boundaries

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance. –Psalm 16

A page from “A Blossom in the Desert” once again arrested my attention and led me down a path of contemplation, this time as I pondered the concept of boundaries.

“…there is a world of difference between a pool and a river. A river is wide open to its source, and as wide open to the needs lower down. We need all barriers down — manward as well as Godward — to believe for the outflowing as definitely as the inflowing.”

I want to be that river, receiving an endless flow of the Holy Spirit’s life, and without measure pouring it out to others. But what about boundaries? That picture of “all barriers down” — what about knowing when to say no, learning our limitations? Aren’t we supposed to know our boundaries and learn to say No?

Where are the boundaries of a flowing, roaring, lively river? (Because that’s how much grace and mercy there is to receive and give.)

Even the mightiest of rivers has boundaries, but those are neither barriers “Godward or manward,” no barriers to the source nor to the needs lower down. The boundaries are on either side, in the river bed carved out for that flow of water.

And so I find that I need to spend less time studying “my” boundaries, and more time studying the ones He has drawn for me. With the first, it is far too easy to say No because it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, or just plain old not fun for me. With the second, I find my “yes” and “no” is usually rather clear as I determine to stay within the bounds of His calling for me.

I say YES to honoring Him as Lord, living as His representative.
I say YES to loving husband, caring for children.
I say YES to creating home.
I say YES to living in fellowship with my local church.
I say YES to living as a city on a hill.

Those lines fixed, I can boldly say, “Let the river flow.” Open to the source, open to those “below.”

I need not determine my boundaries; I need to simply know HIS boundaries for me. And then live with open hand and heart to the Holy Spirit and all those I encounter. I bring the obedience; He brings the flow of life.

“The glacier torrent — so obedient to its course in its narrow bed, yet just tossing with freedom and swing in every motion. Such a picture of the ‘rivers of living water’—bound and yet unbound.” –Lilias Trotter

connecting our work to His

This afternoon, as the clear sun streamed in our windows, warming us despite cold outdoor temperatures, I looked up from my book to see little Cecily sitting, smiling at me.

My heart melted.

I had just been reading about work: about how God is the Master Craftsman, so to speak, and made in His image, we also are made to work. After looking for awhile at Genesis and the model set forth by God and then Adam, the author said, “So whether splicing a gene or doing brain surgery or collecting the rubbish or painting a picture, our work further develops, maintains, or repairs the fabric of the world. In this way, we connect our work to God’s work.”

That thought fresh in mind, I looked into sweet blue eyes. And I was struck again by what a rich calling motherhood is. For each time I do something as basic and “insignificant” as wiping this baby’s nose or changing this baby’s diaper, I am:

Investing in the development of this person. Her sense of value and worth is strengthened each time I cheerfully and gently attend to her needs.

Maintaining in a very real way this person. Sometimes it occurs to me, Where would these children be without someone to wipe noses and put on clean diapers? I am here, standing between them and disease and disorder.

This embracing of my calling is my part of redemption. In a world of brokenness where mothers sacrifice children for all sorts of things, even to the point of death, I am living out redemption — sin, repentance, grace, and all.

And that’s just changing diapers!

How much we are doing, dear mothers. We are an extension of the Kingdom of Heaven, touching lives. Don’t despise the mundane, the insignificant, the seed dead in the ground-ness of it all. See your work for what it is. And in this way, “connect [your] work to God’s work.”

a passion for the impossible

I just finished A Passion for the Impossible, a biography of Lilias Trotter. (I am part of a read-a-book-every-four-weeks challenge this year and am already enjoying immensely the motivation of the group!)

Lilias Trotter was an English aristocrat whose artistic ability had the potential to launch her into the position of first great female watercolor painter — but instead, she followed the voice of the Holy Spirit to Algeria, a part of the world theretofore untouched by the Gospel. Hers was a life of faithfulness. Many times, I put the book down, thinking, “Goodness, this is kind of slow.” And then it occurred to me: that’s the point. Her life never had a fireworks moment. There was never a crusade attended by thousands. She didn’t open orphanages that reached hundreds. In fact, as of the writing of the biography, Algeria is still a hard, dangerous place for Christianity.

And yet, she gave her life, daily, faithfully. She did not judge her steps by their “success,” but by her obedience. She died having affected many fellow missionaries and her persistence resulted in 15 outposts, penetrating the darkness with the light of Jesus. Not enough to make a “splash”, as it were, but counted in the currency of heaven, a chest of treasure.

Several spots struck me especially, and I’ll record them here (for my own future benefit!)

***

“As an eagle…fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings—so the Lord alone did lead him.” Fluttereth over—the early stages of faith are reaching upward, like the eaglets for their food when the mother-bird is overhead. . . it is an older faith that learns to swing out into nothingness & drop down full weight on God—the broken up nest of former “experiences” left behind—nothing between us & the abyss but Himself—A rejoicing in every fresh emergency that is going to prove Him true—The Lord Alone—that is trained faith.

***

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And the love of God
And the fellowship of the Holy Ghost
be with you.”

We have so often listened to it as the soothing ending of a quiet sermon. In its full meaning it is a battle cry.

***

“Two glad Services are ours
Both the Master loves to bless
First we serve with all our powers
Then with all our helplessness.”

These lines of Charles Fox have rung in my head this last fortnight—& they link on with the wonderful words “weak with Him”—for the world’s salvation was not wrought out by the three years in which He went about doing good, but in the three hours of darkness in which He hung stripped & nailed, in utter exhaustion of spirit, soul, & body, till His heart broke. So little wonder of us, if the price of power is weakness.

***

How do we bring things to a focus in the world of optics? Not by looking at the things to be dropped, but by looking at the one point that is to be brought out.

Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him…

***

Along with this book, I very highly recommend the devotional, “A Blossom in the Desert,” which is a collection of her writings and artwork. It is beautiful, challenging, and bite sized! Her meditations are rich, Word-based, and life giving. Even today, her sacrifice is affecting hearts — like mine. How amazing!

January, and thoughts.

I don’t know how to absorb all the wonder that is a new baby. I’ve really given it my best try five times now, and still the time slips too fast and change happens in a dizzying way and I’m left with a heart full of a love and a memory that is too full of holes to catch and hold so many moments. So many amazing moments.

Like watching her chest rise and fall in sleep.

Like seeing a twinkle emerge in her eyes as she recognizes us, smiles at us.

Like seeing her tongue quiver, mouth open wide in a newborn howl of protest.

Like scooping her up and having her immediately settle just because I am who she wants.

Like just feeling her near me.

I try to soak it in, breathe it deep, memorize it forever. This is the great Wonder of the World that I will see this year, after all, and while millions of others ogle over the Eiffel Tower and the Wall of China and Rockies breaking majestically from endless plain, only I will see her perfect yawn as she stretches awake in my arms at sunrise. They don’t make postcards of that moment. It’s just here, tucked into my heart, slowly becoming the fabric of a deep bond we’ll have forever.

*****

I think these thoughts as we settle down to sleep, we three who share our bed. I squeeze her just a bit, acknowledging the end of yet another day in her life, never to be had again, thankful I got to share it. He sighs and turns into his pillow, turning away from whatever burdens linger after a day of work, and I think, not for the first time: It’s the end of yet another day in his life, too, that will never be had again. Did I share it enough? Did I treasure it enough? His mother’s heart holds those sweet memories of his sweet yawns and cries and smiles, but is my heart treasuring these days of side-by-side hard work, of Daddy-kisses on princess cheeks and happily being hero to two waiting sons at the end of a grueling day and cradling fussy babe even though his shoulders are just as burdened as mine? Am I noticing the new creases near his eyes, the sprinkle of gray that’s not such a sprinkle anymore? Do I smile a bit as I fold a pile of undershirts and socks, maybe not so cute as those newborn sleepers, but belonging to an equally wonderful person? Do I just breathe in him and the way the bed sinks to his side and the lingering scent of shampoo on his pillowcase and just the solidity of him being here?

Suddenly I am on the adventure of a lifetime, taking in Wonders of the World all day long.

*****

New rhythms that are so gentle, legato, harmonious, they simply slipped into place without much effort at all:

A Circle Time of sorts each morning after breakfast. Long moments spent singing hymns, memorizing scripture and things, practicing what it means to hear Jesus, praying for what is on His heart. Reading out loud chapter after chapter of beautiful new Puffin Classics we got for Christmas. Hurrying through chores to get outside where they will run and chase and build for long stretches, leaving me with a new baby and a sweet toddler to read to and sing with and maybe, just maybe, get a shower? The sun stays so much longer all of a sudden, and so our afternoons stretch just enough to allow quiet book work with two delightful boys. Dinner is as simple as possible, made mostly from food I’ve prepared and tucked into the freezer, and for the first time ever, I’m sticking to simple. No “oh, since the soup is done, I’ll just make this new bread recipe and a pie or two while I’m at it.” No, just soup and quiet and practicing priorities for this season. It’s all good.

*****

Several afternoons, I’ve even gotten to slip out for a quick walk. Sometimes I do so with my head down, pounding my feet on that pavement as quickly as I can, trying to get all I can out of a mere 10 minutes. But sometimes I make the mistake of looking up — and the walk abruptly ceases. Who can absorb the beauty of a January day? I find them breathtaking.

*****

Stopping to see beauty certainly is aided, in my life, by cultivating an awareness of beauty in general. The children and I are having our thirst for beauty fed by poems from this book — a gift from my mother this past Christmas. I have written before about how in over my head I feel with poetry, but much to my astonishment, my children don’t seem to need to understand the meaning, or know what makes a poem a poem, or any such thing. They just listen, smiles dancing in their far-off gaze, as the words make music and magic. They, inevitably, beg for more.

Here’s a favorite —

(This sort of thing — taking a picture of a field, reading poetry with the kids, listening to Bach Violin Sonatas on a sunny sub-zero morning — this is “mother culture” for me. It’s self-care. It doesn’t even require that I get away or spend a single cent. Our Shepherd is very capable of finding fields and streams in the season we’re in. He restores our souls.)

what december looks like here:

I am waiting for a baby.


(Taken 10 days ago!)

But I am also trying to just enjoy this favorite season of the year, noticing the way certain things have become Christmas in our little family:

Enjoying our first December dinner with the flicker of candles in Advent wreath, reading the first of 24 little books telling the story of Jesus, and followed by a viewing of The Nativity Story (and cookies!)

Making cookies, and being sure to have a variety for tree-decorating night!


(Rum logs — add 1/2 tsp salt! –, Pepparkakor, and Chocolate Crackles. Coming soon: Peanut Butter Balls, for my favorite guy.)

Getting a tree, as soon as we can. Dashing through rows (that makes it sound tidy — not quite!) of trees, finding the “right” one. We don’t agonize too long: The right height, not prickly, a little bit wild. Done, settled, bring that baby home!

Music playing, softly each morning, more loudly during cookie decorating, and just plain old loud while tree-decking. I love filling the house with the sounds of Christmas, which for us have become Diana Krall, Tony Bennett, Luna Moon, The Cambridge Singers, The Nutcracker, and (when Ryan’s not home — he doesn’t get the same warm fuzzies as I do!), Sandi Patty.

A growing collection of books to read all month, which I put by the tree this year. I have it in my head that I will sit by that tree with a brand new baby, doing nothing but reading books to my other sweet babes. Even without that new baby, I’d say the arrangement is working out just fine. I am so happy to just read out loud while they eat it up.

There are so many favorites, but this year I’m being asked to read The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree on repeat.

Meals that aren’t fancy, but certainly feel that way when you add candles and a bit of holiday prettiness. It’s amazing how easy it is to linger a bit longer when there are cookies to pass around as the candles burn low. December forces a quick and complete embrace of short days and cozy evenings — things we’ll cling to long after the holiday bins have been stored back in the basement.

Corners of the house that the kids can almost arrange themselves, so familiar are the decorations and arrangements. Oh, I have to have a really good reason for changing the location of anything from year to year!

Anticipation that doesn’t have to be taught. It only takes a few Decembers to realize that these cookies, these songs, these books, these moments — they are special.

what I’ve been up to

Bible Study

Last year, I purposed to memorize 52 verses. I made a plan, wrote out fresh 3x5s, and got to it. Near the end of the year, I was feeling a bit…wandering. You know that feeling? Like you pull out your Bible and sit down with your coffee and just — BLANK. But you know what? God wants to speak to me. He wants me to hear His voice. He wants to strengthen me according to His Word. The inspiration may ebb and flow, but taking in truth is never in vain.

All that to say, in November, when I read this post by my sister, something about it was alive to me. I took that as the Holy Spirit speaking, and those verses became my study plan. I wrote them down in several versions. I chewed on each part. I determined to not just gloss over super-familiar verbiage and instead leave no rock unturned in my search for food. It really was the Lord speaking to me!

Since then, I’ve done a few short reading programs using YouVersion’s app on my phone. I bought a cheap composition notebook and have been copying down verses I’m memorizing and meditating on (besides my usual journaling, which is just a must in my life!) I’ve kept several different Bible translations at my fingertips, eager to hear familiar passages in new ways. God has been speaking.

MuTu

I’ve mentioned here before that after Fiona’s birth, a nagging issue of diastasis recti became impossible to ignore — or, at least, detrimental to ignore. I have no idea how long the problem had been growing, but after her delivery, it was painfully obvious that my muscles were no longer doing their job of protecting and holding my insides. It was time for a game plan.

For four solid months, beginning immediately after her birth, I began following a program developed by Julie Tupler. I wrapped my stomach day and night and faithfully did the best I could do check off my daily exercise. The awareness and strength I developed during those four months was very significant. The simple tips she gave — how to get out of bed, how to stand, how to simply breathe — in ways that would help and not hurt me were extremely valuable.

Four months later, having done the same thing day in and day out with not much change in sight, I decided to try out another program that my friends had begun, MuTu.

For anyone suffering from a very severe diastasis recti, I would highly recommend beginning with Tupler. It is gentle, it is clear, and it is healing in a very deep, steady way (in my personal experience; I have absolutely no professional expertise!) However, beginning MuTu was just what I needed to keep me on the straight and narrow: variety, activity, and consolidated to one chunk of time each day. Some of the exercises I skip, because thanks to Tupler, I could immediately sense too much strain on my connective tissue. I went through MuTu’s 12 week program and finished last spring. Throughout the summer, I kept up a bit of exercise each day, although I fell completely off the wagon in August, due to our lives’ busyness. No worries: the beginning of a new school year meant finding a new place for my 30-40 minutes of exercise to fit, and it’s been working since. I feel strong and I know that starting the morning with a high-intensity workout means more energy for the rest of the day.

Vitamins!

At the end of the summer, articles started flying around the internet about super-flus and viral epidemics. I was glad for the reminder to beef up our vitamin intake! I asked a friend for some recommendations, and we’ve been taking Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and a probiotic each morning (with extra C as needed for a boost!) This past week, a few kids were down with a fever, so it certainly isn’t a guarantee for no sickness (but then, nothing is!)

Reading

I finally made myself a reading list for the year. I have until September to complete it, and I’m way behind, but I’m more on track than I would have been! I like to read. But it takes effort. Half the effort, for me, is just having a book to read! So far, lots of books not listed have made their way into my chair-side stack, but I’ve crossed off a few. My favorite read in a very long time? John Adams. Fascinating. Challenging. Inspiring.

What are some of your favorite books?

Netflix

And the only reason more books aren’t crossed off is because I’m also completely into
tp://www.cbs.com/shows/blue_bloods/”>Blue Bloods. I’ve skipped a few episodes here and there, due to content I wasn’t digging, but for the most part, I really enjoy this show. I like the characters and stories and just the strong Dad and family vibe. Yay for a portrayal of men who love integrity.

(You know I write this with fear and trepidation. Because, of course, after telling the world I like this show, you just watch — it’s going to all take a dive and turn into something I’m embarrassed to have ever seen. Ha!)

Easy Cleaning

E-cloths and Norwex enviro-cloths: pretty much the only thing I use anymore for anything. Throw in a toilet brush and vacuum cleaner, and you’ve pretty much summed up my entire cleaning arsenal. Stains on carpets, fingerprints on glass, grease on stovetop, grime on walls… So simple and easy. And not dangerous. However, I did finally try out my friend Renee’s dish wand trick for the shower, and I’m a convert. Dawn dish soap, white vinegar, and tada — you can scrub your shower while taking a shower. Works for me!

What have you been up to?