packed up, put away, and looking forward: january.

There are a very few houses still wearing their Christmas colors, warm colored lights greeting me in the dark mornings as I walk. I’m sure their owners are cringing at how behind they are, and when they will ever find the time, but I wish they could see me smile as I walk by — wistful already as I recall the days of December, their warmth and memories, how they sped by far too quickly, how I wish we could just do that one more time before moving onto the rest of the year.

December passed in its own unique way, as it seems to do each year — this mother and home manager whose heart is full of ideas and plans, who learns every single year to hold such things loosely as real life topples day dreams, only to find that the actual gifts of a Good Father are perfect for us.

Piano performances, choir practices, movie nights, early to bed nights, colds and upset tummies, cookies that taste like the memories of a hundred Christmases past, school winding down and play winding up, first snow, quiet days at home instead of the usual bustle of play dates and get togethers (because viruses), gifts purchased and wrapped and rejoiced over, choral performances that made this mama cry, books read aloud, and suddenly the blessed days of rejoicing and celebration and tradition are upon us, and we revel in it all.

Then it’s over, and we happily let the days slip by as we embrace vacation mode, staying long in PJs, playing with new toys for hours while Mama tries to create some semblance of order. The end of the year purge, making room for new things, getting rid of the broken and unused.

Cold snap. Temps plunging way, way below zero, keeping children inside when frostbite seems to truly threaten. Boys shoveling fast and furiously, coming inside with eyes full of hot chocolate hopes. (Yes, of course yes.) The few days in the 20s and 30s feel like a heat wave, and the play time goes on for hours as they shovel their way through the backyard, creating their very own North Country Roxaboxen.

House projects. Laundry room upheaval, and us short a bathroom, but who cares when there’s long term gain? Slowly we watch it get put back together, and finally the weekend comes when we can vacuum and mop and organize and move in and smile as the washing machine hums its familiar hum.

At last, that means, school.

Fresh starts and new energy escaped me this year, I’ll confess. Oh, those long and often intense days of schooling sounded just like that: long and intense. All I could remember was Cecily up to no good and loose ends left undone every evening and a general feeling of “are we having fun yet?” True story: this happens. It happens to me. Deep in my soul, tentacles of discouragement wrap and bind and pull me down.

But hand to the plow, shoulder to the grindstone, and most of all, heart set on promises: He has never failed me yet.

New routine thought through, fresh pencils, and without any more to-do (because no excuses; that’s what I told myself) we started. To the tune of an unending snowstorm and boys shoveling half the day, and I had to laugh at my carefully laid plans.

You know what?

It was peaceful and fun and synergistic and good.

He has never failed me yet.

So, off we go: into a new year, on a path winding forward, heading towards the rising sun.

celebrate

It’s Christmas week.

Celebration begins in earnest, or at least the plans for doing so begin to whip into shape — and isn’t that half the celebration? Calendar out to plan the afternoons for cinnamon roll baking, birthday cake making (Cecily!), and when to start the food for Christmas dinner; kids all out on the town with money burning in their pockets, eyes sharp as they hunt for the perfect sibling gift; me slipping into my room and wrapping what is left (ha! most!) of the gifts while children inevitably follow and knock and whisper loudly, “Can I wrap my gifts yet??”; shopping lists covertly texted to Ryan as I remember all those stocking needs that slipped my mind; and hopefully plenty of evenings together by candlelight, tree light, reading or singing or watching a favorite holiday movie. We are celebrating, after all.

Last night my boys were able to sing in a Christmas cantata that was so beautiful, so well done, and so moving, I literally laid in bed unable to sleep because I was riding such a high of joy and awe and too much wonder to hold. I listened to wave after wave of beautiful sounds, carefully penned and orchestrated by musical craftsmen and wordsmiths, and astonished (again, as I often am) at how many pains are taken to try and give voice to the mind-blowing miracle of Jesus’ birth, God’s gift of redemption. Men and women labor over their offerings of art and expression, their hearts swollen with emotion and the need to contribute their own voice to the chorus of hundreds who have already sung, written, played, painted, danced and otherwise expressed the majesty of God’s love.

I listen to soaring sopranos over fanfare of brass woven with ribbons of string filled in with harmonies that seem to have always existed and someone finally heard them and wrote them down — and I wonder, with such beautiful expressions here, where we only see dimly, what will the song of heaven be like? I weep with the wonder of it, with the aching to express it myself.

And rightly so. It is the story of the Ages, of all mankind.

That I was blind, so very very lost.

And this babe in a manger — He was the gift of sight, the one who came to lead me home.

spirit filled days

It’s all flying by so quickly, as always, but even more so? I feel the temptation towards frustration (with what? I’m not sure where I’d pin the blame) but every time the thought flits through my head, I am reminded and convicted:

There is no thing or activity that makes these Christmastime days warm and happy. It is Jesus in me as I lead and set the tone. What a challenge, but what freedom. I’m not waiting for stars to align and circumstances to occur. The joy and expectation, the love and security, the closeness and fellowship that we all hope for so much at this time of year is always, unfailingly available in Jesus.

*****

Skimming along through Matthew and Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, I was so struck by the story of humble and average people who loved God obediently, and changed HISTORY for all mankind! When Mary said, “Be it done to me according to Your word,” was she thinking of every tongue, tribe, and nation gathered at the throne of the eternal King? Or was she simply saying, “I’m not really sure what is being asked of me, but I love God and my life is His?”

Too often I think of, “If you love Me, keep my commandments,” the same way a 2yo might — a slight and growing awareness that this will actually be good for me, but so much emphasis on “will I obey?”, on my perspective. Not much thought about the why or wisdom behind it as much as the immediate challenge to my soul and whether or not I will yield.

But history and hindsight show that obedience is about the eternal plans of our loving and awesome God being implemented and executed through mere people, practicing mere obedience as an expression of their deep love for a God they cannot see or feel.

Obedience is an invitation, a portal, to the Spirit-powered current that is the Kingdom of God increasing on the earth (Isaiah 9). How do I get to be a part of that awesome happening? By being like Mary, who said, “Here I am, come what may.” By being like Joseph, who had a dream, woke up, and did what he’d heard.

My parents obeyed, and I was born. And I might not be the amazingly profound Kingdom of God moment books are written about, but I’m here, loving Jesus. My kids are here now, too, being taught of Him. Hopefully lives are being impacted as we touch them and they are blessed. There’s a current of Kingdom power that this lineage got hooked into through obedience.

So here I am. Today. In my very average life, where my big goals are listening to the kids’ piano pieces and decorating cookies. Blow in me, breath of God! Be it unto me according to Your will.

*****


A little disciple-in-the-making.

a purposeful home

In August, I made an impulse purchase. I judged a book by it’s fabulous cover and bought it. This week, it made its way to the family room, where I’ve been perusing its contents (while nestled under an afghan, sometimes by candlelight, because of course.)

It’s that time of year. My kids say lots of great things, but something William said a few months ago made my heart happy: “My favorite time of year is winter, because it gets dark early and there are candles and music and we’re all together.” This from my boy who is out playing football as often as possible. Who knew the regular rituals I’ve attempted to create, in order to craft “homey” out of a time that could just be cold and dull, were making a clear impression on him.

Of course, that freshly inspired me. It’s not always easy, being all together indoors from 4pm on, keeping hearts and hands occupied, trying to convince myself to not just send us all to bed because it’s pitch black, after all. It helps to remember that the quiet music or the fun board game or even the “everyone get a book and sit quietly at the fire until I say” is doing more than just keeping us sane; it’s making memories. It’s making home.

Back to the book: hygge is a Danish word and concept, and so here you’ll find the makings of the unusually happy Danish culture (according to statistics.) Lighting, food, furnishings, friends… all of the elements that add to a slow, cozy enjoyment of the moment — especially the dark ones.

But I couldn’t help but think, as I read with a pink-cheeked baby sleeping in the crook of my arm, that I didn’t see all that much about babies. About making this culture for others enjoyment. I did a quick check, and sure enough, the Danes seem to be missing something crucial.


And not just Denmark; it is an overarching problem in many countries.

This made me sad, but it also was a very powerful reminder: candles, warm bread, an emphasis on friendship over productivity, and sheepskin on every surface rings a bit hollow if it’s all feeding a need for my happiness. That just can’t be the point. And I know: toddlers knock candles over, kids grimace at the slow-cooked stew, your favorite afghan is in the wash because someone escaped the table with banana hands, and late night game nights with friends are tough when the baby needs to be nursed to sleep. This investment costs something.

But home is meant to be created as an investment in the next generation. That’s the whole point: homes as a safe, welcoming place of ministry.

This is a good reminder for me. Home is a tool, the end to the means — not the end in itself.

July memories and musings.

My mother wrote about the nature of July, and I certainly couldn’t say it any better. It starts out with flag-waving, kickball-playing, pie-in-the-sky hopes.

But those last two weeks sort of fizzled out, with me trying to figure out a plan each day, but mostly just pushing through till bedtime while fielding emergencies and everyday humdrum in the meantime. This summertime thing can really be my nemesis — me, of innate idealism and high expectations, who can’t help but try to measure productivity and purpose, floundering through days of loosey-goosey summer. I start to chafe for September, when I know what the goal is and what’s expected of me.


I had to laugh at this one. Someone snapped a picture of me at my best. Desperate moments call for desperate measures.

But Jesus doesn’t need September. His constant work in us doesn’t depend on chore charts. Isn’t that great?? And He doesn’t need magical summer afternoons to work His magic. In fact, it could (hypothetically) rain almost every day (just imagine with me), and He can still count the day a win!

I love that. It isn’t always magical. Sometimes it’s just putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes it’s doing what you ought to do because you ought to. It can look a lot like breath prayers and confessing dependance on a strength greater than your own. But you know what is magical? The way He appears, with gentle peace, with fresh joy, with quiet conviction, with water for a parched soul.

“Let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

*****


So much baseball.


Lymes and antibiotics. Thankful for catching it quickly.


Ballerina buns, every Wednesday.


An evening walk, a summertime gift.


Bookends who adore each other.


Amazon boxes are awesome.


A morning walk that was less exercise and more flower picking.


This baby doll.


Dinners that conclude with “run around the yard”.


Three Sunday morning princesses, one of whom will not stop reading. Ever.


Because sleeping with Mama chases all the bad dreams away.


Dinner for two.

null
Bedhead.


“Mom, can you take a picture of us in age order?” (Someone didn’t cooperate.)


The late summer flowers beginning to take over.


A special wedding weekend.


Last July hurrah: a picnic lunch with plenty of cherries.

finding peace at home

It’s an interesting thing, to have the kingdom of heaven in your heart while you walk around on planet earth.

All day long, we are cultivating an inner awareness of who God is and learning to value what He values. We are listening, more and more closely, to His voice and growing more and more enamored with eternal things.

And all day long, we are walking on earth, relating to people, cleaning up the messes of entropy and pushing back the decay and dust of this mortal life.

We do both, and it’s not by accident. It’s on purpose, because His plan is to bring glimpses of eternity to this realm through us. We represent Him and His original, beautiful plan for humanity. We declare Him and His redemptive, glorious promise of a New Day.

And so the spiritual gets “skin” on it as we express it in our daily lives.

But sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in that “skin” and forget it’s supposed to be merely an expression that is anchored to a powerful inner transformation. Somehow this very simple thing, that I certainly knew, hit me over the head in a deep, liberating way last December. I remember sitting in my chair by the fire early on a Sunday morning, feeling the havoc in my soul of having tried to cram too much, push too hard, and now feeling a failure. I’m not sure it was audible, but clear as a bell spoke the Holy Spirit, challenging and correcting.

I wrote, “I am always working so hard to “make home” and this week feeling the crushing weight of failing (in my eyes.) Suddenly saw how I can fill my home with warmth and order and beauty by being those things. And that is possible always. Even on days when the house seems to be falling apart, there can be order and beauty, warmth and life. Jesus, make Your home in me.

It’s not that the temporal, earthly doesn’t matter. I don’t get to watch my world fall to chaos and just shrug and walk away. But all of those things I so desire to impart to “my” world, God wants to first impart to me.

And I’m not perfect at this, but I’m slowly learning to remember: when there’s a big chore list, or Monday calls for a radical return to routine, I can get a jump start by tuning my heart. Long before the afghans are draped just so and bathrooms smell fresh, my spirit can be welcoming and clean towards my children. They can catch a glimpse of what “home” looks like as the kingdom of heaven gets worked into me.

This is challenging news: it means that there is no excuse for a lack of warmth and peace in my home at a heart level. Sin and selfishness on my part is the only hindrance. But it is good news: it means neither my family or me has to wait for everything to be in smooth working order for us to experience the beauty and warmth our souls were made to crave.

We are workers at home, so let us work well: but let’s never forget, this is meant to be an expression of the living Word of God at work in our own hearts.

Jesus, make Your home in me.