just life: two

Two is:

the number of pretty Eastern Bluebirds that perch on my birdhouse occasionally. Each time I see them, my breath catches at the delicate wonder of them. Perfect hues.

the number of flower-crowned princesses I found playing.

how many dolls are carefully arranged on bed each morning.

the chubby thighs, legs, feet on this doll.

the boys and the girls gathered by fire. School mornings are slow when the fire is warm!

the number of little girls playing on the floor while Mama rested on the couch during last week’s virus.

Two.

Teaching From Rest

“Rest begins with acceptance, with surrender.” — Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest

I started this book after Christmas (when I finally found it, in the bottom of an Amazon box, in my Santa’s-workshop-of-a-bedroom.) I’d had it in my cart for months, debating over whether or not it was worth the full price. Sometimes it’s those $12 splurges that are the hardest! But I finally took the plunge. Something — Someone — told me I really should read it.

Only about 20 pages in, and I was already just on overload. Maybe you’re scrambling to order it now, and will find that those 20 pages hold nothing that special — I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just what I needed to hear and ponder and repent of.

This issue of rest. Of peace. Of unclenching my teeth.

This issue of lordship.

That is, after all, what it boils down to. My obsession with squeezing every last bit out of every last minute, of making sure those moments go the way I “need” them to go, of freaking out when something comes up that is going to take those moments away from me — who am I serving? Certainly I have forgotten that I don’t own minutes, I don’t make minutes, I don’t get to claim minutes. They belong to Him. And I am His servant. He can set a list before me in the morning and then, halfway through, ask me to switch gears and serve a naughty toddler, a discouraged son, a hungry husband. He’s allowed to do that because it’s all His.

As I was mulling these things over, I overheard Ryan ask one of the boys for a double AA battery. If you have little boys, you know those are the most precious possessions. And my son responded that way. There was a moment of panic and freak-out, and Ryan just said, “Really? Who bought those batteries for you? Don’t you know I can get you more when you need them?”

And I saw myself so perfectly in that interaction. I heard so loud and clear: “Really? Who gave you this breath, this life, these 24 hours? Don’t you know I can give you all the moments you need?”

In Matthew 25, the Master hands out talents to his servants, a familiar story. But when I read it this time, I saw, “The master gave to his slaves of his own possessions.” It’s all His, and stewardship, therefore, looks like serving His desires with my time and energies.

*****

God isn’t after success, He’s interested in faithfulness — another nugget that illuminated a whole train of thought and conviction.

Certainly I know that. But in my efforts to be faithful, I’ve begun to define what that looks like and then judge my success at faithfulness (rarely do I give myself a good grade, as I’m sure you can imagine.)

And so in yet another paradoxical moment of following Jesus, I’m realizing afresh that repenting of idolizing productivity and giving my heart completely to His rule and reign is the road to (surprise, surprise) freedom! Because any number of things can hijack a moment, hour, day and prevent me from a “successful” end. But nothing, literally nothing, can steal my ability to be faithful in any given moment and circumstance. Jesus sets us free to win. We win! I cannot lose when I realize He’s asking me to respond by the Spirit, not hit a certain goal.

Take “my” moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise…

See? Even there! “Ceaseless praise” is not an end goal of success. It is defining my every moment! Success can be thwarted at every turn, but faithful, ceaseless praise—nothing can thwart that!

*****

So I recommend this book, but mostly, I’ll just encourage you to know that God is always pursuing us. He doesn’t leave us half broken. He’s a Redeemer. He’s a master Potter. The cracks and weaknesses and foibles that I am (or am not!) painfully aware of — He addresses those. I just yield to Him and follow Him on this path of sanctification, and find Him faithful. There is not much I find more comforting than to find myself in His hands again, being kneaded and shaped, knowing that He loves me completely and hasn’t forgotten me, and He has a vision of me being spotless and without wrinkle.

new years eve, 2016

A year is ending. A whole year made up of, really, pretty insignificant days all strung in a row. Some highs, for sure, and definitely some days that felt like a punch in the gut. But mostly, it was just daily kinds of days.

A tapestry woven of time, places, and people. The thread of my life intersecting with my children’s, with my husband’s, with yours. The gold of this situation, the black of that one. The rows and rows of whites and gray that seem to mean little, but what do we know? We aren’t the weaver, we’re just the thread, and this masterpiece will be seen when we’re on the other side.

*****

Feeling, today, thankfulness I can’t even put into words. I am incredibly rich in this season. I am pursued by a God who never gives up on me, who continues to turn over stones and illuminate shadowy corners and sets me free to hope and life and peace I could never have without Him. My husband is a man of incredible wisdom and insight, whose hope is firmly fixed on Jesus alone, who is generous all day long, and who speaks truth to me that sets me free. I have children who are a delight, whose lives were planned by God, and whose destinies I impact every day. Friends, family — abundance. A warm home, food in the cupboards, wool slippers on my feet. From small needs to big, God provides and teaches me in them all. In utter heartache, He hears. For grace to make another dinner cheerfully, He is there. Some years have left me trusting that God willprovide. This year, I am so aware of all He has provided.

*****

Saying goodbye to the year is, first, saying goodbye to a month of special moments.

*****

Already the Holy Spirit is stirring new hunger and expectation in my heart. The sun rises tomorrow to a new calendar year, but our true hope is the promise of eternity — and the foretaste we have now in the presence of His Spirit working out His kingdom come in our lives. He’s making something beautiful. We can trust Him.

Christmas Eve

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A last morning to anticipate. This boy who is still my baby, still my sidekick. I’m thankful for so much today.

Enjoy your preparations, friends. The clothes ironing and cookie plating and dinner making. The last gift wrapping and tree rearranging.

Today we’ll get ready for the last Christmas party of our year — just us, after church tonight, with candles and snacks and reading the Christmas story. The best party of all. Let the celebrations begin. Or continue — because isn’t that the whole point of this? Jesus came to dwell among us, abiding in our hearts, walking with us in every exhilarating, dreary, rejoicing, heartbroken moment. He crowns every moment with His presence. He changes us from the brokenness we were born as into the whole person He envisioned from the beginning. The celebration unfolds, day by day, and we anticipate Him coming again — when we will see “yonder break a new and glorious morn.”

Merry Christmas.

birthday reminiscing

Today we celebrate a whole year of Cecily Anne’s life.

Our celebration may look small — in fact, the small celebration we will have has been scheduled for Thursday, because birthdays are flexible, right? But this morning, sitting quietly watching the morning dawn, this mama’s heart is flooded with waves of memory, melancholy and joyous mingled together. How can it have been a whole year? And can I go back for just a moment to that newborn babe? And how thankful I am for this year, for the chubby, happy girl who has grown right before our eyes. Marveling that the little bundle of pink skin and soft fuzz has become a laughing, singing, peek-a-booing person, an irreplaceable member of our little clan.

Her siblings are ecstatic about her birthday. They love her so, you know. The boys keep saying, A whole year? How can that be? They are already learning how swiftly time flows, how quickly people grow, and how precious life is.

I’m remembering this morning the exhilarating feeling of those newborn moments (the ones after I collapse onto the bed in exhaustion!) Who can describe the joy that floods the room, shared by every person? The tears, the laughter, the cradling, the sense of communion as we share all of those feelings?

And I’m remembering that before that celebration begins, there is this:

Hours and hours. Counted in minutes. Sometimes seconds. Sometimes you can only manage one second at a time.

But you handle the seconds because you’re looking ahead to the end. You stay in that painful moment, doing your job the best you can, because there is a promise to be fulfilled, and your heart is set on it. You are given to bringing it to pass by playing your part.

Today I remember this beautiful moment God gave to me, this birth of Cecily Anne and the part I was chosen to play. And I also remember the call He’s continuing to put on me in the lives of my children. There is a promise to see fulfilled, and there are hours, moments, and sometimes painful seconds to be faithfully endured. Lord grant me grace to stay the course, to play my part, to labor in the painful moments, because there is a promise and an end:

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…”

christmas time is here

The first week and a half of the much-anticipated Christmas season is already past. A month that is full of “musts”, and yet simultaneously is a blank slate each year, waiting for me, the Mama, to plot a course led by the Holy Spirit for this year. What will be the big rocks for this particular year? What are our hearts especially needing? What opportunities are arising that we are uniquely fitted to engage?

How can I help these little hearts see Jesus?

And so I try to listen to that small whisper, and we dance and celebrate and bake and read and play (and crash and repent) our way through these special days. We bring boughs and lights and most-special ornaments and figures into our rooms, and our everyday home becomes a place of beauty and celebration — and I remember how God Himself comes into the everyday place of my heart and makes it beautiful and heavenly, something altogether amazing.

So far, our month has included decorating, getting a tree, snuggles with Daddy, working on embroidery projects and other things, playing in fresh snow, Christmas concerts, outings, playing piano at a nursing home, and just enjoying candles and “special.”