Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Talk

Sit with me, and we will talk light into a dark night...

      I had a talk with my eight-year old this week. It wasn't something I had ever really thought about having a conversation about. With him. At eight. It wasn't a conversation I really wanted to be having with anyone, but when he sees you crying in the middle of Target, he's a pretty perceptive little guy and I was faced with the stark realization that there never would really be a "good" time to have this kind of chat. But not having it all could be much worse.

   You see, when you are a parent, you prepare yourself for questions about "the birds and the bees" and uncomfortable topics like gender, and homosexuality, and even for the weird ones like, "why is the sky blue?". And maybe you are a better parent, so you have already talked to your children about this, but I'll be honest, it isn't something I wanted to talk to my kids about, because it is just so darn complicated, and awkward, and just awful.

   But that was what made me realize that I actually *had* to talk about it. I won't beat around the bush any more. What I had to talk to my precious little boy about was suicide. We have a person we love dearly, and that person faced this situation down this week. And it broke my heart, but strengthened my resolve: this is serious and we have to talk about it. Collective "we" and personal.

   That person's story isn't mine to share, so I won't. But this is something that is on-going, and the people involved have done everything "right". And we are walking a path that is unknown to us, but praise Jesus, nothing has been done yet that can't be undone. But the shame of the whole matter is that there is just so much shame in the whole matter. Why don't we talk about suicide? Are we afraid that if we speak it we will give it power? That is a lie, straight from the pit. Talking about it *robs* suicide of it's power, because the fact of that matter is, shame is the leading cause of taking one's own life, in my opinion.

   The shame and guilt involved in crying out for help is a tragedy of the greatest proportions. It is directly un-Biblical and we need to stop with the whole "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" and "real men (or women) don't..." Sometimes, you not only don't have bootstraps, you don't even have boots! That is why the Lord gave us one another. Because my job is to hear you when you cry, and love you. Paul says it better (Doesn't he always?)

"Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:1

 Is there any more saddening sin than that of denying one's worth in Christ? Is there anything more tragic than someone who is blinded to the value of life-their own included? But where does it say, "Make that the un-talked about forbidden sin." No where! It says we are to restore them *gently*. With compassion. Full of love. Like Jesus.

   You can go no further? I will carry you. Carry you straight to the throne. Because there is the only One who can make your life worth living. And it is so worth living. YOU ARE LOVED. And I shouldn't wait until you are hysterically crying out to say so. Maybe if you knew how much I loved you, you would feel safe to tell me how you really feel.

  And that is what I told my sweet son. I said, "If you ever feel like you don't want to be here anymore, like you would be better off if you were dead, I want you to know that I will hear that. That I won't be mad, or punish you. That I will love you, and we will get help."

   And I realized something. Talking about suicide has to start long before someone is depressed, and desperate. It has to start with really truly knowing and loving one another. I have been dealing with some things in my own life lately, and I owe so much to those who have come alongside me, got down in my mud, and said, "We won't leave you here. We're in this for the long haul." And that is what we need to be. These people know me, they saw that something was wrong, and they are lovingly working with me to help me be restored.

   Help isn't a few well-placed cliches. It is months and years of love, of grace-giving, of forgiveness. Of developing a thick skin to insults but a tender heart of compassion, and ears sensitive to hear what isn't being said, of eyes intuitive enough to see beneath the surface. Of becoming more like Jesus. And knowing that medicines, and therapists and prayer are all different components of what is probably a complicated solution. This didn't happen overnight, and it won't be healed that way.

   But it starts by saying, "I hear you. I see you. I won't condemn you for your burden. That if you trust me enough to tell me that you want to take your own life, or cease existing anymore, that I won't shame you. I will love you, and I will carry that burden with you, for as long as it takes."

   Sometimes that means supporting the person directly, both spiritually and physically (Hello-therapy and medication aren't free!). That means keeping your phone on, and your radar up. Sometimes it means supporting the family, because they are suffering on this journey. Sometimes it means sharing your own story. We can be a light in the darkness that is suicide. We just have to speak up.

So, I started here...


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back to School Scripture Printables

    So, a few days ago on Facebook (You don't follow Clare's Contemplations on Facebook? Go do that now and come back! ) I promised some "Back to School" printable verses. Well, I am happy to say, you need wait no longer! I am really happy with the way these turned out. The 2 Timothy verse is *very* "school", so I decided that I would make the James verse a little more seasonally neutral.

    I really wanted to celebrate the return to school aspect of September, so I pulled together a bunch of colorful school supplies I had around the house and paired them with colorful candy I found at Walmart. (It's actually "birthday" candy, you can find it in the card and gift wrap section, but the primary colors made it perfect for my theme!). I am really fond of using things I have around the house to put together different decor vignettes. It makes everything feel fresh, but doesn't cost much. Using candy is also fun, and because it's consumable I don't have to store it from year-to-year. An added bonus is that my husband loves having it around!
The James verse I put together with my globe and teacher's bell. I keep both these things displayed in my living room year-round, but putting them together with a stack of colorful classic books just makes it read "educational"! 

I also have a fun wreath that I put together, but I will save that for a different post. Are you decorating for back to school? Or do you prefer just going with autumn decor? Either way, let me know if you find a place for these printables! You should be able to just right-click on the images to save to your computer (I suggest saving to "Pictures") and then print from your saved location. You should be able to adjust the sizes of the printables to your preferred size. However, be aware that they may not print exactly to size. The 2 Timothy verse printed perfectly at an 8x10 size, I just had to cut off the excess paper. The James verse I printed at a 4x6 size which left the margins at the top and the bottom, but I liked how it looked so I left it that way. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

What's Cooking: Zucchini Bread and Applesauce

   If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: I love simple and quick recipes. Those are my top priorities when choosing things to cook (unless it happens to be a showstopping dessert, and then I relax my standards). It isn't because I can't cook, it just isn't my most favorite activity. There's the whole time-and-effort versus outcome deal. Like you spend forever chopping, stirring, flipping, mashing, etc. *and* you have to clean up the kitchen and it's gobbled up in five minutes, often with nary a thank-you!

   However, I have become distinctly more conscious about food waste, the more I read about it. And, I do appreciate a nice baked good. So, if the mood strikes me or if I have something that needs to be used up, I am more willing to stretch those boundaries. This week I happened to have a pile of soon-to-rotting apples, well past the decent to eat raw stage, and a large zucchini a sweet friend had gifted me with. So, to the Pinterest!

    I thought I would share these recipes with you because I love to hear how something works out for someone else, and I like to know if they made any changes. I won't publish the full recipes, I don't want to deny the original recipe creators their due. But if you get a chance to try these, I highly recommend them! Just click on the recipe titles to go to the originals.

 Homemade Applesauce
This is SO EASY. Truly the most challenging part? Peeling the apples. I do it the old-fashioned way, by hand with my little metal peeler. I don't mind too much, it's rather soothing and mindless. I use Jazz apples from Trader Joe's and as they tend to be pretty sweet to begin with, I don't add as much sugar as the recipe calls for, I also use a ratio of roughly two of these to one regular apple, as they are fairly small. I've made this twice and it has been delicious both times-my kids truly do prefer it to store bought. Besides decreasing the sugar (I probably use between 1/2 and 3/4 the amount it called for, but I am planning on trying to use less than 1/8 of a cup the next time I make it). I also add 1/2 tsp. of vanilla with everything before I boil it, because I pretty much believe that anything sweet is better with vanilla. I don't own an immersion blender but it has worked perfectly fine to dump it all into my Ninja blender jar and puree it that way. I made a recipe and a half this last time (that's how many apples I had) and so we didn't eat it all at once. It seems to save perfectly fine in the fridge, at least for a few days. We haven't had it last any longer than that, and I have no urges to try canning, so I can't say anything about that. I am betting it would freeze just fine, though. Seriously. so good.

Greek Yogurt Zucchini Bread
    I appreciate a good "healthy" recipe-especially when it doesn't taste like one. This is one of those recipes. Even my husband, who is quite wary of any "healthy" baked good, ate this. My kids actually thought it was cake. I will say, mine clearly doesn't look like her's, but I did follow the directions pretty closely, so I am guessing it was either my oven temp (it's finicky), my zucchini was too wet (I did blot it, but maybe not enough?) or that my ingredients weren't all room-temp. Whatever the case, it was still delicious. I am definitely going to try it as muffins, though, since it won't take as long to cook that way. My notes: I used honey instead of agave (I guess they are pretty much interchangeable and I don't keep agave on hand) and I used coconut oil. I had never baked with coconut oil before, so I was impressed that it was so easy. I chose to add chocolate chips (of course!) and didn't put nuts in it. She doesn't say how she grated her zucchini, I chose to finely grate mine, just so it would be less noticeable. I also used sweetened vanilla Greek yogurt, so that upped the sugar quotient on mine, but it was worth it. I didn't feel bad about it, since it doesn't have any other white sugar in it. This one is definitely a keeper, my kids are already asking me to make it again. I served it for dinner with quiche and it was a great side, and then we had it for breakfast this morning. Definite win over donuts in my book!

So there you have it! Let me know if you try these, and what you think. Have you tested any recipes lately? Were they keepers?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Can't Make This Up

Me. Without makeup. Shocking!

     So, I noticed a recent trend on Facebook: makeup. Or rather, the lack thereof. In the past few months I noticed a push by a direct marketing company to "go naked", that is, without makeup, not without clothes, thank goodness! Another article pointed out that the singer Alicia Keys has decided to forgo makeup entirely, in part to simplify her life, and in part to point out that women shouldn't have to wear "masks" to be accepted. Also trending, the hashtag #nomakeup.

    Guys, I did not realize this was a thing! I am in my mid-thirties now, and I suppose I should be ashamed to admit this in light of the apparent "boldness" involved in going sans face-paint, but I am not a big makeup fan. I didn't wear anything but mascara and lipgloss (seriously, I slapped on some LipSmackers, I cannot make this stuff up) in my own *wedding*! And it is not because I am a hippie, or am firmly against women getting glammed up. It really stems from the fact that I am probably too lazy...

   I am amused by this current trend because it just reiterates to me that we can make a fight out of whatever we want. I don't know that "society" forces women to wear makeup. Or be skinny. Or only eat organic food. Or wear a certain brand. Or be ______. You fill in the blank. I think we sometimes put that pressure on ourselves.

   Maybe I just hang out with really polite people (I doubt it. Have you met my family? Just kidding. Sort of.). Maybe everyone is afraid of me. But seriously, I wander around completely bare-faced all the time. I do usually put on some mascara and bronzer for church on Sundays, and the older I get (and the more transparent my eyelashes!) the more I will put it on for other occasions. Co-op mornings, when I have to get up too early, for one. ;) But I don't wear foundation, and I absolutely cannot figure out eyeshadow to save my life. I literally only learned how to use an eyelash curler last year. And no one has said anything. No one has pointed and laughed. No one has left unkind comments on Facebook or Instagram.

   Because I kind of think it isn't a thing, or maybe rather that it shouldn't be. I think generally people don't really care. I am not against makeup. I know plenty of people skilled in that art, but it isn't my thing. I prefer flashy jewelry and learning new hairstyles. I know lots of people who those things don't interest them at all. I think it kind of falls under that whole category of being uniquely made. Maybe that's just me?

   But seriously, the next time you hear about this kind of  "controversy" consider whether it is a real concern or merely a push by the media (or even your well-meaning friends) to create a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe you have had people insinuate unkind things about your lack of concealer, but I think it is pretty darn easy to squash that kind of thing with a simple, "Thanks, but it doesn't bother me." Perhaps people go the other way and imply you wear too much-the same answer will suffice. I frequently have to remind myself not to let these types of things get under my skin.

   I am guessing Titus faced some similar problems. Paul wrote to him about the qualifications for elders, but I don't think it is wrong for any of us to aspire to this standard:

"Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it." Titus 1:8-9

    It leaves lots of room for interpretation in some regards, and very little in others. It doesn't say that we should wear mascara and never eyeliner. But it does say we should be self-controlled and lovers of what is good. It does say we should know sound doctrine, so that we can both follow it and defend it. And the following verses say this:

"To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." Titus 1:15-16

 This is some pretty stern language directed at the trouble-makers who were constantly harping on circumcision. Something physical. Something external. Something that doesn't make or break spiritual standing. Sound familiar? The fact of the matter is that there will always be those seeking to cause dissension and we can't just blame it on the media. We do it, too. We could stand to closely question more things and try harder to decide if they are really the hill we want to die on. Losing friends over whether or not one wears makeup seems like a pretty easy decision in my mind. It is easy to get caught up in a seeming "controversy" (Anyone remember the supposed "Red Cup" debacle last year? Seriously, I think sometimes people need hobbies...) and to perpetuate  supposed facts and opinions, but I think there are some more words from Paul that we could all stand to remember:

"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." Philippians 4:8

   If we are thinking about those things, we are probably speaking about those things. And as it is sound doctrine, we can encourage others with it. And defend ourselves. So the next time that someone points at a "problem" and you have to pause to ask yourself if it is really a problem, chances are good that it is just a difference of preference. And that is not really something worth getting worked up over. Or made-up for. Whatever. 

So, how about you? Have you seen anything lately that makes you wonder if it is really a problem or just someone looking to ruffle feathers?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Coffee and Chocolate Thank-You

                  Sometimes I want to put together a super-cute. pun-tastic, multi-part thank-you (These S'Mores Jars, for example.). And other times, especially when I need quite a few, I want something that comes together in about five minutes. These. These are that thing. So.Easy.

      I put these together for the kids' VBS teachers this week. I have never sent my kids to another VBS in town that I haven't volunteered at, but Jocelyn had seen an advertisement, and I had a meeting with the director to pick her brain (I'm directing VBS at our church) and I decided that I felt comfortable sending them there. Who knew having every morning from 9am-noon to myself would be so fun? Probably moms who send their kids to public school...I digress. Anyway, I know how much work it is to volunteer for VBS, so I wanted to show my gratitude with a small token.

   The basis behind these is simple: *most* people appreciate candy and coffee, even if only on rare occasion. And when you are exhausted from a week of wrangling other peoples' kids, and months of planning beforehand, there are few things you want more than coffee, some chocolate and a nap! Thus, combined with a great sale on Frappuccinos at Costco, this idea was born!

   No pun this time, (I know, crazy, right?!) but I thought it was cute nevertheless. The label reads:
"After this week you deserve coffee, chocolate and a nap. We can provide two out of three. Thank you for serving the Lord wholeheartedly. Ephesians 6:7" 
   The great part is that these labels are not specialized to VBS volunteers. You could give them to your child's teacher after the first week of school, or to their camp counselors. Or to their coach or music teacher after a week prepping for competition or recitals. Or to any volunteer for a high-prep event that requires a week's worth of work!

   The components require precious little thought. If you have a gaggle of people that need thank-yous like I did, buy the 36 variety Mars chocolate pack from Costco and the 15 bottle Frappuccino pack of coffees. Then you just need some cardstock to print the labels, and some cute ribbon. It was the happiest of coincidences that I had this arrow ribbon from Hobby Lobby on hand. It is an *exact* match to the labels! I didn't plan it that way, I promise, but I was *super* happy with how it turned out!

   The labels require a 2 and 1/2 inch circle punch. I then just used a standard hole punch to thread the ribbon through. I pulled both sides of the ribbon through at the same time, and then the label is actually held on by the fact that it can't slip off over the knot, rather than actually being tied-on, but that is just a personal aesthetic preference.

Here is the printable. Can I just tell you how excited I was that I was able to save it and post it here? Soooo excited!

Coffee and Candy Thank-You Label

Let me know what you think!


Related Posts with Thumbnails