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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas musings: Fear not!

I have been so anxious over the past few months. Anxious over my husband's workload and travel requirements, the US presidential election, my Masters classes, recent financial decisions, making the holiday season "perfect" for my family...and I'm currently 37 weeks pregnant to boot! If you ask my husband (and almost anyone who knows me well), I'm a worrier. It's what I do. It's one of those things I have to work on constantly in my walk with God. Obviously, this season has been no different.

This morning I gave in to pregnancy insomnia (again) and decided to spend time in God's word. As He always does, God spoke straight into my heart to allay my fears and calm my mind. I decided to read the Christmas story, which I think most of you have probably done or at least heard at some point in your life. Thanks to popular media and Charlie Brown, most people have at least heard the account given to us in Luke 2:8-20. But this morning, as I read it for what seems like the umpteenth time, something struck me.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." Luke 2:10

Now most people read that and accept that the angel is telling the shepherds, and us by proxy, that the birth of Christ will bring great joy to everyone. But I think we glaze over a more subtle message on our way to that joy. Read it again: "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid.'" Do you see what I'm getting at? True, the shepherds were literally fearful in that moment as an angel randomly appeared in their field with a message about some special baby. The angel was simply calming them so he could pass along God's joyous news. But if we put it together and read a little further in scripture, I believe the angel's message in its entirety applies to "all the people." The good news brought by the angel, in the form of the tiny Messiah child, was meant to bring great joy and calm all fears for all people. 

In my morning Advent devotional, there were a series of prophetic verses to back this up. Deuteronomy 4:29-31 (NLT) says, "But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him. In the distant future, when you are suffering all these things, you will finally return to the Lord your God and listen to what he tells you. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the solemn covenant he made with your ancestors." What covenant? This verse is specifically referencing the covenant God made with Abraham in which God promised to make his descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky or the sand on the beach (Genesis 22:17-18). One of those descendants was Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17). Jesus' life and sacrifice ushered in a new covenant, one under which anyone can believe and be saved (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). Part of that covenant is a "peace...which surpasses all understanding," (Philippians 4:7) along with the joy promised by the angel in that field so long ago.

Luckily for people like me, God extends grace even when we don't deserve it. Psalm 103:13-14 (NLT) says, "The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust." Wow, somehow that verse manages to simultaneously convict and calm me. God knows I'm human, and he extends grace to me in my anxiety by giving me His peace. But that's not all. "The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: 'I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts," (Isaiah 57:15, NLT). Not only does God promise to extend grace and bestow peace, He will also restore my spirit and revive me, if I'm only willing to repent of my worrisome nature. 

Jesus himself said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me...(v.27) I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid," (John 14:1, 27; NLT). And there it is again. We've come full circle. It's so simple, it's easy to miss or forget, but it's foundational to our faith - we don't have to fear because we have Jesus. Romans 8:38 in the New Living Translation (NLT) states that nothing, not even "our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow," can separate us from God's love. So this season as I strive to focus on all the wonderful facets of God's Christmas gift to us, I know that I can rest easy in His promises. 


That's why in my journal this morning, I noted that, "God is...faithful to keep his promises through all situations and generations." I will still worry at times, but I will do as Mary did in Luke 2:19. I will treasure this knowledge of peace and ponder God's grace when anxiety builds.

I wish you all a peaceful and fulfilling Christmas.

Hapless but hopeful, 
Cassie

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas musings: For we shall see Him

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. I am one of *those* people who goes all out with the lights, greenery, bells, constant Christmas music in the background and incessant prayers for snow. Christmas was always a big deal in my family growing up. We had so many fun traditions, such as caroling with friends and reading the Christmas story together as a family. I remember one year all of us kids tried to put on a play detailing our own version of the Nativity story (because what Christian kid hasn't?!). Our fat old cat, Snickelfritz, was not pleased to play the part of the Baby Jesus, but he laid there and played dead because we'd put him in a doll dress and he could barely move. AAAAaaaah the memories...

Another tradition that I cherished was hearing my father sing at church. Y'all, I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my Daddy can SING. I grew up wishing I could sing like him, and I tried a few times, but he has a God-given talent I just didn't inherit. One of my all-time favorite songs that he regularly sang during the Christmas season was the hit song "Mary, did you know?" by Mark Lowry. I LOVE THAT SONG. As a kid, I loved the haunting melody and the lovely harmonies. Now that I'm a mother myself, the words have also taken on a whole new meaning to me. Here are a few lines that are particularly poignant:

"Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you...
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God."

CHILLS. I know Mary had faith and she trusted God's plan despite all the pain and heartbreak it would bring. But did she fully comprehend that plan? How much did God really reveal to her over the years? The Bible mentions several times that she "stored up" or "cherished" things in her heart. But what were her thoughts as she sat at the foot of the cross just 32 years after that fateful night in the stable? Not to be flippant, but can you imagine kissing "the face of God," as Mary did, knowing God's plan for His future?

Every Christmas has a bit of a dark cloud when you read the Bible story and truly comprehend Christ's purpose. Yes, He was born a baby to a faithful young virgin in a stable surrounded by animals and shepherds. It was a glorious night, but it was a night that began a 32-year journey to the cross. I wish I could've been there that night. I wish I could've seen the star, heard the angels, celebrated with the humble shepherds, and quietly took it all in as Mary did. I wish I could kiss that sweet little face and know what it must feel like to love and hold the Savior of the world as a human being. I long for the chance to physically hug God. I know it probably sounds weird, but I really do. 

This morning as my hips ached and my toddler slapped me in the face again in her sleep, I abandoned all hope for further sleep myself and dragged my oh-so-pregnant body to the kitchen. I decided I would search for an Advent-focused devotional online and spend some much needed quiet time with God. Once again, Google did not disappoint and I stumbled across Cissie Graham-Lynch's "Born to you this Day." It is well-written and thought-provoking, but what really hit me was the list of Biblical prophecies about Jesus' birth and identity. Within that list I found a golden nugget that promises to become one of my new favorite verses:

"But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and he will stand upon the earth at last.
And after my body has decayed, 
yet in my body I will see God!
I will see him for myself.
Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
I am overwhelmed at the thought!"

What does this mean and how does it relate to the Christmas story? Just this: we may never fully understand what Mary and Joseph went through that cold, dark night; however, we will someday get to see our sweet Redeemer, in the flesh, with our own eyes! I love that last line of verse 27 because I am truly "overwhelmed at the thought!" See, Christmas (rather, the birth of Christ) wasn't just about a little baby that came into the world just to die horrifically in the prime of His life. No! Christ's birth was about a tiny baby who grew into the most wonderful, loving, powerful man the earth had ever and would ever know. A tiny baby who, yes, would die horrifically, but would then come back to life only three days later. Triumphant! A conqueror! The Redeemer! 

1 John 3:2 says, "Dear friends, we are already God's children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is." It's true that we cannot physically see Him the way his family and followers did. But we will! That, to me, is what Christmas is really all about. Our Redeemer came into this earth a tiny, humble baby and left a triumphant conqueror whose sacrifice and love guarantee us an unimaginably wonderful eternity. 





Friends, I hope you are able to carve out time this Christmas season to reflect on these thoughts. Our modern Christmas celebrations are often overtaken by long lines, bad traffic, groaning bank accounts, and so.much.food. But please, take the time both alone and with your families to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. That is, Christ. Not only is He "the reason for the season," He's the source of joy, peace, and fulfillment for which we all long to experience. 

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Hapless but hopeful,
Cassie



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Selfish Heart

It's about to get real, ladies. I'm anticipating tears while I write this one. I know it's been a while, but I need to get this all out of the overflow of my heart. It all lines up with, well, everything I've been learning recently, I promise. It just so happens that this was one of those times I had to learn the hard way. 

Let me start out by saying that my husband is very successful at his job, but he's been considering a career change. This hit me hard as I grew up in the same lifestyle; in fact, that's how I met my husband. So to change course now, to leave this life I've learned to love...well, let's just say I wasn't a fan of the idea. I selfishly wanted to stick with it because it's what I'd always known. These people are my adoptive-extended family. This life has brought me adventure, friends, education, and my husband. And I'm not alone. It's become "the family business." I just could not imagine leaving it forever for something completely new and unknown. Don't get me wrong, I prayed for God to help me be supportive, and by all appearances I was. But my heart was resisting BIG TIME

Then my husband called with news that I had been dreading - he was going to be part of a team that had to do something very dangerous. I won't go into detail, but as soon as I got off the phone I broke down. He's been in dangerous situations before and come out ok. But I couldn't help it, I'm melodramatic and I often jump to the worst conclusions. For example: how many times could he do these dangerous things and still come out unscathed? I was an emotional wreck. I prayed desperately for God to make me stronger. We've been through this before, I should be used to it and be able to handle it without dissolving into an emotional mess! I even blamed it on pregnancy hormones (there may be some validity to that...), and told myself I'd get over it soon enough. Two whole days of desperate prayers, secret tears, and I clearly wasn't adjusting to the idea. Then my husband told me the trip was cancelled. Yup, I broke down again. Like I said, melodrama is my thing.

After all of the emotional fog cleared I had a revelation. God had changed my heart. In the span of 48 hours, I went from resistant and selfish to willing and supportive. It turns out, I'd been praying wrong. I didn't need God to make me appear more supportive on the outside. God isn't in the business of helping us lie, even to ourselves. It may sound cliche, but God knew that I needed to change from the inside out. And I have. Oh boy, have I ever changed! Suddenly something safer and less demanding sounds wonderful. 

So how does this all tie in to the Proverbs 31 Wife? Well, we already learned that she's noble, respectful, eager to serve, prepared, and diligent. What does me being an emotional wreck have to do with any of that? 

The Proverbs 31 Wife is many things to many people, but her heart belongs to her home. Everything she does is to care for her family and glorify God in the process. Here are some verses as examples:
  • (verse 15) She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.
  • (verse 17) She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
  • (verse 26-28) She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
  • She's up before the sun and "her lamp does not go out" (verse 18) at night. She doesn't put these long hours in for selfish gains; rather, she "sets about her work vigorously." She's working hard in everything she does to provide for her family and "watch over the affairs of her household." She's not selfishly steering her family toward her plans and agendas. "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction." As a result of all her efforts, "Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and praises her." She's not looking for recognition. Her reward is in the esteem, love, and respect of her family. 


    How does this all tie together? It took me a long time to see it, but here it is:
     The Proverbs 31 Wife is selfless. Eagerly, diligently, vigorously, wisely, faithfully selfless.
    I was so wrapped up in what I wanted - my comfortable, close, happy little world - that I was completely neglecting God's will for our lives and the needs of my family. Wow. I'm doing four different group Bible studies, in addition to this little exploration of my own. I really thought I was learning and growing leaps and bounds with all of them. But I was still stubbornly holding on to my secret selfishness. It took God intervening with some relatively drastic measures for me to see it (or at least admit it). It doesn't matter how hard I work to cook, clean, and care for my family if my heart is polluted with selfishness.

    Having a humble, selfless heart is crucial to the success of the Proverbs 31 Wife. I can't hope to be anything like her, let alone like Christ, so long as I'm focused on myself. It seems like an obvious concept now, but it was a lesson I unfortunately had to learn the hard way. I respect, love, and publicly praise my husband. Now I also prayerfully and humbly support him, and as a result God's will for our lives. God is leading us toward a very big change. Now that He has changed my heart, I can focus on preparing and caring for my family as we transition. 




    Until next time I remain...
    Hapless but hopeful,
    Cassie


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Wife or Wonder Woman?

Ok folks, this week is officially being dubbed "Wonder Woman Week, " and here's why: by all appearances, there isn't a single thing the Proverbs 31 Wife can't do, there's no skill she hasn't mastered. It's intimidating at best, discouraging at worst. We'll be jumping around the verse order a little bit this time, but bear with me. This is how I processed the apparent magnificence and boundless energy of the Proverbs 31 Wife. So here we go...

To begin, she is a master craftswoman. Here are the examples sprinkled throughout the chapter:
  • (v. 13) She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
  • (v. 19) In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers
  • (v. 21-22) When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
In case you were wondering, the distaff and spindle were tools used to spin wool. So this woman picks out the wool and flax, spins it into fibers to be used as yarn or thread, and sews everything her household needs, including clothes and linens. She couldn't just run down to her local Hobby Lobby or Old Navy and pick everything up. Nope. She did it all herself, from picking the wool to tailoring. She makes Martha Stewart look like an amateur. 

So what can I possibly learn from these verses? Look a little closer. "She...works with eager hands." I don't believe this is a comment on how adept she is; rather, it's highlighting the attitude with which she approached her responsibilities. She was eager. She not only does things with a willing attitude - she's eager!

Then there's that last verse. "When it snows, she has no fear for her household." Why? Because she can afford to warm her families with fine linen and purple cloth? No, although we'll circle back to those details later. I believe what this verse is trying to tell us is that she was prepared. She eagerly got her work done in advance so that her family would be prepared when winter came. If we were to go down a rabbit hole briefly, we could extrapolate that this verse isn't even just talking about a literal winter. She was prepared for growth spurts, nasty tumbles, hard work, and normal wear and tear. Whatever the challenge, she was prepared.

She's also an adroit businesswoman. Here are the examples provided in this chapter:
  • (v. 14) She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
  • (v. 16) She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
  • (v. 18) She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
  • (v. 24) She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She knows a good deal when she sees it, whether it's driving all the way across town to Aldi's to buy the cheapest produce or finding a good real estate investment. Not only that, she uses the previously mentioned skills (sewing, etc) to make money to use in these ventures, and "she sees that her trading is profitable." I picture her with a big envelope full of coupons, an organized planner with trustworthy business contacts scribbled in the back, and a pocket in her purse filled with nicely embossed business cards. She is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her budgeting and spending! These verses make me think of brilliant women like Crystal Paine and Ruth Soukup who make a living advising women on Godly ways to run their homes and budgets.

In addition to having a mind for business, the Proverbs 31 Wife has a more few secrets to her success.  "Her lamp does not go out at night." This tells us that she is diligent. She's burning the midnight oil to make sure the numbers don't just balance, but work in her favor. This doesn't mean she's Lady Scrooge, scrimping and hiding away pennies for selfish gain. No, she is diligent to ensure that her family's money and investments are profitable in a way that glorifies God. To me, this means that she is following some of Dave Ramsey's Biblical financial principles - tithe first, pay the bills, then save and invest. She is diligently making sure that their hard-earned money (that she has contributed to) is working for them.

PLEASE HEAR ME: I'm not saying all wives have to get a job and contribute monetarily to the family resources. I am saying that the Proverbs 31 Wife is gratefully and worshipfully frugal. She knows that any money they do have is a blessing, and she works hard to maximize its impact for her family and God. 

So what are the overall takeaways here? Well, it's certainly not that we all need to learn to weave, knit, and sew, get real estate licenses, work full-time, etc. If you can do all of those things, you're a super hero and kudos to you! We should meet and become besties because you can probably help me in a million ways...But that's not the point; the point is that the Proverbs 31 Wife uses the skills and talents she is given to eagerly and diligently care for her family. She anticipates and prepares for their needs and even their desires. She tirelessly works to ensure that everything she does will benefit those around her and ultimately point others to God. I know that sometimes that's easier said than done. There will always be long days with packed schedules or scary emergencies that cause us to question if God knew what He was doing putting us in this position. Rest assured, dear friend, He knew EXACTLY what He was doing. Remember Esther from the Old Testament? She had to have wondered and doubted and worried about God's plan for her life. But God put her in that position "for such a time as this." I love that phrase. 

Ladies, Mommies, Wives, Daughters, Sisters - we have been put in these positions with specific talents that only we can bring to the table in order to do God's work in and on behalf of our families, "for such a time as this." Somehow, that's less intimidating than thinking I have to master the same laundry list of accomplishments mentioned above. With God's help, I can learn to care for my family eagerly and diligently, preparing them for God's work and whatever circumstances may come our way. 

Hapless but hopeful,
Cassie


Monday, August 29, 2016

The Ultimate Introduction

As I mentioned last time, I have been pondering the Proverbs 31 Wife for several weeks now. Who is she really? What is her secret? How on earth does she seem to literally do it all?!

Let's start with our introduction to her. It's a doozy. 


Wow. Um, ok...what does it mean to be a "wife of noble character?" Well, let's take a look at some definitions:

Noble - adjectivenobler, noblest.
1. distinguished by rank or title. 
2. pertaining to persons so distinguished.
3. of, belonging to, or constituting a hereditary class that has special social or political status in country or state; of or pertaining to the aristocracy.
4. of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence
5. admirable in dignity of conception, manner of expression, execution, or composition
6. very impressive or imposing in appearance
7. of an admirably high quality; notably superior;excellent.
8. famous; illustrious; renowned.
So what I glean from this, when combined with Proverbs 31:10a, is that a wife of noble character is: distinguished, of exalted moral character, admirable, impressive, renowned. A wife of noble character is known for her noble character. She stands out in any crowd as a woman of moral substance and strong convictions, even if she's the shy, quiet type. 

Continuing on, apparently it's really hard to find such a "woman of noble character." I know how beautiful rubies are; I've admired them in brightly lit jewelry cases at Shane & Co. My knowledge of rubies was severely limited other than that. So, I Googled "how rare are rubies." Yup, when all else fails - I turn to Google to correct my ignorance. Here's what I found (courtesy of the International Gem Society):

Ruby is the red variety of corundum. It is quite a bit rarer than the [sapphires]. The rarity combined with the demand for rich red gems keeps the price very high. Among rubies though, there is no shortage of small gems, the kind used in cluster rings. They are somewhat expensive, but readily available. It is when you get into gems of a carat or more that they get really expensive. Good quality rubies in this size range are few and far between. The law of supply and demand is really obvious here. While many people would like a full carat ruby, few have the thousands of dollars needed to purchase one.

It's as though that last sentence was specifically written with Proverbs 31:10b in mind. Tiny rubies are common, just like how the separate attributes of a woman of noble character may be found in many women. But the one carat ruby - the woman whose character is entirely noble - is so rare that it is worth more than anyone can afford. Proverbs points out the big flaw in the comparison: a woman of noble character is worth far more than rubies. She's priceless and rare. 

Intimidated yet? Oh, we're just getting started...


According to verses 11-12, a woman of noble character inspires confidence in her husband. She flat out inspires him. He trusts her, and his trust is well-placed because "she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." Well, of course she does - she's a woman of noble character! But what does all this mean for us imperfect, hapless housewives (or is that just me)? 

Well, for starters, it's important to note that just because this woman is noble does not mean that she's perfect. It means that she seeks God's will for her life, that she actively pursues holiness, and that she is determined to serve and support her husband. The fact that her husband lacks nothing of value has nothing to do with material possessions; rather, it means that he knows that her love is pure and reserved for him. She brings him good by building him up, supporting him, and inspiring him. 

In her book For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn discusses some things we can do to demonstrate such love for our husbands. Here are two crucial examples:
  • Men need our respect more than they need our affection. Our husbands need to know that we respect their opinions, knowledge, decisions, and needs. They'd rather know for sure that we respect them than receive a million little displays of affection. (Chapter 2, Your Love is Not Enough)
  • Men may feel like "impressive imposters," meaning they may feel that they don't deserve success or recognition. We need to be sensitive to their fragility when it comes to their outward success. We should regularly encourage them, remind them of how proud we are, and build them up publicly. (Chapter 3, The Performance of a Lifetime)
There is so much more wisdom in this book! I highly recommend that every wife/bride-to-be read it ASAP. We will explore the other topics discussed in the book in the coming weeks. For now, I'd like to focus on the two mentioned above. 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It's not just for divas; it's absolutely crucial to a man's self-esteem. For our husbands to have full confidence in us, they must first know that we respect them. This is non-negotiable ladies. If your marriage is struggling or your husband seems to react strangely to something you say/do, ask yourself if there's anyway he could feel a lack of respect. When you start looking at things through this lens, you will be amazed at how your relationship will change. The Proverbs 31 Wife respects her husband and he knows it. 

Secondly, it is important that we build our husbands up publicly. I'm not saying we should embarrass them with flowery ballads and flashy gifts. I'm saying we make the decision not to join in "bashing sessions," we refuse to criticize, tear-down, and otherwise degrade our husbands to others. You know what I mean. Those "girl chats" where everyone talks about every little annoying, nit-picky thing they can't believe their idiot husbands do. It's ok to vent to a close friend or family member when your marriage is struggling and you genuinely need support. It's not ok to tell everyone that will listen what a terrible husband he is because he works too much and doesn't help more with the kids. Although I genuinely try not to disparage my husband to others, I'm just as guilty as the next wife. The lesson here is that a Proverbs 31 Wife goes out of her way to encourage and esteem her husband in public, such that everyone else also sees that she respects him. 

This introduction hits on the key components to the Proverbs 31 Wife: she is of noble character and her husband is blessed by her respect and love. What seems like an intimidating opening is really a beautiful gem of marital advice. Pray for your husband. Encourage your husband. Respect your husband. If you can do these things, as oversimplified as they may seem, everything else will fall into place. In doing these things, you are pursuing God's will for your marriage. In pursuing God's will, you will indeed be a woman of noble character. It's all connected! 



I have to say I'm relieved. I don't have to be a flawless 5-carat ruby immediately or on my own. As I seek God and endeavor to love and respect my husband, God will mold me into a priceless woman of noble character. That's inspiring, not intimidating! Who's with me?!

Hapless but hopeful,
Cassie






Saturday, August 13, 2016

The (Impossible) Gold Standard

Oh. My. Goodness. I know that I've used the phrase "one of those..." several times on this blog, but I have to tell you - it has been one of those weeks. The way our Sunday morning started, I should have known this week was going to be a doozy. We woke up with plenty of time to get to church early, even with Daddy not around to help (he really does most of the work on Sunday mornings, if I'm honest). After my stomach decided to disagree with my breakfast, my daughter filled her diaper and almost tore it off herself, and I had to replace her shoes twice...and then I suddenly couldn't find one of them...

Let's just say my attitude was not positive as we left the house. I shed a few tears of humility as I prayed for patience and forgiveness on the short drive to church. We pulled into the parking lot, already 5 minutes late. A spot opened immediately and right by the door closest to the nursery, which almost never happens. I shed a few more tears as I realized that God was looking out for us, even when I wasn't looking to Him. I took a brief moment to clean myself up and straighten my heart out a little before going inside.

That morning was the start to such a loooooooong week. L has been sick all week, terrifying me by spiking fevers every couple of hours and refusing to eat or drink anything. If you've read some of the past posts, you may remember that last time this happened she had a life-threatening febrile seizure. Suffice it to say, I barely slept all week and prayed over her feverish little body every waking moment. The doctor (not our normal doc) prescribed one medication, which did nothing. So back we went, only to be prescribed more medications. One of those was a steroid. If you know anything about steroids, you probably know that "roid rage" is something that can happen to anyone, including tiny toddlers who have only had one dose. After the steroid turned my lethargic and feverish toddler into an itsy-bitsy Beelzebub, the doctor recommended we stop taking it and never take steroids again if possible. Gee, thanks! To top it all off, as she finally started to get better, I got the bug. It has since settled into my lungs where it seems to be happily making itself at home.

SO...combine all of that with my obsession with the Olympics, and you can probably understand why I've fallen behind on everything. That includes my quiet time. My attitude was in the dumps, my sinuses were on fire, and I'd had about 11 hours of sleep over 3 days. So I'm sure you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm when I finally carved out a few moments to study and my Bible literally fell open to Proverbs 31.

Have you ever taken a good, hard look at Proverbs 31:10-31? If you're anything like me, you may have glanced over it some in high school or college and dreamed of the day you'd meet a man who would treat you with such love and esteem. Then, maybe after several years of being beat up on the dating scene, you'd mournfully avoid the lonely reminder of those passages. Finally, when you did find that amazing, wonderful man, you'd fearfully avoid the same passages. They once held so much promise, but now they're nothing but a painful reminder of how you'll never measure up to the gold standard set by the Proverbs 31 Wife.

At a first glance, this woman is a jack-of-all-trades. She's a realtor, designer, businesswoman, manager, hostess, mentor, mother, and wife. She has the heart and reach of Mother Teresa. She's everything to everyone. Everything she does is successful, every life she touches is uplifted, everyone she loves adores her.

That is an impossible standard.

Or at least that's how I've felt for several years now. There's no way I can meet up to the Proverbs 31 Wife.

Or can I? Is all of that what God wants/expects out of every one of his daughters? Do I really need to know how to plan a perfect menu, dedicate hours to charity work, dye and sew all our clothes, and invest in real estate in order to honor God and care for my family?

NO.

After stubbornly deciding to dissect the entire passage, I think I've been missing a lot of very important points. Actually, I'm certain I've missed the entire point. The Proverbs 31 Wife is not perfect, she's present and purposeful. She's not a revered saint, she's a redeemed sinner. There's so much more to her than her actions and reputation. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to really dig deeper and see what truly makes the Proverbs 31 Wife the gold standard. And don't worry, it has very little to do with buying and selling vineyards.

Hapless but hopeful,
Cassie


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ministry: Size v. Success

Well, I'm back. I took an extended break for numerous reasons. I've been battling morning sickness and chronic pain, as well as some upheaval in my husband's job and a few other things. All of these things are positive in the bigger picture - my sickness and pain are due to my pregnancy, which is progressing normally; the upheaval in my husband's job is due to his traveling and increased responsibility. There are other such excuses too, but what it really boils down to is this: my head and heart weren't in the right place. I was growing discouraged again. I've always prided myself on being very adaptable, but lately my emotional state seems more fragile than ever before. Call it hormones, call it exhaustion, call it "mommy brain," call it whatever - it's a fog that hovers around my head for however long it takes me to drag myself out of it. Usually God gives me a little kick in the pants to jump start things again. This time was no different.

I honestly had already lost sight of what I originally set out to achieve with this blog. I've been told by other, much more successful bloggers that it happens to everyone and usually more than once. I didn't expect it to happen so soon! I wasn't getting the responses I wanted, so I started questioning the purpose, wondering if anyone cared or if anything I said made a difference. Then God kicked me in the pants. I stumbled across one of Ann Voskamp's eloquent posts that (as usual) burned all the way through the fog and pierced my heart. Here's my favorite quote:


BOOM. Then a dear friend asked why I hadn't posted in a while. And that's when I realized - or rather, remembered why I started doing this in the first place. God wants me to share my heart and let Him do the rest. That's it. It shouldn't matter to me if it reaches a million people or just one (or none for that matter). Maybe God is using this to reach ME as much as anyone else. And I have to say, that's a huge relief. I don't have to focus on statistics or traffic or views. I can just focus on what is on my heart, share it as best I can, and let God work. IT'S NOT ABOUT ME. That's an awesome feeling. So here I go again, with a fresh start, a humbled heart, and a newly cleared head. I've learned so much in the last month or so. I can't wait to share! If you've read this far, God bless you and I hope you'll join me in the weeks ahead. 

Hapless but hopeful,
Cassie

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pregnancy: To be healthy, or not to be healthy?

Well, I'm pregnant again. My kiddos are going to be roughly 22 months apart in age. Yikes! Hopefully that means they'll be besties and not beasties...We're thrilled that God has seen fit to bless us once again with another munchkin, and we pray for another healthy pregnancy and baby. We're not overly concerned about the sex of the baby, although with my husband being the only boy, it might be nice to have a boy. We'll be thrilled no matter what, and yes, we plan to find out ASAP!

The last time I was pregnant was my first pregnancy ever. I was TERRIFIED (while also thrilled of course). I made the mistake of reading every book, brochure, and online article as well as attending every new parent class...all of that really only served to convince me that even if I made it full term and had a healthy baby, I'd probably make a million wrong choices and end up screwing everything up. I had normal morning sickness the first trimester and then hip pain throughout the rest of the pregnancy, but otherwise a relatively easy, healthy pregnancy. But I was just sure that if I ate the wrong thing or moved the wrong way I was going to lose the baby. So I quit working out, ate pretty much whatever I wanted (mostly healthy, but c'mon, let's be honest...pregnancy cravings are real people!), and constantly questioned every.single.little.thing. I monitored her heartbeat almost daily and said a mildly panicked prayer if she didn't move enough for my peace of mind. You guys, it was RIDICULOUS. I was THAT pregnant lady. I tried to control it externally, so I'm pretty sure I wasn't too obnoxious to everyone around me. Then we moved across the country when I was 8 weeks pregnant and I wasn't able to nest...people, let me tell you - I thought I was going to lose my mind! We finally bought a house and moved in ONE WEEK before my due date. It was God's perfect timing, yet again, as of course our sweet L came ON her due date! My wonderful family, and then my in-laws, all helped us get settled in our new house as we celebrated being a new little family.

From that pregnancy, I learned that most pregnancies are, in fact, healthy and normal. Not all pregnancies are created equal, and it will most likely be different every time. But living in absolute fear is no way to enjoy a pregnancy! This time around my doctor has already cleared me to workout, within reason of course. She actually encouraged me to continue drinking my Shakeology! Her exact words were "it can only add nutrients, which is always good!" For those who may be skeptical, don't worry, she thoroughly researched Shakeology before making her recommendation. And she also motivated me to relax and enjoy my pregnancy!

I know there could still be complications or issues, so of course I will still be careful. But this pregnancy, I hope, will be different for me. At least emotionally and mentally, I feel better prepared and even able to set some new goals for myself:

  • I will continue to workout using PiYo, Autumn Calabrese's "Active Maternity" Prenatal and Postnatal Series (on Beachbody On Demand), and Healthy Habits Happy Moms Prenatal and Postnatal Series. I absolutely love swimming and yoga, so I will keep those up for as long as possible too. 
  • I will continue to take my prenatal vitamins, Omega-3s, and Shakeology every day. Thankfully this time around I already know that I need the chewable versions of my vitamins and Omega-3s. Last time I spent many days super sick because of the swallowable versions, which are harder to digest anyway!
  • I will go to bed earlier and avoid adding extra commitments to my plate. Because I have a toddler (what?! when did she get promoted?!), I rarely get naps and often don't get a full night's sleep. I'm also really bad at saying no, so I end up with a full schedule. If I go to bed earlier and allow myself a less hectic schedule, I can hopefully feel as rested as possible (because every woman who has been pregnant knows that you never feel completely rested when you're pregnant. Or afterward...haha)
All of these things will help me have the safest, healthiest pregnancy possible. Let me be clear - my weight loss goals are on hold. It is never smart to try to lose weight while pregnant. But it is smart to try to stay strong and healthy. That is my goal with my workouts. I know that I had hip and pelvic floor issues during and after my last pregnancy, as well as the fact that I completely quit working out. This meant I was battling up a very steep and slippery hill in an effort to return to a healthy state after giving birth. I'm hoping to prevent some of the bloodier battles this time around. The overall goal is to stay healthy! I will be chronicling my journey almost daily in the Hapless Housewifery Facebook Group if you are interested in following me. If you have any questions along the way about the products I'm using, please feel free to message me, post in the group, or email me at haplesshousewifery@gmail.com

Until next time, I am...
hapless but hopeful,
Cassie

Monday, June 20, 2016

When Mommy Isn't Enough

I originally had a cute, witty little post written and almost ready to publish last week. It was all about the lessons I learned from almost losing my iPhone (Spoiler: I left it on a commercial flight and the cleaning crew found it). It was an entertaining post, and I'm sure many people can relate.

But then I almost lost my daughter. There's nothing like a real, life-threatening health emergency to put life in perspective. Suddenly it seemed juvenile and petty to talk about almost losing my stupid iPhone because I can always go over to the Verizon store and get another one. There's no way to replace a human. I can't walk into a store and say, "I need a strawberry-blonde, petite, blue-eyed beauty with a vivacious and loving personality. Oh, and make her about 15 months old, with 8 teeth and the tiniest feet you've got." Nope. It just doesn't work that way.

When my baby girl stopped breathing, I would've sworn at the time that my heart stopped too. I tried in vain to help her, to get her to respond to my pleas for some sort of sign of conscious understanding. Then I watched numbly as my husband worked with the 911 operator and then the EMTs to get her back to normal. In those brief, blurred moments when she was blue and non-responsive, I really thought we might lose her and I was helpless to do anything but pray.


I didn't cry until the next day when she sat in her high chair happily eating some oatmeal and clapping her hands along with whatever Baby Einstein song Pandora was playing. She seemed so normal again. Could our nightmare really have been less than 24 hours before? It scares her when I cry, so I wept silently as all the emotions I'd been holding back overflowed like a burst dam. I had researched infant and toddler illnesses in detail. As a result, I had always known that febrile seizures were a possibility.

I didn't know that during one such seizure, babies can stop breathing and turn a terrifying shade of blue.
I didn't know that I'd be unable to hold my baby girl as she finally sputtered and gasped and then began to cry.
I didn't know that I'd be so relieved to see the EMTs, but simultaneously infuriated as half a dozen of them crowded into our small bathroom and blocked my ability to even just see my precious baby.
I didn't know I'd have to stand outside and just listen, praying and trying to calm the swelling panic as my husband very efficiently briefed them.
I didn't know she'd look so tiny and terrified sitting in the infant adaptor for the ambulance gurney.
I didn't know that I'd feel like screaming "ENOUGH!" as they stuck her four times in an attempt to get an IV to work.
I didn't know I'd be up all night alternating medications for her every two hours.

I didn't know that I'd cry again just writing about it.

There are some things you just can't know until you experience them. You can read every WebMD article, scour every parent chatroom, and participate in dozens of mommy groups on Facebook. You can even talk to your doctor and ask a million questions and think you'll be prepared. But nothing can prepare you for those dark moments when it seems like your life is teetering on the edge of tragedy.

Nothing, that is, except faith. I couldn't prevent my daughter's febrile seizure, and I couldn't cure the virus that caused it. But I could trust that no matter what the outcome, God was in control. Looking back, it is so evident that God was at work the entire time to protect and provide for us. We are blessed in that our sweet baby girl has made an almost full recovery, with just a few lingering cold-like symptoms to show for the worst nightmare of our lives thus far. God made sure my husband was able to leave work early thanks to some compassionate and reliable coworkers. God made sure we woke up from our naps when we did so we could discover the onset of her high fever. God helped us to recognize her symptoms and know to seek immediate help. God provided expert guidance to most likely save her life and further care to ease her pain. And trusting God is what got us through the next couple of sleepless nights of tracking her fever and alternating her medications.

It seems surreal now, and maybe I'm making more of it than I otherwise would if I was not a first-time Mommy. I don't think so though, and her doctor validated my reactions and fears. But maybe other mommies out there would have been stronger, faster, more knowledgeable, more forceful...in the end, it didn't matter if I was "Mommy enough." In every conceivable way, God was enough. I know that I am immeasurably blessed in that I was able to learn this lesson (for the umpteenth time) and still wake up the next day to hold my baby. I know not everyone shares the same experience, and my heart breaks for those parents who have outlived a child.

There are a couple of times in the Bible when the authors say that Mary (mother of Jesus), stored things up in her heart. Now that I am a mother, I know what that truly means. There are fleeting moments, life lessons, and powerful emotions that we all experience, but being a mother lends a unique perspective on life and the value of the human soul. This was one of those situations, and like Mary, I will store these things up in my heart as I squeeze my baby girl and breathe in her irreplaceable beauty.

Humbled and hopeful,
Cassie

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Letter to My Children In Response to Orlando

My Precious Children,

I know someday you'll look back on the recent shooting in Orlando as a distant event, far removed from your memory because, well, that's what happens. Time moves on and memories fade, even when we do our darnedest to commemorate them with holidays, memorials, trinkets, and even charitable foundations. That's how Oklahoma City is to me, and I barely remember Columbine. I'll explain all of these to you in time, but for now, here's what I want you to know. Here's what I believe is the most important takeaway from these events.

Evil will always find a way to disrupt, debase, and destroy human lives. 
But love will always conquer. 

I know that sounds cheesy, and maybe you're rolling your eyes or considering tuning me out.

Don't. You need to pay attention because you need to understand what I'm about to say.

You see, it started with one silly apple. With one errant decision, one human literally changed the course of history and introduced evil into the world. One apple became the introduction to millennia of needless pain, suffering, and evil. It happened in the days of slavery, in the Holocaust, in each and every war, and it still happens today with every incident of gang violence and each horrifying terrorist attack. I'm sure as you watch the news you will see newer, equally vicious versions of Orlando and 9/11 and Oklahoma City. Headlines will tell tales of hateful, deeply troubled humans spewing poisonous diatribes and laying out violent manifestos. People will cry out in their devastation, "When will all of the [violence/hatred/suffering/etc.] end?!"

The sad truth is that it won't. Evil will continue to pervade our lives in insidious and awful ways. As you watch terrible acts of violent hatred unfold, you'll be deeply effected by the emotions of those around you as well as an overwhelmingly feeling of loss and helplessness. We all feel these things when we're wounded; they're normal and it's ok to express them and support each other as we heal. But my prayer is that you don't dwell in that place of pain and confusion. Instead I want you to learn.

I want you to learn to respond with love and compassion. Don't seize the opportunity for political commentary, and certainly don't lash back in anger. Feel your emotions, share them, and heal. But respond to others with the love and compassion, no matter what. There is a place for righteous anger, it's true, and I'm not saying you shouldn't be angry at the unjust nature of suffering. I'm only saying that you should not allow yourself to be consumed by anger and hatred. If you do, you are no better than those perpetrating the acts that hurt you and others around you.

I want you to learn to see all humans as souls to be cherished. No matter what their race, creed, lifestyle, etc. - God sees human souls that He created and loves desperately. Not all return that love, and none deserve it, including me and you. But He gives it freely and abundantly, and so should you. This is much, much easier said than done sometimes. But with patience, prayer, and gratitude it is possible. God hates evil, but He loves us so much He literally paid the ultimate price so that we - you and I and every other living soul - could know and receive that love. A love like that demands nothing less than your best, and your best should be sharing it with a broken, hurting, sometimes hateful world.

I want you to learn to understand that God's heart grieves when yours does. God hates to see us suffer, especially senselessly, as in the case of hate and violence. As I said before, God hates evil and He especially hates what it does to people and through people. No matter what decisions we make in life, God is willing to lovingly accept us with open arms, just as the father did the prodigal son. Our decisions and the suffering they cause grieve Him even more than they do us. But even as we hurt, He is right there, ready to wrap us in His arms and hold us as we heal. When the world wants to blame or revile God when evil things happen, just remember - His heart is broken too. It's broken because of the evil, and it's broken because people won't let Him love and heal them. Lean on Him in those times. Trust His peace when peace is nowhere else to be found.

I want you to learn to search for the "helpers." Mr. Fred Rogers said,

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

In Orlando and 9/11, there were countless examples of humble heroes who stepped in to help. From emergency responders who gave their lives helping others to safety, to organizations that provided food and supplies for the workers trying to clean up in the aftermath to volunteers donating blood for the wounded. Look for the helpers, and therein you will find a community of hope, unity, and strength. I want you to take it a step further too - be a helper. It's not possible to help everyone in every situation. But you can pray. You can raise money. You can send letters, collect canned food, etc. There are endless ways to help, but even when all else fails, you should always pray. Prayer is powerful because, like we talked about before, God is grieving too and He loves every human soul. 

Romans 12 says: 
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
...Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
...Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
...Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
...Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I wish I could eradicate evil and promise you a perfect world. I can't. I simply don't have the power to do so. But I know someone who does, and so do you. God's love already conquered evil on the Cross. Until the day comes when Jesus returns, there will continue to be evil and suffering in the world. I can't protect you from either, as much as I might try or pray that I can. What I can do is teach you to see others as God does, love them as He does, and help make your world that much better in the process. 

Love always,
Mommy

Thursday, May 26, 2016

How To Love Audaciously

If you've read some of my earlier posts, then you know that I started out this year with some pretty lofty goals for myself. I've managed to keep up with most of them, but one that has fallen slightly short is my reading. I have always loved reading. As a little girl I ate up every American Girl Doll book available. Then again, there were only six American Girl Dolls back then. I know, I'm old. Now there are probably two dozen, plus all the "design your own" and specialty dolls! It makes my poor, sweet, original Samantha doll seem, well, "vintage." Then I moved on to animal rescue stories, and stories about girls who loved horses. In my teenage years I loved historical fiction, Shakespeare, the Left Behind series, and Frank Peretti. Yes, my taste has always been eclectic.

As an adult, my tastes have slowly turned more towards the classics, such as Jane Austen, and women's encouragement literature (my personal classification for self-help books for Christian women). I've got so many books at home that I'm out of shelves and the shelves I do have are sagging under the weight of every last novel, biography, and Bible study I've ever owned. I can't part with them. I think back to books like Fahrenheit 451 and The Book Thief in which books were precious commodities to be cherished, and I just can't let go. I want my kids to know the real feeling of turning pages and smelling that just-cracked-binding smell that I've learned to love. I know they'll probably roll their eyes at me, their painfully old-fashioned mom, and point at what will probably be a small pile of Kindles charging in the corner. Nevertheless, my children will appreciate books if I have anything to say about it.

That being said, I just don't have as much time to read anymore as I'd like. Nowadays I'm lucky to catch a few pages in the bath or before bed or, yes I'm not ashamed to admit it, on the toilet. That doesn't change the fact that I love it and continue to buy books like they're going out of style. Partially because they are. The day Barnes & Noble goes under I will have to observe a very real period of mourning. So, I'm renewing my determination this month to read at least one book per month. It's the end of May, and so far this year I've read three books, if you count those I've been using for my women's Bible study, otherwise only...one.

But let me tell you what, that one book is a doozy! I don't know that I chose it so much as it chose me, or rather God smacked me across the face with it. I've actually read it all the way through TWICE now this year, that's how much I love it! That can count as two books this year, technically, right?! I read it through and loved it so much I had to go back and read it through again so I could highlight all the life-changing moments, which means it's now peppered with neon yellow paragraphs and dog-eared pages. This book spoke to me in a way that I haven't experienced in years. I could feel God working in my heart and revolutionizing my mind with every chapter. It has literally changed my life and the way I approach my relationship with God. So what is this magical book?!

Audacious, by Beth Moore


If you run in Christian circles for long, you will know the name Beth Moore. Her Bible studies have been changing lives for decades. Her latest installation, Audacious, does not disappoint! It's not her typical book either. Mrs. Moore usually digs into Scriptures focusing on topics like the lives of Biblical figures such as Esther, Daniel, and David. She has stirred hearts with toe-stomping studies like When Godly People Do Ungodly Things and Believing God. And she's pierced straight to our hearts with works like Breaking Free and So Long, Insecurity. But Audacious is different. Audacious is written as though you're sitting in Starbucks with Beth Moore herself and she's pouring her heart out to you. She's sharing her desire, "To see all women come to know and audaciously love Jesus Christ." 

First, she takes time to explain to you her choice of words. There are many words that could be used to describe the ideal relationship with Christ. Mrs. Moore chose audacious because it's not the first or even the tenth word that probably comes to mind, and yet it perfectly epitomizes what our relationship should look like to the rest of the world. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it this way:
audacious, adjective
[Middle French audacieux, from audace boldness, from Latin audacia, from audac-, audax bold, from audere to dare, from avidus eager...]
1. a: intrepidly daring: ADVENTUROUS
b: recklessly bold: RASH
2. contemptuous of law, religion, or decorum: INSOLENT
3. marked by originality and verve

Ignoring the second definition and focusing solely on the first and third definitions...can you imagine if our love for Christ was intrepidly daring, adventurous, and marked by originality and verve?! The world would be changed in so many ways. And the amazing thing about this concept is that you don't have to be an extrovert or social butterfly to make it work. Beth Moore admits that even she would often rather stay at home with a hot cup of something and a good book. Having an audacious love for Christ simply means that you pursue Him passionately and in such a way that the world cannot fail to see His love through you. You can do that right where you are, whether you work professionally, stay at home, or are otherwise limited. God can and will use you if you will only love Him and pursue Him with an audacious love. 

Isn't that great?! It's so simple that it might seem almost silly to you. But I promise, there are so many foundational ideas in this book that will revolutionize your life if you allow them to. I had to go back and read it again just so that I could highlight them! It's a short book at only 178 pages, so it's a quick read too. If you're like me, however, you'll end the book both satisfied and yearning for more - more fellowship, more passion, more meat. It'll light a fire in your heart that has the promise of an audacious, eternal blaze if you're willing to continue fanning it. I personally feel empowered to be the woman God wants me to be, and I don't even have to leave home to do it (yet). Don't worry, I'm not going to turn into a cloistered nun or a happy hermit. It's just so liberating to know that I don't have to go outside of my house or look anywhere other than my worn old Bible to find audacious, passionate, exhilarating love. I could quote half the book to you at this point, but I won't do that to you. Instead, I will leave you with this quote (yes, I know it's long - hang in there!):

Full boldness [is], at the very same time, welcoming. That's how we're also meant to live, speak, and serve people. Boldness says that we don't see every little obstacle as some big hindrance. We're not too fragile to adapt and too finicky to accept. Boldness says that each circumstance is up for rent as an opportunity. What we're willing to do with the room we've been given is up to us. Boldness makes the best of it...Hopelessness is a liar. A convincing one. We offer it no welcome, no couch to rest upon, no meal to feast upon...
Because the eternal purpose of God was fully accomplished in Jesus, we are authorized, urged, exhorted, and expected to approach His throne with absolute boldness.
Confidently. Audaciously. Like we believe what He says. Like we receive what He's done. Like we accept who we are. Like we know what it took. The exorbitant price He paid for our access is worthy of nothing less. 
(Audacious, by Beth Moore; emphasis mine)

BOOM. 

Read that again, chew on it for a moment, let it sink into the very depths of your heart and mind. The God of the universe, the same God who set the stars in place and knows every hair on your head, paid the ultimate price - an ugly, brutal, evil death on a Roman cross - for YOU to be able to have a relationship with Him. How can we afford not to pursue it with audacity and fiery passion?! He demands and deserves nothing less than a love that consumes every last microscopic iota of our being.

I encourage you to read this book and join me in pursuing God with an audacious love. Do you dare?

Hapless but hopeful,
Cassie

Ps - Stay tuned for more book reviews in the coming months! These books are next up on my list: