Nurturing the Nations

I am very much continuing to enjoy the challenge on which I embarked in January — reading 13 non-fictional Christian books this year. That said, the last few months have been more challenging than the first few, as evidenced by the unfinished Keller work I began but didn’t finish, and the *cough* novel *cough* I read in May. Oops. Back on track! And boy, did this book do the trick.

Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women in Building Healthy Cultures, by Darrow L. Miller, was one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in quite some time. I want to sit down and page through it with each one of you, pointing out every bit that struck me and hoping it strikes you, too. It is timely. It is needed. It is ancient truth that has never been more relevant. So yes, I think you should read it!

It is written very much seminar-style, with graphics and regular reiteration of big ideas. Broken into three sections, Miller first explores the heartbreaking statistics of exploitation, abuse, and murder of women the world over — and also explains the underlying worldviews that result in a devaluing of the feminine identity. I looked at my daughters through new eyes, so grateful for a redeemed perspective that allows them to be received with joy, loving them for who they are.

Amazingly enough, however, the other side of the spectrum was just as illuminating, as he demonstrated the modern worldview in which — wait for it — maleness continues to be valued, the female discounted, and in fact, there is a pressure for all femininity to disappear in a world that values only male! In our efforts to be liberated and equal, but our absolute resistance to a Creator and His design, we have simply exchanged one oppressor for another.

He does not make these arguments in a void, however. I deeply appreciated the layers of theology he takes you through as he presents the nature of God as our model, the laws of first mention (which speak so much direction to a world floundering in a sea of sexual identities), and ultimately, the liberation and beauty promised through the gospel — which in turn affects all cultures, as they value and embrace a huge portion of their population, whose innate giftings and contributions have heretofore been trampled or dismissed.


(Is it just me, or do you get excited just reading that little chart? Isn’t it beautiful?)

What does it mean to be female? Male? A person made in the image of God? And does knowing that potentially change the world? Actually, yes. Read this book and be freshly awakened to the fabulous design God had in mind before the beginning of the world.

Maine this year

Last week was our annual visit to Maine to see Ryan’s family. This year was especially wonderful, as we managed to converge for a few days of adults catching up and laughing while hordes of cousins played and played. Memories to tuck away.

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First things first: they jump in that pool as fast as they can after our long drive!


Breakfast gazing at the sea.


Being humored by Nana — over and over and over again.


Hunting for sea shells and hermit crabs.


Kettle Cove, from one generation to the next.


Meme’s bowls are at toddler height — Cecily was in heaven!


SO much cousin time, most of which was in the pool but not photographed — too busy lifeguarding!


The unchanging beauty of this view.


Building fairy houses in the woods (“I wish there really were fairies to live here!”, said with sparkly eyes.)


Learning to skip rocks.


Us.


Fried clams, lobster rolls, and a very happy crew.


S’mores with Papa


That time the van wouldn’t start, so we picnicked at Shaws.


Too, too much delicious food, thanks to these two.

And an overnight in Boston, which included a Red Sox victory for Daddy and the older three kids, and a special evening of walking and pizza with Mama for the younger two.

The End. Home Sweet Home, and ever so thankful for all of the wonderful memories.

do less, be more.

Do less.

We have the amazing blessing of living in a land of opportunity. We really do! It’s amazing. And in this great land of opportunity, the little corner in which I live boasts a multitude of fabulous people to share fellowship with, streams and trails and woods to discover, church activities to assist with and participate in — and the usual library events and music lessons and clubs and museums and nature centers and… Whew.

It’s a lot.

The privilege of opportunity brings with it the responsibility to guard and protect priorities. To keep margin and space as a valuable part of our lives. I was reminded of two big reasons for this recently: First, I find that if I am wound too tightly and have too many things crammed into my agenda, I have no time or grace for a child who falls ill. I don’t want to be so committed to the outside world that when my children need a bit more of my slow attention than usual, I’m not free to give it (because it’s already been committed elsewhere.) Second, especially in the summer months, space in our days (day after day) is what finally, at long last, will inspire new explorations and discoveries. If I let us unwind from the school year for a good solid month, the children tire of bikes and basketball and eventually begin to remember the many other things there are to do.

Lately, there hasn’t been so much of this space in my life. Well, there is — and that space has been taken by house projects and sick children and new shops and the things that are precisely why I need margin built into my life! But there was a Saturday a few weeks ago that was a gift, the exact sort of day I look forward to all year. Unplanned berry picking, kids spending long amounts of time making up electric guitar solos and playing piano together, jam and pesto making, cake-just-because, Daddy home for dinner and playing. Happy, tired, sticky kids on a summer evening and parents who are exhausted and full of blessing.

I savor these moments and let them refuel my soul for the work that comes with next morning’s sunrise. And I let them remind me: saying no to busy for busy’s sake is worth it. Say YES to what truly matters.

(And most years, by the way, scheduling in berry picking is exactly the kind of “busyness” I just don’t do. …in case anyone sees strawberries and feels that awful uptick in your blood pressure as you think, “Oh no, I didn’t fit in berry picking!”)

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to grandmother’s house we go

Having our entire septic system rebuilt has been an experience, with huge equipment tearing up a massive section of our yard. A couple days into limited water usage, as we headed toward no water usage for at least a bit, the kids and I went down to my parents’ house for the better part of a week.

Living close enough to my parents to have them at most every birthday gathering and special day, as well as the quick visit here and there, is just wonderful. The down side, of course, is that a few hours here and there is usually the length of a visit. Settling into their home for day after day of just being was such a special gift. The kids got to move slowly enough to peruse bookshelves and find treasures and make up games and just absorb that sense of being at “grandmother’s house.”

Our unofficial first vacation of the summer:


devotions at breakfast each day


plenty of time to just sit with a babe or two


Nana’s magical garden path, where toddlers get lost in primrose


keeping house


finding a new corner to explore


sleeping in with baby


game after game of wiffle ball


naps on rainy days


somebody snuck my phone during our read-aloud


boys I love


heading out to play in “my” backyard — so special.

finding peace at home

It’s an interesting thing, to have the kingdom of heaven in your heart while you walk around on planet earth.

All day long, we are cultivating an inner awareness of who God is and learning to value what He values. We are listening, more and more closely, to His voice and growing more and more enamored with eternal things.

And all day long, we are walking on earth, relating to people, cleaning up the messes of entropy and pushing back the decay and dust of this mortal life.

We do both, and it’s not by accident. It’s on purpose, because His plan is to bring glimpses of eternity to this realm through us. We represent Him and His original, beautiful plan for humanity. We declare Him and His redemptive, glorious promise of a New Day.

And so the spiritual gets “skin” on it as we express it in our daily lives.

But sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in that “skin” and forget it’s supposed to be merely an expression that is anchored to a powerful inner transformation. Somehow this very simple thing, that I certainly knew, hit me over the head in a deep, liberating way last December. I remember sitting in my chair by the fire early on a Sunday morning, feeling the havoc in my soul of having tried to cram too much, push too hard, and now feeling a failure. I’m not sure it was audible, but clear as a bell spoke the Holy Spirit, challenging and correcting.

I wrote, “I am always working so hard to “make home” and this week feeling the crushing weight of failing (in my eyes.) Suddenly saw how I can fill my home with warmth and order and beauty by being those things. And that is possible always. Even on days when the house seems to be falling apart, there can be order and beauty, warmth and life. Jesus, make Your home in me.

It’s not that the temporal, earthly doesn’t matter. I don’t get to watch my world fall to chaos and just shrug and walk away. But all of those things I so desire to impart to “my” world, God wants to first impart to me.

And I’m not perfect at this, but I’m slowly learning to remember: when there’s a big chore list, or Monday calls for a radical return to routine, I can get a jump start by tuning my heart. Long before the afghans are draped just so and bathrooms smell fresh, my spirit can be welcoming and clean towards my children. They can catch a glimpse of what “home” looks like as the kingdom of heaven gets worked into me.

This is challenging news: it means that there is no excuse for a lack of warmth and peace in my home at a heart level. Sin and selfishness on my part is the only hindrance. But it is good news: it means neither my family or me has to wait for everything to be in smooth working order for us to experience the beauty and warmth our souls were made to crave.

We are workers at home, so let us work well: but let’s never forget, this is meant to be an expression of the living Word of God at work in our own hearts.

Jesus, make Your home in me.

life in June.

Oh, June. How we love you.

Even this year’s variety of June, with cold rain that drives us to turn on the furnace just to rid the air of freezing damp — still somehow wonderful.

We closed out our school year on June 2 (well, 3rd; I woke Saturday morning at 6am to find Jameson already at the table, finishing up his last two lessons of math. June is motivating!) I have to say, we all seem to truly love our school days and routines, and my children are, generally, a joy to teach, but by the end we are itching and squirming and ready to just wake up and go. Go play, go read, go sit by the window and stare. Anything.

And so here we are, ending our second real week of summer vacation, and well on our way to a fun, eventful summer. Eventful in the sense of you never know what may happen; one day you’re happily living life, and the next, your backyard is torn up because there’s a septic issue. Time to stock up on paper plates and quarters for the laundromat.

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One thing I am finding about mothering many children, more and more of whom are of the school age variety, is there is a shortage of time. (You can laugh, I realize that’s the most obvious realization a girl ever made.) Consequently, during the course of a school year my linen closets and medicine cabinets and kitchen drawers and freezers deteriorate into some chaotic semblance of their formerly organized selves. For the last few months I have just gritted my teeth, put the band aids away, and closed the door on the rest of the mess, saying to myself, “Someday.” But when? When is the “someday” that no one needs me and I tear the house apart and do some good old fashioned spring cleaning?

I’m not sure. It eludes me.

And so I did a brain dump. That always, always helps me: get it all down on paper. I have a list in the back of my “planner” (a Mead college-ruled notebook, because I am that organized) of all house projects, and another of outdoor/garden projects. This means that on any given day, when a snippet of time presents itself, I don’t have to wonder where to start (which ends up in me doing nothing); I can flip to the back of my notebook and select a project that fits the moment. AND THEN CROSS IT OFF. Is that not the best feeling in the world?

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There are aspects of summer that have always been challenging for me. Namely, the lack of routine and quick spiral into disorder of our hearts and environment. I am slowly learning our family and our particular brand of needs, and maybe, just maybe, getting better at this summertime thing.

June 6th, we began our summer days with this pinned to the wall:

We have a couple of chunks of scripture we’ll memorize and discuss this summer, beginning with Proverbs 3. Taking our time with one passage means great discussion, with time to ponder layers of meaning and application. It also means I’m not in a hurry to cram them full of all my thoughts at once — we can just take it line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.

I’ve selected two books to read aloud (maybe three; we’ll see how far we get), and began with Winnie the Pooh. Because no, we have never read it in its entirety, but this year it is perfect. My boys just love dry, British humor, and we find ourselves laughing all the way through each chapter. And the girls love the stories. Throw in an inordinate amount of rainy indoor days, and there you have it, the perfect start to our morning routine.

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Summer mornings means I feel less hurry in my own morning ritual of coffee, Bible time, and a walk. I’ve been slowly going through Nancy Campbell’s “The Power of Motherhood” in the mornings, and finding it amazingly rich. So, so much to think about. Very highly recommended.

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And pictures. I love summertime pictures.


Playing with cousins;


Beatrice’s graduation from kindergarten, and the aftermath of her little party;


waking up early to play with Beattie’s new toys;


breakfast at the picnic table turned into a morning playtime — my favorite kinds of breakfast!;


out with the old and in with the new;


gardening with Beatrice;


beautiful evenings spent as a family;


and our most current event: learning about how septic systems work. Or don’t work.

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Lastly, listening this week to a series my father preached. It is really, really good. He is easy to listen to, keeps things very simple, and yet communicates principles that are truly life changing. If you’re on your way to work, or getting laundry going, or slipping out for some exercise, give it a listen.

Happy Friday!