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.

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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.

Sullivan, on motherhood.

Excerpts from a sermon by Rev Edward Taylor Sullivan, on the generational and future impact of mothering:

“I am taking a text this morning from President Coolidge . . . ‘The destiny of America lies around the hearthstone.’ . . . ‘If thrift and industry are taught there,’ he said; ‘if the example of self-sacrifice oft appears; if honor abide there, and high ideals; if there the building of fortune be subordinate to the building of character—America will live in security, rejoicing in an abundant prosperity and good government at home, and peace, respect and confidence abroad . . . Look well, then, to the hearthstone; herein all hope for America lies.’

“But the hearthstone is an emblem. Beside it is enthroned the mother. The Creator lays the next generation in the lap of the mother; and we have high warrant for the belief that ‘the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.’

“When God wants an important thing done in this world, or a wrong righted, He goes about it in a very singular way. He does not release His thunderbolts nor stir up His earthquakes. He simply has a tiny, helpless baby born, perhaps in a very obscure home, perhaps of a very humble mother. And He puts the idea or purpose into a mother’s heart. And she puts it in the baby’s mind, and then—God waits!

“‘The great events of this world,’ says someone, ‘are not battles and earthquakes and hurricanes. The great events of this world are babies. They are earthquakes and hurricanes.’ Oh, the secrets that lie all about us, hidden from our eyes! We glance at a tiny child, and we do not see, we do not know, what a thunderbolt of the Almighty is wrapped up in that little child.

“‘I walked down the furrow in the field,’ said a humble mother who lived on a New Hampshire farm; ‘I walked down the furrow with the Governor of New Hampshire in my arms, and the Governor of Massachusetts clinging to my skirts.’ She said that afterwards, long afterwards, in her old age. For she knew not then, and no one knew, that her two baby boys would be governors of two New England states.”

*****

I love that picture of a farm wife. If she had known, would she have done anything differently? If I had a glimpse of the future, would I do anything differently?

Truth is, I do have a glimpse of the future. I see what God is doing and that He is returning, and today, I can sow into my children knowing they are men and women of destiny, whose lives (whether they be “earthquakes” or the quieter deep bedrock faith) are meant for impact. I can lay aside every selfish motive and short-sighted distraction, and invest into them for the long-term.

“I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”

I need Thee every hour

This picture makes me laugh. So much personality in this split second, which, now that I think about it, is consistent with every other split second of my life: SO MUCH personality.

My house is full of people, not just kids. People. And some of them are 18 month old babies determined to make a statement and show me who’s boss, while others are nearly my height and beginning to straddle childhood and mature responsibility.

My head spins. It really does.

And there are moments of calm, but here’s the thing: I can’t just go into survival mode between those moments, because my real, actual life and their real, actual lives are being lived all the time. I love sitting at my picnic table for a few minutes, just listening to the birds, but God hasn’t really called me to be a bird-listener. He’s called me to mother these children. The often loud, sometimes chaotic, always active, full to overflowing life is where I’m to pour myself out.

And I am a leaky bucket.

I try to create systems and patterns and habits that keep us all moving together in harmony, but it’s easy for me to go into autopilot, never stopping to notice how I’m not really heeding the admonition to be filled with the Holy Spirit — or be being filled, which I learned is a more accurate translation. Constant, never stopping. Because our hearts are leaky vessels and we always need more of Him. He gives me wisdom and strategy, but He wants to be with me in each moment as we flesh it all out. I need Him. So much and so much more.

These are my thoughts tonight.

BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

We know not what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee.

My book-a-month pace was completely thrown off when I decided to pick up Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy as my read for the month of March. At 500+ pages, I anticipated it being an effort to get through in one month; what I didn’t factor in was the emotional toll it would often take, and how I would read a couple of pages only to put it down, too undone to continue.

It is a deeply human story of Germany in the the 30s and 40s: the agony, painful naiveté, perplexity, suffering. Reading of the unfolding of the Nazi reign of terror from the perspective of a proud, deeply German family was heart wrenching and enlightening.

And against that backdrop, the story of a young man’s faith, which was intellectual in nature, until the Holy Spirit began to beckon him into something deeper. What if we lived like this was true? As the world around him began to unravel, he began to learn what it meant to walk by the Spirit, and the simple decision to obey Christ at all costs set him on a course toward martyrdom, yes, but also deep Kingdom impact.

This is what struck me most: he was not spectacular. He never made a decision to do crazy things. His was not a philosophy of ends justifying means. Rather, he purposed each day to make sure the next step was consistent with the truth of Scripture, as revealed to him. Would I have reached all the same conclusions as he did? I’m not sure, and certainly not every believer around him chose the same path, but even in that, Bonhoeffer’s example of grace and care toward another brother’s conscience was incredible.

He dug deep into life, convinced that God meant to inhabit and redeem our human experience, not take us out of it. He was calm and courageous because he simply did the next thing. The supporting characters in the story mirror the deep conviction and courage that we see in his life. His deeply intellectual, thoughtful faith left me mulling over concepts of conscience, ethics, truth, and obedience.

When I read the last page, and closed the book, I wanted to weep: weep with sadness, weep with inspiration, weep with thankfulness. This gentle man gave his body to be burned, but left a legacy of one whose eyes were fixed on Jesus until the end.

Highly, highly recommended.

Such people [of private virtuousness] neither steal, nor murder, nor commit adultery, but do good according to their abilities.
But . . . they must close their eyes and ears to the injustice around them. Only at the cost of self-deception can they keep their private blamelessness clean from the stains of responsible action in the world. In all that they do, what they fail to do will not let them rest. They will either be destroyed by this unrest, or they will become the most hypocritical of all Pharisees.

The solution is to do the will of God, to do it radically and courageously and joyfully. To try to explain “right” and “wrong”—to talk about ethics—outside of God and obedience to His will is impossible.

life and peace.

I think so often about being the one in my home responsible for setting tone, atmosphere, soul-aroma. Like it or not, that’s who I am as the wife and Mama. (And if I go on strike, that action has its own aroma. Or stench.) This home culture — it’s my domain.

I’m painfully aware of how often my heart is churning out fumes of annoyance, frustration, worry, anger, envy, discontent, judgment… Need I go on? Ugly. Poisonous. If our eyes could see the thick black smog those things produced, wouldn’t we just be horrified?

So I am continually crying out to the Lord to continue to do in me a deep heart-change, not just for my own sake, but for the sake of those breathing in my soul-fumes!

And oh my, is He ever. Such a deep down, turning things upside down, helping me to get it kind of work.

Rest. Peace. Work. Grace. It is finished. These are the themes that suddenly are everywhere, grabbing my attention, showing me clearly my brokenness, illuminating a path of freedom. Old patterns, dyed-in-the-wool weaknesses, things I’ve limped along with and thought maybe I’d just get better at limping — He’s able to address it all and make me brand new. That in and of itself is life giving. Wow.

This week’s verse for meditation is Romans 8:6, and oh, how it has struck me in a whole new way.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

What does that mean?

It means that when our mindset is one of “do good, earn favor; do wrong, you’re a failure,” we are living under a construct that can only mean death. We can never do enough good. I will live my whole life under pressure that will never let up; I can never satisfy the gaping void between my best (and I’m rarely at my best!) and the holy God whose approval my soul craves! And that pressure breeds anxiety, stress, anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, pride, insecurity, hatred, selfishness… Death.

When my mind is set on the flesh, and we don’t have a “good” school day, the poisonous fumes of failure are the result.

BUT.

But.

In Christ, there is the most beautiful but.

When my mind is set on the Spirit, I realize that my worth is found in Christ. The deepest things my soul craves and is tempted to prove through my best efforts — value, meaning, goodness — are fully satisfied in the Cross. That to-do list is completely crossed off.

Done.

And now, I wake up and work and do my best each day as wife and mother because it’s the work my Loving Father has given me — not with an underlying drive of needing to finish, complete, perfect, produce.

The fragrance of that is life and peace.

I love the smell of a good scented candle, of freshly baked bread, and just-shampooed babies wrapped in clean towels — but the homiest fragrance I can bring to my family is the one that comes when my mind is set on the Spirit, and I am working to bless, not to prove.

For more great insight into Romans, the law, and the Spirit, listen here.