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

winter is for reading

The best way to enjoy winter, I find, is to embrace it. There are many moments spent by a warm fire, and there’s nothing like a basket of favorite winter-time books to make those moments more irresistible.

I’ll share the books in my winter book basket, but I’d love to know: what are some of your seasonal favorites? Ours have been read many, many times over, and a few new titles would sure be a treat!

*****


Gingerbread Baby


The Hat


Bear Snores On


Snow


The Snowy Day


Katy and the Big Snow


Winter Poems (Rogasky)


Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening


Owl Moon


Warm as Wool



Snowflake Bentley and Snowflakes in Photographs


Flannel Kisses


A Winter Day

packed up, put away, and looking forward: january.

There are a very few houses still wearing their Christmas colors, warm colored lights greeting me in the dark mornings as I walk. I’m sure their owners are cringing at how behind they are, and when they will ever find the time, but I wish they could see me smile as I walk by — wistful already as I recall the days of December, their warmth and memories, how they sped by far too quickly, how I wish we could just do that one more time before moving onto the rest of the year.

December passed in its own unique way, as it seems to do each year — this mother and home manager whose heart is full of ideas and plans, who learns every single year to hold such things loosely as real life topples day dreams, only to find that the actual gifts of a Good Father are perfect for us.

Piano performances, choir practices, movie nights, early to bed nights, colds and upset tummies, cookies that taste like the memories of a hundred Christmases past, school winding down and play winding up, first snow, quiet days at home instead of the usual bustle of play dates and get togethers (because viruses), gifts purchased and wrapped and rejoiced over, choral performances that made this mama cry, books read aloud, and suddenly the blessed days of rejoicing and celebration and tradition are upon us, and we revel in it all.

Then it’s over, and we happily let the days slip by as we embrace vacation mode, staying long in PJs, playing with new toys for hours while Mama tries to create some semblance of order. The end of the year purge, making room for new things, getting rid of the broken and unused.

Cold snap. Temps plunging way, way below zero, keeping children inside when frostbite seems to truly threaten. Boys shoveling fast and furiously, coming inside with eyes full of hot chocolate hopes. (Yes, of course yes.) The few days in the 20s and 30s feel like a heat wave, and the play time goes on for hours as they shovel their way through the backyard, creating their very own North Country Roxaboxen.

House projects. Laundry room upheaval, and us short a bathroom, but who cares when there’s long term gain? Slowly we watch it get put back together, and finally the weekend comes when we can vacuum and mop and organize and move in and smile as the washing machine hums its familiar hum.

At last, that means, school.

Fresh starts and new energy escaped me this year, I’ll confess. Oh, those long and often intense days of schooling sounded just like that: long and intense. All I could remember was Cecily up to no good and loose ends left undone every evening and a general feeling of “are we having fun yet?” True story: this happens. It happens to me. Deep in my soul, tentacles of discouragement wrap and bind and pull me down.

But hand to the plow, shoulder to the grindstone, and most of all, heart set on promises: He has never failed me yet.

New routine thought through, fresh pencils, and without any more to-do (because no excuses; that’s what I told myself) we started. To the tune of an unending snowstorm and boys shoveling half the day, and I had to laugh at my carefully laid plans.

You know what?

It was peaceful and fun and synergistic and good.

He has never failed me yet.

So, off we go: into a new year, on a path winding forward, heading towards the rising sun.

in the bleak mid-winter

Stunning words, perfect harmonies: a favorite Christmas hymn.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

Listen here.

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.