wholecloth faith

Many years ago, when I was a brand new mother with my first brand new baby, I stumbled upon a private little blog by Ann Voskamp, a name every one now knows, of course — but back then, she was just a deep-thinking mother, working to express the things God was speaking to her as she lived her life surrounded by young children. Many word-pictures of hers stuck with me, but one has come to mind several times this week: that of a wholecloth life, rather than the crazy quilt we tend towards. (Go ahead and read that link. You’ll be encouraged!)

I’m thinking about it again because I am challenged by the story of Corrie ten Boom, which I am reading again but this time out loud to my children. I suppose every rereading of such a story reveals different layers of faith and conviction, but the common thread I am astonished by this time is their holistic faith — a faith lived simply unto God, that was unknowingly preparing them to serve in astonishing circumstances.

I am inspired by the stories of those who have left the comforts of their homes to embrace the challenge of bringing Jesus to a difficult place. But lately I am even more challenged to read of normal everyday believers whose world was turned upside down — and the quiet faith they had diligently lived was all the preparation they needed to become beacons of light.

In this story, for example, a quiet family who has always loved people, always preferred others, and always clung to God’s standards is set up to go from a (some would say) hum-drum existence to that of high-intensity clandestine activity.

It makes me stop and ask myself: what are my actions today preparing me for? Am I living a consistent life of discipleship now? Am I serving, preferring, standing firm, dealing with fear correctly? Am I loving God above all else, and loving my neighbor as myself? A life of relative ease leaves so much room for passivity and apathy, allows self-deception and the segregation of the chambers of one’s soul.

Heroes of the faith didn’t go to Hero School. They simply lived their whole lives in the fear of God and were ready when He whispered the smallest request to follow Him, whether it would be seen or unseen.

I want a whole cloth life, not a crazy quilt of selfish ambition and worldly attachments with a bit of “holy” threaded here and there. I want a consistent thread of obedient faith to be woven throughout every moment of my day, prepared for whatever may come, ready to stand with joy before the Faithful Judge who has seen every thought and intent of my heart.

October days

Have you ever looked at photos of truly amazingly beautiful places in the world and thought, “I can’t believe people just live there! Wake up every morning and do life in that stunning place. What is that even like??”

In October, I feel like I am that person.

You can’t believe that I live here, that I just drive around doing errands, folding laundry, checking the mail, and THIS is all around me. Just casually being more stunning than anyone can even absorb.

I know that this little rural pocket has never made it onto any global tourist brochures, but that just makes it more amazing to me: that this little canvas, painted every single season with absolute brilliance, is an every day sort of painting for the Great Designer. He just does this because why wouldn’t He?

That makes me smile as I think about the deep clean I did of my closet yesterday. Probably no one, not even Ryan, will even notice or care that there isn’t dust on the baseboard no one can ever see anyway, but that’s okay. I bet the sun glances off of scarlet leaves in a wood no one ever visits, and it’s not wasted effort or beauty. It’s consistency and character we can count on — and I want to mirror that the best I can.

*****

Two weeks or so of October, and we’ve filled it to the brim with living. A trip to Burlington to celebrate Jameson’s 13th birthday, the start of Friday Enrichment Program for the kids and me, apples arriving by the bushels to be processed and baked and just plain old eaten at a startling pace, up to our eyeballs already with learning and reaching our first milestone with a special “German Day,” an overnight with friends, ballet and Lego League and learning to read, and packing up for another special outing to see my grandparents.

Finding rhythms that serve us where we’re at (finding rhythm is different that forcing rhythm, which is what I naturally tend to do, as I assume my rhythm is the right one.) Shifting things around, being flexible, helping the kids to learn to do the same. Coming face to face afresh with my weakness and old sin patterns of frustration and impatience and lack of grace when the noise and activity overwhelms me, revisiting the truths God has shown me many times over.

*****

Time to wrap up those pies and hit the road. More October days to live!

time + tending

This morning, the horizon was flushed with pink when I emerged from the shower at around 6:15. The world was yet mostly dark, but soon, the sun promised, day would break.

Remember when the sun was up before my alarm went off at 5:50? Wasn’t that just yesterday?

I exercised along with my usual video, which is accompanied by a sound track including the calming sound of birds and such. And I realized those pre-recorded birds were all I could hear, because our windows are shut tight and probably the only birds to hear are Canada geese, anyway.

Remember when every morning was greeted with bird song of every variety? When did that stop?

I set up my Bible and notebook at the kitchen table, ready to dive into my morning routine, and then wondered when I suddenly stopped heading out to the picnic table each morning. All summer long, for months, watching the birds and smelling the grass and enjoying the humid dawning of a summer day.

Remember? When did that stop? Was it too dark, too cold? I’m not even sure, but all at once we’re all tucked safely inside with slippers and blankets, waiting for the sun rather than the sun waiting for us.

It’s October, suddenly.

*****

Turkey families are everywhere, while the deer are (cleverly) disappearing from sight. The sky has once again become a thoroughfare for migration. Hydrangeas are settling into their deepest pink hue, while the rest of the garden begins to shrivel, having been touched by frost. Football lines are painted in the yard, and fingers and cheeks are pink at the end of playtime. I dug out mittens for my morning walk yesterday. Already, school sessions on the picnic table are rarely an option; stiff fingers make for poor penmanship. Winter squash is in the CSA rotation, and Christmas music has joined the stack on the piano. Here we are, the glowing end of summer. Up here, it means days more glorious than any July can boast, and tinged each evening with the scent and knowing of goodbye. Winter is coming.

*****

I love every season of the Northeast, but I only wish they could slow down a bit. Doesn’t this crazy spinning earth know that every rotation ages my babies another day, every revolution brings us closer to them leaving? One thousand miles an hour around its axis, and I believe it; my head is spinning.

*****

It’s a scramble to quickly bring in every last thing from the vegetable gardens this time of year. There’s a hard STOP looming, a frost that will bring an end to the season of harvest. It is a reminder to me, too: I don’t just get to fiddle around in my garden forever. There’s a hard end to each season, and the time to work is now. The time to sow my life into a future generation is now. Dig, sow, water, weed, prune, stake, spray, tend.

My friend tells me, “They say the best thing a farmer can put on his garden is his shadow,” meaning, don’t plant and forget. I let that sink into my heart. Every day, let the shadow of my invested presence linger over the hearts of my children. Don’t plant and forget. Tend daily.

Tend my own soul: taking in the Word, pouring out my heart, listening to Him speak, walking out obedience.
Tend their souls: bodies, souls, spirits.

Tend now. This is our season.

another first day.

On Tuesday, we had our last day of summer, celebrated with a family outing to Lake Placid and the top of Whiteface. Ryan and I each strapped a little girl to our back, and we all climbed that last 425 feet to the top. (Fiona the Fearless was like a mountain gazelle once we reached the top and there was the summit to explore.) It was a perfect day of sunshine and clear views, new shoes and ice cream cones.

Yesterday we dove into a brand new school year. I just love being with my kids. Managing our routines and connecting with individual needs while moving us along as a whole each day is challenging — and then of course remembering that I’m still the cook when dinner time rolls around! But while some days are more smooth than others, I wouldn’t trade this for the world. The years are short, and I’m so glad they’re here with me. The investment is enormous, but it’s also weighty: days of math pages and consonant sounds and gerunds and butterflies bursting and charting of Nazi invasions — they are days of talking and living Jesus out loud. Chores, character training, piano practice, sibling interactions all opportunities to see us grow into our destiny, responding by faith to the grace of the gospel and purposing each day to yield ourselves to the good works prepared for us to walk in.

As we capped off the first day, I sat in a circle of women — sisters — and pondered the incredible courage and investment of Moses’ mother. And investment that set him apart and positioned him to respond to the call of God on his life. She knew the years were short, too, and she made them count.

Lord, I want to make this year count. Be glorified.


found in William’s nature journal — my child who doesn’t love art and thinks himself unable, but has learned to obediently engage and do his best. I couldn’t believe how lovely it was.

beatrice + becoming a mother

We celebrated with a brunch birthday party, since the church had an all-site service and picnic planned for the afternoon and evening. I could tell she wasn’t sure if that would be quite okay, but I promised it would be special.

We set the table the day before, and she carefully made place cards and chose napkins from my stash. I did my best to add some feminine and fancy, and I could tell the girls were all starting to feel that this was something special.

She woke up early, just as I was about to head into the dew-damp garden to cut flowers for the house. She happily joined, and we chatted as I gathered. She loves this kind, oh, and that one. Could we please have some gooseneck? And two kinds of hydrangea! She loves flowers and wants to help me every time I pull on my gardening gloves. She asks all the names and watches for beetles and exclaims over new buds and little baby plants, just like me.

I pulled out a new tomato red dress for her to wear on this, her birthday. Her eyes glowed, and a few minutes later she came running to find me, wearing the new dress, exclaiming at how twirly it is. I laughed as she twirled and twirled. I told her she could wear any necklace, as the neckline is unadorned, and she came back with pearls. Just like me.

She opened her gifts and exclaimed over them all — and had them almost all opened and tried out by day’s end. Ryan asked her what her favorite gift was, and I heard from the other room when she answered, “The cross-stitch kit from you and Mama.” Because she is desperate to learn to sew. She watches and hovers any time I pull out a project. I try to explain as I go. Give her little things to make. She just loves the quiet creativity of it all, just like me.

This all surprises me, somehow. I know I am her mother, their mother. I gave birth to them, I have nurtured and fed them, I keep them clothed and clean and teach them to read. I know they love to have me near and they tell me I’m the best mother in the world, but somehow I still feel not quite like a real mother. You know, not real like my mother. Maybe they don’t know I’m still just fumbling through, watching my sisters and friends, calling my mom, reading a book, praying desperately for help and wisdom?

And so somehow as yesterday unfolded, and I saw this little girl whose arms and legs are lengthening into older girl, whose heart is always in her eyes and whose words are so frank and uninhibited by insecurity or pretense, this precious girl who is such a gem and a gift to my life — when I saw her so honestly loving all that I love and imitating who I am, I was undone. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, my mother always said (when I was protesting about another little sister who was copying me!) For good or for bad, I seldom consider there is much about me special enough or worthy enough of imitation, and yet, here she is. My little friend in the garden, a string of pearls to match mine (“someday I’ll have real ones like you, Mama!”), eagerness to not just learn cross stitch but to sit with me and be taught by me.

It made me pause and remember: that’s how I looked at my Mama. She was my standard of elegance and fashion. Her hobbies were enthralling to me. What she knew I wanted to learn, because I couldn’t imagine anyone better to learn from. And now, somehow, someone looks at me that way.

I am a real mother. Nurturing was hard coded into me when God formed my life, and mother became my name because a baby was born, not because I felt I had earned it or grown into it. What kind of a mother will I be? These clear blue eyes, full of love and adoration, call me to once again evaluate my heart. They require me to look around at the six people who look to me for comfort and nurturing, training and discipline, teaching and empowering, and to see them as a worthy investment of my life — the best of my life. I think of the moments in the garden, or getting ready to go out, or finishing up a sewing project when those six people were treated as an interruption to my goals. How very wrong and backwards. How clear it all is when I see a little girl who wants me to use all of those things to grow her and train her and shape her. Yes. That’s the goal, always, in it all.

Oh, these children. How precious they are, and how I long to be the sanctified and wholehearted disciple that they need as they are shaped for their destinies.

august 3.


matching blonde friends

Saturday afternoon. The sun is shining, broad and generous, heating the world to a warm 85*, but there’s a breeze as I sit under the shade of an umbrella. The sprinkler the boys set up — perhaps an untimely afterthought on my part, but a last ditch effort to not toast my entire garden — occasionally hits the umbrella. How is it that the sound of water, any water, is so calming and refreshing? Except for the steady drip of a faucet left ajar. That is not refreshing.

Swim lessons, Shakespeare this past week, and then 6 days of Musical Theater Camp for four oldest — suddenly we’re in the countdown stages of summer. I want to wring out all the summer-living I can, quickly come up with a plan for more work and more fun, but today is hemmed in by feverish girls and I am reminded that life isn’t about wringing the most we can out of each moment, but about receiving those moments with thanks and offering them back as bond-servants. And so summer-living right now looks like watching a sweet 14 month old little girl in a flowered cotton dress and bare feet climb up and slide down her Little Tikes slide over and over, a baby monitor nearby to hear if one of those feverish girls should wake from her nap, boys who cheerfully helped me all morning with laundry and cleaning and baby-tending enjoying a bit of video game time. Do I sound like a broken record? Perhaps I am slow to learn this lesson, but I find it freshly impressed each day: my life is not my own, and grasping for it would be such short-sighted foolishness. There is a love song I’m living out. My part is the echo to a melody sung long ago, when my life was ransomed, rescued, redeemed.

Jesus, all I want is to be like You.

*****

Fevers tended once again. Fresh water, more snuggles, pillows fluffed and a movie playing for everyone to enjoy together. Twelve year old man child next to baby, and I notice their matching eyes. Beatrice smiles, dimples deep. Each face sweet, this moment catching them on their way to adulthood.

Trees wave their boughs as wind blows through, and I watch from the window. Blow over me, Spirit. May my life bend a move, dance and bow, a visible outworking of the invisible.

*****