Monday, January 19, 2015

Little life now lived largely

Little toes never tickled,
Little hands never held,
Little cheeks never stroked,
Little voice that was quelled.

Little nose never wiped,
Little lips never kissed,
Little eyes never opened,
Little life sorely missed.

But now you live largely,
Little child of the King,
Of his grace and his mercy,
Your little voice sings.

Your little eyes filled
With his glorious light.
In you, little one,
Your Father delights.

Little feet pitter patter
On streets of pure gold.
Little life now secure
In the father's strong hold.

Copyright 2014 Chelsea K. Stanley

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Caring for friends in the valley

For the past six months, we have been walking through the valley.  It seems as though just as we start to catch our breath from one trial, another one knocks the wind out of us.  It's been a season of surgeries, sickness and survival for our family.  Thankfully, we have a great God who has surrounded us with selfless, caring people.

Before this season, I had a limited view of what caring for others looked like.  I honestly had never thought beyond meal ministry and notes of encouragement before, and while both are fantastic ways to care for others, I've learned that there are so many other ways to bless those who are walking through the valley.

So here's a list of ways in which others have blessed and encouraged us through this season.  It's not exhaustive, but hopefully it will spur you on to help a sister who is walking through her own valley.

1.  Bring her a cup of coffee (or a large sweet tea in my case).
2.  Take out the trash.
3.  Mow the lawn.
4.  Deliver a meal.  A homemade meal, take-out or leftovers all count!
5.  Take one of her kids to the park.  
6.  Give her the gospel.  Remind her how Jesus endured pain and suffering, even death on a cross, so that she might live.  
7.  Make her feel safe.  Encourage her not to worry about her lack of make-up, her messy house, or the fact that Mickey Mouse is currently serving as a surrogate parent.  Be trustworthy and don't tell others about her current state of affairs (especially under the guise of a "prayer request").   
8.  Be a sous chef.  When I was pregnant the second time around, I couldn't cook poultry for the life of me.  One of the best gifts I received from a sweet friend was two pounds of chicken, cooked and shredded for meals.  
9.  Send a handwritten note.  Who doesn't love getting mail?
10.  Go grocery shopping.
11.  Clean.  This was a humbling experience for me, but I am thankful for family and friends who forced me to sit and rest as they vacuumed, swept and washed dishes.
12. Extend much grace.  The valley is a foggy place where birthdays may be forgotten and family gatherings may be missed.  Don't take it personally.
13.  Accommodate.  For years, our group of friends has gathered for a "Christmas Eve Eve" adults-only dinner party.   This year, they encouraged us to bring our three-month old who has been struggling to eat and can't be left with a babysitter for too long.  He enjoyed the extra attention, and we enjoyed a night out with friends.
14. Give her the gospel again.  Remind her that nothing can separate her from the love of Christ.
15.  Pray then and there.  It's great to hear that someone is praying to you.  It's especially encouraging when someone takes your hand and prays right then and there for you.
16.  Go beyond dinner.  Bagels, muffins, cut fresh fruit and veggies were great to have around when recovering from our surgeries.
17.  Offer your pre-teen/teen daughter as a mama's helper.  How blessed I was to have young girls play with my toddler, vacuum my living room and rock my baby!  And their moms loved using it as an opportunity to teach their children how to selflessly serve others.
18.  Be "on-call."  If you have a flexible schedule, offer to be the backup when other help falls through.  When I had to rely on others to lift our toddler in and out of his crib for two weeks because my husband and I had lifting restrictions after surgeries, there was one stay-at-home mom who came to our rescue several times when we were in a pinch.
19.  Send an encouraging text or Facebook message.
20.  Share scripture.  There have been many days when I've survived in the verses sent to me by friends.
21.  Sit at the hospital with her as she waits for results or procedures.
22.  Offer to set up a meal or task sign-up.  One of my friends who is gifted in organization and administration did this for me, and it was a huge help.
23.  Sit with the kids so she can shower or take a nap.
24.  Complete a special task.  I've had friends and family offer to shine my stainless steel appliances, wrap Christmas presents, vacuum our car, and organize the nursery closets, among others.
25.  Keep giving her the gospel!  It's easy to forget about eternity when you're dealing with the daily yuck.  Remind her of the great hope we have in Christ Jesus!

Any other ideas?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

'Twas the Night...Re-Write!

I had the privilege of writing this short work for our church's annual Christmas women's brunch dramatic presentation.  I hope it ministers to you in some small way.

‘Twas the night before Christmas… 
You remember the rhyme
The classic old poem 
That’s told ‘round this time. 

A quaint little story,
All merry and bright,
Of reindeer and sugar plums
A magical night.

It sounds nice in theory,
But gals, let’s be real.
For many, the holidays
are less than ideal.

A reminder of love
lost, broken, not found,
A season of stress,
When to-do lists abound.

So let's look at a few
Christmas Eves in real life,
At four different women
Each with her own strife.

The widow, the mothers,
Busy and tired,
And the wife who went looking
For the love she desired.

A new spin on the classic old poem
'Twas the night,
With a little more grit,
A real life re-write. 


‘Twas the night before Christmas 
And all through her house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse.

Her husband had passed,
Her children were grown.
‘Twas her first Christmas Eve
All on her own.

No one beside her
This cold winter’s night
No one beside her
Whose hand to hold tight.

No singing or laughter,
No kisses or hugs,
No cookies for Santa,
No cocoa in mugs.

She was feeling alone,
And her future seemed bleak.
There, in the quiet,
Tears rolled down her cheek.

Her whole life had changed 
In the blink of an eye.
Things that once brought her joy,
Now made her cry.

As she flipped through an album
Of memories so dear,
She wondered if she could
Skip Christmas this year.


The next woman's house
Wasn't nearly as quiet.
Compared to the widow's,
Her home was a riot!

The stockings were hung
By her chimney with care,
Eight gifts for each one—
she had to be fair!

The napkins were folded
To resemble reindeer
But they looked more like dogs.
She’d use Pinterest next year.

The toilets were scrubbed,
The mirrors were streak free,
Plenty of hand towels
And extra TP!

Cherry pie in the oven
With pumpkin on deck,
Gluten-free for Molly, 
Check, check and check!

What once was an evening
Of family and fun,
Was now a to-do list
Of things to get done.

In the pressure to be
The best Mrs. Clause,
She had missed the true meaning
She’d forgotten to pause.

Running around like a chick
with no head,
Christmas Eve had become
a checklist instead. 


The third woman's house
Was chock full of strife
The tension? Well, it could
Be cut with a knife.

Her children were tucked
away in their beds,
With visions of happier times
in their heads.

Upstairs their parents
Were in the midst of a fight.
It had lasted for weeks,
no forgiveness in sight.

He had grown distant,
And just wanted to be
Left alone with his beer,
his remote and TV.

She felt unloved,
Nothing more than his cook
And confided all this
To a friend on Facebook.

What started as chat
Took a turn for the worst,
And now she was wishing
She had thought this through first.

She stopped it before
It became too much more,
But when her husband found out,
He was rocked to his core.

Oh, how she wished she could
Relive her past;
Instead, this Christmas Eve
Could well be their last.


The last woman we find
in a zombie-like state,
A mother of babies,
Some of you may relate.

From her monitor app,
There arose such a clatter,
So she shuffled down the hall
To see what was the matter.

She went to the nursery
And turned on the light.
This was the fourth time she’d
Been up that night.

Her newborn was hungry,
Needing to be fed,
And her toddler was cutting
Those molars moms dread.

She was exhausted.
She'd had no sleep for days,
Determined, she fought
Through the fog-like “mom haze.”

It’d been days since she showered
Or combed her snarled hair,
But once more she sat
In that old rocking chair,

Rocking her babies
with bags under her eyes,
Doing her best
To tend to their cries.

Oh, how would she ever
Survive Christmas Day?
Desperate, she bowed
And started to pray.


When what to her tired,
weary heart should appear?
But God saying,
“Dear One, Immanuel is here!”

“For just as you sit here,
Rocking your child,
Mary, too, held her baby,
Completely beguiled

By her savior,
The one who was sent to deliver
Her people from death,
The eternal life giver.

And one day he’d die
So that you would be blessed
With more than just sleep,
For in him, you find rest

And the strength to respond
To that late midnight cry
Because you’re never alone, child,
Your savior is nigh.

No, your hair isn’t washed,
And there’s gook on your shirt,
But he’s cleansed you from sin,
On your heart, there’s no dirt.

You’ve been clothed in fine robes
Of righteousness, pure.
And you’re safe in the arms
Of your savior, secure.”


The wife who had sinned
Could not fall asleep.
By her guilt overcome,
She started to weep,

So she turned on her lamp
And started to read.
On Luke chapter two,
Her soul started to feed.

“While there, the time came
for her to give birth,
And of all of the places
O’er all of the earth,

He was laid in a manger
No room in the inn.”
What a way for his life
In this world to begin!

Humbly, he came
to this earth so that she
from the bondage of sin
and death could be free.

Repentant, she sought his
Merciful face.
In Him was redemption
Forgiveness, and grace. 

Yes, He tore the curtain
He tore it in half!
Now he stands at the throne
On her behalf!

She still didn't know
If her marriage would last
But she had hope in the Lord,
So she'd keep holding fast.


Waiting for cherry
And pumpkin to bake,
The busy mom sat
And took a quick break.

She pulled out her iPad
And scrolled through her feed,
When a post caught her eye
And she started to read.

It spoke about Jesus,
The great Prince of Peace,
How his peace would not end,
Nor his reign ever cease.
Amidst all the chaos,
She’d sadly forgotten
That the reason for Christmas
Was God’s son begotten,

Who was sent to bring peace
Through what he would do
On the cross,
And this peace
Was eternal and true.

No longer at war
With God, holy and just,
She belonged to the Prince,
In Him did she trust,

Not just for a break
From the tasks of the day,
But for real peace with God,
His wrath now at bay.


And finally back
To the widow alone,
Who noticed a voicemail
Pop up on her phone.

“Hi mom,” it began,
“I wish I was there
To share in this night,
But instead here’s my prayer,

‘You once sang a song
Of a mother and child,
A sweet holy infant
So tender and mild.

You sang of Christ Jesus
Our Savior and King,
‘Immanuel’s here!’
Together we’d sing.

You and dad raised us
To love our dear Lord.
In our home, He was cherished,
Praised and adored.

He lost loved ones and friends,
By his own, he was scorned,
And, he too, knew the pain
That comes with death mourned.

But He died so that you, mom,
Would n’er be alone,
Not a day will go by
When you’ll be on your own.

So tonight, mom, I pray
You’ll remember his face,
Familiar and faithful
And beaming with grace.’”


What about you?
Are you dreading this night?
Oh, friends, there IS hope,
Both merry and bright!

Christ gives rest for the weary,
And for those stretched too thin,
There’s peace, and there’s grace
For those heavy with sin.

The downcast He comforts,
In Him, there’s new life
For the widow, the mother,
The daughter, the wife!

His eyes—how they twinkle 
with goodness and glory,
And the scars on his hands and his feet
Tell a story

Of his infinite love
for you and for me,
Far better than presents
Under the tree.

In the classic, St. Nick
Wishes all a good night,
But today, let’s praise Christ,
Our hope, born on that night!

 © 2014 Chelsea K. Stanley

Thursday, September 4, 2014

To My Precious Son

To my precious son,

What a joy it is to welcome you into our lives, dear boy! We have been eagerly awaiting your arrival, and we are rejoicing in God’s goodness and faithfulness as we finally hold you in our arms.

Son, your father and I have spent many car rides and dinner conversations discussing the name we give you today—a name that expresses both our gratitude and our desires for you—John Oliver Stanley. 


Your first name, John, means “God is gracious.” As John 1:14,16 says, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…For from this fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” God has been so gracious to us, dear John. Your daddy and I have been saved by grace, our relationship has thrived on grace, and you, little one, are just another example of God’s amazing grace in our lives. We pray that one day you, too, will experience this incredible saving and sustaining grace, which is why we give you this name.

You share your middle name, Oliver, with your late Grandpa Glenn. He had a great love for God and his family, and oh, how he would have loved you! He constantly told your daddy how much he loved him, and daddy never doubted his father’s love for him. In the same way, we pray you will never doubt our love for you, but more importantly, that you will never ever doubt God’s love for you. When trials come, when darkness seems to be closing in, when temptations rage against you, know that your father in heaven loves you deeply—so much so that he gave his OWN son to die so that you might live. While we love you more than you could ever know, our love pales in comparison to God’s love towards you. As 1 John 4 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” There is no greater love, my son, because this love leads to life—a life full of joy and hope and peace. 

Your last name, Stanley, is not given but inherited, and it comes with a rich legacy. What does it mean to be a Stanley? Well, you will likely have to shop in the Big and Tall section your entire life, you’ll probably receive your first guitar lesson before you take your first steps, and you may inherit what I’ll call a “unique” sense of humor. 


But it also means that you are part of a rich legacy of God’s grace and mercy. When your Grandpa was young, God literally broke his prisoner chains so that his heart would be free to rise and follow Christ. He then shared the great news of the gospel with his own sons, and God was faithful to save your daddy through the testimony of his big brother, your Uncle Jeff. Since the day we found out we were pregnant with you, we have prayed without ceasing that you, too, John, would experience the same saving grace that Stanleys before you have experienced. We pray that God would call you out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9), and when that day comes, dear son, we—and all of heaven—will rejoice! 

Welcome to this world, John Oliver Stanley. We love you dearly.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Making the Most of "Me Time"

A few weeks ago, I wrote this blog post in an attempt to describe how I, a self-proclaimed introvert, often feel in social situations.  I was blown away by how many people seemed to relate to the post, so I decided then and there to do a series on what it looks like to be a Christian introvert.

In my last post, I discussed how introverts turn inward for energy. After spending time with people, they crave "me time" to think, process, rejuvenate.

In this post, we'll dig deeper into this "me time" and try to figure out how to best utilize this time to the glory of God.  

So what exactly does "me time" look like?

For me, "me time" can take many shapes and forms. My "me time" usually involves one or several of the following: eating, reading, crafting, singing, thinking, praying, writing, facebooking, pondering, shopping, processing, or Netflixing (yea, I just made that a thing).

You may have noticed that more than one of those activities takes place in my mind. One of the great benefits of "me time" (in my experience) is that allows me to think, ponder, process, and constantly take stock of where I'm at in life. Because I spend a great deal of time inside my own head, I am keenly aware of my desires, my sin, my passions, my pain. This awareness can lead to a host of good things, but if I'm not careful, it can also lead to great sin.

Awareness of my desires can lead to death or life.

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. -James 1:15
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. - Psalm 145:19

Awareness of my sin can lead to condemnation or repentance.

Therefore, there is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ. - Romans 8:1
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9

Awareness of my passions can lead to selfishness or selflessness.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter... 
...For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another...

                                                                                         - 1 Thess 4: 3-5, 7-9
And awareness of my pain can lead to bitterness or faithfulness.

Then his (Job's) wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 1 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” - Job 2:9

How, then, do I partake in the goodness while guarding against the sin?

By looking upward, not inward.  

I lift up my eyes to the hills.From where does my help come?My help comes from the Lord,who made heaven and earth...The Lord will keep you from all evil;he will keep your life.
                                    - Psalm 121: 1-2, 7

By focusing my thoughts on things above, not things below.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - Phillipians 4:8

By being ever-mindful of the gospel.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, andto live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. - Titus 2: 11-14

Here's the thing...for the Christian, there's really no such thing as "me time."  I'll say it again to let it sink in...

For the Christian, there's really no such thing as "me time."

For Christ has purchased us at a great price so that he could make us his own, and as his own, we are in turn called to be "living sacrifices" that are "holy and acceptable to God."

My "me time" is truly "His time." 

Every word I write, every thought I think, every breath I take belongs to Him and Him alone. And if I posture my heart in this way, I can rest assured that I am making the most of my time...His time.

Stay tuned for the next post where we'll discuss how we can best serve God with our "me time."  In the meantime, did anything from today's post strike a chord?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments section.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Preparing for Easter

I don't know about you, but holidays have a tendency to sneak up on me.  And if I'm not careful, my heart can be left cold and unprepared.

So for the past few years, I have purposed to prepare my heart, my home, and my table for Easter...the most joyous day on the Christian calendar!

If you'd like to join me in preparing for the Easter season, here are five great resources that God has used to minister to me and my family:

1) Treasuring God in Our Traditions (Chapter 9 - Especially Easter) by Noel Piper

Noel Piper has some great suggestions for helping your family focus on Christ during the Easter season. We have incorporated lenten advent candles in our home, as well as her devotional entitled "Lenten Lights." As the kids grow older, we may end up incorporating some of her more kid-friendly suggestions as well.

Our lenten lights all lit on Easter morning because "He is Risen!"

2) Lenten Lights by Noel Piper

Eight biblical devotionals to prepare for Easter (to be used weekly during lent OR daily during Holy Week).

3) Three Meaningful Easter Activities for Kids by Courtney of Women Living Well 

I love how Courtney is always seeking new ways to show Christ to her kiddos.  I can't wait to introduce resurrection eggs and easter story cookies to my little ones someday.  Confession...before we even had kids, I found myself making her resurrection rolls on Easter Sunday.  Such a beautiful visual reminder of our Savior's glorious resurrection!

Photo from Women Living Well

4) "Risen" album by Sovereign Grace Music

As a singer, God often ministers to me through music, so I'm always on the lookout for good, theologically-sound worship music.  This album is specifically designed to get us thinking about the Risen King!  Straight from the album cover...

"He is not here, for he has risen, as he said."

These words, spoken by an angel to the women at Jesus’s tomb, changed history forever. Christ’s resurrection was more than a display of raw supernatural power. It was the single event that assures us that his payment for our sins has been accepted. God’s wrath is satisfied. Death is defeated. The powers of darkness are overcome. Sin’s dominion has been broken. And the life of the age to come has dawned.

The songs on this album celebrate these realities, experienced and enjoyed by all who place their faith and hope in Jesus Christ.

5) Holy Week Series by Justin Taylor

A few years ago, Justin Taylor (Gospel Coalition blogger, editor at Crossway and elder at New Covenant Bible Church) put together what he called "an attempted harmony/chronology of the words and actions of Jesus in the final week of his pre-resurrection life."   Each day, he walks you through what actually happened on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, etc.  In the past, I have enjoyed this walk through the gospels leading up to Resurrection Sunday, and I really like that he's done the legwork for me!

Do you have any resources to add?  Sound off in the comments section!  

Friday, February 28, 2014

So it says I'm an introvert...

I was nineteen when I first realized I was an introvert.  I had joined a congressional campaign for the summer, and the campaign manager thought it would be beneficial for all staffers to take a Myers Briggs Type Indicator test.

My result?

INFP.  (That's an introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiver for anyone wondering!)

I was shocked.

I was known in high school as the "performer."  I loved the stage.  I was passionate and outspoken, not afraid to speak my mind.  In college, I was no different.  I boldly advocated for causes near and dear to my heart.  I was the girl in pearls, marching to the beat of her own high heels. could I be an introvert?  

To me, it seemed like a fault.  In my mind, extroverts were fun, social, outgoing.  Introverts were shy, self-centered, and indifferent.  I couldn't be one of those people.

Or could I?

When I first read my results, I didn't understand the meaning of the word "introvert" which quite literally means "to turn inward."  Through this exercise, I learned that being an introvert or extrovert isn't so much about your demeanor in social situations (though it can definitely have an effect on that); instead, it's more about the source of your energy.   The extrovert turns outward for rejuvenation.  The introvert turns inward.

It made complete sense.

Sure, I could perform on a stage, but when the curtain closed, I preferred unwinding at home to hitting the local Applebee's with fellow cast members.

And sure, I loved politics, and I could charm a room full of donors if I needed to, but at the end of the night, you wouldn't find me at the bar with the cool kids.  You'd instead find me kicking off my heels and calling my boyfriend to tell him how things went.

See, I enjoy people, but on the whole, they wear me out. After a party, I am almost always completely drained and in desperate need of "me" time.  I naturally turn inward, not outward.

And that, friends, is what makes me an introvert.

But why, you ask, does it matter?

Well, because God made me that way.

And He made me that way for a reason.

In the past seven years, I've learned that my introversion isn't something to overcome.  It's a gift to be nurtured and protected.

God fearfully and wonderfully made me as an introvert.  But first and foremost, he designed me not to turn inward, but upward.  I've heard people argue that Jesus himself was an introvert because of how much he withdrew into isolation when he was here on earth.  But over and over again as I read these accounts, I notice that Jesus wasn't necessarily turning inward.  He was turning upward!

In the next few posts, I hope to dig into what it looks like to be an upward-focused introvert and to discuss some of the temptations and struggles that come with the introvert territory, as well as some of the great blessings.  I'm really looking forward to this series.  I think it will be a growing experience for me, and I hope that you will be able to glean something along the way as well.

But for now, it's Friday night, and I need to unwind...

So please excuse me as I curl up on the couch with a blanket, some ice cream, and an episode of Saved by the Bell ;)