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.

boundaries

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance. –Psalm 16

A page from “A Blossom in the Desert” once again arrested my attention and led me down a path of contemplation, this time as I pondered the concept of boundaries.

“…there is a world of difference between a pool and a river. A river is wide open to its source, and as wide open to the needs lower down. We need all barriers down — manward as well as Godward — to believe for the outflowing as definitely as the inflowing.”

I want to be that river, receiving an endless flow of the Holy Spirit’s life, and without measure pouring it out to others. But what about boundaries? That picture of “all barriers down” — what about knowing when to say no, learning our limitations? Aren’t we supposed to know our boundaries and learn to say No?

Where are the boundaries of a flowing, roaring, lively river? (Because that’s how much grace and mercy there is to receive and give.)

Even the mightiest of rivers has boundaries, but those are neither barriers “Godward or manward,” no barriers to the source nor to the needs lower down. The boundaries are on either side, in the river bed carved out for that flow of water.

And so I find that I need to spend less time studying “my” boundaries, and more time studying the ones He has drawn for me. With the first, it is far too easy to say No because it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, or just plain old not fun for me. With the second, I find my “yes” and “no” is usually rather clear as I determine to stay within the bounds of His calling for me.

I say YES to honoring Him as Lord, living as His representative.
I say YES to loving husband, caring for children.
I say YES to creating home.
I say YES to living in fellowship with my local church.
I say YES to living as a city on a hill.

Those lines fixed, I can boldly say, “Let the river flow.” Open to the source, open to those “below.”

I need not determine my boundaries; I need to simply know HIS boundaries for me. And then live with open hand and heart to the Holy Spirit and all those I encounter. I bring the obedience; He brings the flow of life.

“The glacier torrent — so obedient to its course in its narrow bed, yet just tossing with freedom and swing in every motion. Such a picture of the ‘rivers of living water’—bound and yet unbound.” –Lilias Trotter

serving in strength

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

That verse has been on my counter for the last couple of weeks, catching my eye, realigning my heart.

Some days I may wonder what “special gift” I have received, but other times it’s quite clear: these are days of service. Laying my life down and spending my moments and days in cleaning clothes, preparing meals, organizing home, giving instruction.

There is always more to do than I’m up for. I get tired sooner than the mountain is moved. I lose heart before the task is accomplished. Many, many times, I simply forget that I’m serving, and elevate my feelings of “I just don’t want to” to a place of consideration. Selfishness is incredibly strength-sapping.

But when my eye catches this line, the one that goes, “serve by the strength which God supplies,” my heart is renewed. There is a source of strength that is endless! Endless.

That doesn’t mean I don’t head to bed early these days — I do! — or pause long to sit with the nursing baby — I do! But it does mean my attitude doesn’t cut off the flow of strength that comes from the Holy Spirit in me. I can smile. And when I don’t, and the excuses start to flood my complaining heart, I can know that my feelings are out of line and there is a better, abundant, strength-giving truth available to me. Repent and get back into the flow of strength.

And when all else fails, I can at least be thankful that my serving is generally done with two feet firmly on the ground. This guy handles the roof problems.

october 11

“Be hopeful, be holy, be fearful, be loving.”

I think that’s what it was, the way my brother summed up 1 Peter 1. And all of those things — they just spring from the reality of a new birth, a new identity, a new home. Because the life of Jesus changes us.

I just think that’s awesome.

Life is full of pressure, moment by moment, wave after wave. And we who know Christ, we have grace in those moments and waves. Salvation doesn’t rescue us from the experience of hardship, but it invites a miracle in the midst of it.

That amazes me.

These and other 1 Peter thoughts are regularly filling my heart, as our church goes through 40 days of study together. The Word of God is life and it is strength.

*****

October is spectacular. You don’t have to go anywhere, either; it’s an art gallery that comes right to your door, if you’ll just stop to notice.

Seriously. No filter, because who needs a filter in NNY in the fall?

*****

This past summer I read Proverbs 31 many times over. I’m always inspired by that passage, and always somehow amused, too. This amazing woman’s life was so… ordinary! But in turn, those verses elevate my ordinary (at best, drudgery if I’m grumbling) to spiritual. I need that sometimes. So on Friday afternoon, when I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than a house tidied by somebody else and a meal started by somebody else, I instead looked around and saw virtuous labor happening: clothing my household well, bringing food from afar (isn’t “Afar” so much more exotic than “Aldi”?).

I bet you’re in the middle of virtuous work, too. Don’t despise the laundry piles. Dig in and realize you’re a woman of great worth. It’s not drudgery. It’s the high call of God, and it’s serving the least of these.

*****

Babies.

They require time.

I know that’s not rocket science or earth shattering revelation. But I read it again in a book last night and it was like a smack to my forehead. DUH. You have a baby, Danica.

There’s this subconscious expectation, I think, that because I’ve been around this baby block a few times, and because I have so many others to care for as well, I’m going to be super efficient this time around. I’ll be multi-tasking like a ninja and barely missing a beat no matter how many eye teeth are popping through.

But it turns out, this is Cecily’s first time around the block, and she’s not really into efficiency. She’s sweet and happy and really not altogether that demanding, but she’s a baby, and babies just need time. Real time. As in, they will eat up moments and hours of a day, and you will never see those moments or hours again.

Do you know how good that is for me? It’s hard enough to slow down and notice, to remember the little details of our days and the special interactions with each of my children. If I was racing through the way I think I’d like to, I would miss the whole thing in a blur of productivity. What a shame! What a grievous thing that would be! But in God’s perfect plan, these delicious babies slow us way down, sometimes to a grinding halt for days on end, and we breathe deeply and see clearly and hear attentively and can actually do our job. We can tend the souls of our children.

This is still a hard one for me on many days, but also something I am so deeply grateful for. God’s ways are so much higher than ours, and perfect. Absolutely perfect.

August 28

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy;
love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely, does not seek its own,
is not provoked, thinks no evil;
does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.”

Just simple thoughts the last two mornings. “If I have not love…”

It is so easy to lose sight of the goal once you get into the thick of things. So easy to spend every last bit of energy and personal resources on serving people, only to find the love that inspired you to start has disappeared, or gotten lost in the shuffle.

I made my list yesterday and saw there a host of activities and ideas that all must be tethered to love.

Today I wake early and will dress freshly bathed children in neatly ironed clothing, and will go through the hassle of actually leaving the house all together just to be at church. Those elements of “busy” quickly obliterate the view of “why”: love for the brethren, love for our Savior.

Love.

Most of the world over knows love is powerful, love is needful, love can set free.

But then there’s a limit. We can only go so far before hurt or unloveliness or just sheer exhaustion smothers the last flicker of compassion or affection.

And that, oh my soul, is where Jesus comes in. A fount of love that ceaselessly flows, reaching me, changing me, empowering me to keep on loving.

“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

“The fruit of the Spirit is love.”

Need more love? Turn to Jesus.

*****

Called to love these:

take them by the hand

Hi!

Another whole month has slipped by. I thought of doing a photo dump, and then realized a month of photos gets a tad long.

(Lunch gets a tad long sometimes, too.)

There are lots of pictures over at flickr. Click through for a glimpse of the month:


*****


“Take them by the hand…”

In the busyness of a day with four children, all of whom need different kinds of training and teaching and attention, and all done all together all day long (which requires a house keeping plan I have yet to quite master), this little phrase grabs me.

I write the plan and herd them along with the best of intentions: to nurture their talents and expand their minds and plant the Word of God deep in their hearts — but the leadership model shown by Jesus was not a “come on, hurry up, slow pokes,” sort of model. No, we’re to come alongside and walk with these young disciples.

And yes, that’s a nice concept and philosophy, but often I find I need to literally obey this verse. Take them by the hand. Not just the wobbly toddler who needs help down the stairs. That nearly-independent 8yo boy, too. The quiet 6yo who doesn’t seem to really need much. Go out of my way to take them by the hand. Invite them to sit in arm’s crook during read-aloud. Give those shoulders a hug while issuing next instruction. Hold their hand in the parking lot, and squeeze it twice (our special “I love you” code.)

The confrontation of sin and shortcomings can seem continual. How much easier the walk through confession and repentance when led by the hand.