power of thanks.

We have one long hallway in our single-story ranch house, with bedroom doors on either side. Narrow, functional, efficient — which, I suppose, are the guiding principles of this house design — and for the first several years of life here, it really was just a way from here to there. Then a couple of winters ago, I turned the blank white walls into a family album of sorts, moments of time captured and framed in black or white. A nod here and there to where Ryan and I came from, but mostly, days we’ve shared with our kids. Two smiling boys in matching PJs in sunny California. Beatrice and her dimples sitting on a blanket in our green yard. Ryan surrounded by five beaming kiddos on an Adirondack hike. Strawberry shortcake about to be devoured by freckled, sun-burned, grinning kiddos. A few were taken on family trips — sisters in Battery Park, a quiet moment enjoying Trout Lake — but for the most part, these aren’t commemorating spectacular vacations or events. They just celebrate moments of joy, relationships, regular life that we are blessed to live together.

Recently, on a rather gray, Eeyore-ish day, I was walking down the hallway alone when the photos caught my eye. I stopped and instead of just straightening them (as is my usual habit), I looked at them. Photo after photo, moment after moment, gift after gift, and suddenly I was overwhelmed by the richness of grace in my life. If those 20 pictures represented the only wonderful days in my life, it would still be so much more than I deserve. It wasn’t a cliché moment; I was sincerely struck by how I, lost in trespasses and sins, have not only been delivered from death and brought into sweet, daily fellowship with Jesus — He has also given me 20 moments of beauty and joy and relationship and so many more besides.

How entitled I can become. How deceived I am, not seeing the goodness of God in my very breath. Fixated on the wrong, the “lack”, completely missing the abundance and grace. A soul, fat with blessing and overflowing with gifts, somehow seeing itself as shriveled and underfed — what a strange delusion to live in. And so rivers of blessing, meant to gush with generosity to those around us, become stagnant ponds of cynicism and comparison and complaints.

And how good to lift eyes to heaven, to a Father who gives every good and perfect gift. To begin to utter thanksgiving, and find the dam of ingratitude bursts apart and that river of life-giving water flows to every part of your soul and overflows to every aspect of your life. Faith, hope, love — they come to life again, joy empowering it all.

*****

This photo-wall moment has taken on greater impact, thanks to the book that arrived in the mail after I’d forgotten all about even ordering it (gotta love the surprise factor of shopping used books + slow shipping speeds!). Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy has already (only several chapters in!) given me so much to ponder and repent of. The Word of God, which this book is full of, is a mirror, helping us to see what’s really in our hearts — and living and powerful enough to work change as we receive it with faith.

*****

Blessings all mine with ten thousand besides:

winter is for reading

The best way to enjoy winter, I find, is to embrace it. There are many moments spent by a warm fire, and there’s nothing like a basket of favorite winter-time books to make those moments more irresistible.

I’ll share the books in my winter book basket, but I’d love to know: what are some of your seasonal favorites? Ours have been read many, many times over, and a few new titles would sure be a treat!

*****


Gingerbread Baby


The Hat


Bear Snores On


Snow


The Snowy Day


Katy and the Big Snow


Winter Poems (Rogasky)


Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening


Owl Moon


Warm as Wool



Snowflake Bentley and Snowflakes in Photographs


Flannel Kisses


A Winter Day

making home

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Mulligatawny Soup — a comforting favorite!

Did you know that “homemaker” isn’t just a placeholder on an application for people whose lives are so lame they don’t leave home? It actually is an occupation — and more, it’s a calling. Homes, in fact, don’t just happen; they are made, and someone has to do that making. It is a gender specific calling for the wise woman who will give herself to the task. It is a calling that fosters the building of people, of families, and of culture. It is way more than a placeholder.

This atmosphere that we’re called to cultivate (first in our own souls, and then by extension in our domain) will look unique in each home. Isn’t that beautiful? I love the many expressions of God’s Kingdom that erupt in the earth as homes are established to His glory. Because I am the homemaker here, our signs of “home culture” may look a lot like reading aloud together, listening to classical music in the morning and classic jazz in the evening, ethnic food and Dutch oven meals, flowers in the summer and candles in the winter, and pretty things here and there. That’s me. But I remember a friend’s home from my childhood, a place of incredible joy and warmth and togetherness — full of mountains of mismatched tupperware dishes that we took turns washing our way through (because there was always, always at least one visitor), loud laughing and boisterous play, and an evening of fun looked like making candy and pulling the sticky ropes halfway across the kitchen in our buttered hands. I don’t remember a single candle or any bouquets, but I remember knowing that my friend wanted to be home with her family more than anywhere else in the world.

The expressions will differ, but the mandate remains the same for women throughout time and the world over: to build a place where people find the flavor of heaven, and where souls are ministered to through their physical needs. Our five senses absorb life, and as homemakers, we touch hearts through the sounds and scents and scenes and food (don’t forget the food!) we provide.

Some things won’t differ. All of the above things, in and of themselves, are so empty. Even Miles Davis is a clanging cymbal if there isn’t love, I guess you could say. First and foremost, there is Jesus. He has a culture that doesn’t bend, no matter where or when it’s being expressed. The Kingdom of Heaven is righteousness, peace, and joy. Our homes need to be places where right living is upheld and repentance is a well-learned skill; where peaceful living and peaceable living mean turning from worry and stress, and saying a hard NO to strife in our relationships; and where joy is sought and cultivated. Those things aren’t natural for any of us, but they are for the Holy Spirit, and He has come to make His home in us. We don’t have to settle for less, although those things will be a lifelong pursuit.

We establish those gospel things as non-negotiables, but then we allow the talents, giftings, and tastes of ourselves (and our husbands) to shape the form it all takes.

It’s a worthwhile task. Nations are shaped right here in our kitchens.

Some places to get started:

The Little Book of Hygge — a totally secular book, but with lots of practical ideas for how to cultivate a sense of being present, and making home a place of enjoyment.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking — a classic that I just love. She touches on every aspect of home, the biblical importance of what we do, and lots of practical ideas for how to do it.

The Life Giving Home — if the previous title is a bit dated for your taste, this book says many of the same things in a more updated setting.

The Little House books — because honestly, Ma is my hero. She makes home and hygge in a dugout on the side of a hill. Ladies, we can do this!

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.

home inspiration


Beatrice’s latest cutting, so simple and pretty.

Where do you get your homemaking inspiration from? And by homemaking, I do not mean home renovating or home perfecting. If ever a generation of women has been inundated with perfect images of what a home should be, it is surely ours. It can be overwhelming.

While I certainly have my hopes and plans for improvements here, and keep a list and a few pinterest boards of ideas, those things are sometimes a bit far off. Meanwhile, we’re living here today, and this is my opportunity to make home.

I don’t always feel it, though. Sometimes I just get tired out and it’s so easy to just settle into a rut. And that “sometimes” gets more and more frequent, as I find I must actually make time for cultivating a home environment that comforts and nurtures and functions and inspires.

So I look for regular boosts of inspiration — and I often find it on the pages of children’s books! We gave Fiona a couple of Angelina Ballerina books for Easter, and I am in love with her home. Warm, inviting, pretty, full of the things they actually use, and even — quelle horreur! — signs of being lived in. I also have foxglove envy, if I’m honest. Ha!

What inspires you? Don’t get weighed down by unrealistic expectations or images that don’t really suit you and your family culture. Ask who God made you to be, and what qualities you can cultivate simply through creative care of your home. If you’d love to read and learn more about the subject, I highly recommend Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking.

Two-Part Invention

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April’s book is finished: CHECK!

I decided to read Madeleine L’Engle’s Two-Part Invention next, simply because it was small and short and not intimidating!

This was the first (yes, the first!) book by L’Engle I’ve ever read. It wasn’t my favorite, and I certainly won’t be handing it out to all my friends, but it was enjoyable. People are fascinating, their lives are interesting, and her candid telling of what it was like to walk through cancer with her husband of 4 decades was sensitive without being flowery.

The pace was fluid, never slow, and her writing style was transparent — you get the story without being hit over the head by overly-creative poetic prose. The best part was being inspired to take out my Two-Part Inventions and brush them off. They really are some of the most perfect compositions.