Friday, March 13, 2015

A letter to my children . . .

Eight and a half years ago, when I was preparing to welcome Camilla into this world, my deepest prayer for her was that she would come to know and love Jesus as much as I do—more, even. I wanted to see all my children follow Him.

I still want that—yes. But now there is more. Now it has been brought to our attention that our brothers and sisters are being martyred. Christians are being beheaded by Muslim extremists. I got an email regarding it a few months ago and I didn’t want to believe it. It’s the kind of thing you know happens sometimes—once in a great while maybe. But not regularly. Not in today’s world.

Yes. In today’s world. Regularly. Often. And maybe, in my lifetime—or in your lifetime—it will happen here. I hope not. I pray with all my heart that our nation will remain a safe and free one until Jesus returns. But even more than that my prayer for you, my children, has gone deeper to ask for a faith strong enough to die, to endure torture, for the name of Christ. I pray that our family won’t have to face that fate—here on our native soil or in foreign lands. But I also see the eternal perspective. What matters most is that we can face it if we need to. That my children and grandchildren are strong enough, that they know their Savior and love Him enough even to die for Him. As He died for them.

Furthermore, I see anew the importance of telling others that Jesus died for them. It’s easy when life is humming along, and we’re caught up in our personal business, to forget that we’re all going to die. It’s easy to put that aside and just focus on being nice and showing love. Showing love is important. It’s part of God’s plan. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. By all means, show love! But show them where your love comes from, too.

This world we live in right now is crazy. I could use stronger words, but I’m writing to my children. I can’t even comprehend the devastation. And what can change it? Nothing can change the direction we’re headed except the love of a Savior. The Savior you already know. His love changes people, it changes hearts, it changes lives. It can change our world, one life at a time.

God loves every member of ISIS. I can’t quite wrap my head around that, but He wants them saved. And if He does, so do I. Imagine the difference it would make, if radical Muslims, now filled with hate, met a living Savior and were filled with love instead.

I’ve been asking myself what we can do. And now I know. We can do what we should have been doing all along. Press closer to Jesus, ask Him for a faith strong enough to endure, pray for our world, and share the good news. Let’s live our lives with a renewed resolution to do that. Perhaps you were born into this world for this purpose. My sweet Evangeline, whose name means “Bringer of Good News,” perhaps this is your calling. It’s a calling for every one of us. So let’s take up the mantle and live like we believe it.

Friday, February 6, 2015


The New Year is already over a month old. I thought by now I'd be cranking out the blog posts, deep into a manuscript, involved with characters who are (almost) as real to me as my own children.

I'm not.

I have ideas. Lots of ideas. I sit down to write. I start writing . . . and after a little while it fizzles out. I look at it later and realize it wasn't any good. Which is okay. Or, it's good but I don't know what words come next. I have no idea what to put on the page after that.

My writing friend says it's because I spent so many years in 1860 with Sid and Rachel. Maybe.

I know that I need to nurture my creative self. And that's hard right now. Every day is full. Bursting with children to be fed and taught and nurtured. I already get up shortly after 5 am. I can't get up earlier. On Wednesday I wrote nonsense for a little while, but ultimately found it more satisfying to spend my alone time straightening up the house, vacuuming, washing dishes. You can see the results of that work right away. Even if it is completely undone in 24 hours.

I've been dragging my feet with an assignment I've given myself. Am I lazy? Is it not the right time?

Or is it what I learned years ago and that same friend reminded me of: I'm scared.

So I go back to the place I learned it. That book. And I read and think and make new resolutions. I remember the woman who gave me the book and I decide to pursue this thing.

It's hard to be creative in this season. I don't know the answer. I'm hoping to find it. Slowly, like a flower opening in spring. Right now it's all crunched in on itself. Tightly. Tensely holding on. But soon it will open to the sunlight, unfurling its petals and gracing the world with beauty once again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The tour continues . . .

Just a quick post to let all my local readers know that I'll be speaking at the Hazleton Public Library tomorrow night, Thursday, November 6th, at 6pm. I'm excited and honored to take part in PA Forward's "Speak Up for PA Libraries" program. I'll be talking about the impact libraries have had on my life, as well as sharing about my book and reading from it. You can purchase copies of One Traveler at the event and I will be happy to autograph them for you. Please come out and support me and our public libraries!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trick or Treat!

I may not be writing here on the blog much lately, but I have been thinking a lot. This time of the year, I always think about Halloween—and why our family chooses to celebrate it.

Growing up, my Halloween roots were a bit of a mixed bag (pun intended). I remember actually trick-or-treating only once. I must have been about five. I was a fairy princess—my costume was the flower girl dress I’d worn in my uncle’s wedding, along with wings my mom made. I remember one of my big brothers dressing up as a garbage bag full of autumn leaves. It was dark and cold and exciting to be out with the big kids. Afterwards we savored our candy by the blazing fireplace.

After that, we moved to my parents’ hometown, and we never celebrated Halloween again. I don’t remember caring very much. Maybe I just wasn’t old enough to form my own opinion on the Holiday yet. Our church often had a “Harvest Festival” to give us an alternative to the demonic activity of Trick-or-Treating.

Though I wrote that last sentence sarcastically, I don’t mean to make light of an issue that many Christians take seriously. Sometimes, though, I think we Christians take ourselves far too seriously. I spent the rest of my growing-up years being told that Halloween was the Devil’s Holiday. That it was a time when witches worshipped Satan. That it originated in occult practices and as a follower of Jesus, I couldn’t participate in it at all.

I kind of believed that. I have never liked the scary, ghoulish, demonic images tied to Halloween. I believe that evil is a real force in this world, that Satan exists and is the Enemy of our souls. I want to stay far away from anything that glorifies the Enemy.

As an adult, though, I’ve come to the place where I don’t view trick-or-treating as evil or demonic. I’ve heard a lot of different arguments for and against Halloween. Refusing to celebrate it because of its Pagan origins just doesn’t hold water for me. If you’re going to refuse to celebrate a Holiday on those grounds, you’d better eschew Christmas as well. Maybe some of you do, and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion and your practices. The Puritans celebrated neither Christmas nor Halloween.

I, however, may be a purist, but I am by no means a Puritan.

A couple of tricky treats (a few years ago).
I believe I’m here to shine a light in a dark world. I don’t think turning off my porch light on October 31st does that. (Of course, in my neighborhood, nobody but the wildlife notices that it’s on.) I don’t believe telling my children they can’t dress up on Halloween or forcing them to dress as Bible characters encourages them to love Jesus. They love dressing up—who doesn’t? This year they love dressing up like Batman and Princess Anna. Like all children, they love candy. Halloween is part of our culture. I may be countercultural in some ways, but this isn’t one of those ways. The reasons aren’t compelling enough. We don’t run around like crazy going to every trick-or-treating event within a 20-mile radius. Some families do that, but that’s just not our style.  

We do dress up (or the kids do, at least). We let them go to Halloween parties. If we have an outreach at church, we attend it as a way to participate in our community (since we live in the country and nobody trick-or-treats on our street). If our church doesn’t have an event, we might trick-or-treat in another neighborhood.

Honestly, the most confusing part of Halloween for my kids has been seeing that some Christians don’t celebrate it at all. It’s good to discuss these things, though, to learn that every family makes different choices. That someday they might make different choices from the ones we’ve made. The important question for me is “How will this affect eternity?” What I’m realizing is that our cultural traditions are intertwined with Pagan rituals to such an extent that it would be nearly impossible to separate them. To try would be putting all my energy into something that won’t make an impact for Christ on my children or my world.

So we celebrate. Christmas. Halloween. Embracing all of the light. All of the good and precious parts. I will point out the Christian roots of Halloween. The importance of the birth of Jesus. Yet, also appreciating the joy that comes with tradition.

Another tricky year at the Treats. 
You can read more about the Christian roots of Halloween here. Though I’m not Catholic, I like the idea of stressing All Saints Day in your celebration. (Protestants can celebrate All Saints Day as well.) I love FIMBY’s take on Halloween discussed in this post. Modern Mrs. Darcy talks about her feelings here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On playing catch-up and trying to mother well

We are immersed in summer mode in the Treat household. We finished up our homeschool year the week of my last blogpost, which means Camilla is finished with 1st grade. Now, I swore that we would do some math and a lot of reading over the summer . . . but have we opened up the math book since June 6th? Or has Camilla even touched her Flashmaster? We’ll just have to do better next week. (That’s what I keep saying, anyway!)

We have been reading, however. I’m working on 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (loving it and it’s totally challenging me), Camilla is reading In Grandma’s Attic and Todd is reading Good Call by Jase Robertson—he’s been sharing some tidbits from this as he reads and I’m enjoying it, too. I’ve started reading The Princess and the Goblin out loud to the kids, and while they seem to like it, for whatever reason they just don’t want to sit and listen to me read lately. Or not that book, anyway. Maybe it feels too much like school.

We’ve also been spending tons of time outside. We’ve been camping twice already! I’ve been thinking of doing a summer series on camping . . . who’d be interested in that? Anyone . . . anyone . . . ?
Is this not the cutest 9-month-old ever
A proficient bike rider--he takes after his father! 
Sleepy snuggles!

Always on the hunt for a creature of some kind.

Treasures in the creek!

Clearly, we torture our children dragging them outdoors!
Or maybe not so much . . .
Just had to include all those beautiful shots of our kids camping, but on to other news . . .

I’ve discovered that my internet addiction goes far beyond Facebook. In fact, just after giving up Facebook (ostensibly for good), I found myself wiling away my writing hours reading about the O.J. Simpson trial. It was the 20-year anniversary, you know! And, in spite of the fact that I never really cared about the trial when it was actually happening, I do remember watching the chase on TV. So this June, I pored over all the gory details and even told myself it was research, because I have been thinking about writing a murder mystery. I mean, that thought has crossed my mind from time to time. I may not be writing one now, but who knows? This knowledge could come in handy someday. So you see, there are even better ways to waste time than reading your Facebook feed.

Speaking of summer mode . . . two weeks ago, a certain child’s behavior was over-the-top unbearable. I mean, beyond anything I’d dealt with before in terms of defiance. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail for the sake of said child’s privacy. I will just say that I had never heard her announce direct disobedience in this way before. Over the course of two days, we had some dire consequences, some good conversations about what was going on with her, and she and I prayed together several times. I encouraged her to start reading her Bible and praying in the morning as soon as she wakes up. We’ve talked about this before, but she needed some reminding and it seemed especially pertinent considering the behavior I was seeing. I explained that it’s hard for us to change our actions on our own. We all want to sin sometimes, but God can help us grow and learn to do the right thing if we allow Him to change our hearts. But we need to spend time with Him for this to happen. Now, I think I’m pretty good at explaining God’s grace, at reassuring my kids that I love them even when they misbehave, and I tried to do this throughout these conversations. Last week, while the younger kids got to play at Grammy and Grampy’s, my eldest had to come with me while I did some writing (one of the “dire” consequences). I suppose I inspired her. She began writing a little novel of her own . . .

And now I question how well the concept of “grace” is coming across to her. Am I teaching my kids they have to perform to receive my approval? Or God’s? Am I brainwashing her and trying to make her into a robot? I don’t even think I used the word “good” in our conversations, but somehow she got the impression that being “a good girl who loves God” was something she should strive for. Loving God is the goal, absolutely! But being "good"?  Doesn't scripture tell us, "There is none who does good, no, not one?" (Psalm 53:3)

It’s back to the drawing board for me. As soon as I think I have something figured out, I’m blindsided. I just keep praying I don’t royally mess up these children.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

We’ll always have Paris: A good-bye letter to Facebook

I cannot lie, Facebook. I have loved you. I have reveled in the boost to my ego when I post a photo of my child and it gets 57 “likes.” I have enjoyed the little game I’ve made of composing a witty description of noteworthy events and making it “Facebook Status” length. I know there seems to be no limit to the characters one can use in a Facebook Status, but if you want it to be read (and liked), it has to be concise and (preferably) funny.
This one only got 39 "likes!"
I have whole-heartedly loved following the lives of my friends in far-flung lands. Seeing photos of their babies and getting glimpses into their everyday lives has been good. I have loved reading every Huffpost article I’ve clicked on. Keeping up with what’s trending might be a little difficult once I sign off. I’ve also enjoyed finding out which city I should live in (Paris), whether I’m right or left brained (more right than left), which Middle Earth race I belong to (elves), along with many other discoveries you’ve helped me make about myself—which I now can’t recall.

Facebook, you’ve given me ideas about what to make for dinner, found doctors for my children, even helped me choose a dishwasher. Through you, people have offered advice, support, comfort and encouragement. Many have read my blog, and liked it. You’ve been a good friend in a lot of ways.

Facebook, I have loved to hate you. I have taken breaks from you. I have taken Lent completely off from you. I have felt your talons digging into me and I have fought them. I have given myself limits and made up schedules. And sometimes I have followed through. I have set down the iPhone. I have closed the MacBook. But, somehow, you always, always claw your way back into my time. My space. My mind.

My current "Top Sites"
Facebook, I have hated you. You distract me when I could be writing. I click on the shrunken image of my login page in my “top sites” for some good reason—writing a personal message, perhaps, or updating my author page. And the next thing I know, it’s an hour later and I have scrolled through three hundred pictures of people I don’t even know. I compare myself to these people and to others—the smiling photos in my newsfeed. I wonder how she looks so thin already when her baby’s younger than mine. I have that crushing feeling when I see a photo from the park play date nobody invited me to. I wish I could be as organized or creative as the mom who posts photos of her beautiful birthday party complete with designer clothes and perfect-looking food that she made herself. And then I beat myself up later, because if I didn’t waste time on Facebook, maybe I could do stuff like that! You have caused me grief and pain and worry. I don’t need that in my life right now. It’s not worth it. I hate you most of all for stealing my attention from the precious faces that look to me for advice, for affirmation, for love. I hate you for giving me a reason (and not a good one) to absentmindedly say to them, “Give me a minute. I just need to finish this one thing and then I’ll be with you . . .”

Facebook, it isn’t you, it’s me. If I were a stronger person, then setting limits would be enough. If I were more disciplined, you wouldn’t have the pull that you do. If I were secure, I wouldn’t even feel the talons. But setting limits hasn’t been enough. I’ve failed to live by them. Time and time again. I’ve sacrificed for Lent, seen the fruit of living without you, made promises to myself and broken them the first week of Easter.

I need to step away from the race, the competition, the snarky comments, the trying to be cool in a place that doesn’t even actually exist in the physical world. I need to go it alone, step into real life, trust that friends who really are friends will not need social media to talk to me. That readers who are supposed to read my writing will still read it. That I do actually exist, even if I am not on Facebook.

So good-bye, Facebook. I’m grateful for the revelation that I ought to live in Paris, though. So, you know . . . we’ll always have that.

I'll be deactivating my personal Facebook account on the evening of Sunday, June 8th, so if you're friends with me there, please be sure to find another way to keep up with me. My author page will be continuing under new administration, so please "like" that page. I'll be closely monitoring it and I'll continue using Twitter and Pinterest--unless they prove to be as problematic as Facebook has become for me. Please sign up to receive new blogposts via email or rss feed in the right hand column of this blog. Realize that I'm only speaking for myself regarding Facebook, as I think it's a useful tool for many people and may be for me again sometime in the very distant future. Also, please don't try to talk me out of this. I've given it a lot of thought. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why I paid someone to stick a needle through my nostril . . .

Do I really need to explain this?

I’m beginning to fear that writing this blog post will prove to be counterproductive. Explaining why I did it might work against my purpose in doing it to begin with. But I’m always keeping an eye out for post topics. I might as well have some fun writing about my life.

After all, over analysis nearly kept me from piercing my nose in the first place.

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting my nostril pierced for about ten years. Ten years ago, though, I was working at a job that required piercings (aside from earrings) to be removed in the workplace. I knew that if I got my nose pierced, I wouldn’t be able to remove it at all for a good four months or so. A new piercing was out. Or at least, that’s the reason I told myself I wasn’t getting one. In reality, I was probably scared of what people would think. Afraid they might realize I wasn’t the straight-laced conservative girl I’d normally posed as. I imagined that people looked at me and thought I was a certain way. It wasn’t the way I really was. And it wasn’t the way I really wanted to be.

I am, and always have been, more liberal than my conservative friends . . . and more conservative than my liberal friends. I’ve always been creative and different and secretly longed to look on the outside the way I feel inside. But I also have an extremely practical side, so I shied away from accessories and trendy dressing, thinking I really needed to buy classic styles so I could wear the same clothes for years. But I wanted to be funky. I love a variety of styles, but the hippie, earthy side of me is finally beginning to win out. In college, I was the girl who wore socks with Birkenstocks. And hats. I loved hats.

I’m working backwards. I know. Let’s speed up to 2013, though, when I packed on the pounds at an alarming rate b/c Evangeline required me to eat potatoes nonstop and lie on the couch reading novels for her first 16 weeks in utero.

Motherhood requires loss of self to a certain extent. Some of that I love. I LOVE wearing my baby, especially in a Moby wrap. The baby’s so snuggly and close. It feels organic. It’s also a great look and it hides my post-partum bulge to a certain extent. We’re past the Moby stage now, though, and the straps of my Beco carrier accentuate the love handles. I still have 20 to 25 pounds to lose. All winter I wore one pair of jeans. I don’t even like those jeans at all, but they were the only ones I could find that fit. I splurged on a few scarves and one flattering outfit. But I felt a little frumpy. And fat. And not really myself. I longed for something to give me an edge. To show on the outside that I’m artsy and so not-straight-laced. I thought about dreadlocks, but that’s just too much trouble right now. And honestly, it’s kind of too much trouble to come up with funky outfits every day. Sometimes I just want to wear yoga pants.

I knew, deep down, that I needed to stop caring what people think of me and just be the person God made me to be.

Way back when I was originally thinking about getting my nostril pierced (ten years ago) a mentor tried to tell me that people don’t really think about me as much as I think they do. I wanted to believe that. But then somebody told me I was known (to Department of Transportation workers) as the girl who runs in the purple hat.

Oh. So they talk about me and what I wear when I’m running.

But who cares? After four months of thinking about it and three (yes, three!) failed trips to the piercing place, I finally did it. I just got up from writing on April Fools Day and went and got my nose pierced. I overcame my insecurities. I stopped caring what people think about me. Let them say I wasn’t a good Christian. Let them say I was trying to look younger than I am. Let them say it’s not really different because everybody and their mother has their nose pierced these days. God knows the truth. And so do I.

I just wanted a nose stud. And I like it. And once it heals, I’m going to wear a hoop, too. And don’t be surprised if I put some crazy color in my hair one day. Or do be surprised. It doesn’t matter.

Life is too short to worry about what everybody thinks. This is just one way to help me remember that it doesn’t matter what they think. That it’s okay to be different. That God loves me and made me different. I want to embrace that. Not in a selfish way, but in a brave way. Embracing everything He made me to do. Be it loving on my kids or expressing myself through writing.

I will look in the mirror, see my piercing and know that I need to step out and be fully alive, in every possible way.

Carpe Diem Coram Deo.
I'd like to point out that most of my selfies do include my children. Also, I've had that red LL Bean anorak for more than fifteen years. Can't kill the practical side. May it coexist with the edgy.