celebrating NEW

The sun keeps rising and setting, the earth spinning over and over again. Seasons repeat in their familiar pattern, life in its age-old way. You could certainly say, There is nothing new under the sun.

And yet, there is: the mercies of God, fresh, clean, enough, every morning. God is a God of faithfulness, unchanging and certain. And yet, He is a God of new — and one day He will make all things new, but for now, we delight in the glimpses of that “new”. We could miss it, dismiss it, be bored and tired and uncaring, or we can notice and delight and be refreshed.

New: the theme I couldn’t help but see in the recent weeks’ photos.


New bathroom, so close to done.


New shoes needed, and the sweetest note.


New opportunities for a new generation of worshippers.


New babies to love.


New accomplishments.


New discovery in our backyard of new birds.


New blooms.


New toys.


New braces!


New guitar.


New braids.


New bows made by friends.


New treasures for Mama.

sacred moments

I had a moment of vivid memory last night: a sacred time in my life, the place startlingly clear. An almost tangible presence of Jesus, with me, meeting me. Exhaustion graced with joy as His strength filled my weakness.

It was in a little kitchen — dark oak cabinets and yellowed tile counters, faux-brick linoleum floor always dingy no matter how hard I scrubbed. A tiny table, barely big enough for three, and washer and dryer hidden behind louvered doors.

That kitchen was holy ground.

There, at that table, I read my Bible morning after morning. My 18 month old baby learned to join me without whining for food. I’d never had an 18 month old before, and that was all new for me. He learned — Mama is reading, and you may join quietly. We shared many, many special mornings together.

I bent over that washer hundreds of times, switching loads, filling a basket with clean diapers to hang in the sun. The back door was open with the two year old running in and out while the baby clung to my legs.

Dishes were washed over and over, cupboards filled with the staples from Trader Joe’s after a morning of errands, the very first chore chart developed and displayed on the fridge for a growing little boy to use.

But mostly, just minutes and hours and days of pouring myself out till there was nothing left, and then faced with two little boys who still needed more, crying out to Jesus. Singing as I washed, singing as I laundered, singing as I simply held them and swayed, not sure what else to do at times.

And not for a moment did He leave me. In that kitchen, I knew that I knew that God was equipping me and providing me with the grace for that sacred moment of service — and He would do it again in the next moment.

I love the season of life I’m in right now. But I’m not gonna lie — there was something so raw and real about the way God walked with me when it was just me and a couple of babies. The demand on me was so intense and completely unlike anything I’d experienced, but the profound (and incredibly simple) way in which I met Jesus in those moments of my deep need was incredible.

That linoleum was really pretty hideous, but somehow it has found a place in the treasure chest of my heart.

S I X months

Six months! Where, when, how? But somehow, over 180 days of holding this sweet boy in my arms morning, noon, and night, and I still can’t get enough of him. None of us can. He was instantly the dearest thing and yet grows more dear every day. Isn’t that amazing? Love is like that. It’s vast and complete, but then the details get filled in as time goes on.

He’s a solid 27 pounds, which just causes anyone who sees him to break into laughter. Who knew baby thighs could make anyone and everyone laugh out loud? His fat little hands are my favorite. He has a mouth-wide-open smile for anyone who makes eye contact with him, and his deep blue eyes are so friendly and inviting. He rolls but still doesn’t sit without help, and I’m assuming he’ll just be on the slow track with all that movement stuff, as was his similarly-round brother, William. His siblings adore him, his daddy adores him, and I certainly do. And when we see the way he lights up at each one of us, we’re fairly certain the adoration is mutual.

He is a treasure, and my soul is fairly bursting with the wealth that’s been poured into my lap. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over — a house full of children formed by God, put into my hands to love and nurture and steward as disciples. It’s overwhelming — and I don’t just mean in the 5pm dinner is burning the baby is crying and there is noise everywhere kind of overwhelming. I mean I am overwhelmed by the bountiful goodness of God. It is so much.

And yes, the treasure and gifts of God require something of us, and when He expands our territory we find ourselves stretched further than we’ve been before. There is weight to it, soberness in it, the sense of stewarding the treasure of another. I’ve been tempted to say about so many things, “I’m not sure I’m really up for this,” but then I catch myself and think, “What are you talking about?? Serve the purpose of God in your generation! Now or never!” And suddenly it all becomes clear again: I just need more Jesus along with the increase of blessing.

Yes, I have grown. I have been expanded. I am probably more wise, less frantic, and don’t react to every seeming crisis. But also?? There is fruit. God knows what He’s doing! Our house is so loud and busy but it is teeming with capable children who delight in one another and in serving me. I’m pretty sure 28 year old me would have an emotional meltdown at the level of “lived-in” my house daily achieves, but that makes sense: 28 year old me had to stay on top of it all by myself. And now? Now we are a team.

But so much more than the practical blessing I’m living in (pinch me, is this real?, I think whenever I walk into a clean kitchen after guests leave and I spent the whole evening visiting and didn’t lift a finger), there is fruit in their hearts. There are young men who I simply enjoy, who make me laugh, who I lean on for help and encouragement. Daughters who spill joy and kindness everywhere they go. Little ones who are caught up by older ones, taught and read to and led by example. I know that I know that I planted seeds and watered and weeded for day after day after week after month for years, but this fruit that I see? I can’t begin to take credit for it any more than I look at the stunning beauty of my favorite peony and pat myself on the back for my stellar planting job. My part and the result just don’t add up, until you factor in the faithfulness of God. It’s Him.

That is the bounty that makes me want to weep in thankfulness. And it gives me hope for tomorrow, because guess what? I am so far from a perfect gardener when it comes to my children. I do my best, by the grace of God, to show up and ask for help, but repentance is my most-often used tool. The skill is all Him. His Spirit pursues their hearts as I apply faith and diligence. I never feel that these children are somehow mine, or my doing — I am so aware that these are people God crafted and called, and is asking me to serve in a truly precious and unique way. But as they grow, and I see softness and humility and forgiveness flowing from their hearts, I marvel even more at the things God has done, and what a tremendous honor it is to be used by Him.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

forty.

40.

It feels like just a number, it feels like “the new 30,” it feels like I was just 20 and I still think I am. But the Psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Wisdom is to look that number right in the face and recognize: my years on earth are numbered, and they are fleeting. How will I live them?

This morning I ponder that, and my heart is stirred by the favorite scriptures that shaped me so many years ago, gave direction to my steps and fire to my soul. The grace of God in my early life looked like amazing men and women, among whom my parents stand out as chief, who lived and spoke these truths with zeal in their eyes and passion in their hearts. That living Word was passed on to me as treasure and life.

And so I share these today — a few passages and a song — because I am challenged again to live in the fear of the Lord, laying hold of wisdom for the next leg of my race. Maybe they will stir you afresh, too.

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3)

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12)

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3)

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing You, Jesus
Knowing You
There is no greater thing
You’re my all, You’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love You, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know You more
To be found in You and known as Yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Knowing You, Jesus
Knowing You
There is no greater thing
You’re my all, You’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love You, Lord

Oh, to know the power of Your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like You in Your death, my Lord
So with You to live and never die
(All I Once Held Dear, Robin Mark)

If you read one thing this year…

I’ve written before about my [relatively new] reading strategy, and as is usual for January, I’m charging ahead with guns blazing because there are no gardens to distract me.

But what has gone without saying, but actually needs to be said, is that the first (and often last) reading I do each day is the most important, the most life-changing, and non-negotiable. I’m talking, of course, about the Bible.

I’m writing this because I have been recently prompted by the Holy Spirit to start taking in the Word as quickly as I can, and I want to say it is so good. I’m writing this because I see and hear a generation completely divorced from a godly anchor trying to piece together a scaffold of truth based on experience and feeling. I’m writing this because we make excuses — we all do — but it’s all just silly when compared to necessity of knowing and walking according to His Word.

The Word of God is for all seasons. I don’t just mean that its truth endures to all generations — which it does. I mean it’s for your seasons. I’ve done read-through-the-Bible plans in high school. I’ve spent months poring over the Psalms. I’ve spent months with the same 3×5 card in my back pocket, a snippet of Scripture scribbled on it and committed to not just memory, but meditation. I’ve washed dishes with a card taped to the window in front of me. I’ve taken forever to just get through the New Testament with a new baby and toddlers but giving up wasn’t an option. I’ve studied one word or topic for weeks, mining for meaning and truth to stand on. I’ve read in quiet and I’ve read amidst chaos. I’ve read my trusty, falling-apart NASB, and I’ve read every modern translation and paraphrase. I’ve quoted the same two passages of scripture every single morning for months and months. Taking in the Word of God may look different from season to season, but take it in.

It is daily bread. Have you read through the whole Bible — ten years ago? Did you memorize entire books — 15 years ago? Do you know that scripture because you heard it once — somewhere in some sermon? Yes, we build upon those things, but we don’t stop there. The Word is meant to feed us, shape us, transform us. That happens day by day, as we yield our souls and circumstances to its scrutiny, allowing it to the standard by which we live.

You need to know the Word to live by the Word. This seems so basic, but as we were memorizing Psalm 119:105 last week (Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.), I pointed out that that verse challenges us to a heart posture toward the Word, but it also leaves an obvious implication: we need to know the Word. We are bombarded by ideas and worldviews (and much of that we invite via our phone, only to then make excuses about how we don’t have time to read the Bible), but are we equipped to “[cast] down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”? We make decisions all day long about our actions, words, feelings, thoughts, and use of time. Is His Word really the lamp that illuminates those paths?

You don’t need to be a scholar. I bet you won’t understand everything you come across in scripture. Some of it will leave you with questions, and some of it will just leave you not even sure you were reading in English. Sometimes you’ll read something that just plain old rubs you the wrong way. Don’t stop reading. As I read recently, “Even if you don’t know what to do with the Word, the Word knows what to do with you.” Remember, it’s living and powerful. It will not return void. It is life-giving seed.

Here’s a challenge I embraced last summer that absolutely blew me away: Set a time for ten minutes. Morning, noon, evening — whatever is your jam. For those ten minutes, read. Don’t check your notifications. Don’t wonder how hot it will be today. Don’t jot down to-dos. Don’t add to your instacart order. Just read for ten minutes. (If you’re like me, you will suddenly realize that you severely lack discipline. WOW.) In one month, you will be astounded by how much scripture you have consumed! It’s very fun and very motivating.

Another challenge: next time you’re wanting to learn about something, don’t buy a book on it. Do a Bible study on it! There is every tool you could possibly need, available for free on the ol’ internet. Not sure how to start or what to do? I’d be happy to help get you started. I’m no expert, but that’s the point: you don’t have to be!

Last: some scripture, which puts excitement in my soul and conviction in my heart. We need to know the Word.

Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66)

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (Psalm 119)

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19)

Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
O Lord God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1)

repentance: a gift

Repentance is a gift.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, after praying with several carrying the weight of failure on their shoulders.

Falling short — that’s something we all do. We know, deep in our hearts, the standard of a holy God. Made in His image, our hearts imprinted with a moral code we did not write, we struggle in our brokenness to hit a mark light years beyond our own ability.

Individually, we pledge to not raise our voices so much. Say no to that cookie. Read more books out loud. Compost and recycle. Look better, do better, be better. Corporately, we convince ourselves that if we just rewrite the penal code, if we just hand out more tax dollars, if we just add one more layer of accountability, if we just outlaw this, that, and the other…

And still, we’re a mess.

Because yes, we fall short.

Enter: the gift of repentance.

Romans tells me that, for me, one who has believed in Christ, been purchased with His blood, whose life is hidden in Him, there is therefore now no condemnation.

And it’s not that there’s a free pass to sin. Nor is there a promise that I will now have a sinless life. But rather, my failure no longer can torment me with the whispers and weight of condemnation. It does not own me. I can repent. I have access, in every moment, to the throne room of God, and when I lift my eyes and my heart, I find grace to help in time of need.

The enemy of my soul wants to make the most of those failures. Hold me there, convince me that not only have I failed, but that failure is my name, my identity. His whispers become shouts in my soul until I’m carrying the weight of not only my failure, but condemnation, too, and I am convinced there is no way out.

Not true. There is repentance.

I will stumble. I will. I will raise my voice, I will snap under pressure, I will eat the stupid cookie, I will cave to selfishness and pride. The things I don’t want to do, I will find myself doing. (Romans 7.) But in those moments of failure, I can find immediate freedom through repentance. I can name the sin, repent, and turn away — and be free.

Condemnation has no place operating in my life any longer. I am not condemned; I am redeemed.

Today, find freedom — not in perfection, but in repentance. Grab a hold of His hand, reaching out to you in every moment, drawing you further along in the good work He began and has promised to complete.