life at home: seeing increase

As the world is rocked and shaken by lives lost and fingers pointed and political plays or not-plays, I turn my eyes to the life here at my feet, inside my door, and find myself simply blessed. For weeks now I have been living a very simple life with seven people, most of whom can’t reach the top shelf of dishes, and I couldn’t be happier. This home, this atmosphere, is proving to my soul the goodness and faithfulness of God. He calls us to loosen ground, to fertilize, to plant, to water, to weed, to tend, and we do so as faithfully as we can, stumbling many days, aware of how not expert we are as garden-tenders. But we do it with hearts that are looking to Him to bring the increase. We trust that when He says we will reap, it will happen. We don’t always know when, but we know He is not like man, that He should lie. We trust Him.

And this month, as our wings are seriously trimmed and our lives never extend further than a walk down the road, I am seeing fruit. I’m not just seeing it, I am being fed by it. My soul is nourished by the joy, camaraderie, responsibility, servanthood, kindness, laughter, and just plain old enjoyment all around me. These aren’t things that come naturally to us as humans. They are the result of training and discipleship — both in me and in my children. And thirteen years later, as not only I but also my older children set the tone, I am astounded to see genuine and nourishing fruit.

This isn’t to say life is perfect, and that we aren’t continuing every day to water, weed, prune, and stake. We are. We must choose Jesus moment by moment, and sometimes we need a lot of help to get there. But I am saying, Fellow Parents!! Stay the course! Invest by faith! Man your post and allow your weakness to not be an excuse but an invitation for the strength of God! Stay humble and learn! We’ve been commissioned to make disciples, and He will equip us and bring us success.

There are seasons of toil and work and nothing to show for it. But – but! There is that cold spring day when snow has barely cleared the ground, and suddenly you spy with your little eye the faintest trace of pink, pushing through the ground — signs of life! It’s coming! Maybe your garden isn’t producing fruit quite yet, but oh, those leaf buds are so exciting. Notice them. Give thanks for them! And put your gloves on and stay in the game. Sow the Word, invest your life.

And put your trust in Jesus. He will not forsake us.

a culture of celebration

One of the words that Ryan recently used to describe our home culture was celebration. He laughed a bit and looked pointedly at my mom, who can turn anything into a celebration. (I will never forget, when I was around 5 years old, one particular “bedroom blitz” when, at the end of our 15 minutes, we were rewarded with ice cream served in little dishes right at our play kitchen table. I felt very celebrated!)

A culture of celebration is different than just throwing parties because parties are fun. Celebrating requires an object of celebration, and it confers value upon that object — whether it be the value of a person on their birthday, the completion of 13 years of school, or 15 minutes of hard and productive work.

Celebration is part of our home culture, but not just because I love to make my life complicated. Ha! No, celebration is a culture we learn from observing the Heavenly Kingdom. Reading the Old Testament makes clear that God understands the connection between celebration and value. Studying the glimpses we have of heaven reveals that celebration will go on forever!

And so we celebrate as a way to, with time and energy and creativity, point out what’s important.

Celebrations can be ever so simple. They need not require much money. But all celebrations require a bit of sacrifice, because that time and energy and creativity has to come from somewhere, and chances are, you don’t have any of those things lying around in excess. There are some seasons when I have had more of those things to give than others. New babies, fledgling businesses, and sickness all come to mind. There have been times when the weight of life — incredible grief and heaviness of soul — have tempted me to skip the traditions of rejoicing. But those are the times when a culture of celebration bolsters. Celebrating isn’t just having a party; it’s reminding others as well as our own souls of what matters most. (Does grief matter most? Disappointment?) The celebration might be smaller when life is demanding, more creative when managed by a mother in bed with illness or a baby, but it can still exist. It might take unusual twists and turns when we’re, say, sheltering in place, but sometimes those become our most memorable celebrations! No matter the method, our souls need to remember what we’re valuing.

So this week we’ve been celebrating (because really, all the preparations for the celebration are part of it!) We’ve paused the usual school routines and made room for sending cards, making foods, prepping clothes, and special moments as a family. More than any other celebration, this week deserves every communication we can offer of its worth. Jesus, crucified, resurrected, and forever victorious. The Holy Spirit, poured out on us. The Father, inviting us into His presence with arms wide open. This is everything, and so we celebrate.

fruitful vines


Impressive grape vine, thick as trees, deep in our woods.

“Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house…”

This is a word picture that has gotten so stuck in my head over the years. An image that draws me, inspires me, stirs desire in me. There are short phrases peppered throughout scripture that reveal so much of what God has for us, and some mulling over and meditation can result in the discovery of untold depths.

Here I see the desire and design of God for a woman to be deeply planted, roots reaching sources of life unseen from the surface, allowing the life to bring fruit to her branches, and not just life and fruit, but the calling to be a constant source of life and fruit deep in the heart of the place she is called. From the inside out, the sphere of her calling is transformed and nourished and fed by her presence. She brings Jesus to the world.

(I am freshly meditating on this, as the call to abide was laid on my heart for this coming year. John 15 has been my passage of study, and the word “abide” traced throughout Scripture. What does it mean? How do I do it? So many thoughts…)

The best thing about this calling is that it’s not circumstantial. It has nothing to do with where you are or who you’re with or how life’s working out. In fact, if your sense of fruitfulness is dependent on any of those things, there is a deeper source of life you’re invited to tap into. And what does “fruitful” mean to you? I’m Type A. I’m hardwired to assume fruitfulness means my to-do list was impressive and all crossed off. But fruitful in the Kingdom means “I have accomplished the work which You have given me to do.” (John 17:4) The fruit that no circumstance can prohibit you from bearing, the life that you can bring to the very heart of your situation, most often looks like love joy peace long-suffering kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self-control.

Oh, there are so many trails of Scripture this opens up, but today I just encourage you, as I strengthen myself in the Lord: Let the Holy Spirit make you a fruitful vine in the heart of your home. Let your roots find Jesus, and then bring Him to the world.

measuring time

“How long was God before He created the earth?” Beatrice asked the other day, and then answered her own question: “Oh! Ha! He never started, so how could you measure?” Time belongs to this Age and Era, a measurement that someday will be swallowed up in Eternity.

Here and now, we measure. We are finite. We wait, we dread, we long for, we hurry through, we wistfully recall. Time.

We have beginnings and ends. Right now, we are counting the weeks since #7’s beginning: twelve. I am counting down the days till the end of nausea, and maybe a bit more energy? We are tracking the growth of fingers and toes, amazed at the difference a week can make in that secret place. I am having to be creative in getting dressed each morning. The online counter says, “You may notice a thickening of your waist,” and I laugh. I passed that moment long ago. I am officially bridging the gap between high-waisted-jeans-that-were-comfy-but-aren’t and full fledged maternity options. Sometimes, measuring time happens right before our eyes. Crocuses burst, tummies grow.

And longer measures, too: a gold band that, nearly fifteen years later, is taking the shape of a man’s finger. No longer exactly round, but a unique circle that represents days and days of covenant growth. Words spoken from a black book that have slowly taken the shape of our unique lives, blended through joys and pains, agreements and not-agreements, and day after day of never looking back. I am his and he is mine, that band says, and fifteen years later the lines between us two are growing blurry. It’s a miracle that happened in a moment at an altar, but that is happening as we live it out. Measuring time. Things take time.

redeeming the time

Suddenly we’re all homeschooling moms. Who even saw that coming? Certainly not me.

There are all sorts of memes out there that, funny as they might be, paint a picture of the previously homeschooling mom as cool and calm and unchanged in this crisis. I’m not sure that’s quite accurate. I am about as much of a homebody as anyone, and our homeschool life involves very limited extra-curricular activities — and yet, even so, the whole world being canceled has changed our weeks so very much. My daily routine suffered quite the lurch these last two weeks, and once the initial busyness of trying to make sure we were ready for whatever-this-is was past, I knew it was time for me to, once again, “Write the vision, make it plain.”

Before I just slip into auto-pilot, finishing out the school year and checking off that box, STOP.

This is a unique moment. It’s not necessarily fun. It’s not all easy. There’s the sound of Fear and Anxiety clawing at the door and that needs to be dealt with, and for some the sound of that might be all-consuming. (Reach out. Find a friend to pray with you and stand with you.) But whatever the circumstances that have brought us here, this is an opportunity worth grabbing.

So. Time to pause, and in prayer ask, “What is the vision for this spring? When June comes, what do I want to look back and have accomplished?”

There are layers to that question, but for me, as relates specifically to homeschooling, my answer is: TOGETHERNESS. I want us to love one another deeper, better, and stronger. I want to have a bond with each of my children that is tighter than it was two weeks ago. Do you know, we could all be “stuck” in this house together for weeks on end, and spend the whole time withdrawn and checked out? We could. And that would be an absolute waste. A tragedy.

Yesterday morning I listened to this podcast, and lo and behold, guess what it was about? (Just replace “winter” with “quarantine” when asking her question about goals.)

What is it that the Holy Spirit drops into your heart when you ask that question? Write down the answer, and then pray for ways to implement. Don’t be afraid to change and rearrange and reprioritize. This is the perfect season to do just that.

As overwhelmed as you may feel by the situations around us, and perhaps by the way they are touching the heart of your home as well, God has anointed you, Mama, for this hour, to nurture and train your little tribe. What does faithfulness look like? Don’t be afraid to ask, because He will be faithful to supply everything you need for this good work.

let them see Jesus

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” –Psalm 91

This chapter has been our Circle Time reading this week. We are pausing from the year’s routine of Scripture memory to meditate on the entire chapter, and I love hearing the kids make observations and find favorite parts. William pointed out yesterday, from the end of the chapter, that when it says we will trample on young lions and serpents, it means that whether the enemy attacks us with strength or with cunning deceit, we can overcome. How amazing is that thought? God is speaking to my kids.

My observation yesterday was from the first few verses: God, a secret place, a shadow, a refuge, a fortress, a protective wing — pictures of places to hide and find safety, but places also in which I must choose to stay. A secret place and a refuge are no good if I’m running around full of panic and anxiety. Do I trust Him? Will my soul rest in Him, no matter the terror, arrows, disease, and destruction all around?

We also are memorizing “A Mighty Fortress”, words packed with power that just thrill my soul. The fun part is realizing that those words thrill their souls, too. They read lines that jump out at them, and their voices are full of conviction and strength. “And tho this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us!” Jameson couldn’t help but smile the smile of a winner when he read, “One little word shall fell him.”

This is an opportunity, mamas. You are not their shield, and this is not the time to hide them away, pretending we’re on a big holiday, hoping it all ends before they find out. You are not their shield, but He can be. Hebrews says, “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” We are no longer afraid of death! We are living in a hope that goes beyond the grave and, in its eternal power, speaks to our todays. This is the time to say that loud, to point to Jesus as hope and joy and peace and life. It’s an opportunity to equip them with the truth that in this world we will have tribulation but! But! We don’t have to be afraid because He has overcome the world! We need not hide them, hoping fear won’t find its way in. No, we must equip them because they will face fear, and they must learnt to be overcomers. This is a chance to pour out love to the world around us, to set aside previous agendas and make room for cards and phone calls and prayer. We have hope, and we can’t keep it to ourselves.

There are so many things stirring in my heart as we are all home together in an even more “focused” way (isn’t that nicer than “isolated”?), but if I miss this — this amazing opportunity to lead these little ones through the reality of life in Jesus — who cares about the read alouds and new recipes? God works all things together for good to those who love Him — and I know that I know that the first item on His “good” agenda is calling children to know Him in a deeper, more real way.