Deep Water Sanity

One of the most common comments I get about being a mother to twins (3 x over now) is, “I just don’t know how you do it!” My cliche, though honest, answer used to be, “Only by the grace of God.” I say “honest” because God has blessed me abundantly more than I deserve throughout my pregnancies and to the point where we are now. I say “cliche” because it seems like that’s what every Christian says when going through a unique or rough situation. I say “used to be” because I believe some people out there are genuinely curious as to the ins and outs of our daily lives and wonder if I have lots of extra hands around to help or if I just stick my kids in front of the TV all day or if I ever just hide in a room away from the chaos and cry. And, I’d like to be a little more open about my life and my household from now on.

So, to answer the question, “how do you do it?” I would first need to know what “it” you’re referring to. To most categories of “it,” I’d probably have to say, “I don’t.” I don’t keep the dishes washed, the laundry put away, or the toys off the floor. I usually don’t even mop or remove crayon from the walls; those are major tasks no matter if I accomplish them every day or once a week…err, month. I don’t keep my brows tweezed or my legs shaved. My husband and I don’t go on regular dates. I don’t usually have to worry about wrangling 6 children in the grocery store; my husband and I take turns going to the store and the kids also rotate so that they each have equal opportunities to get out of the house. We don’t go on vacations. I’m certainly not physically fit. Did I cover everything? I’m not saying I don’t want to do any of the above-mentioned things or that I have a grudge against anyone who does. I have to choose what’s most important to me during this temporary season of my life. I choose my kids. Discipling my children IS my priority right now.

As far as keeping my sanity, since I feel like that is the true question at hand, the honest answer is God. Or Jesus. Or the Holy Spirit. God the Father created me and my children and my circumstances. As long as I am living my life according to His will, my sanity will stay in-tact. Jesus Christ (God as man) sacrificed His life so that I could be in a relationship with God and follow His will despite my brokenness. Because I believe He lived to die for me, and I ask for His forgiveness, and I desire to follow Him, my sanity will stay in-tact. The Holy Spirit, God in me, guides my steps by slowly and quietly revealing His will and by going ahead of me to place people in my life who encourage or challenge me. When I received salvation, my body became a temple; filled with the Spirit, my sanity will stay in-tact. I absolutely know how I do it. God. Jesus. Holy Spirit.

All that said, I do believe God has granted us a level of sanity that doesn’t quit or give in. I had a nice little cry each time I found out I was pregnant; I told God, “I don’t want to do this, but Thy will be done.” Josh and I disagree on things, just like every other couple; we could not resolve any disagreements we have without Christ at the center of our marriage. (We know because we tried that before.) Our kids are very well behaved most of the time, but they are sinners just like the rest of us. They make mistakes. We correct them. We make mistakes. We apologize. When we need rest, God gives us rest. In writing, it seems simple. In reality, we face doubt, paranoia, impatience, fear, and laziness every day. Thankfully, life does come with an instruction manual: the living, breathing Word of God.

Deuteronomy 31:6  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Philippians 4:9  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Joshua 1:5  No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Joshua 1:9  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Matthew 28:19-20  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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When God Says to Let Go

Wednesday, November 21, 2012, is a day I’ll never forget. I can’t go into too many details but the day ended with my husband in handcuffs waiting for his parents to pick him up from the side of the road on I-49. Joshua has bipolar disorder. Have you ever watched Silver Linings Playbook or Infinitely Polar Bear? I can’t watch those movies without tears streaming down my face. Building and keeping relationships is extremely difficult for people like Joshua. They either block people out or push people away for fear of losing them. Satan used Joshua’s illness in a tragic attempt to end our marriage. November 21, 2012, was the day I let him go.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

When God says to let go, we may do so eagerly (out of anger) or fearfully. I was terrified. I knew I was doing the right thing, but a) I wasn’t sure what to do next and b) I was afraid he would make some terrible, unretractable mistakes. I was fearful of the unknown. Would he drink? Go to clubs? Sleep with other women? Letting my husband go, knowing he was very ill and heavily medicated, is indefinitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. To say I cried would be an understatement. That night, and for weeks to follow, I wailed and yelled… loudly. I didn’t understand. My soulmate had told me he wanted a divorce, and God was telling me just to let him go?

For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

1 Corinthians 7:14-16 ESV

I spent plenty of time crying, but I spent more time in prayer each day than I ever had. The absence of my husband was a constant reminder to pray for him. Though he had been raised in a Christian home, Josh was lost. He had all the head-knowledge of being a Christian, but he had never chosen to become a Christ-follower. The only way I would gain my husband back would be for Christ to lead him back to me. So that’s what I prayed for. I decided to get Joshua a Bible for Christmas, something easy to read because he always told me he couldn’t understand the King James Version. I bought him an English Standard Version Bible.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

Hebrew 10:23-24

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I read Paul’s Epistles from Corinthians to Philemon. I underlined everything I thought he needed to read since he was lost and he wanted a divorce. The more I prayed and read, the more I desired to pray and read–I became so hungry for God during that time. I started working as a Sonic carhop early in December, and I always arrived at work in plenty of time to pray and read God’s word. I went running several times each week, spending 30 minutes to an hour with praise music playing in my ears and flowing from my heart. It was at least a week after we separated before I heard anything from Joshua, though I had reached out to him daily (just to let him know I still loved him). He came to town to retrieve his things, but he wasn’t ready to give up his dreams.

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!

Psalm 119:28

By the time Christmas rolled around, Joshua invited me to join his family for the holiday. I asked Joshua to take the KLOVE 30-Day Challenge beginning on January 1, and he accepted. Still, he wasn’t ready, so I went back to the life I was slowly starting to build away from him. My sister was going through probably the worst battle of her life–when it rains it pours, and my whole family was hit very hard in 2012. My grandmother asked me to live with her to help with my sister’s kids. They gave me purpose during a time when I felt hopeless. We would jam out to Needtobreathe on the way to school in the morning and memorize scripture together before bed. My niece and I made Valentine’s Day cards for Joshua and mailed them to him. While my sister and her friend were at my grandmother’s house that weekend, I felt a familiar prompting from the Holy Spirit. God told me it was time to let her go, too. I reported the license plate numbers of the truck they were driving.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3 ESV

My sister was arrested on Valentine’s Day. Why would anyone be okay with their loved one being tangled up in the devil’s snares? I wanted freedom–the kind of freedom only Christ can give–for my sister and for my husband. That’s why I chose to put them in God’s hands. When people are under Satan’s reign, they don’t realize it. They are told that the circumstances they are going through are just a part of life, the hand they were dealt. I hugged my sister so tightly after the first custody court hearing and expressed how I love her children like they are my own. She hugged me tightly and told me to go back to my husband and have babies of my own. She didn’t know I had been seemingly infertile for nearly two years; she didn’t know that it was my husband who didn’t want me.

But women will be preserved trough the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

1 Timothy 2:15

A few days after Valentine’s Day, I met up with Joshua for what was supposed to be a positive and productive conversation. By the end of it, I left without my wedding bands. If he wanted his divorce, I had no use for them. He still wasn’t ready. I’ve never been a Target-lover, but somehow I found myself there browsing aisles and having sporatic meltdowns. God placed a couple from my church right there at the same Target. Not just any couple, but the very woman who I had given my previous engagement ring to when I was too nervous to face my ex-fiance. She had been through a divorce, and though somehow I knew my story wouldn’t go the way hers did, I found so much comfort in her presence and encouraging words. God takes care of his sheep.

They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…

Titus 2:4 ESV

Josh had started to enjoy KLOVE radio. They are what they say they are: positive and encouraging. Positivity and encouragment were two things Joshua needed during that time. Somehow having my wedding bands made our separation and the idea of love lost more real to him. All my prayers and obedience led up to the most crucial moment in Joshua’s life; he was driving to work when the song Lead Me by Sanctus Real played on the radio. Unable to hold back his emotions, he pulled his truck over and began to pray. He asked God’s forgiveness. He told God he would be obedient, he would give up whatever he had to, if God would save our marriage. If you read my blog titled Count Your Miracles, you’ll see how God saved Joshua from another great tragedy which lead us to a life of intentional ministry.

For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever,

Philemon 1:17 NASB

Tragically, not every spouse comes back. Not every spouse turns to Christ. Half of all marriages end in divorce, Christian or non-Christian. That statistic breaks my heart to pieces. Regardless of the results, all Christians have the same calling: to desire what God desires. During this particular season of my life, I desired two things: 1) to grow closer to and serve God, and 2) for my husband to do the same. Even in cases where we put a loved one in God’s hands and that person does not return, God still works things out for the good of those who love Him. Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered in the way we expect or prefer, but God will be there to comfort us through those painful realizations.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 ESV

 

Raye

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A Season for Stretching

I love watching cooking videos on Facebook. I spend hours watching them. Cooking has always been a relaxing hobby for me. I love to chop the vegetables, debone the chicken, season to perfection, and wait anxiously for the finished product. I love the smells as they permeate the kitchen.
LaRaye often barks at me because I love to cook with onion and garlic–two ingredients she cannot stand. Regardless of the complaint, she always praises the food as she picks out the bits she doesn’t like.
As I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came upon a cooking video teaching Facebookers how to make pasta. Honestly, I’ve always wanted to try to make pasta, but I don’t have a pasta maker. I know you can do it by hand, but, at this point in my life, that’s a no for me.
I’m fascinated by the fact that a clump of dough can be stretched and stretched so thin that it makes up to six feet of pasta. Hand-making pasta is more artisan and time-consuming, so, for convenience, chefs often use a pasta maker. He or she inserts the pasta into the machine which is then hand cranked. Pasta is fed through the machine, stretching it out thinner and thinner.
The pasta is then formed into Farfalle, macaroni, spaghetti, ravioli, etc. Regardless of what type of pasta is made, with a little sauce and garlic bread, it’s delicious!
Well, as I was watching the chef stretch the pasta, I began to reflect on my current life situation. The past six months have been very hard–terrifically challenging. With six babies, an unreliable job, school, and little-to-no money, things can get stressful. Since I graduate on December 16, we have spent the last several months in a spiritual battle, armed with much prayer and fasting, yet now, with only two months left in our apartment, we have no word from God on what he wants us to do come January 31. We trust that God will provide a way for us, no matter the path and that He will reveal our next move in His timing. Still, the wait is incredibly…weighty.
I know, I know. I’ve heard it time and again. I’ve got to “have a plan.” I have “six children to take care of, and they should be #1 on my list.” “God helps those who help themselves.” Whatever phrase you can think of, I’ve heard it; in my heart, I know and believe differently.
I am waiting on God. Like that pasta, my faith is being stretched. I do want to worry about my kids. I want to plan. I want to know what we are going to do. I’m not unaware of my temptation to “figure it out.” What most people don’t understand is that God doesn’t want you to figure things out or even have a plan until He reveals it to you. God wants to stretch your faith until it is super thin. He wants people he can shape into beautiful creations who glorify his holy name.
I’m not perfect; I’m willing. I don’t care that people are puzzled by me. Yes, I want comfort and financial assurance. Yes, I want nice things for my kids. But, I’m more concerned that they know God. So, I’m thankful for this season in my life. My children will be better for it because they witnessed their father pouring his heart out to God. My kids see their mother bending in humility to God and trusting that He will give her strength to make it through one more day.
I’m more than ready for God to answer me and send us on a mission where ever he needs us. I’m ready and waiting, but more than that I’m thankful for this season of faith-stretching. I am ready to be shaped into a butterfly…to bring honor to my Fathers name.

Here’s a little lagniappe for ya: Farfalle means Butterfly in Italian.

 

– J. Philip Harris

“…because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” –Hebrews 12:6 NIV

Three sets of twins in one family

Photo taken by Chris Granger

5 Reasons Why I Chose Avon

I have been unemployed for over three years now as my family has expanded from “Mr. & Mrs.” to loaded-down Honda Odyssey. About a month after discovering my first pregnancy, I quit my last job as a server in a small restaurant. Consequently, for the last three years, we haven’t been able to afford our life. Especially during our time in seminary school, we have depended heavily on financial gifts and government aid to provide for our family. God has always provided our every need, and we are extremely grateful; however, I don’t believe God intends for us to live (financially) dependent on others for the rest of our lives. For a couple months now, I have felt a prompting to seek out my own path—some way I might contribute an income to move in the direction of financial independence. With all the products that I see young women selling from home these days, only one company came repetitively to my mind: Avon. My first attempt as an Avon Independent Sales Representative did not go over so well. However, I am confident in my discernment in this decision. So, without further ado, here are my 5 reasons for choosing Avon:

1) I don’t have to choose between being a mom or being an entrepreneur, I can do both!

I am a “Mom”preneur. Discipling my children remains my number one priority. Therefore, I needed a job that would allow me to stay home with them or take them along. Avon gives me that opportunity. I recall helping my mom sort out orders and invoices and driving around neighborhoods tossing books. Avon can (and for us, it will) be a family business. I won’t have to pay for daycare (which would be outrageous for 6 toddlers), and my business hours revolve around their schedule.

2) My business goes where I go.

December is creeping up quickly, and my husband will be graduating (Yay!). Sometime between mid-December and January, we will be moving. Presently, we aren’t even sure where we will be moving. I can sell Avon anywhere I go, and my local customers can still shop with me if they choose to. With my online eStore, www.youravon.com/larayeharris,  anyone can place an order to be delivered directly to their address. With purchases of $40 or more, shipping and handling is FREE!

3) I am a role model for my children, in beauty and business.

If I want my children to learn a biblical sense of beauty and business, I must lead them by example. My job is to teach them modesty and honesty. If I don’t teach my children to use these tools for God’s glory, Satan will use them to lure my children away from Christ. Notice, I’m not focusing on ONLY my daughters. My sons must be taught to respect women—their bodies AND their brains. Likewise, I want my daughters to respect themselves, as well as the men and women they will encounter throughout their lives. My husband and I are responsible for raising SIX of the millions of people coming up in the next generation; we aren’t going to sit back and let the world do it for us. We choose to take an active role in molding our children’s character; by running my own business (selling beauty products, no less), I will be presented with countless character-building life experiences for my children.

4) I’m pushing myself into the public eye.

This one may seem a bit conceited. I’m not yearning for attention. Quite the contrary, I have a bad habit of hiding. Call me hermit. This past year has been tough. Tough to get out of bed. Tough to find a reason to wear decent clothes. Tough to prepare and eat healthy foods. Tough to clean…anything. Tough to muster the will or time to walk out my front door. How many people can I reach out to if I stay cooped up on this side of the door? I know, I know, I’ve got six kids… I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. The first year with twins is the hardest. I know, because I’ve survived it TWICE. I know what’s waiting for me on the other side of December 9th when I cross that line a THIRD time. God’s calling me out the door, and I don’t have to dump my kids to do it; but, I am trading bottles for brochures.

5) I honestly love Avon.

I love Avon products. From makeup, to shampoo, to accessories, Avon offers the best products for your dollar. Honestly, the challenge of selling is not spending all your earnings on yourself; in fact, I’ve heard of women who only sell Avon to buy products for themselves.  Like any other business, they encourage good marketing skills, but customer care is of utmost importance. Avon representatives are part of a large, diverse family—something like a sisterhood. We encourage each other. We teach each other. We share our heartwarming stories and successes. I haven’t even placed my first order yet, but I have devoted a little time each day to build my business in some way. At the end of the day, I feel like I have accomplished something for myself, my family, and (ultimately) for God.

Date Your Daughter

Someday your daughter will give her most intimate self to someone. Just think about that. If you could decide who that will be, would you do it? As a father, you have a major influence over who she has sex with and when it happens. Your influence is determined by the quality and quantity of time you spend with your daughter(s). I have three daughters: Aniston, Madeline, and Magnolia. I’ve recently decided that I will date my daughters until they marry. It’s not enough to provide for them financially, I want to be very involved in their lives. Girls need to know what kind of man they need and deserve. Women are fragile-God’s most precious gift to men- and from infancy they should be taught how valuable they are. So how do I get my daughter to want a man that will give her the kind of a life that places God over her, thus cherishing her in the process? That’s simple… by spending time loving her and making her feel special; by taking her on dates where showcasing what the word “cherish” looks like in action; by taking her on ice cream dates where pulling the chair out for her time after time conveys the message that she is important; by praying over the meal; by praying for her specifically; by paying for her meal and sharing the Good News that Jesus paid the price for her sins so she wouldn’t have to. Men, it’s right there! It’s in these moments of small one-on-one time that we will change the world. This is what changing the world really looks like… leading those you love through serving them day-in and day-out.

            Here’s a challenge for you father’s out there: take your daughter on frequent dates. Those of you who work away from home need to get creative or get another job. I’m sorry that sounds harsh, but your daughters’ lives are more important than a certain lifestyle. If you absolutely cannot find a job closer to home, then skype or write letters. Do EVERYTHING you can to constantly be “the man” in your daughter’s life. Men are not meant to be absent or aloof. They were meant to be seen and heard and leading through serving. Remember men, one day your daughter will grow up and have sex. She will open her heart up to a man. Don’t be the reason she gave herself away to the wrong man at the wrong time. Instead, do everything you can to be the reason she waited for the right man on their wedding night. Date your daughter.

 

— J. Philip Harris

Dreaming Through The Cracks: A Poem For Mothers

I wrote this poem for all the momma bears out there who were brave enough to carry the cross of motherhood. This poem is decicated especially to three women Kimberly Dawn, Betty Yvonne, and LaRaye Ella who, in my own opinion, are faithful witnesses to the stregnth of Christ for the purpose of mothering. To my own Mother, Kimberly, I say thank you for being my wind.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

J. PHILIP HARRIS

 

She once dreamed between the cracks of life where a field of new skies lay. She imagined herself in new exciting places on new exciting adventures. The years roaring with accomplishments that would map her among the greatest minds. Stars would shine upon her with the glow of greatness and all would admire her tenacity….Then I came along.

Moments like me are unpredictable and indefinite. They seem unplanned and ill-timed. I ruined her plans. I extinguished her greatness. She was now obligated and restrained, pushed back to pauper status. However, when her eyes met mine she knew her purpose and as the years grew on she gleamed with satisfaction that I was hers. As a servant is faithfully indebted to their master so my mother never left me. She patiently took care of me, carefully watching my every move and hers as well. She meticulously made sure I was constantly learning all the knowledge she had acquired in her young life. She never seemed to mind all the hardships. Like a mountain planted firmly my mother never seemed to be moved by uncertainty. Her faith was stronger than any I’d ever known. Her wisdom only grew with time.

As I recall our late night conversations among the caterwauling and cacophony of life’s cruelty, I remember her depth of compassion and understanding. As she sat there listening to my life’s problems, of which parents cringe to hear, she patiently and kindly understood while never casting judgment upon me. Maybe she had been there too? Maybe she understood brokenness? Maybe she loved me deeply? My siblings agree we could all sense Christ in her. Although mother wasn’t perfect she was perfectly struggling to be the best mother God wanted her to be.

I’m all grown up now and time has slowly crept in to age the vivacious hero of my youthful past. I’m a parent of my own and I finally understand the reality of it all. My mother was as subtle and strong as the wind. She blew with the change and provided the sweet cooling when life got hot. My mother was the milk that gave me life and the meat that sustained me. My mother was the laughter when she saw sadness creeping in to steal her babies joy. She was the softest hugs that listened to my tears. My mother was strength that stood with her conviction against the tempting of the world. My mother was the dedicated hero that gladly gave up her dreams through the cracks of life so I could one day fulfill mine.

Time With My Kids

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Time With My Kids

The air smells good here

Better than I’ve ever known

I stop a little while longer 

And let the sweet smell linger stronger

 

All the eyes that look my way

As if they call to me to say,

“Here I am, Papa.”

 

I love the sound of little words,

In here they only come in thirds.

I love the way they make the noise

Even when there are no toys.

 

I love their little fingertips

And all the messy bathroom trips.

I see the writing on the wall

And find it hard to see it fall.

 

I love the Panda and how she talks.

And the Owl and how she walks.

I love the Whale with his sad eyes.

And the Lion’s dapper guise.

I love the Monkey and her cheese.

And Elliot the Dragon’s sneeze.

 

I love the sleep I do not get.

But cherish more the moments when

I get to hold them close.

 

I stop a little while more

And revel in the dirty floor

The never-ending laundry pile

The leaving home that takes a while.

 

I breathe right in the chaos days

Wishing they would only stay.

I’m quite aware of how time flies

And, soon I’ll have to say goodbye.

 

I just wish that time stood still

And sat upon my windowsill

Where always I could take it down and

Spend it with my kids.

 

Written by J. Philip Harris

My Valentine: For Better or Worse

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We spent the better part of six months on hiatus from one another. It was a time of anger, agony, and running from God. It was a time of breaking down barriers and busting up ground. I didn’t know it then, but God was doing something in my life that would change me forever. It was the most brutal six months. During that period, LaRaye tried very hard to fight for me to “come back.” I remember Valentine’s Day came and she had sent me a card. I bought her some chocolates, but I was mad at her and ate them. That was the last time she had got me a card or present for anything: February 2013. Honestly, I can’t blame her because not long after that we started having twins. This year LaRaye wrote a letter to me. My busy wife. She’s like a firmly planted tree; beautifully knotted with elegant, lengthy arms of wisdom. She bends for no one except God.

Most people view Valentine’s Day as an excuse to ask a crush out, or they dread Valentine’s Day because they don’t “have someone” to share it with. Valentine’s day is a celebration of love. It celebrates the love between people no matter the relationship. I hope you thought about the people in your life who mean the most to you and celebrated the love between you. Valentine’s day is for lovers, but it’s not always so black and white.

            I wanted to include the letter my wife wrote. It was so beautifully written that I had to share it. I bawled like a baby. Though this woman doesn’t say it much, I know without a doubt she loves me.

 

Dear Joshua,

 

            Do you realize it has been seven years since you asked, “How do I know you?” It snowed that year, and I made my first snow angel. I remember watching videos of your bulldog, Boss, playing in the snow so I could hear your voice and catch a glimpse of your face. I had no idea that you had been thinking about suicide. You had no idea how much I already adored you. I had crushes during my one month of singleness, but what I felt for you was not a crush. It felt entirely different. I could see exactly how my life would play out with any of those other guys, but life with you was a total mystery.

 

Now, I know why. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined we would be parents to six tiny humans less than seven years later. I could never have imagined we would have changed our address so many times, or that at one point we would have claimed separate homes. I couldn’t imagine the measures God would take to wrestle us onto the right path, or how many fights we’d have over whether I love you (starting with the argument we had the first time I spoke those words to you.) Now that we’ve built this family together on a beautiful Rock foundation, I can certainly “imagine” what our future holds from here; but if I know God, I know that the truth of our fate is wilder than anything you or I could conjure.

 

Be assured that I will keep on loving you through it all. My love for you is like… a banana tree. At first I was so excited that God handed me this beautiful, exotic creation of his (which I blissfully knew nothing about) to plant and tend. I quickly realized that banana trees are more particular and much needier than I expected. Every time I decided to throw my hands up and give up on that tree, it started showing promise again and drew me back in. I never could escape the drive to tend that crazy tree. Before I knew it, little banana plants started popping up everywhere. Now, I’m standing in the middle of a banana jungle with my hands in the air thanking God for that beautiful, exotic tree. I’m glad He didn’t warn me of the efforts or sacrifices necessary to grow it. The surprises and curveballs have nourished my love for you. And, the storms our love has weathered leave me standing in awe.

 

Only God could have orchestrated this journey we’re on. I’m so glad to be riding shotgun with you. Or to drive when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Or to climb across to the back row to check on the baby because you won’t pull over the van and I’m terrified of that sound he just made. I’m down for seven more years. How bow dah?

 

With all my banana plant,

LaRaye

Everywhere the Kids Are

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Everywhere the Kids Are

Written by J. Philip Harris

 

Kids are here, Kids are there

The kids I see are everywhere

I’m swimming in a toddler pool

Of poop and pee and puke and drool

The chaos ripe, as it abounds

That rhythmed, cacophonic sound

It’s heightened ring, I hear resound

Everywhere the Kids Are

 

The messes here, the messes there

The messes roaring everywhere

Like little flames set forth to fire

Consuming up the precious briar

And through the forest manor

It’s hectic, yes, I’m quite aware

With passing hyper critic stares

But something lingers in the air

That few will ever know

 

Kids are here, kids are there

Bringing with them pungent airs

Of joyous love eternal

A moment captured amongst the war

Of happiness felt like that of lore

But truest ever known

 

When time has left us standing here

Aged, creeping heads of steer

We will hold that love so dear

Everywhere the Kids Are

 

The air is sad; I feel it, too

The seasons change from green to blue

The light has left us in the dark

With our glowing flame

It may be small, but we can see

That Christ is leading you and me

 

Though the funny pits and pats,

The banging walls, the clicks and clacks

Are faint and distant echoes,

The love we gave in toiled past

will seeds be sewn in futures vast

Everywhere the Kids Are

Finding Joshua

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“I may be a screw-up and a failure, but at least I know I am nothing without Jesus.”

It has taken me quite a long time to end that sentence with Jesus. I used to just think of myself as a screw-up and a failure. Failing was the single thing I was most proficient at. (Laughing) I say that as if I’m not any longer. That is not the case, however. I still am a screw-up and a failure, but now I have the wisdom to keep my faith in God, the one who moves my vehicle of life.

I’ve always had a self-esteem issue. Growing up with ADHD and Bi-polar type 1, I was an easy target for bullies. I was always the outcast within and outside of my family. Looking back, I can see why I always felt alone. I have always had identity issues. I have still yet to “find” myself. I am very good at method acting. I could always play other people well due to my extremely low self-esteem and constant state of searching for myself. In hopes that I would find myself, I often personified the people around me, including females. I know that sounds strange, but at least I’m comfortable admitting it. I’m 30 years old, and I have absolutely no clue what God wants of me. Cliché, I know, but for me it’s more than that. For somebody who has spent their whole life watching the surety and courageousness of others in the passionate pursuit of life, only wishing and dreaming that I could somehow “be something,” it is devastating. It’s devastating to me that even after devoting myself to God, who has all the answers, I  still have to wait for His answer of where He wants me, who He wants me to be, and when that will happen. For almost four years now, I have prayed myself sick asking God what career-direction He has for me. Where does He want to use me? I felt the call to ministry, and here I am. Having all these fellow students at seminary who seemingly know where they are going, I scratch my head and ask “well what am I doing wrong?” I’ve had numerous conversations about “picking” a career path versus God “leading” me where He has already chosen for me. Some think that we pick our destiny, and God uses us there. Others believe that God has chosen the perfect path, and we should submit to what He wants. I have been more inclined to believe the latter. In fact, I can remember as a young boy thinking about this. I felt that God had something specific for me. It was something that He chose for me to do, and one day He would let me know. I remember the first time I thought about this; I was very young, maybe 5. I don’t know why I thought about it or where it came from; all I can say is that I already had a preconceived view about God, and it was this view that would get me through bullying, suicide attempts, drug abuse, and alcoholism.

We all want to be happy. Knowing things makes us happy. Knowing the logistics of things brings peace and comfort. It’s the surety of it and the lack of faith that it brings. Wow! The lack of faith. Even as I write this, I realize that that’s exactly what I crave. The lack of faith. I pray earnestly that God will, in His mercy, keep me blinded. That I won’t know what He has for me until the very moment comes to slay the giant. I pray that my passion for Him will, like these 30 years prior, keep me motivated to keep pressing on. I pray that you reading this will join me in these prayers. Maybe you have struggled with your identity as I have. I pray that God will show you your identity… IN HIM.

A man who truly finds himself, finds God first. It is there that our real identity lies.

I love each one of y’all, and I pray earnestly for your relationship with our Creator. May God richly bless you with true wisdom and peace beyond all comprehension.

~~Joshua P. Harris