Thief in the Night

The week of Christmas, my brother-in-law and his wife, Rachel, were robbed.  Jordan and I love them both deeply and consider them some of our best friends, so this was really hard for us to hear.   We were able to visit them 2 days later and were very impressed, challenged, and encouraged by their perspective and response to the robbery.  So naturally, I asked Rachel if she would be willing to be a guest writer on my blog to share her experience :).   Thank you, Rachel, for your willingness to open up to me and my readers. (ps: you can check out their wedding here)

Here is her recounting of the events and what she has learned:

It was only a few short months ago that we stood in front of 150 witnesses and said, “I do”. October 7, 2012 was a specialGarrett and Rachel 2 day, but we were more excited about our marriage beginning than we were our actual wedding day. Garrett and I were excited about life together – being able to tell each other “I’ll see you at home” and it meaning OUR home, introducing each other as “husband” and “wife”, and spending holidays as a married couple. With Christmas approaching, this became more and more true. We kept saying to one another, “This is our first Christmas married!”. We were excited to spend our first Christmas together and experience all it had to offer. A few days after Thanksgiving, we bought our first real Christmas tree and began the Christmas preparations. Over the course of a few weeks we had bought and wrapped all of our presents for each other and placed them neatly under the tree. I loved seeing the tree at night – the lights twinkled so beautifully. As Christmas grew near, we also grew in anticipation to spend it together – Mr. and Mrs. Maroon.

The week of December 16th was an ordinary week. We both began our work weeks like we normally did knowing that on Thursday we would celebrate our first Christmas with each other. Jordan, Krystal, and Riley were arriving to our house on Friday morning and we would be spending the following days with each of our families for Christmas. Thursday night was our night to exchange gifts and celebrate with each other before family time started.

But the Lord had a different plan for our week…

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matt. 6)

I will never forget the look on his face when he told me it was gone. “Rachel,” Garrett said as I heard him come up the stairs…he never says my full name… “we got robbed!” His face was white and I could see the fear. “They stole our cars.” At this point, I was mid-shower (always in the right place at the right time – good job, Rachel..) and the news was almost unbelievable. “How could something like this happen to us? We bought a house in one of the safest neighborhoods in Newport News!” I got dressed as my body shook with fear and waited for Garrett to go downstairs. He told me not to go down without him. He went first – I followed close behind. It was like a movie. The couch cushions were turned over. Chairs were pushed out of place. Drawers were open. Our TV was missing from the mantle. The wind from the open window was softly blowing the shades. And when we looked under our beautiful Christmas tree – every last present was gone. How did this happen…to us?

Those few moments have been ingrained in my memory. Why would the Lord allow this to happen to us, His children?!..Don’t we quickly doubt God’s goodness when we have little faith in Him? And the Lord knew I would doubt.

But God’s faithfulness has never been clearer to me than on that day.

In case you didn’t catch on, we were asleep upstairs through this whole thing. Whoever came in broke a lock on our window and not a sound was heard. Do I still doubt the Lord’s goodness when I think about how restless Garrett was going to bed that night and how he had to get up to take a melatonin in order to sleep? Do I still question His sovereignty when I remember that neither of us got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night – something not uncommon with us? Why did I just sleep through the whole thing? Because God put us in a deep sleep on purpose. Because God knew that a confrontation could have been dangerous.

Because God wasn’t asleep while this was happening…even though we were.

Through this whole experience, Garrett and I can’t help but believe that we gained much more than we lost that day. We cried as we told the police officer what presents were under the tree that we never got to give to one another. We shook as we thought about the people that were in our house that could have easily attacked us. But we praised the Lord for the community of faith and the body of Christ that we had never seen in such a way before. We lost everything that seemed important to us – both of our vehicles, some electronics, our money…but did they really take anything of value? I remember driving to the bank that day in the backseat of my mother-in-law’s car. Garrett was in the passenger seat and had just taken a phone call. We came to a stop and Garrett’s mom leaned over to him and whispered, “your most valuable possession is in the backseat.” That still brings tears to my eyes, even now.  She was right.

In this life, people can take our stuff. They can take the “things” that belong to us -the things that we have worked for and rightly own. We have two responses. We can either become angry with them because they took something that didn’t belong to them. Or, we can show grace upon them. Garrett knows a man who once was robbed by a student at a youth retreat. The young boy took some money from the man. When the two encountered each other, the man asked the student if everything was going ok and if he needed any more money. Garrett has told this story several times, but this is the first time I truly understand it. That man was overflowing with grace. Whoever came into our house could have just been greedy, looking for an adrenaline filled night. But ultimately, their deepest need is not a flat screen TV or some extra cash from a stranger’s wallet. Their deepest need…and MY deepest Christ. The Lord has overwhelmed my heart with grace towards our robbers. The Lord used them to teach me about the true valuables of life to show me that my true joy is not found under a green tree at Christmas time. Once I was faced with the reality that there was nothing under my Christmas tree, I realized that being stripped of all my “stuff” was the greatest gift of all this Christmas.

They found both of our cars and life is getting back to “normal.” But I never want to forget what I have learned in this past week and a half. I never want to doubt the Lord’s goodness in my life. I have been singing Chris Tomlin’s song “Whom Shall I Fear” in my head for the past week. There are moments, especially at night, when I still get scared thinking about what happened. But then I remember that the Lord is my protector, not my new ADT system or the lock on my door. He alone will uphold me with His right hand and I have no one to fear. I believe Him when He says He’ll never forsake me. He was ever present with us that night. I know His hand was on our bedroom door and over our deep sleep. I know he was there.

We haven’t yet figured out how, but Garrett and I want to somehow celebrate God’s faithfulness to us through this event every Christmas from now on. All throughout scripture the people of God build altars to remember God’s goodness to them. We want this to be a season where we remember the one Christmas where all of our gifts were stolen and nothing remained under our tree but some fallen pine needles. We want to remember it as a time when God showed Himself MIGHTY even in our barrenness. As we heard at church last Sunday just after the robbery, “…often the most barren and infertile soil is the ground that yields the most fertility and becomes a garden of grace.” We have so much to be thankful for and we want this to be a place where we return and kneel down before the Lord year after year surrendering our “things” to God – because ultimately, they are His..and we give Him full control.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 should have been a day that shook the newleywed Maroon household to the core – and we had our moments – but in our weakness, God made us strong. I am not a naturally grace giving person, but I can’t help but hope that if I was ever confronted with our robbers, I would be able to look at them in love and tell them that they are forgiven.

“Oh, to grace, how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.”


Advice on the Holidays, to my Future Self

It is 9:15am on December 28th.  Baby is napping.  My Mom is in the shower.  And I am sipping a delicious mimosa to follow up a warm, homemade breakfast enjoying some lovely, coveted alone time.  Naturally, I’ve been thinking about the Holidays.  I cannot believe how quickly the Christmas season came this year and how, often, they seem to take me by surprise and are over before I know it.  You know, when you suddenly realize that it is December twenty whatever and you’re packing the car for your travel and feel like you don’t know what hit you and how you got here so quickly.  Wasn’t it just Thanksgiving?  The other Holiday that snuck up on me and left me with a food hangover just when I realized that it was actually here?   I don’t know if I have ever felt entirely prepared for the holiday season.  Maybe I never will.  But in hopes for the contrary, I thought I would make a little list of advice to myself for future holiday seasons :):

  • Don’t say that you’re going to do “better” this year, eating healthy, rejecting dessert, and eating smaller portions. Be honest with yourself, that is just not going to happen.  Instead, embrace it!  Try to make better choices before and after the holidays but during them,  by all means, embrace all of the caloric beauty!  Look at it as a season of sugar and delicacies, feasts and fellowship!  Things that many people around the world never have the chance to enjoy and would salivate over the mere thought of.  Family and friends have made these foods for you out of love and the delight of watching you enjoy them, so do so gratefully. Otherwise, you’re going to keep feeling like a failure ever year, beating yourself up and loathing every generous offer of goodies that you know will weaken your self control.  Just relax, live a little, and eat the damn red velvet cake.
  • That being said, throw your fat jeans in the suit case!  Yes you might be feeling good in those skinnies you can finally fit into weeks beforehand and you want the world to know it, but it’s only going to add to the guilt as they become tighter throughout the week.  Instead pack the ones with a little extra space (or heck, throw in some maternity jeans with those elastic waist bands), and you’ll feel fine.  You can take the skinnies back out again in a couple of weeks.  They’re just not made for such a time as this ;-).
  • Really be present with your family.  Leave lap tops and ipads unplugged and phones upstairs and let yourself journey to the “good ‘ol days” when social media didn’t exist and the community you touch base with is the community you are sitting next to at meals, opening presents with and sleeping beside.  Trust me, this will make your time so much richer, your days will disappear less quickly, and those around you will feel more loved.
  • Try to get in the habit each day of thinking for the loved ones around you, not for yourself.  Has your mother-in-law been working tirelessly on the meals and could use a break?  Offer to take over some of the cooking for her, or at least pitch in to make it a faster process.  Offer to do the dishes.  Have you noticed a family member is a little quieter than usual?  Make the effort to talk to them, initiate time with them, and let them know you value them.  Ask if you can run errands for anyone and be considerate of everyone’s space.  Clean up the baby toys when Riles is down for naps or in bed for the night, so the home can be restful for everyone else.  Remember that Jesus, though He is God, came to earth to serve and not be served (Phil. 2).  This is the life that, as His own, you have the privilege to live.  Ironically, it will make your holidays much more enjoyable than if you are just thinking about how to serve yourself and it will really bless those around you.
  • Realize how blessed you are to have family around you.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve enjoyed time with family so much more.  Not everyone is so fortunate to still have their parents, siblings, spouses, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandparents still with them.  And even if they do, not everyone has relationships with them still.  Be humbled and grateful for this, and soak up every minute.  Be gracious to them, no one is perfect.  Including you, and you probably have quirks and habits that they have to give much grace to as well ;-).
  • Do all of your Christmas shopping in November.  Do as much of it as you can on Cyber Monday.  Free shipping, low prices, and a much more restful December!
  • Take pictures of your travels and family time!  That was a big, fat fail this year.  I didn’t get any pictures!
  • Finally, seek and spend time with Jesus.  The whole reason for the Christmas and Easter holidays are to celebrate Him and yet, He always ends up being the One that gets the least of my attention.  On my drive from Richmond to Roxboro yesterday, as I prayed for my husband in Saint Louis, I realized that it was the first time I had prayed all week.  The week that is a celebration of the birth of our Savior!  “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.  A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”  Let these words sink deep into your soul and mediate on their truth.  Let every interaction with family, every meal made, every tradition be penetrated by gratitude and awe of the gospel.  Make time to read scripture and pray, even if it means you just sneak away for bed 20 minutes earlier than normal.  Time with the Lord will not be a detriment to your family, but a blessing to all of your relationships.  Not to mention, He is the most important relationship of all the others in your life!  And is worth the cost of all others.  Let your actions and your thoughts reflect that.

What is some advice that you would give your future self about the holidays?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

One of the only pictures we have from this Christmas!  Taken by my sister-in-law :)

One of the only pictures we have from this Christmas! Taken by my sister-in-law 🙂


New Beauty

Last week I blogged about Riley dropping a ball with excited abandonment in order to fall into my open arms (read post here). Ever since then I have been thinking about the spiritual implications and have been asking myself, “what things am I still holding onto that are keeping me from falling into God’s open arms?”

Well yesterday I believe I found an answer.

I went to the gym in the morning and, as usual, got on the scale before my workout to see where I am in my weight loss efforts. I was so excited to see that I am only 7lbs away from my pre-baby weight! It felt like such a victory. That means that I have lost almost 50lbs in the past year.

With a big smile on my face, I grabbed a magazine from the magazine rack on my way over to the elliptical. The magazine was called, “New Beauty,” which I had never heard of but it had a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker on the cover and it was more appealing to me than all of the ESPN magazines surrounding it.

I was disappointed to find that the whole magazine was basically a big endorsement for plastic surgery. I mean, I’ve never seen even the shallowest of periodicals be so blatantly in favor of going under the knife. There was even an article titled, “The Mommy Makeover” detailing the best plastic surgeries to get right after having a baby to “correct” all that the childbearing does to your body.

In realizing that this was not going to be helpful for me to read, I closed the magazine and instead turned on the TV on my machine (I know, right? I mean, can our workouts get any more luxurious these days? It won’t be long before you can order a smoothie and get a massage while using a cardio machine…). The Today Show was on and they were interviewing Anne Hathaway, asking her about how she lost the weight for her role in Les ImageMiserables. I will say, I genuinely appreciated and respected the way that she answered the question. She didn’t want to give details because it isn’t helpful for women when we are so bombarded by stuff like this in our media and she wanted to clarify that she did what she did to lose weight for the role, not to look “hot,” but rather to look like she was dying. But the interviewer was not satisfied and kept pressing her for details, probably so that they could promote their show by saying something like, “We have Anne Hathaway’s secrets to weight loss! Coming up next!”

Fast forward to later in the day when I had the opportunity to go hole up at a coffee shop to do some reading and writing while my mom watched Riley. I ordered my drink and started to head to my corner table when I caught a glimpse of some US Weekly- type magazine sitting on their reading rack. I picked it up and started to browse. Of course the feature article was about “Stars that have gotten too skinny!” Sheesh, we cannot catch a break, can we? I suddenly remembered why I’ve stopped reading magazines over the past year.

As I shifted gears and started reading my daily Advent devotional, it hit me: the ball that I need to drop to run to Jesus right now is my weight loss. 7 pounds away from pre-baby weight is great! I’m healthy, I look fine, my husband is very attracted to me, and further pursuit of weight loss for me at this point would be out of the motivation to make people say “wow” at me.

Well, it’s time to be done. I want people to say “wow” at Jesus, not at me. I really don’t know how it is helpful for my sisters struggling with body image issues for me to be “wowed” at. Maybe I am more approachable for women at 7lbs more than my pre-baby weight than if I lose it all and if that’s the case, I’ll keep the 7lbs, thankyouverymuch. I’m sick of fighting against myself and being passive about women fighting against each other or competing with one another as if our worth depended on it.

More than ever in my life, I want Jesus more. I want Him way more than I want to look a certain way or lose a certain amount of weight. More than ever in my life, I want to get in the ring and fight for my sisters. Thought I struggled with the baby weight, God has done so much in my heart through it. I wouldn’t change a thing in retrospect. He has brought me so far. I refuse to get swept back in now, just because I’m closer to my goal. There are so many bullies in the world against us as women and the way we look. I’m ready to use the strength and security that Jesus has been giving me to fight against them, joining Him in setting women free from this bondage.

I will continue to exercise, yes. I will continue to eat healthy, yes. But not to lose weight. I will do it so that I can run after my kids (and hopefully grandkids one day), and glorify God by taking care of the one and only body He has given me. But today I am going to quit Weight Watchers. And I’m going to stop getting on the scale. Because there are just more important things in life, and they actually feel more important to me now.

We hold onto things that offer such empty promises, void of hope. And yet our Savior stands, with arms wide open, full of promises fulfilled and hope for the weary. In His own words:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has annointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

(Luke 4:18-19)

He has set this captive free. I am dropping the ball, and running into his arms. Unworthy, but being sent to continue to set captives free in his name.

Take that, “New Beauty” magazine. All the plastic surgery in the world cannot restore my image in the way that He has restored my soul.


A Day in the Life…

Recently I’ve been thinking about how my day-to-day has changed over the past year as Riley has grown.  I am loving this little tiny toddler age that she is at right now.  These are sweet days.  I wish I could just bottle them up!  Since I can’t put them in a bottle to take out later, I figured I would put them in a blog :).  So this post is for myself more than anyone, so that I can look back and remember what this time in my life was like.  I hope that Riley will one day be interested in looking back at this post with me and learning about our time together during her little years.  So without further ado, here is a day in the life of Krystal (and Riley):


Rise and shine!  I’ve got an early riser on my hands.  I think it’s God’s humor, really.  I have never been a morning person.


Every morning I try giving her a bottle in her crib, hoping desperately that she will fall back asleep.  It’s only happened like twice.  It didn’t happen today.  She was very excited to wake up!


So she comes out and immediately has to check out the Christmas tree while I go start my coffee :).


Then I let her watch an episode of Baby Einstein


While I wake up with coffee and some reading up on current events (and people’s lives on Facebook.  Because you know people are posting important details of their lives at 5:30am.)


6:00 is time for breakfast!  Pancakes and fruit for Riley this morning.  Peanut Butter Cheerios for mom (everyday).


Then it’s play time!  The Tupperware cabinet is usually one of Riley’s first choices.


Where’s Riley???  Oh, there she is!  Cracking.her.self up.


If i’m lucky, I get a few morning snuggles.  This morning she was especially affectionate.   She kept climbing up into my lap.


Then it’s story time!  Riley has been preferring to do the reading outloud herself lately.  It sounds something like this, “Ess  essa. Assa. Ada as as essa adda ad.”

Not pictured: 8am naptime.  For baby and mommy.  Baby sleeps. Mommy tries, but doesn’t :(.


But I AM able to get dressed AND put on makeup!  Score for the home team!


And then drink my 2nd 3rd 2nd 3rd…ish…(Oh who’s counting anyway!) cup of coffee with the monitor in my last few moments before she wakes up.


Moments later, I hear her talking on the monitor, and there she is all bright eyed and bushy tailed ;-).


Time to get dressed.


Someone is all ready to go out on the town!  (I know, I know… the boots!  She picked them out herself.  At the store.  Then Grammy went back and bought them for her later 😉 )


Time for a quick(ish) (not sure anything is quick with a toddler.  Except for the stuff that you want to last.  Like snuggles and sweet moments.) snack around 10:30am.


Then it’s out to run errands!  Riley LOVES riding in shopping carts.   It makes the whole thing so much more enjoyable/bearable. Although she kept throwing groceries out of the cart today.  Oh well, it’s exercise for mommy. Which mommy needs in her life.


Home around 12:30, in time for Riley to eat lunch while I unpack the groceries!


Then a little after 1pm, these awesome UNC ladies came over for a Holiday Hangout!  One of the best parts of being married to a Campus Minister is building relationships with some of the students, and being able to lead/disciple/invest in some of their lives.  I love these girls and have had a blast getting together with them this fall to talk about life and Jesus.


Then when everyone left around 4, baby was still taking her afternoon nap (she napped from 2:30-5:30 this afternoon!  I guess maybe she felt bad about 5:15am after all 😉 ), so I took the opportunity to do some personal reading.


And Advent devotional/scripture study


When Riley woke up at 5:30, daddy was home from work so we had some family snuggle time in the “Big People Bed.”


Soon followed by dinner


And then some more play time! As you see, Riley hunted for some treasure in the recycling bin…


Then while Riley had some snuggle time with daddy, I took advantage of the opportunity to go take a shower


And our victory lap after Riley went to bed?  Watching “The Voice”! (which, by the way, I’m still mad that Amanda Brown went home last week.  She was so obviously the most talented.  What the what, America?)

So there you have it!  A day in the life, all bottled up :).


She Dropped the Ball.

Many people told me that being a parent would teach me a lot about God and His relationship with us.  One year in, I feel like I am just starting to take small sips from the fire hydrant of all the lessons the Lord will teach me through little Riley Grace.

Today was one of those  sips.

In the quiet of the morning when everyone else was asleep, Riley and I were playing in the Walton’s Lobby at Rockbridge, where we’ve accompanied Jordan at his regional IV staff conference.  The Walton’s Lobby is awesome for parents, it is filled with all sorts of kids toys, books and games!  So, definitely the place for Riley and I when she’s up at, eh hem, 5am. And we don’t want to wake anyone up.

In this lobby, Riley found a half empty bottle of “Fanta,” and of course it immediately became her favorite toy.  Here’s a little secret about toddlers: they tend to favor toys that aren’t even toys.  You feel like such a good parent buying them new and cute little toys. Fail.  They’d much rather play with Tupperware and sticks and Fanta bottles.  (So family, don’t even buy Riley anything for Christmas  just look around your house.  Or your yard.  Find something that looks random and boring and she’ll love it!)

So she’s carrying around this empty Fanta bottle and then she sees a ball on the floor and gets excited about it.  She moves the Fanta into one hand and picks the ball up with the other hand.  And then she just starts walking around looking so proud of her findings (and of the fact that she’s walking so well now!).  It was so cute.  I couldn’t stand how cute it was, so I crouched down and opened my arms wide, hoping that maybe she would come toward me and show me her new favorite toys.

She didn’t show me her favorite new toys.

Instead, as soon as she saw me put my arms out, she dropped the Fanta bottle and the ball, and as fast as she could on those adorable little legs, started walking toward me with her arms wide open too, with the biggest toothy smile on her face, until she was close enough to just dive into my arms.  There was so much delight written on her face.

It melted me.

I’m not sure she’ll ever know what that moment did to my heart.  I don’t know what she was feeling in that moment, as fleeting as it was (with toddlers, everything is fleeting), but I will never forget how I felt in that moment.  So full of love and pride and joy and just… 100% pure pleasure.

I thought about it all day long.

And of course, the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the beautiful analogy that it was.  I thought about the fact that the powerful way that I delighted in her in that moment, is the same way that the God of the Universe delights in me.  The fact that His response to me as His child was to crouch down onto my level (becoming human), and open His arms wide (on the cross), beckoning me to Himself.

But unlike Riley, I am often hesitant to drop the simple life pleasures and pursuits that I am holding onto.  I get too distracted to make haste into His arms, and fail to trust that He will catch me if I dive in.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” –Mark 10:15

Wow. So thankful for the many lessons I learn through my baby girl!Copyright CarolynMarie Photography 2012;