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.

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.


Oh, January, what a month you are. Every year, with that first turn of the calendar page, I suddenly realize how rich the year already is with memories and fresh air and togetherness. And maybe I’ve just read too many gulag and post-WWII stories of survival recently, but I am especially grateful for a tight, sound home full of warmth and light and food. That shelter turns what could be treacherous, deadly cold into sparkling diamonds and crisp fresh air and “fluff cold snow,” as a favorite book says. We laugh and romp fearlessly, tromping at last inside with shining eyes and pink cheeks and bellies that need hot cocoa.

A secure shelter changes everything. There’s something to muse on.

2019 recap: books

The week between Christmas and a brand new year is never long enough for me, but I especially think we should get extra time given that we’re starting a new decade — don’t you agree? I need a few more days to (well, let’s be honest) finally get gifts put away which first means organizing cupboards and buying a few new totes and such. But also, after all of that, a few days to just sit and think about this past year, this past ten years, and to begin looking ahead to what comes next.

Oh wait. Sitting and thinking doesn’t happen in my world no matter how many extra days you give me. (Sound track right now: “Mom, can I do play doh?” “Mom, my doll’s hair looks weird.” “Mom, I need a blanket.” And this, as we’re all sitting quietly together.)

But quiet or not, enough time or not, before putting the lid on 2019 and all it held, it seems a bit of reminiscing and thankfulness is appropriate.

This morning, just one aspect of 2019 I especially enjoyed: my reading list!

I have slowly learned more about myself in this role of mother and how to set myself up for success. I truly enjoy reading, but it doesn’t just happen without intention. I also enjoy reading but am not interested in it becoming the top priority of my life. Setting a reasonable goal that will keep me disciplined but not turn me into a book-slave is important. Three things that helped me this year:

A List.
In the back of my planner, I started a list of 12 titles I intended to read this year. I had about 4 books in mind right from the start, and as other titles piqued my interest, I added them. I never had to wonder what to read next, which can often result in not reading at all.

I kept the next two or three titles ready to read at all times, because sometimes a certain book was too heavy to plow through quickly and I would mix in a lighter option. Also, seeing that there were more books to read kept me motivated to continue.

A Plan.
I keep my books near me. I bring them to the bedroom when I nurse the baby. I bring them to the family room when I think I’ll have a few minutes to read during the afternoon. I take it with me outside when the kids are playing. I limit apps on my phone that steal reading time, or purpose to read in the evening while the baby plays instead of just turning on Hometown or whatever. Not always — sometimes I just need a brain break. (I don’t want to be a book-slave!) But keeping it nearby reminds me to pick up my book first instead of just ingesting brain candy in my down time.

A Crossed-Off List!
And then back to that list: how satisfying to check off the titles, jot down my thoughts, and move on to the next. And, surprise surprise, having a list helped me so much that before I knew it, I was adding title after title and my “12 books this year” easily and without any effort grew to 17 (with four books underway.) I know that’s not incredibly impressive, as far as reading goals go, but as a habit-builder, all of these strategies are really helping me.

I share these because maybe some of these strategies will help you, too, or maybe just realizing strategies are worth creating in order to achieve some reading goals. Maybe 12 titles is laughable to you, or maybe just reading three books this year would be an achievement — whatever it may be, making a plan for important things, a plan that fits into your overarching life priorities, can make all the difference.

For my own benefit! The books I read this year:

Gods and Generals, Jeff Shaara, 7/10

Designed for Joy, Owen Strachen et al, 7/10

The Vanishing American Adult, Ben Sasse, 10/10

Educated, Tara Westover, 7/10

Gay Girl Good God, Jackie Hill Perry, 10/10

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, 10/10

Lies Women Believe, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in progress

Discipline: The Glad Surrender, Elisabeth Elliot, in progress

Killer Angels, Michael Shaara, 10/10

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr, 8/10

O Pioneers!, Willa Cather, 10/10

My Antonia, Willa Cather, 9/10 (re-read)

Choosing Gratitude, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, 9/10

Peace Child, Don Richardson, 10/10 (re-read)

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Butterfield, 10/10

Saplings, Noel Streatfeild, 9/10

German Boy, Wolfgang W. E. Samuel, 10/10

They Thought They Were Free, Milton Mayer, 9/10

I Dared to Call Him Father, Bilquis Sheikh, 10/10

Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys, 10/10

The Measure of Success, Carolyn McCulley, in progress

A Girl of the Limberlost, Gene Stratton Porter, re-read in progress