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.”

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…”

october 11

“Be hopeful, be holy, be fearful, be loving.”

I think that’s what it was, the way my brother summed up 1 Peter 1. And all of those things — they just spring from the reality of a new birth, a new identity, a new home. Because the life of Jesus changes us.

I just think that’s awesome.

Life is full of pressure, moment by moment, wave after wave. And we who know Christ, we have grace in those moments and waves. Salvation doesn’t rescue us from the experience of hardship, but it invites a miracle in the midst of it.

That amazes me.

These and other 1 Peter thoughts are regularly filling my heart, as our church goes through 40 days of study together. The Word of God is life and it is strength.

*****

October is spectacular. You don’t have to go anywhere, either; it’s an art gallery that comes right to your door, if you’ll just stop to notice.

Seriously. No filter, because who needs a filter in NNY in the fall?

*****

This past summer I read Proverbs 31 many times over. I’m always inspired by that passage, and always somehow amused, too. This amazing woman’s life was so… ordinary! But in turn, those verses elevate my ordinary (at best, drudgery if I’m grumbling) to spiritual. I need that sometimes. So on Friday afternoon, when I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than a house tidied by somebody else and a meal started by somebody else, I instead looked around and saw virtuous labor happening: clothing my household well, bringing food from afar (isn’t “Afar” so much more exotic than “Aldi”?).

I bet you’re in the middle of virtuous work, too. Don’t despise the laundry piles. Dig in and realize you’re a woman of great worth. It’s not drudgery. It’s the high call of God, and it’s serving the least of these.

*****

Babies.

They require time.

I know that’s not rocket science or earth shattering revelation. But I read it again in a book last night and it was like a smack to my forehead. DUH. You have a baby, Danica.

There’s this subconscious expectation, I think, that because I’ve been around this baby block a few times, and because I have so many others to care for as well, I’m going to be super efficient this time around. I’ll be multi-tasking like a ninja and barely missing a beat no matter how many eye teeth are popping through.

But it turns out, this is Cecily’s first time around the block, and she’s not really into efficiency. She’s sweet and happy and really not altogether that demanding, but she’s a baby, and babies just need time. Real time. As in, they will eat up moments and hours of a day, and you will never see those moments or hours again.

Do you know how good that is for me? It’s hard enough to slow down and notice, to remember the little details of our days and the special interactions with each of my children. If I was racing through the way I think I’d like to, I would miss the whole thing in a blur of productivity. What a shame! What a grievous thing that would be! But in God’s perfect plan, these delicious babies slow us way down, sometimes to a grinding halt for days on end, and we breathe deeply and see clearly and hear attentively and can actually do our job. We can tend the souls of our children.

This is still a hard one for me on many days, but also something I am so deeply grateful for. God’s ways are so much higher than ours, and perfect. Absolutely perfect.

“To be a fisherman, you have to be around fish,” said Pastor Ben yesterday.

One of those laughably obvious statements, but painfully true: possession of tackle and rods does not make one a fisherman, and it certainly isn’t enough to land a fish. Even sitting in a boat above those fish isn’t enough. Not even just diving down and swimming around them! No, a fisherman must be where the fish are, with his gear at the ready.

I’m thinking about that this morning.

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

That’s me He’s calling.

I definitely am around “men” all day. And night. Every day and night. But am I ready to see and seize every opportunity to hook their hearts? Speak truth in love, pour out kindness and mercy, point to Jesus as the answer for their every need? Or am I just kind of floating through the day, too caught up in my own goals to notice the “fish” all around?

“Follow Me.”

That’s my part. He’ll teach me and show me and change me and cause my life to be effective; my part is to whole-heartedly follow Him.

Lord, You have my heart.

*****

One little life I’m currently pouring into:

August 22

I want to say that this has been a perfect Monday.

But what I would really mean is that this happened to be the kind of Monday I enjoy. I have had slews of other kinds of Mondays, and you know? My times are in His hands, He has written my days in His book, and there is perfect in those other Mondays because He is there.

I’m slow to learn that. I don’t always respond that way.

I’m trying.

It certainly helps to look up from my “perfect” Monday and ponder how many people are living vastly different lives at this moment. Bombs, guns, terror. Fear, pain, abuse. Loss, tragedy, grief. Confusion, depression, hurt.

He is there.

Emmanuel, my favorite of His names. He’s right here. And He is all — all — that we need.

*****

Up and at ’em — alone. My favorite way to start a day. Get everything humming. My spirit, my mind, my oven, my washer. It doesn’t happen often and it’s a gift.

The baby fell asleep as usual, and it was cool and breezy, and I spent two hours alone (“Are you bleeding? Is the bone broken? Go outside.“) starting to really map out the start of this year. Another gift that I had asked for but not banked on.

Sweet Cecily, asleep in her little nest on the floor, since laying down and nursing is her new (not negotiable) preference. Laying down twice a day doesn’t hurt me, either. God must know stuff.

Back to the kitchen for some more cooking-ahead. Cutting into tomatoes so dense and pink, I almost cried. Silly?, but I feel like I’m viewing something miraculous when I cut into these beautiful gems.

Sitting outside to write something, anything, on this little blog, and looking up to see this bit of sweetness. Yellow flowers, blue and white sky, navy polka dots, Goldilocks hair. I have so much beauty in my season.

August 16

“Children tie the mother’s feet.” — old Tamil proverb

I read that in Amy Carmichael’s biography — the story of a young single woman who, through no plan of her own but simply because she followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, became “mother” to hundreds of abandoned and abused Indian children. Elisabeth Elliot says, “It took rather a long time for the truth of this Tamil proverb to dawn on Amy… …that she must allow her feet to be tied for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed.”

*****

There is a pervasive lie in the water that we all drink, and it is this: if you do everything right, you can have it all. It appealed to Eve, and it appeals to us. At least, it appeals to me. It entices me and draws me in, and subsequently wraps me in the chains of discouragement and discontent.

*****

I remember reading in “Loving the Little Years” that it’s okay to have a baby and consequently look like you had a baby. It’s okay to bear in your body the marks of sacrifice. In fact, it’s kind of weird to yield your body for the creative work of forming an entire other person (or two, or ten), and then wanting to erase all traces of that. Go back to your 20-year-old figure, as though that pre-baby body was your “true self.” Yes: steward your body, keep it in good health, realize it’s the only one you’ve got and it needs to now serve your adult children and their children, and maybe even their children — but for heaven’s sake, stop trying to erase all traces of childbearing from your tummy and thighs. Your body is a tool to use, not a museum piece to put on the shelf. You are a living sacrifice, and just may look a bit like one, too. You can’t have it all.

“One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”

If you have a Mom-body, it may because you are a mom. That’s not just okay; it’s a gift from God that we don’t need to do penance for.

*****

Somehow I can feel like a truly successful mom is one who hits a home run every day in laundry, cooking, cleaning, and schooling and is involved with every other thing, too, in church and community. And beyond this unseen force that pressures me to stop being a loser and start doing something with my life, there’s of course the desire in me that every once in awhile makes me really really really want to do ALL THE THINGS. The fun things, the important things, the things that SOMEBODY has to do. There are so many things. Shouldn’t I be able to do them, too?

Because if you’re really good at being a mom, those kids will barely be a blip on the screen of your go-go-go and productivity. Right?

*****

We want to have the kids, be a good mom, and have none of that leave any impact on how we look or run our lives.

We want it all.

And yet, shouldn’t there be a mark? Shouldn’t there be an obvious impact? Shouldn’t our lives look like they are being sown into the field of our children’s lives?

It’s okay that your children “tie your feet.” It’s okay that their need for the gospel in word an deed requires every ounce of your energy and creativity. It’s okay that the fearful and wonderful design of them left your belly wrinkled and squishy — with no sign of ever returning. It’s what we were made for: to lay down our lives for these little ones.

If Jesus can stand in eternity, bearing the marks of sacrifice in His hands and feet, I think it’s probably okay to expect that our sacrifices may also leave their mark, on our bodies and time and energy.

We can’t have “it all”. But we can have ALL of the abundant life we so desire as we follow our Savior. And the best part? Chains fall, and we run freely into joy and peace — soft tummies and all.