sisters

Ryan and I sat at the table, lost in conversation and coffee, and when I looked across to check on the girls, I saw this:

They, too, were lost in conversation and friendship. Eyes glowing, giggles, who knows what being shared in whispers and confidence.

It made my heart smile to see their absolute joy in one another.

*****

I uploaded photos today and right after the pictures of my girls caught my eye, I saw this one:

A quick visit, and I laughed because we matched so well. (It’s been almost 16 years since we shared a closet, but we still manage to show up wearing the same thing.) We were the two heads bent over a funny secret, and wasn’t it just yesterday? We cried and daydreamed and argued and learned to share together. We watched each other grow and began to understand what compassion and empathy meant, how to value and appreciate differences and giftings.

I remember being asked, “Do you always get along?” And we were a bit perplexed. We were born to be friends. If a difference or offense got in the way, we dealt with that. Our friendship was non-negotiable.

Sisters.

We all see each other less and less, as our families and lives grow, and sometimes I just wish for our childhood bedroom full of double beds and dolls. But in its place we have something far better and deeper, and I am so incredibly grateful for the women who are all my friend and so much more.


The seventh sister was waiting in the wings. And yes, I am blessed x6. I love my big family.

BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

We know not what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee.

My book-a-month pace was completely thrown off when I decided to pick up Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy as my read for the month of March. At 500+ pages, I anticipated it being an effort to get through in one month; what I didn’t factor in was the emotional toll it would often take, and how I would read a couple of pages only to put it down, too undone to continue.

It is a deeply human story of Germany in the the 30s and 40s: the agony, painful naiveté, perplexity, suffering. Reading of the unfolding of the Nazi reign of terror from the perspective of a proud, deeply German family was heart wrenching and enlightening.

And against that backdrop, the story of a young man’s faith, which was intellectual in nature, until the Holy Spirit began to beckon him into something deeper. What if we lived like this was true? As the world around him began to unravel, he began to learn what it meant to walk by the Spirit, and the simple decision to obey Christ at all costs set him on a course toward martyrdom, yes, but also deep Kingdom impact.

This is what struck me most: he was not spectacular. He never made a decision to do crazy things. His was not a philosophy of ends justifying means. Rather, he purposed each day to make sure the next step was consistent with the truth of Scripture, as revealed to him. Would I have reached all the same conclusions as he did? I’m not sure, and certainly not every believer around him chose the same path, but even in that, Bonhoeffer’s example of grace and care toward another brother’s conscience was incredible.

He dug deep into life, convinced that God meant to inhabit and redeem our human experience, not take us out of it. He was calm and courageous because he simply did the next thing. The supporting characters in the story mirror the deep conviction and courage that we see in his life. His deeply intellectual, thoughtful faith left me mulling over concepts of conscience, ethics, truth, and obedience.

When I read the last page, and closed the book, I wanted to weep: weep with sadness, weep with inspiration, weep with thankfulness. This gentle man gave his body to be burned, but left a legacy of one whose eyes were fixed on Jesus until the end.

Highly, highly recommended.

Such people [of private virtuousness] neither steal, nor murder, nor commit adultery, but do good according to their abilities.
But . . . they must close their eyes and ears to the injustice around them. Only at the cost of self-deception can they keep their private blamelessness clean from the stains of responsible action in the world. In all that they do, what they fail to do will not let them rest. They will either be destroyed by this unrest, or they will become the most hypocritical of all Pharisees.

The solution is to do the will of God, to do it radically and courageously and joyfully. To try to explain “right” and “wrong”—to talk about ethics—outside of God and obedience to His will is impossible.

March, in photos

I’m so glad for pictures! These months of busy but unspectacular days would be lost if it weren’t for pictures. (Lost to my memory, anyway. Not lost in their impact!)


Waiting for Daddy


Fiona’s fabulous drawings


<3


A shopping trip where I let the girls pick out birthday gifts for a friend — oh, the joy!


Sunrises


She is loving this new skill!


Learning to braid Fiona’s hair


NZ gear from the grands


Another year older = time to start some good habits.


Luther together for movie night


Cherry pie birthday traditions


My new vacuum comes completely apart for cleaning. AWESOME.


Blessing my two girls with fun new skirts from Mama’s sewing machine.


Birthday outing!


BFFs


Bubbles and babies.


Sometimes our friend Julie spoils us.


Illuminating our scriptures.

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Reading!


She loves her baby dolls.


And she loves her pretend friends.


March walks.


I just love these kids!


Outings with Cecily


Learning to bake independently


Sunshine and a blondie.


In denial about winter


What up.


The four amigos.


So sweet.

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Jameson performing for Grandparent’s Day — much of our months has been music for various things!

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Beatrice!

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William!

cozy cooking

I woke up to beautiful, quiet world of white, where snow-covered bare tree branches look soft as feathers against gray sky. I hear the scrape of the plow against my driveway, clearing our way through last night’s snowstorm. Everything is hushed and heavy and monochromatic in the most elegant of ways.

Of course, it is also late March. We are beginning to chafe for sunshine and grass. The joy of snow angels has waned, and what was cozy in January is beginning to feel stale. This is the real test for us Northerners. All that “hygge” comes so easily in December, but can we keep it up in late March, while the rest of the world enjoys the first bursts of daffodil-yellow and azalea-pinks?

If you’re needing a bit of a boost, try candles, soup, and delicious homemade bread. A little mini tulip in an even mini-er pot helps, too. Hope springs eternal and all that jazz.

*****

My Favorite Roast Chicken
a wee bit adapted from Jamie Oliver

1. Heat oven to 375 and get out your dutch oven.
2. Season a whole chicken (theirs are the best, and BIG!) with salt and pepper (generously!)
3. In dutch oven, brown chicken in butter or olive oil or coconut oil over medium high heat until it’s a bit golden on all sides.
4. Add 10 unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp sage, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, juice of two lemons (or equivalent from a bottle — shhh, I won’t tell), 2 cans coconut milk (or 1 can, and make up the difference with whole milk.) Don’t need to stir, just dump it in.
5. Put on the lid and bake for 45 minutes. Take the lid off and bake for 45 more.
6. Take the chicken out of the amazing sauce, pick meat off bones, and stir the meat back into the saucy pot. Serve over basmati rice. Heaven.
7. Save leftover chicken and sauce for tomorrow.

*****

Soup The Next Day

1. Fill the pot you used yesterday with the chicken carcass you saved and cold water to cover. Simmer for HOURS.
2. Strain resulting broth (if you’re like me, it’ll be about 3 cups because you let it all evaporate — oops!), and pick any meat off of bones before discarding. Be thorough! This is a good chicken you’re dealing with!
3. Saute 1 medium onion in coconut milk until translucent. Add about 4 cloves of chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
4. Pour in reserved broth + enough water to equal about 4-6 cups of liquid. Add a can of coconut milk.
5. Stir in 3 chopped carrots and the leftover chicken and sauce.
6. Season with 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1-2 tsp salt, and pepper. Simmer until carrots are soft (or longer!)
7. Add half a bag of frozen peas, a generous squeeze of lemon, and Israeli couscous towards the end — when I add pasta, I like to simmer for a few minutes, and then just lid the pot off the heat to let the pasta keep cooking while the soup simultaneously cools.

*****


Easy and Delicious French Bread!
seriously the best bread recipe I’ve ever found — makes 4 loaves

1. Mix 4 1/2 cups flour, 1 Tablespoon salt, 3 Tablespoons sugar, and 6 3/4 tsp active dry yeast in mixing bowl.
2. Stir in 3 cups warm water (120*F) with wooden spoon until smooth.
3. Add 2 – 3 cups more flour, until sticky dough forms. Turn out onto well-floured surface and knead until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes. (Keep sprinkling flour as needed — I like to not add too much at the beginning, knowing I’ll likely need it as I knead.)
4. Put in oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for about an hour till doubled.
5. Preheat oven to 400*. Turn dough out onto counter and divide into 4 equal amounts. Shape each ball into a rectangle about 8″x10″. Roll tightly (the long way), and place seam-side down on greased pan (or silpat.) Repeat for others, using two baking sheets with two loaves each. Cover with clean towel and let rise 45 minutes or so.
6. Brush with egg wash for extra fancy, and then make three slashes with sharp knife on an angle. Pop into the oven for 20 minutes or so, rotating baking sheets halfway through for even baking.

life and peace.

I think so often about being the one in my home responsible for setting tone, atmosphere, soul-aroma. Like it or not, that’s who I am as the wife and Mama. (And if I go on strike, that action has its own aroma. Or stench.) This home culture — it’s my domain.

I’m painfully aware of how often my heart is churning out fumes of annoyance, frustration, worry, anger, envy, discontent, judgment… Need I go on? Ugly. Poisonous. If our eyes could see the thick black smog those things produced, wouldn’t we just be horrified?

So I am continually crying out to the Lord to continue to do in me a deep heart-change, not just for my own sake, but for the sake of those breathing in my soul-fumes!

And oh my, is He ever. Such a deep down, turning things upside down, helping me to get it kind of work.

Rest. Peace. Work. Grace. It is finished. These are the themes that suddenly are everywhere, grabbing my attention, showing me clearly my brokenness, illuminating a path of freedom. Old patterns, dyed-in-the-wool weaknesses, things I’ve limped along with and thought maybe I’d just get better at limping — He’s able to address it all and make me brand new. That in and of itself is life giving. Wow.

This week’s verse for meditation is Romans 8:6, and oh, how it has struck me in a whole new way.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

What does that mean?

It means that when our mindset is one of “do good, earn favor; do wrong, you’re a failure,” we are living under a construct that can only mean death. We can never do enough good. I will live my whole life under pressure that will never let up; I can never satisfy the gaping void between my best (and I’m rarely at my best!) and the holy God whose approval my soul craves! And that pressure breeds anxiety, stress, anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, pride, insecurity, hatred, selfishness… Death.

When my mind is set on the flesh, and we don’t have a “good” school day, the poisonous fumes of failure are the result.

BUT.

But.

In Christ, there is the most beautiful but.

When my mind is set on the Spirit, I realize that my worth is found in Christ. The deepest things my soul craves and is tempted to prove through my best efforts — value, meaning, goodness — are fully satisfied in the Cross. That to-do list is completely crossed off.

Done.

And now, I wake up and work and do my best each day as wife and mother because it’s the work my Loving Father has given me — not with an underlying drive of needing to finish, complete, perfect, produce.

The fragrance of that is life and peace.

I love the smell of a good scented candle, of freshly baked bread, and just-shampooed babies wrapped in clean towels — but the homiest fragrance I can bring to my family is the one that comes when my mind is set on the Spirit, and I am working to bless, not to prove.

For more great insight into Romans, the law, and the Spirit, listen here.

Every Good Endeavor

This month I read Timothy Keller’s “Every Good Endeavor.” Hearing a few podcasts of his on the topic whetted my appetite and I was eager to read his deeper thoughts on the theology of work.

Because yes, God has much, much to say about the topic of work. In fact, as I read, I became more and more struck by how “work” is not a topic. It is an intrinsic part of our design. A correct theology of work is so important because it is actually a correct theology on who we are and how we are meant to relate to the world.

Keller is one of my favorite authors and speakers. I am blown away by the lucidity and clarity with which he can convey profound wisdom. I wasn’t disappointed by this book. True, at the end there were several pages that almost lost me, but every time I determined to just follow his train of thought, BOOM, he led me to an amazing idea.

The big ideas in this book are “God’s Plan for Work,” in other words, what Genesis and pre-Fall has to say about work and who we are; “Our Problems with Work,” enumerating the incredibly deep ways in which sin has broken our ability to work or even understand what work is; and “The Gospel and Work” — the amazing news that because sin has broken the world so deeply, a Christian can be a profound light by simply reclaiming the truths of God’s Plan. Not easily, but simply.

Having been taught a very solid theology of work from a young age, I’m not sure there was anything brand new in this book. However, over and over, it was a message that cut through to my heart and challenged me page after page. It’s far too easy, living on this side of the Fall, to grow weary or discouraged, to assume failure on my part rather than seeing that my best work will be plagued by the results of Adam’s choice. (There will be fruit and there will be thorns.) It’s also easy to not consider how holistically we can live for the Kingdom of God — we don’t begin to make a difference when we teach Sunday school, but rather, the minute we rise from sleep and begin to maintain, preserve, and create (wiping down the sink!)

There were too many “best parts” to pick just a few, but for someone who is prone to being a slave to the “work beneath the work” (trying to satisfy some need for production and success and self-worth), the very last segment left me almost in tears — you know, that feeling of your soul being liberated from weight it need not carry?

Remember, God was able to rest in Genesis 2, verses 1-3 only because his creative work was finished. And a Christian is able to rest only because God’s redemptive work is likewise finished in Christ. When the work under the work has been satisfied by the Son, all that’s left for us to do is to serve the work we’ve been given by the Father.

For a read on how all your life’s work can be connected to God’s work on the earth — both your production and your consumption — I can’t recommend this book highly enough.