The Shepherd’s Sword: A Christmas Mini-Series

The Shepherd’s Sword

by Leslie Crouse

…continued from The Shepherd.

Belial had not been informed of Heaven’s plan. But Darkness heard the angel’s announcement. All of creation did. He quickly rallied the powers of Darkness for a counter attack. If it was war Heaven wanted, war it would get. This invasion was not to be tolerated. Darkness would not release its hold on earth so easily and this shepherd with his spindly sword was standing in his way.

~~~~

Shammah took his hand off the door handle. Glanced to the inn. Did no one else sense the Darkness pressing in? Were they all sleeping peacefully while Darkness invaded their city? Jehovah! I am no soldier! A lion or bear here and there, but never this! And why the sword? It’s useless against such… things! Another shepherd, in another time, with another inadequate weapon. The irony.

Or was it? What had David done? Then, like a song on the wind an idea formed. Shammah thrust the sword tip into the ground. Not wishing to attract the attention of the Roman soldiers around the corner, he began to speak in a barely audible voice:

I come in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel… the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s.

Menacing snarls rose from all around him as they paused in their approach. But it did not last. Darkness wanted the baby inside. Shammah dragged his sword tip through the sandy dirt leaving a line behind him as he spoke aloud the only words his mind could form.

” ‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...’ ”

Shammah rounded the first corner of the stable and proceeded toward the back as the guttural sounds grew in number. Muscles solid with tension, Shammah punctuated each step with the words scrolling through his mind:

“…you will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness…

He turned the third corner of the stable. Almost there. One shadow gnashed his fangs and Shammah’s heart crashed into his ribs. A rancid odor overpowered his thoughts for a moment as he locked eyes with those that glowed red.

“…For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways…”

Shammah was finishing the last words of the psalm just as he was completing the circle around the stable. Lifting the tip of his sword from the sand he noticed a stiff wind began to blow. Over the growls and snarls he heard the ringing of a multitude of swords being unsheathed. Deadly silence reigned for the span of a heartbeat.

Then, a bone-shattering thunder crashed and the earth shook with the force of it. Shammah collapsed with exhaustion.

~~~~

Thwarted! Belial snarled at his defeat. He would come again. Later. But next time he would use men. Men were proud and pride was his greatest weapon. “Yes,” he hissed. Perhaps that buffoon sitting on the throne would be useful. He was already a promising vessel of Darkness. As his plan formed a low, guttural sound escaped into the night. But for now, he would remind that shepherd of his worth. Belial signaled to his servant Rejection and nodded to the sleeping shepherd.

~~~~

Shammah fell into a deep sleep. He floated above as he watched his father approach an infant. Himself he perceived. Eli laid his hand on Shammah’s head and said, “Son, I love you, but from this day forward I cannot look at you for all of my sorrows are upon your head.” Shammah awakened to the familiar weight bearing down on his soul. He sat up rubbing his beard and focused on a huge man who whistled as he went about his morning chores.

“Shalom, my friend! What a glorious morning! Such a silent, holy night last night. Wouldn’t you say? Don’t believe I ever slept better. May write a song about it.” The man laughed with his entire body it seemed. “My name is Hananiah and I am the innkeeper here. Are you ready to meet the Savior of the world? Is that why you have come?”

Shammah sat staring at the jovial man when the other shepherds appeared. Shammah blinked. Did last night happen? Shammah looked around for confirmation and saw it. The line in the sand. He unsheathed his sword and looked at the newly engraved words, THE BATTLE IS THE LORDS. He turned it over. WORD OF GOD glinted in the morning light. Chills spread over his arms and legs making every hair stand on end.

“Best not let the Romans see that sword. May get the wrong idea. Come!” Hananiah led the way to the stable undaunted by Shammah’s mute astonishment.

A baby’s cry penetrated his heavy thoughts as he followed Hananiah in. Finally! The stable he had set out for hours ago. Shammah approached the couple and the woman held out the baby to him. “His name is Jesus.” she said with a smile.

Shammah looked into the eyes of baby Jesus and felt a deeper connection with this child than any other person before. A tear escaped. He could not explain it, but somehow he knew he was looking into the face of another scapegoat.

Baby Jesus’ tiny hand gripped his thumb and in that moment, Shammah wept. Peace flooded his soul. Where darkness had been, light now penetrated every corner and the burdens he had carried for a lifetime were gone.

Then he wept for the boy. He understood what this boy would face. This boy would grow to be a man of many of sorrows. Rejected by men. Acquainted with grief. This tiny boy would trade his peace for the weight of another’s sin and sorrow. Would there also come a day when his father cannot bear to look him and forsakes him as well? As Shammah wept, a tear slipped down the young woman’s face.

Who was this baby? Why had Darkness attacked so forcefully? Would he set the captives of Darkness free too? “Good news of great joy that will be for all people,” the angel had said. “…On earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” Was God pleased with Shammah? Is faith all that was needed? It was all so much to take in.

Of this he was certain: never had he felt such light. Love, peace and joy flooded his heart. Overwhelmed, Shammah bowed his head and worshipped.

~~~~~

Thank you for reading my Christmas Mini-Series! If you like what you read please share the stories with your friends! To continue reading, look for Mary’s Hiding Place next!

-Leslie

The Shepherd: A Christmas Mini-Series

The Shepherd

by Leslie Crouse

…continued from The Innkeeper’s Wife.

Shammah slid loaves of bread, raisin cakes and dried figs into his pack. Strapping on his canteen and bed roll he was almost ready. He just needed his staff, his rod and his sword. He did not usually carry a sword, but he had a niggling feeling he would need it. Judea was treacherous.

This week they would move the flocks into the Judean mountains near Bethlehem. David’s home town. He had been a shepherd too. Shammah smiled to himself. Perhaps I could learn to master the sling like David. Then Father may take notice.

Eli, his father, stared at the fire refusing to look up. Shammah informed him he was leaving and was granted no more than a grunt in response. Shammah was a blight on the family. Death and ruination had visited them the day he was born and Father had never forgotten.

Father lost everything when the caravan had been raided. After limping home with only his life spared he discovered his wife had died in childbirth as well. Two blows in the span of one day. Grief was indelibly printed on the fabric of their family.

Father held Shammah personally responsible. Ruin he had named him. From the moment he entered the world Shammah had become the family scapegoat bearing the grief, sorrow and sin of others. Thus, father had rejected him and assigned him to shepherding duties. Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of trouble.

Shammah did not mind. He was no one’s prize. Shepherding was a dirty business, but he liked to use the oil found on the wool for his beard. He smelled like an animal, but the sheep liked him. Followed him. Knew his voice. Trusted him without question. And he liked the solitude. Better the Judean mountains with their wild animals than my cold father. Resolute in his decision, Shammah refused to look back at the campfire. It was time to move out.

Five days later, Shammah and the other shepherds found what they had been searching for. Green pastures. Quiet waters gliding through the ravines sourced from the higher mountain regions. It had been a grueling journey and everyone was ready to find rest in the meadows. It was no wonder David wrote psalms of worship here. Truly, these remote places restored the soul and brought one closer to Jehovah.

Father had not been a man of faith. But Rachel, their aged servant who raised him, had taught him the words of Jehovah. As a boy, Shammah had hungered for the steadfast love of a father described in the sacred scriptures. As a man, he was not convinced of the reality. But, out here he felt closer to the Presence of Jehovah. Less distraction.

As evening drew near one of the shepherd boys began to play his flute. Music quieted the sheep and the soul while also keeping predators at bay. It was Shammah’s favorite time. In honor of the city of David, the boy was playing one of David’s psalms. Or, at least it sounded like one of David’s.

Shammah gazed at the unusually bright stars and began humming along trying to remember the words:

“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!”

He shut his eyes and hummed the verses he did not remember and picked up again at the end:

“He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for…

The reedy notes abruptly ceased and Shammah opened his eyes. A giant stood before him! He was so big and shone so bright they all cowered in unmanly fear. And then he spoke:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” As suddenly as he appeared with the message he was gone.

Then, a cacophony of singing erupted like he had never heard before. All the heavens. Praise from the highest heights. All his angels. All the hosts. All the shining stars. Jehovah’s word is true! Shammah marveled. The horn of salvation! He is here? Tonight?

Bursting with excitement, Shammah shouted, “We must go see!” But no one answered him. The others lay on the ground, passed out with fear. He did not blame them, but would not wait. He started running down the path to Bethlehem when he forgot his sword. Why did he care?! He wouldn’t need it! Ah! It is like my feet are frozen to the ground! I must get it first.

Forty minutes later Shammah began his descent into the far side of the city. That was when he heard it. A feral, blood-chilling snarl. Judean lions? So close to the city? Hand on his sword he peered into the darkness and once his eyes focused, he froze. Not. Lions. Shammah looked to the hills again. What once had been covered in angels’ songs of praise now had writhing, dark figures coming from all directions slinking toward the stable built into the hillside.

Nearby were two pairs of red, glowing eyes intent upon the stable door. In the light of the moon Shammah saw the glint of unnaturally long fangs. A musky, unclean smell permeated the suddenly very cold air. At the soft cry of a baby from inside, righteous anger welled up within Shammah. He planted his feet and drew his sword.

…to be continued as The Shepherd’s Sword on December 14, 2020.

All quotes taken from The ESV Bible by Crossway Publishers.

The Innkeeper’s Wife: A Christmas Mini-Series

The Innkeeper’s Wife

by Leslie Crouse

…continued from The Innkeeper.

“That MAN! What was he thinking?!” Outside Evie took a deep breath and then another. She knew what Hananiah had been thinking. That infuriating, practical, wonderful man of hers was thinking of her. She saw that look in his eye at dinner. For twenty, long years they had weathered barrenness together but the pain never really lost its edge. When had her pain become so crippling that her husband felt he needed to protect her even at the cost of compassion?

Eve. What had her parents been thinking? Eve meant life. Mother of the living. Thirty-seven years with nothing to show but two heartbreaking miscarriages. Her name added irony to her pain. Expectations never met. A daily reminder of shriveled dreams. But not tonight. She refused to be swallowed up by self-pity. El Roi saw her. Heard her. She and Hananiah had the LORD and each other. Besides, tonight was not about her. And what better way to step out from one’s own pain than by serving another?

Evie looked up at the stars. She always felt closer to the God of Israel when she saw them. Strange. Tonight the stars looked extraordinarily bright. Glorious even. Like they were singing. Though the ever present pain remained a powerful peace entered her soul.

Quietly she slipped toward the barn door and listened. The tell-tale sound of a tiny mewling cry escalated into gusty wails that only a newborn could make. Time to move. She was none too early with these cloths. At least they were clean! She held back a smile at the look on Hananiah’s face when she ripped them up. Serves him right for putting business before compassion.

The young man looked up at her, wild eyed with hair sticking up in every direction. Relief flooding his face, he ran to her and said “I have no idea how to do this! I have wrapped him up four times but his arms keep escaping! Every time he just screams louder and louder.”

Evie smiled. This she could do. Gently she approached the young girl, who was trembling from exhaustion. Compassion overwhelmed her. Vaguely she heard the barn door open and close as Hananiah sheepishly came in with more hot water, blankets and a earthen bowl of warm broth for the young woman. He flicked a glance at Evie as he approached. His face guarded, unsure of where they stood at the moment. Evie knew he would nurse his pride for a bit, but he was a good sort and she loved him.

Finishing a perfect swaddle she glanced up at Hananiah and smiled as a peace offering. Surveying her handy work and the now content baby, she picked up the sweet boy and with Joseph’s permission and cooed to him. She walked over to Hananiah and together they looked into the most amazing dark, grey eyes they had ever seen.  

As she locked eyes with the infant, something broke inside of her. A flood of tears. Sobbing she could feel the healing take place. Deep within her heart all the names she had been called, the accusations that had been launched, the scars she had lived with for so long melted powerless. A warmth began to grow inside her. Beginning in her belly, the heat spread like a fire throughout her entire body. Shaking with the power she felt surging through her, she handed the little boy to Hananiah who was also weeping – with joy it seemed.

Eagerly he took the baby. Holding him high, laughing and weeping at the same time. A glow she had never seen in him shone from his eyes. In this singular moment, she saw Hananiah changed. The anger and bitterness he tried so hard to hide was gone. Replaced with unspeakable joy. Peace. In awe, Hananiah again looked into the face of this little child and Evie knew that he knew. They glanced at each other and again at the baby. It made no sense, but with absolute certainty Evie knew this tiny, red face was the face of God.

Sensitive to the sacred moment taking place between man and wife, Joseph gently reached for the child and said, “His name is Joshua. Or – Jesus, as Caesar’s register will say. For he will save us from our sin.”

Evie watched Joseph as he laid the boy in a feeding trough beside Mary so that he could spoon feed the broth to her. Jesus. What miracles had just taken place! Marveling at the baby in the trough, and the heat that still vibrated through her body, Evie turned to Hananiah as he put his arm around her and led her back to the house.

When they entered all was still. The guests had retired and the lamps burned low. Had hours passed? As they prepared for bed on this silent, holy night they discussed in excited whispers all they had witnessed. Each had experienced the overwhelming power of God’s love when they held little Jesus.

“How can the full strength of God’s love dwell in a tiny baby?” Hananiah asked.

“And how God’s love burns like fire! I am hot all over.” Evie said excitedly while rubbing her tingling fingertips. Hananiah laughed with her.

“It is a miracle! I could not decide if I wanted to shout for joy or fall to my knees in worship! Evie, there is immeasurable treasure in our stable right now. Why us? Why our stable? I was prepared to move them inside, but somehow, I sensed that is where El Shaddai wanted them.” Hananiah said.

That night, Hananiah and Evie fell asleep as he held her close. A once brokenhearted couple basking in God’s overwhelming love.

Almost one year later…

Evie smiled at the sound of her baby’s cries. Hananiah’s eyes were so full of pride and joy as he looked at his first born and then Evie. In a look they shared their remembrance of Jesus, the child who changed their world with one powerful encounter of love. Then Hananiah addressed their family and friends saying, “His name is Samuel because the LORD God has heard.”

…continue reading my Christmas Mini-Series with The Shepherd on December 14, 2020.

The Innkeeper: A Christmas Mini-Series

The Innkeeper

by Leslie Crouse

Hananiah sat amidst the noisy dinner guests watching them fight over the last of Evie’s famous challah bread. His wife was the best cook in Bethlehem and he was big enough to prove it. Evie’s heart was even bigger. He watched her serve their guests with that soft smile and sparkling eyes. After twenty years together, he loved her deeper than he could have imagined.

Over the din he heard, “Where are your children? I do not believe I have seen them running around here with my own.” He cringed and glanced at his wife Evie. Silence fell in the room as Hananiah watched a flood of sorrow overtake Evie’s eyes before she nodded at him and ducked into the kitchen.

He cleared the lump forming in his throat at the sight of his wife’s pain and answered, “The LORD will bless us in His time.” This was no new question. Small talk always led this direction and over the years Evie had learned to let him answer while she avoided the knowing looks.

That quick flash of pain in her eyes was the only indication of their deep sorrow. Does not God hear their cry? Does he not see what a wonderful mother she would make? Anger fought to fill his heart but he pushed it back down. God knew best. Over the years Evie had not hardened her heart and he would honor her by doing the same.

God had blessed them in so many ways and he was not ungrateful. Having been born here, they did not need to travel during this ridiculous census. Hananiah and Evie had been able to stay put and collect the income brought on by Caesar’s decree. Pompous man. If he were God fearing he would know strength is not found in numbers but in the name of El Shaddai. Ah! He must shake this dismal mood or his guests would suffer for it.

At the sound of a knock or, rather a bang on the door, Hananiah began the task of standing up. Difficult after another of Evie’s fine meals. He kissed her cheek as he walked by and whispered something in her ear that made her smile and swat his arm.

Outside stood a young man wringing his hands. “Shalom! Sir, I beg of you, I must find a place to stay tonight. My wife’s pains have begun and I fear we do not have long. I have asked everywhere. Please say there is a place for us.” Hananiah looked at the woman and took a double take. Wife? This was a mere girl! Something did not seem right here. Why can Evie and he not find joy in children while this undeserving couple did? LORD! It is not right! Well, whatever she was, clearly she was in labor.

Hananiah gritted his teeth. He wanted help, but the inn had been full for days and there was no way he would ask a family to leave. Refunds were impossible. They had already spent the rental income on linens, supplies and fresh grain for the animals. With town as busy as it was, food and supplies were scarce and greedy men had raised prices. Again.

The city square was no place for a woman to give birth. Where could they go? He must think.

“Shalom my friend. I see you are in need of… much.” He began leading them to the stable but the young woman paused to brace herself – one hand against the wall and another wrapped around her large belly – suppressing a low groan. She was embarrassed and obviously this was her first or she would have been better prepared.

Where was her mother? Maid? He set them up in the stable with fresh water for them as well as their animals and told them he would return shortly with blankets and food. It was the least he could do. Wasn’t it?

As he walked back toward the inn he heard another of her cries and the sound launched him back in time to when his baby sister was born. He was the second son of nine and had listened to births before.

He supposed he could let them have Evie and his room. It was in the back, separate from the others. But what a noisy business! Messy too. No. I will not do that to Evie. I will not make Evie watch a girl give birth in her own bed and then clean up after her too. Besides, if the other guests are disturbed our inn will always be remembered as such and destroy any future business. It is decided then. The barn it is. Evie would not approve but he would do what he must. His wife and his business needed to be priority.

Another cry pierced the night pulling him from his searing conscience and justifications.  The more he thought about it the more urgent the girl’s need became. This girl needs a midwife now! Where is that servant boy?

“Jacob, go get the midwife and bring her to the stable as fast as you can!” Hananiah yelled.

“But Sir! Grandmother Anna left for her hometown day before last. She isn’t – ” Jacob said.

“Then knock on every door and find one! We have no time!” Hananiah interrupted. At the rate she was going that baby may be here before the boy made it back. He watched Jacob, race down the dusty street. Truly, at this point any midwife would do. Any experienced mother.

Bitterness welled up again. Evie would not hesitate to help but she did not have the knowledge needed. He must tell her about the situation though. Maybe he could put it off until after the baby was born. She had her hands full with their guests. And if the guests caught wind that couple would never get any privacy.

“HANANIAH BEN JOHN! What do you think you are DOING? You told that poor girl to give birth in a barn? A BARN!” Fists planted on her hips, Eve skewered him with that fiery look of hers that withers every argument. She was on a war path now and was coming straight for him.

He had known she would not approve, but he had done the only thing he could. Right? That Jacob and his big mouth! What was done was done and right now they did not have time to argue.

“Eve, you must know given everything going on this was the best option. I will not argue with you about it. There is too much to do.” Eve whirled away in a fury. She began slamming open cupboards and ripping out all the brand new linens he had just purchased for their guests. He turned to get fresh water when he heard a ripping sound and his eyes grew round.

“Evie!” Hananiah’s face blanched as Eve ruthlessly tore their new linens to shreds. Never had he seen her so angry. It gave him pause. He turned his back and took a deep breath searching his heart one more time. Why had the barn seemed like such a good idea again? It is much too dirty for a woman giving birth. He knew that!

Before he could remember his arguments, His shame was punctuated by a loud smack as Eve stormed out the kitchen door arms full of the most expensive rags he had ever seen.

…Continue reading my new Christmas Mini-series with The Innkeeper’s Wife on December 11, 2020.

Why We Don’t Celebrate Halloween

This is a question I am asked often so I decided to share before feelings on this subject run high in the Fall. As Christians, there are several reasons our family does not celebrate Halloween.

Light and Darkness

Every Fall I find myself sitting around a table discussing a shared love: God’s Word. New Christians and long time believers inevitably discuss Halloween. Always I watch the new believer sit in shock as someone speaks about their Halloween plans. The question always arises: “You celebrate Halloween? I thought Christians didn’t do that?” Nervous looks pass around the table as people feel called out. It’s a perfectly viable question. What friendship does light have with darkness? Can light and darkness come together one day a year to celebrate evil? The new believer tries to reconcile Halloween: evil, death, fear, murder, mutilation and sexual deviance with their new faith: God’s love, truth, redemption, gentleness, peace and light.

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Satan? – 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

Discernment

It is no lie that discerning truth is becoming harder in today’s world. We live in a culture that celebrates the many shades of grey. Yet, it is my job as a Christian to discern light from darkness, truth from lie, good from evil and be the arrow that points people to God. Halloween asks me to build a friendship with the unholy that will hinder my discernment and befuddle my purpose.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9 … “[Priests] are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” – Ezekiel 44:23

Foothold or Stranglehold?

Satan plays dirty. We are warned not to give him a foothold in our life. He kicks us when we are down and I have seen how ruthlessly he goes after our children. We know he will always steal, kill and/or destroy. No way will I throw open the door to my family with Halloween decorations and horror movies. Fear is a high ranking spirit in the kingdom of darkness and the devastation is more subtle than most suspect. As Christians Brian and I are charged to guard our hearts and minds. As parents we are on the front lines when it comes to protecting the lives, hearts and minds of our children.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23

FoMO

Speaking of fear, many participate in Halloween because they fear their kids will rebel later if they miss out. First, I do not live by a spirit of fear nor do I make my decisions out of fear. Some of the worst decisions sprout from FOMO or the “fear of missing out.” It is my goal to teach my children how to overcome this weakness of human nature and not be a slave to fear – of any kind. My kids love dressing up in costume. We have a huge bin of costumes they wear routinely. No missing out there. They also receive inordinate amounts of candy at what seems like every holiday that rolls around (much to my chagrin). No missing out there either. My children are not missing out. And when they are old enough to make these choices for themselves, every child will have a spirit that is honed with the sensitivity they need to discern.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ – Phillippians 1:9-10

A Witness for Christ

I have more honest conversations with people about why we do not celebrate Halloween than at any other time of year. It is the mark of Christ that separates us from the world. Frankly speaking, I find nothing in Halloween worthy of my time, honor, worship, attention, money or recognition. We believe in life, truth, hope, forgiveness, healing, deliverance and all things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and noble. We do things that ignite God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Sometimes it is hard for children to miss a party, but teaching them how to stand apart from the crowd is a powerful lesson I believe all children need. Christ will be their own decision, but in any circumstance they need not ever be a victim of group think. It is a powerful gift for a child to grow up knowing what it looks like to stand firm in convictions. If you seek an opportunity to be a witness to the love of God, I urge you to separate yourself from the world. Be ready with an answer when they ask why.

Honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. – 1 Peter 3:15-17 (emphasis added)

Planting Seeds

I have always loved flowers, and I would open a flower shop if it meant I didn’t need to work every holiday.

Today Grace, Ruth, Gabe and I planted some seeds. I prefer perennials because I love to see them grow and multiply each year. They are such a beautiful surprise when the chill of winter wears off and my flowers pop up.

So, today after homeschool – last week woo hoo!! – we trotted around the yard finding sunny spots where Daddy wouldn’t weed-eat them down. (It’s okay Babe, I forgive you for weed-eating my lilies of the valley.) In my head, I envision mounting a blue bird house and placing it in the middle of my Lupine patch. How fun!        …for the cats.

A little sun, soil, water, time and prayer will tell the tale. What was today’s choice seeds? Delphiniums and Lupines. They are similar, but the Lupine you see up top and the Delphiniums are depicted below. Personally, I like to buy the seeds because they are cheaper and we get to watch them grow. Besides, the process adds weight to our science lessons.

Random Thoughts with Leslie

New Phase

I cannot believe how this family has changed. I have a friend who just had a baby, and she made the comment “I know you are way past this stage, but I still think it’s fun to see.” Gosh! Am I? Have I crossed over that line, where I am officially past that baby stage? Seems surreal to think so. But I don’t know, I do still need concealer. And someone told me that you know the baby phase is over when you stop using concealer.

However, my two youngest turned 4 this month!! How did that happen? They are obsessed with princesses, unicorns and fluffy skirts of every kind. They start preschool in the Fall and are such big girls now. Looking back at this last year, when they were three, it has been my favorite so far. All the snuggles, all those moments that I got them to myself before they run off to school and life speeds up to a blur again.

Now that I think about it, life was a complete blur (hello name of my blog!) for so long. Five solid years full of: 3 cross-country moves, pregnancies, 5 babies being born, houses being bought and sold, jobs being changed, endless renovations. It’s really no wonder life didn’t slow down until we landed here and the older kids began school. I have a feeling this slower pace is what allowed me to cherish my time with them more. And in some ways I sense that our previous busy-ness prevented me from cherishing that 3-year old stage with the other kids. Sorry Esther, Gabriel and Micah.

New Schedule

Now, COVID19 has effected its own changes to life. My slower pace is even slower and if I were honest I may be enjoying this a little bit too much. But, I am an unapologetic, introverted homebody. My friends know it. I know it. My husband knows it. When life slammed to a halt 6 weeks ago I may have done a jig in my brain in terms of my own schedule being cleared. Well, I did after 3 weeks of adjusting to zero personal space.

I do miss my friends though. Not one to rely on social media, I miss their faces in real time. It is possible I may be guilty of popping my minivan trunk once a week in random parking lots and partaking in literal tailgate parties with a coffee in my hand. Stop your hateful thoughts. We stay 10 feet apart in open air. It’s a throw back to wagon days. Except we circle the vans instead.

Family Sports

What have we done to occupy ourselves? Taken a lot of walks in the woods. Until I lost half the kids and almost called the police. Apparently they are part homing pigeon. When I finally committed to calling in the authorities I found them pilfering through an intended Easter package on the front porch. Guess my lesson on “How to get home if you are lost in the woods: Landmarks” was better than I thought and they decided to put it into practice instead of waiting on their slower siblings. We haven’t been on a walk in the woods again, but we did get some pigs to occupy our old chicken coop and that has been it’s own sport of sorts.

Pencils

Homeschooling is for rock stars. It never ceases to amaze me how fast I can bring my children to tears over pencils. But really, I don’t want the pointy end waving around my face. I just don’t. And why do we use the wooden ones? Why not mechanical? Sharpening them has become one of those homeschool side hustles I need power tools for.

Small and Large Victories

And Gabe and Micah gave their hearts to the Lord! Esther, Gabriel and Micah were all baptized on Easter morning right here in our creek. So special. Best Easter ever. These days at home have been trying, but this up close and personal approach to life has opened so many doors to amazing conversations and life-changing decisions. Thank you Lord for this moment to refocus as a family.

Continued Changes due to Coronavirus

I cooked a lot before, now even more. It astounds me how much food the kids go through now that they are home all day long. Once or twice a week we support a locally owned business by ordering dinner. But since we are not allowed to go in, they deliver it curbside.

Spending more time together as a family means my community that was once outside these walls, is now entirely within these walls. This has brought us closer as a family physically and relationally, but exposed our weaknesses as well.

Since we do not go to church, we worship here in our living room. This week Gabriel accepted Christ into his heart. Esther and he are to be baptized this coming weekend – Easter weekend – in the creek. Obviously, it won’t be a big hullabaloo like before but I do think the intimacy makes it more special.

In some ways, life reminds me of our intense baby stage when my house was never clean, I rarely had time to work out or put makeup on, I lived in leggings and my mom-bun hair was washed every three or so days. It is was as uncomfortable then as it is now. However, I have become more familiar with each of my children. Strengths. Weaknesses. Preferences. I have also become more familiar with my own.

Part of me mourns the loss of time in the mornings with Grace and Ruth before they leave for school next year. Now I am fully occupied with homeschooling and they play by themselves. But, I am so grateful we are all healthy, home and together.

I really believe we will look back at this time in our lives to see this particular season of loss and disruption as a time when God pruned away our non-essentials and grew our faith, our love and our family. This is a call to fix our focus on things most important. It is a chance to know God as Provider, Prince of Peace, Healer, Comforter, and Friend. To know family as community.

I am choosing to dive in deep to this unprecedented time, when the world seems to have paused for a moment and the rush and race of life has slowed down on the home front. Praying for fresh strength to steward this season with wisdom and grace.

The Coronavirus is changing things

Outside Our Walls

It’s the beginning of April and the coronavirus has taken over the world. They have shut down schools, campuses, businesses, travel, churches. We are not allowed to meet in groups more than 10. A couple in the northeast was arrested for having a wedding. Funerals are not permitted. States have passed a “stay at home” order telling people they are not allowed to go out for non-essential things. Of course, we all define that a bit differently. Toilet paper has been missing from shelves for a month now. The CDC wants everyone to wear masks when they are in public. Doctors and hospitals have canceled “elective” surgeries (which apparently includes heart surgery?!). The stock market has plummeted. Gas is the same price it was when I got my drivers license and people get really excited about car rides.

At Home

My husband’s Reserves trips have been suspended until June. This, is a temporary respite I am grateful for as I miss him when he is gone. Since he also teaches at a local college two nights a week, he is now home more often in the evenings. This I love too. His day job as a contractor for the Department of Defense is considered “essential” to National Security so we are one of the few very blessed to be still working. Many in our tourist town are not sharing in this blessing.

We cannot go to church. We are not holding our MOPS meetings. I cannot connect with moms at school. We now do our Bible Study on a video app. Essentially, my sense of community has disappeared and everyone else’s has too.  Biblical Prayers Ministries has always been an online ministry, so that has been a source of stability in my schedule.

The kids are home from school full time. Their loving teachers post online videos. In the last week I have become a homeschooling mom. This, I always swore I would never do to my children. Not everyone is gifted in teaching children, and I am happy to salute those who are superstars in patience. However, we do what we must and I have decided to adapt to this new role and become more sensitive to my levels of patience.  I’ve no doubt the Lord has planned this as a growth spurt for me.

Usually, everyday I am grateful for the space we have living in the country. Now, it seems essential to our sanity. States have closed state and national parks to keep people from being in contact with each other and now more than ever I am thankful for the space.

While my husband personally knows people who have gotten the virus, it has yet to touch my acquaintances. At this point, in our area it seems all these changes are a prelude, like time has been suspended and we are waiting for the impact of this virus and the economy.

I pray God will grace us with the wisdom and strength to know how to love, serve and respond. Also, I pray God will grant divine revelation to the researchers, scientists, biochemists and health leaders who are seeking a cure for this virus.

A Year of Change

Today is the first day of Fall, my favorite season and the change in schedule and weather has brought me back from my blogging sabbatical. This year has been so full of life and change sometimes its best to just be still and embrace it. Which is what I did. However, I do not wish to forget so I am going to start catching up! As I remind myself from time to time, life streaks by as a blur and it is the goal of this blog to remember all the little things that make it so perfect.

Here’s a quick recap since March, all of which I will post about soon:

  • Kitchen: We finished our kitchen! After an 8 week full on kitchen renovation, I am happy to say we survived and I have the pictures to prove it!
  • The Natural Disaster: At the end of April, while my husband was on a trip (of course!) we got about 8″ of rain which flooded not just our valley but our home too.  Let’s suffice it to say I now have a streak of white in my hair and I officially look like Anna from Frozen.
  • Girls Trip: My first girls trip to Nashville, TN for my birthday!
  • Potty Trained: Everyone, it happened. I don’t know how we made it here, but we are finally out of all diapers. Which is a huge accomplishment for anyone, even more so when you consider how many this house went through. Shall we say FREEDOM?
  • First Family Vacation: Okay. This post will be full of vulnerability and lessons learned because it was pretty much a nightmare. So – no, our pictures did not make it to social media. However, we may consider selling movie rights if anyone is interested. (Making lemonade here…)
  • Anniversary: 8 Years in August! This was a different year for us as a couple for several reasons. Mainly because, this season in life tends to be demanding. Brian and I saw growth here in 2019. Growth isn’t always pleasant, but if we want our marriage to be stronger and closer it is necessary to work through all the things this season threw at us.
  • Back to School: We made it. It is always a day of tears for me but gosh I am just so proud of these kiddos!

This is all for now. It’s more of a teaser for you and an outline for me! But, I am happy to say that I am back and excited to be actively posting again. I have missed you all! Besides, what better season for you and I to reunite in than the Pumpkin Spice season?

Question for my followers: How important are the recipes to you? Do you want them in the post? Should I simply add them to the home page menu? Remove completely? Please post your thoughts below, I love to hear from you! 

Leslie