purpose and place

Order.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Not just as an anti-clutter policy. As a theology.

I read Psalm 104:

“He appointed the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its going down.
You make darkness, and it is night,
In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar after their prey,
And seek their food from God.
When the sun rises, they gather together
And lie down in their dens.
Man goes out to his work
And to his labor until the evening…”

(But pause for a moment and go read the whole thing. Such beautiful poetry and praise!)

I saw not just a lovely description of Creation, but purpose and place. Everywhere. The nests in trees, the rivers in valleys, the animals of prey roaming at night, men coming out to work by day — order.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Genesis 1 and 2 are full of such things — the cosmic version of what I do most evenings with the duplos and board books, play kitchen food and baby doll accessories. Except I do it because I see it all around me, modeled in Creation; God did it because it was right and good. He didn’t learn it from a book or a blog. His heart is for each element of His design to flourish and prosper in the purpose and place for which it was designed.

I am reinvigorated to maintain His kingdom standard in my little domain (and so continues the endless separation of dessert fork from dinner fork, dark towels from white…) I realize afresh, with new energy and authority, that He has put me here to discover purpose and place, in the environment I steward, the culture I create, and the people whom I am shaping.

And — oh, what peace and comfort! — I sink again into the certainty of knowing that I was created for a purpose and a place, and that I can find it (and re-find it, and return to it over and over) in Him.

You were created with purpose and place in mind. There is wholeness and freedom for every person who yields to that design. In His mind’s eye, He sees you flourishing and prospering, a tree planted by living streams of water, strong and alive. He sees you that way, and He sees me that way. What a beautiful promise and hope.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

work + rest

A year ago God used a couple of books to really speak to an area of need and defeat in my life. I was rereading my notes for months, feasting on ideas I’d always known, but that were finally penetrating and changing me from deep within. (Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.)

This year I began a fresh Bible reading initiative — albeit a bit scattered and probably only discernible to me — but one obvious fresh start was Genesis 1. I read it slowly, stopped several times, read it again, pondered for a few days… There is so much to discover about who God is, what is in His heart, and how we were made to be right in those first few pages. So much calling and identity revealed!

This time through, I was struck by the instruction laid out for us as workers and creators, made in the image of God, following His example:

Why did God take 6 days for the work of creation? Why one element at a time, one day at a time? He could have simply spoken it all into being with a single word. He is not limited in any way. So why?

Could it be that right from the beginning, He was teaching us how to work? Was He speaking to me (and those of us who tend to be a bit too driven for our own good) about how our endeavors and tasks must fall into the proper place and time? That we do what is good for today and then sleep, calling it good (and enough, by His grace), and rising again to do the next day’s work?

That is something I felt break in my life over the past year: the sense that in order to be succeeding as homemaker, I needed to finish completely every single day, and that undone laundry, house cleaning, kitchen work, all of it, was a verdict of failure.

There is self sufficiency that is constantly trying to enslave us, and so we actively are called to enter the rest provided us through Christ.

Maybe your propensity isn’t towards laundry-pile-enslavement, but is there something today you’re laboring under, a lack of completion that whispers the condemning sentence of “failure”? We are called to work and stewardship, but also to rest and order. He gives us a day to work, and a night to rest — and in Him, we can do just that: rest.

*****

Related:

life and peace
Teaching From Rest
Every Good Endeavor

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.

making home

IMG_0070-1
Mulligatawny Soup — a comforting favorite!

Did you know that “homemaker” isn’t just a placeholder on an application for people whose lives are so lame they don’t leave home? It actually is an occupation — and more, it’s a calling. Homes, in fact, don’t just happen; they are made, and someone has to do that making. It is a gender specific calling for the wise woman who will give herself to the task. It is a calling that fosters the building of people, of families, and of culture. It is way more than a placeholder.

This atmosphere that we’re called to cultivate (first in our own souls, and then by extension in our domain) will look unique in each home. Isn’t that beautiful? I love the many expressions of God’s Kingdom that erupt in the earth as homes are established to His glory. Because I am the homemaker here, our signs of “home culture” may look a lot like reading aloud together, listening to classical music in the morning and classic jazz in the evening, ethnic food and Dutch oven meals, flowers in the summer and candles in the winter, and pretty things here and there. That’s me. But I remember a friend’s home from my childhood, a place of incredible joy and warmth and togetherness — full of mountains of mismatched tupperware dishes that we took turns washing our way through (because there was always, always at least one visitor), loud laughing and boisterous play, and an evening of fun looked like making candy and pulling the sticky ropes halfway across the kitchen in our buttered hands. I don’t remember a single candle or any bouquets, but I remember knowing that my friend wanted to be home with her family more than anywhere else in the world.

The expressions will differ, but the mandate remains the same for women throughout time and the world over: to build a place where people find the flavor of heaven, and where souls are ministered to through their physical needs. Our five senses absorb life, and as homemakers, we touch hearts through the sounds and scents and scenes and food (don’t forget the food!) we provide.

Some things won’t differ. All of the above things, in and of themselves, are so empty. Even Miles Davis is a clanging cymbal if there isn’t love, I guess you could say. First and foremost, there is Jesus. He has a culture that doesn’t bend, no matter where or when it’s being expressed. The Kingdom of Heaven is righteousness, peace, and joy. Our homes need to be places where right living is upheld and repentance is a well-learned skill; where peaceful living and peaceable living mean turning from worry and stress, and saying a hard NO to strife in our relationships; and where joy is sought and cultivated. Those things aren’t natural for any of us, but they are for the Holy Spirit, and He has come to make His home in us. We don’t have to settle for less, although those things will be a lifelong pursuit.

We establish those gospel things as non-negotiables, but then we allow the talents, giftings, and tastes of ourselves (and our husbands) to shape the form it all takes.

It’s a worthwhile task. Nations are shaped right here in our kitchens.

Some places to get started:

The Little Book of Hygge — a totally secular book, but with lots of practical ideas for how to cultivate a sense of being present, and making home a place of enjoyment.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking — a classic that I just love. She touches on every aspect of home, the biblical importance of what we do, and lots of practical ideas for how to do it.

The Life Giving Home — if the previous title is a bit dated for your taste, this book says many of the same things in a more updated setting.

The Little House books — because honestly, Ma is my hero. She makes home and hygge in a dugout on the side of a hill. Ladies, we can do this!

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