How Do We Respond to the Refugee Crisis?

Yesterday was hard, Church.

I read a lot of pain and frustration and fear and anger in articles and facebook posts. As a culture, we process our emotions online now. I don't really know if this is good or bad. I've seen some really powerful moments come from people processing their grief online, and some really ugly ones.

When it happens about an issue that the Church is fractured over, it's particularly ugly.

All day I was asking the Holy Spirit, "What do we do? How do we respond? Where is the unity when some in the Church are cheering and some are weeping?"

Here are a few thoughts I've been chewing on, things that all Christians can do no matter how you feel about Syrian refugees' place in our country:

1. "Mourn with those who mourn....", Romans 12.15

Weep for the refugees, Church. Whether you believe they should come or not. Weep for the two million children who are without home, for the mothers whose arms are empty, for the fathers torn from their families. Weep for the violence that has already taken so many lives.

Grieve for those who died apart from Christ, for the lost who face the reality of death, daily. Weep for the innocent who are caught up in this ugly, festering mess.

We can and must remain tender and love these people, whether you believe they are an enemy or a victim, we are commanded to love both. 

2. Give 

We can help provide clothing and food and shelter to the refugees without them coming to us.

This is where the rubber will hit the road Church. There are ministries providing immediate assistance in Europe. The estimated cost to cover the needs of these people is in the billions.

If we are unable to open up our homes, then let us open up our wallets. 

Here is one ministry you could consider.

3. Pray

"Do not be anxious in anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4. 6, 7

I'm going to leave a quote from one of my favorite authors:

"Now is not the time to despair. Now is the time to ask God to strengthen our faith, to move us beyond feelings and into movement because we trust Him and fully, sincerely, confidently know that His ways are THE answer to all that ails humanity...We know it. We believe it. We know that God is big enough and good enough to save us down here in this broken place, and we are actually Plan A to deliver His hope and love."

If we believe that God is who He says He is, than prayer is not a trite option. It is a powerful option. An option that could move the heavens and earth. An option just as powerful as giving financially.

Pray, Church. Pray that ISIS will be stopped. Pray that the Church would remain unified - that we would not let the enemy wreak even MORE havoc by fracturing the Church on top of fracturing families and countries. Pray that there would be creative and wise and wealthy and supremely intelligent people that will bend all their resources to helping.

Ask the Lord to show you, as an individual, what His will would be. Don't rely on someone else's conviction to form your own. Ask the Lord to form your conviction about this situation, and what you should do about that conviction.

Pray for our government officials as they face these hard decisions. Pray that they would be led in wisdom and compassion.

4. Wrestle to Understand your Brother and Sister

I talked to a family member last night who has a different opinion about this situation than I do, and you know what? It calmed me down considerably. He challenged me with some hard questions that I could not answer. The issue became a little less black and white.

It didn't change my mind, but it did take the air out of my self-righteous indignation.

God desires unity. So strongly.

"I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." John 17.20-21

Let us not forsake the Gospel.

I believe it is possible that Christians can be unified in the face of such a heated and emotional debate. Because my hope is in the Great Redeemer. I believe that the Lord can and will bring an end to all this mess. It is why we can stand up in a situation like this and say, "This is atrocious, but it is not the end. This is evil, but it is not the victor."

We know the end of the story, Christians, let us now act like it.

Have mercy, Lord Jesus. We need you now more than ever.


Baby Steps to Being an Adult

Last year I sat down with Kyle at the beginning of Spring Break and we did our taxes. Here are a few observations about that last sentence:

1. We are in our late twenties, don't have kids that are school age, yet Spring Break is still a thing in our annual calendar. #collegeministry

2. We spent the majority of that week catching up on life management tasks (like taxes) because we have lives that need managing. 

There is a tension in being around college students most of the time, but definitely not being a college student. It makes life different for me and Kyle in a lot of ways, and most of those ways I enjoy. 

One of the things that I don't enjoy is being reminded that I am an adult, and no longer in college. Like having this exchange with a student: 

Student: "Oh man, I woke up sooo early this morning, but it was good because I was able to clean my entire apartment and run a bunch of errands." 

Me: "That's cool! (Keeping the jealousy out of my voice - but failing to keep it out of my heart - when thinking about an entire morning of unhindered productive time.) How early did you have to wake up?"

Student: "9.30." 

Me: ........

Now, of course, many students do wake up early, and waking up early is not the only sign of adulthood, but things like this happen and make you realize, "We live a very different life." 

So I have these moments a lot, moments where I am reminded that I have moved on from college, and am an adult that has to do things. 

Also, in full disclosure, I get easily overwhelmed, so transitioning to adulthood was a lot like ripping off a bandaid that you have ignored for so long that it hurts way worse than it should have, and leaves behind that weird sticky residue that takes awhile to fall off. (That weird sticky residue being my adolescence, in this analogy.) 

However, there has been marked progress in many different areas, and I am going to share a few just in case you, like me, are trying to figure out how to be responsible. 

1. I wake up before my kids now. 

I don't even think I need to be tentative about this. Unequivocally, across the board, waking up before your kids is a thing that people do who don't want to feel like they were steamrolled by 8.15 in the morning. (There is the caveat that this rule doesn't apply to those with newborns or a child who wakes up multiple times a night because of sickness or inherent depravity.) 

My mornings affect my whole day. If I have a bad morning, my tendency is to hate-spiral into procrastination, short-tempered outbursts, and a lot of TV watching for my kids (okay, and myself). If I have a good morning, I am inspiring to be around: clean house, homemade meals, and the tinkling laughter of my children floats through my house on the wings of praise and worship music. 

Seriously, mornings really set the tone for our family. Instead of begrudgingly arising to hungry kids with soaked, overnight diapers, I asked Jesus to please wake me up earlier so that I could get a grip on my life. When - over the next week after this desperate prayer - I woke up sans alarm clock and way earlier than usual, I took this as a sign. 

Now I get up, make coffee, get dressed, spend some time with Jesus, take a moment to look at my planner, make my bed, and even take a few minutes to increase the adult factor and skim the news

"What! You must wake up at like 5 am to accomplish all of this!" 

No, I don't, because when you don't have children frolicking amongst your legs, you can get so much stuff done in a shocking amount of time. 

2. I developed a cleaning schedule. 

This may be specific to those who are the primary caretakers of their children and/or homes, but for several years figuring out how to do my job (read: keep our house running) was extremely difficult. 

I thrive in structure and routine, but I hate mundane work. I am exponentially more relaxed and at peace in a clean environment, but I hate cleaning. Do you see the problem here? 

I would generally wait until something in our house got really dirty and then rage clean it. The problem was I could *feel* the dirt in the interim time periods. Managing a home involves a lot of repetitive tasks. There are precious few items that you can cross off your to do list and think, "Ahhh. I'll never have to do that again!" This drove me absolutely insane for the longest time. Also, every chore took about four days because I would let it get pretty dirty and because I'm dramatic. 

Finally - after reading every mommy blog on the planet - I knew what I had to do. 

First, I had to admit to myself and the world that laundry was going to happen every day. There was no denying it. Just like cooking and dishes, laundry is an every day chore. 

Second, I had to break up the cleaning jobs so that I didn't hate them as much. I hate bathrooms the worst, so I broke up all the tasks that have to do with cleaning bathrooms over THREE DAYS, so that I don't have to deal with it for that long. 

Third, I had to be reasonable and realize that I can't do a giant chore every day, some days our schedule is crazy because of my part-time job (hi, ministry) and so I saved light chores for those days. 

Here is a general rundown of how this works: 

Daily: One load of laundry, dishes, spot sweep, wipe down kitchen counters and table, pick up clutter, throw all of the kids toys into their room right before bed... pretty basic stuff. 

Monday: Dusting & Decluttering 

Tuesday: Thorough Sweep & Mop floors. This one actually rotates. One week I'll sweep and mop the bathrooms, the next I'll do the hallways and the dining room. I try to do the kitchen every week. And sometimes, I don't mop and just do a really thorough sweeping job. And sometimes, I don't do it at all.

Wednesday: Vacuum. Again, I try to vacuum all the bedrooms, but if I don't have time I'll just hit the main living areas. 

Thursday: Clean Surfaces. By this I mean: bathroom counters, kitchen counters, mirrors, windows, kitchen appliances, etc. You may notice a pattern here but, I don't do all of these every week. But it's pretty easy to spray and wipe, so I get to at least a few. 

Friday: Tubs & Toilets. Self-explanatory. 

Saturday: Our sabbath - no cleaning or laundry or anything. We use paper plates and I cook as little as humanly possible. 

Sunday: Maybe do some laundry, but try to keep this day low key as well, usually we have a lot of meetings and ministry responsibilities on this day. 

3. I use a planner. 

It is insane how organized you have to be to manage a house, and we don't even have a big one. For you Downton Abbey fans out there, you may wonder, "What does Hughes actually do, besides bailing out the maids and crushing on Carson?" A LOT, okay? A WHOLE LOT. 

A planner has been a huge help, and I use a paper planner because writing things down cements them into my head. My to-do list, appointments, meetings, etc. It's been a life-saver. 

These are the ways I have been adulting lately, and I've noticed an increased amount of steadiness and peace in our home. 

My mother-in-law once told me that it took her about five years of full-time stay-at-home management before she got the hang of it. This comforted me inexplicably. I've been doing it for almost three and a half, and still haven't figured out how to schedule doctors and dentist appointments for Kyle and I, but I have figured out how to keep my house from eating all of us alive... so it's a work in progress.

Any epiphanies you've had about how to be an adult? Please share! (And understand that I will likely steal it for my own life.)




Favorite Things Update

Both of my children are covered in yogurt and currently fighting over Legos, so I naturally decided this was an excellent time to write a blog post - since I couldn't have found a more convenient time in the last four months.

I wanted to do a brief update in the form of a "Favorite Things" list. 

Favorite Stage of Development: 

Zeke has been potty trained for a few months now. Hallelujah. Well, day-trained. Since Kyle and I "decided" to have children twenty-one months apart, the name of our parenting game during this season is: sustainability. So Zeke is an underwear by day, diapers by night kind of kid. So far he's been doing great, and I am beginning to think night-training will not be the hellish experience I imagined it to be. #fingerscrossed

As of a few months ago, Evie is no longer nursing. Now, for the first time in almost four years, I am neither pregnant nor breastfeeding. 

The first few weeks after Evie weaned I definitely drank all the caffeine in site. (Not really, but close.) Since then I have simmered down, and now have settled to a sincere appreciation for a lot of small things that I did not appreciate before pregnancy and breastfeeding. A lot more of life has moved from the "personal rights" column to the "privileges" column in my mind. I think this has made me a more pleasant person to be around, as a whole.

Also being able to drink two cups of coffee in a day... that makes me more pleasant too.

Favorite TV Show: 

Parenthood. We are on Season 5 and I'm sort of done with feeling the gamut of my emotional range every episode. But I can't stop watching it. Neither can Kyle. I have never cried while watching a TV show, but this one makes me cry regularly. I'm usually one of those, "Real life is hard enough, why watch shows that make me think about how hard real life is?" people, but this one keeps me coming back. The only downside is that Lauren Graham's character (who most know as the beloved Lorelei Gilmore) is 99% obnoxious, but I guess that's what happens when you've played a character on a previous TV show that was amazing.  

Favorite Books: 

I recently finished Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat, which was hilarious. Actually I listened to it, which I think may have made it better because Gaffigan narrates it and I enjoy his comedic timing. Some of it was repeats from the stand-up shows he's done, but most of it was new to me. 

I also just listened to (I've been on an audiobook kick lately) Jen Hatmaker's For The Love. I've been stalking reading her blog for a few years now, and I'm a fan. The best way to describe it is a collection of essays about life and faith. She's funny. Like real funny. Like the taking a chapter to tweet out your life pre-social media kind of funny. 

Favorite Podcasts: 

I think I've just realized that listening to people talk while I'm doing laundry/dishes/making dinner/etc is a thing for me. Please don't hate me, but I've come to the conclusion that music isn't my thing. It just isn't. I enjoy it sometimes, but usually when there's a really specific purpose to it. Like a good cinematic score, or a long road trip, or worship, or a concert, or needing something loud and full of energy when I work out...but it is not something that I particularly like having on in the background all the time. 

I like listening to people talk though? 

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History and Things You Missed in History Class, I'm sure you see the theme there. I've really missed studying history since graduating, and these fill in the gap a bit. 

I also listen to Matt Chandler's sermon podcast and Timothy Keller's. By and large they're my favorite teachers right now. 

Favorite Thing to Cook: 

Recently, I have been cooking the business out of some breakfast tacos. All the time, breakfast tacos. 

But specifically with some homemade salsa, and tortillas that you cook? bake? pan-bake? I don't know. They come in the form of raw dough circles, but since you prepare them immediately before you eat your taco they wind up tasting SO GOOD AND WARM AND FRESH. And I pretend they're healthier even though that is not grounded in facts of any kind.  

Favorite Thing to Look Forward To: 

My little sister having her baby boy in November! (I am going to cry so much.)

One of our closest friend couples completing their YEARS long adoption journey! (SO MUCH TEARS.)

Our church plant team FINALLY beginning to regularly meet this week as a homegroup. (I am not going to cry, but I am going to make this group of people play obnoxious party games with me.) 

Favorite Workout: 

You guys, I am taking a cardio dance class. I know. I KNOW. Can I just explain to people who don't know me that this is the most ridiculous thing ever? But I'm doing it, and I love it, and it is weird. This is probably the most consistently I've worked out and still enjoyed it. A few months ago Kyle and I went biking around his parents house, and I beat him to our destination, legitimately. 

My husband is one of those people that is always in shape. Just, permanently... I don't get it. When I had a rare moment of being in better shape than him, it was a deep personal victory. 

This went away after he played soccer for like, three weeks, but it still happened.

Other than that, Kyle and I went to a marriage conference a few weeks ago and it was amazing. It contained a lot of deep heart things that both of us are still processing. Things that I'd love to write and write and write and write about, but I'll have to wait because it would be a book, or at least one of those posts that you keep scrolling and scrolling and think, "Will this never end?" kind of like this one is sort of becoming.

Much Grace,