No, the answer I'm afraid, is much simpler.  Amongst the regular routine of life, the real reason for my absence is: sleep.

Yes, I have been sleeping me life away like a little baby.  Quite pathetic really if it weren't for the fact that my tiredness is due to my body being hard at work creating a little life.  There ya go...the big news...for those of you who didn't already know. ;)  Hopefully you will excuse me if I sometimes make no sense on here over the next 7 and a bit months...apparently it's happened a few times, so says my husband (pfft - what do men know?).  I told him that it's a normal thing as scientifically more blood flow is being directed to my placenta now rather than my brain....true story....look it up...and yes...I can hear you calling me placenta-brain Adam but I love you anyways. ;)

So anyways, I've been having this little inner struggle over this sleep dilemma of feeling like the world's laziest person but not having any power to do a thing about it.  So instead I find myself flipping like a fish out of water between pushing myself way too much or yielding totally to the power of nothingness.  However I do believe that I've had a breakthrough this epiphany if you will.

On Monday night my two and a half year old daughter sprained her little ankle on our trampoline (insert whimpers of sadness here) and after getting it checked out twice (nothing wrong with a little can be healthy..and in fact proved to be so here as it turned out she also had some sort of throat/ear infection going on, but alas, I digress) it's been wrapped, propped, and iced for the last three days.

Observing my normally very active daughter refuse to walk for three days and be confined to a couch as the pain subsides and her ankle heals has been sad, but it has also taught me a little lesson.  Too many times we guilt ourselves into taking on too many tasks and then beat ourselves up, feeling like failures when we can't finish them all, or we finish feeling exhausted and miserable (or is that just me???)  Although it is important to set goals for ourselves, it is more important that we set realistic, attainable ones, and that we don't define ourselves by the end results of those goals.  Secondly, I've learned that sometimes our body does know a thing or two about what is best for us, whether it be more sleep, a glass of water instead of juice, or a brisk walk when we would rather plop on the couch.  It's important to listen to these cues before your brain is able to hijack your emotions and send you spinning on that not-so-merry-go-round of setting yourself up to (feel) like you've failed.

All of that being said, my goal is still to write a blog a week on here, but if I am absent for a week I trust you'll understand that I'm simply listening to my body's cues.

Until next wee... er, "time"