a week away

Last week, there were long days of hot sun, just perfect for a week away at the lake. Today, I wake to cool air and rain, the sound of geese filling the sky, and a sunrise that is growing tardier by the day. Everyone I talk to says the same thing: What a strange year, and how can it be the end of summer already? Somehow, in the midst of Phase 1-4 and canceled festivals and family vacations gone awry and summer camps 6′ apart or not at all, Time kept moving. July is July, I guess, whether we travel as usual or not. Summer happens, with or without swimming lessons. School must resume, even if it seems that wasn’t quite the break we had planned. Strange or not, this is the year we are living. And I know I sound like a broken record, but isn’t it awfully good to realize that while a sense of normalcy may be tethered to Maine and theater camp, God is not? Nothing surprises Him, nothing deters Him. Plan A is still being executed: He will dwell in our midst, and His glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Period.

And so, feelings aside, I set my hands to school preparations, tying up the loose ends of summer and thinking ahead, at least a bit. (Who can think ahead too far? This hasn’t been the year for such things.)

But I can’t help, as the sound of coffee grinding fills my kitchen early this morning, reminiscing about coffee made and enjoyed on the lake, the summer days we were given, and already wishing to go back.

the blur of July

What a month this has been, with one more packed week planned! My body is exhausted, my brain on overload, and my soul on the wild ride of so many emotions related to pregnancy, being a mother, being a friend, being a sister and daughter, being a citizen. Every aspect of my identity has been touched by joy and sadness (and several waves of anger and frustration, too), and I find these morning times of quiet and eye-fixing are, again, an anchor.

“…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

“…nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

“Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”

I am a one day at a time kind of girl. And each morning, as I’ve listed priorities and remembered commitments, sifted through decisions and been fully aware that there is more to the day than I can handle, I am refreshed in the simple truths of daily bread and Jesus’ presence. He is good.


The Fourth: No parade, but nonetheless, celebrated. It’s always a good time to discuss history, culture, and worldview, but probably this year is a “more than ever” time.


Spontaneous picnic on a Sunday with no meal plan. Ryan can be counted on for summertime excursions that leave everyone happy and loved.


A week away from home while renovation progress happened. Rest, focus, play, togetherness.


May and June’s labors paying off with still-green gardens moving into the next phase of blooms. Perennials are just such a great picture of “invest now, enjoy later.”


Meals continue, made cheerier with two antique bowls now in my possession.


A decade came to an end: our neighbors, who moved in only months after we moved here, bought a larger house and moved away. What a gift those ten years were!


Trying, in the midst of topsy-turvy days, to not miss the fleeting pleasures of summertime.


Weeks and weeks of kids sleeping on the floor, on mattresses, on couches. This little one, reading quietly to her dolls and animals, is the sweetest.

This weekend, two out of three bedrooms [nearly] finished and moved into, thanks to hard-working sons, baby-sitting daughters, happy-to-eat-pb&j husband, and hours of “The Chicks”, Dolly Parton, Shania, and Hamilton. Boys are so blessed to have a thoughtful, finished room. Cecily was inspired to actually fold her clothes without me asking. Kids love a clean, organized, pretty space — that’s one thing I learned from my mother and it’s absolutely true. It’s also true that they all knew to interpret my months of effort collecting and planning and executing on these as love and care for them. I love that!– because it’s true. One more bedroom and a complete bathroom reno, coming right up. And then there will be a place for everyone, and also everything will be in its place (and yes, there is a massive purge happening as we go. Kids can be such hoarders!)

But we will pause at this point for now, and enjoy a few days with my family — days that were meant to include two out-of-town sisters, whose presence was suddenly made impossible due to government mandate. Picking up the pieces of disappointed hopes and expectations, we will spend a few days in eating, playing, singing, and just being.

“Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You
Through it all, it is well with my soul.”

a tent-living God

Oh my, what a plate-spinning summer this has turned out to be! In the midst of a strange year, there continues to be no shortage of decisions to make and ground to take. I am, not surprisingly, more cut out for the quarantine kind of living than I am the crazy that summer has brought, but I am grounded by this amazing truth: He never changes! And because He never changes, His ultimate call on my life never changes, either. Regardless of the shape any given day may take, there are certain things that stay the same: Called to know Him and love Him with all that I am. Called to serve and love others as myself. Called to nurture my children and teach them of the love of God as we walk, talk, and carry on with whatever life may look like. And that calling is possible each day. Nothing separates me from my ability to do those things, because the grace of God equips me. My times are in His hands.

I read today about David’s desire to build a permanent residence for the ark of the covenant, and God’s answer was kind along the lines of, “Hey, have I ever complained about tent-living?” Why a tent, I thought? Why, indeed, except to convey this message: My Kingdom and My glory are not contained or limited to a place, or a system, or a routine, or a favorite and familiar morning pattern. My desire is to be among you, in the midst of each day, each season, available and near.

He doesn’t live in fully-attended Sunday morning services. His presence isn’t unlocked by coffee in a certain mug at a specific time and only if all the children are sleeping. His wisdom led you yesterday, but it’s available today, too, when suddenly the path takes a sharp twist that you never saw coming. When every week of July and August are something different on the family calendar, and the kids are all sleeping on the floor because their bedrooms are torn apart with renovation, and the bathroom is nothing but studs and exposed electrical, and a seventh baby is growing and sapping strength (or is it that I’m nearing 40, and that is a reality my body isn’t accustomed to?), and an oldest boy is heading into high school and I’ve never done that before — He hasn’t changed, the high call of God in Christ Jesus is still the same, and His grace is sufficient for every need I didn’t even know existed until it hit me.

Will schools open? Will the economy recover? Will we all be okay? Can someone tell me what next week will hold?

Good news: No matter what the answer to those questions and so many others may be, He will walk with us. His presence will be in the midst. He will overcome and He can make us stand. We can be not just unafraid, but confident.

No wonder Proverbs 31 Lady can laugh at the future: She walks with her God, and knows that the unknown future is held by a known God.

June is bustin’ out all over

Every year, I swoon over June. How could you not? The brown and bare earth breaks out into shades of brilliant emerald. Dainty buds of promise suddenly erupt into blooms of deep purple, golden yellow, delicate pink, rich magenta. Skies are high and blue. The sun’s brilliance lights up the early morning and late evening and invites you to live the day full and strong. Books begin to close and and kids run free. Screen doors slam and sunscreen is slathered. Bikes and chalk and basketballs and sprinklers. The intermittent cool day that (if I’m honest) becomes the highlight of my week because I can garden and work without the full heat of summer.

June doesn’t hold back. Halfway through, and I already can barely recall the beginning. So many full days: house projects continue. A new niece to welcome. Finishing an intense sprint of store redesign and renovation. Church opening back up, a bit at a time. Visits from out of town sister. Zoom piano recital. New perennial bed turned and planted. Three meals every day, eight sets of clothes (at least) to launder every morning, the never-ending list of little homemaking tasks that wait for school’s end.

Children growing by inches, literally, before my eyes. Pressing into Jesus together, knowing we need Him so very much. Praying with young men who have become humble wisdom-seekers. Answering the four year old who wants to know, through tears, “how can I ever do nothing wrong?” and assuring her that’s exactly why Jesus came. Feeling my human limitations when trying to keep up with the two-year-old’s training, tired and stretched and knowing that there is grace for me to lay hold of. Heading into summer’s carefree days and knowing that freedom is the power to do what one ought, not simple slipping into lazy waste of days, and praying for wisdom to lead my brood into restful joy and growth.

Bustin’ out all over. In me, too? I pray yes. Pray that all of this showing up every morning, asking for help moment by moment, praying through national issues too big for me to even understand and dealing with little hearts too deep for me to plumb will result in growth in me, too.

hope in this broken place.

There’s a song on repeat here at our house — if it’s not playing through a speaker, it’s rumbling in my heart. Over and over, I hear,

“Do you feel the world is broken? [We do.]”

Broken and breaking. Dark and growing darker. It is.

“Is all creation groaning? [It is.]
Is a new creation coming? [It is.]
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? [It is.]
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? [It is.]”

Is it good that we remind ourselves of this?

Oh yes, so much yes. We aren’t to just hold hands and hunker down, but we’re to stir one another with a word of faith, a declaration of His Lordship, a bold confidence that of His Kingdom and increase there will be no end.

“Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!'” Psalm 2

Tumults rising all around. Lightning and hurricane winds from above, surging waves threatening to swallow from below. The tragedies and evil and violence I can see with my eyes — eyes that can barely believe what’s before them, eyes that turn away, weeping, before the video has a chance to play. Dangerously deceptive whispers pulling us under, luring us with words that sound true but whose motives are nothing less than bondage and rebellion to the King. This is not a time to pull up anchor, to throw in your lot with whatever wind may blow. This is when Truth matters — Truth that exists outside of time, outside of experience, outside of culture and personal preference. Truth that is found in the Word who existed from the beginning. This is when Love matters — Love personified in Christ, the Love that God is, Love that warns of destruction and points to sin and bondage and then delivers no matter the cost. These are not words that can be redefined, for they find their source in a God who was and is and is to come. He is a roaring Lion of justice. He is jealous for His own. He is establishing His Kingdom — a reign of peace that will know no end. He alone has the words of life, and there is One Way of rescue. He does not change. We find our footing by turning to Him, not by looking within ourselves. Every nation, tribe, and tongue finds hope and deliverance in Him.

“Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? [It is.]
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? [It is.]”

May we be rooted in Him, His Word richly dwelling within our hearts, His Spirit flowing like living water through us to a weary, harassed, broken world. His glory is the light that will penetrate this darkness.

true obedience

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, and today encountered 1 Samuel 15. My Bible’s heading refers to this story as, “Saul’s Disobedience,” but I think if I had been the editor, I might have chosen, “The Saddest Story in the Bible.”

My pace slows, knowing what is coming as I read. My heart grows heavy, observing the heart of man turn from God. I cringe at every shallow excuse, every nuance of self-deception. I see the steep slope of rebellion leading to destruction right before Saul — and he charges headlong toward it. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Do you know this story? How King Saul has been charged to utterly destroy the Amalekites — to carry out not simply warfare but judgement upon this powerful people who had preyed upon the weak and vulnerable? The extent of utter destruction is spelled out in no uncertain terms. And yet, when Saul attacks the city, he doesn’t utterly destroy. He keeps the best.

He carries out 90% of what he was asked, and yet here is how God sees it: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.”

Saul obeyed as long as the obeying suited him and his goals. And God doesn’t see that as obeying at all.

And then Saul goes even further: he defends his actions as obedience with an ingenious twist. The prize livestock he spared? Oh, that was for a sacrifice to the Lord! Isn’t that clever?

And it makes me cringe.

It makes me pause and look in the mirror.

Is there Saul in me?

Saul — a man who once was shy, embarrassed by attention, small in his own eyes. Now grown conceited in his success and power. He knows now how this system works and he’s figured out how to benefit himself. He has the appearance of humility and obedience, while inside there is self-will and agenda.

I am not the king of anything, and I don’t plan on leading 200,000 foot soldiers into battle today or any day. But the things God has called me to — am I continuing in obedience, even as the years and “successes” pile up? As a wife, as a mom, as a woman, a disciple: have I found the areas of obedience that suit me and slowly begun to use them toward my own end? Has self-will and my own desire found a place to hide in partial obedience — such a safe place to hide, such a “holy” place to hide!

‚ÄúPartial obedience is complete disobedience. Saul and his men obeyed as far as suited them; that is to say, they did not obey God at all, but their own inclinations, both in sparing the good and destroying the worthless.”

The thing about walking in obedience is that it’s not simply following a pattern. I don’t get to see what all the other kings have done and repeat that. God asks for certain obediences from me that He, as my Father who knows the depths of my heart and has good in mind for me, knows will bring refining and strengthening to me. He could have, you know, sent fire and brimstone upon the Amalekites, but He used this moment to bring to the surface things lurking beneath a holy veneer in Saul’s life. (What if Saul had responded to Samuel in brokenness, like David did to Nathan?) God asks for obedience from me, and I can trust that not only is He looking for a servant to do a certain task, but that He’s chosen me for this obedience because it is best for me. He is always, always at work in me, performing that amazing transformation and sanctification He began. Will I stay soft and humble in the process? Or will the years bring shades of arrogance that lead to hardness where the fear of the Lord is concerned?

Today, God is looking for our obedience. He’s not interested in our “sacrifices” when they’re offered on an altar of pretense and show, while our pride and stubbornness lie untouched and very much alive. He sees right through that. We’ll do the godly mom thing, or honoring wife thing, or virtuous woman thing as long as its in line with our personality and philosophy, and call it obedience — but He knows. He sees the locked door of our heart, where we refuse to truly yield to Him in all things. And oh, what destruction that leads to!

But today can be a day of life. A day of giving our hearts and will fully to Him. Following Him in whatever He asks, knowing He is a good shepherd.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. — Psalm 139