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.

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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.”