August 16

“Children tie the mother’s feet.” — old Tamil proverb

I read that in Amy Carmichael’s biography — the story of a young single woman who, through no plan of her own but simply because she followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, became “mother” to hundreds of abandoned and abused Indian children. Elisabeth Elliot says, “It took rather a long time for the truth of this Tamil proverb to dawn on Amy… …that she must allow her feet to be tied for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed.”


There is a pervasive lie in the water that we all drink, and it is this: if you do everything right, you can have it all. It appealed to Eve, and it appeals to us. At least, it appeals to me. It entices me and draws me in, and subsequently wraps me in the chains of discouragement and discontent.


I remember reading in “Loving the Little Years” that it’s okay to have a baby and consequently look like you had a baby. It’s okay to bear in your body the marks of sacrifice. In fact, it’s kind of weird to yield your body for the creative work of forming an entire other person (or two, or ten), and then wanting to erase all traces of that. Go back to your 20-year-old figure, as though that pre-baby body was your “true self.” Yes: steward your body, keep it in good health, realize it’s the only one you’ve got and it needs to now serve your adult children and their children, and maybe even their children — but for heaven’s sake, stop trying to erase all traces of childbearing from your tummy and thighs. Your body is a tool to use, not a museum piece to put on the shelf. You are a living sacrifice, and just may look a bit like one, too. You can’t have it all.

“One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”

If you have a Mom-body, it may because you are a mom. That’s not just okay; it’s a gift from God that we don’t need to do penance for.


Somehow I can feel like a truly successful mom is one who hits a home run every day in laundry, cooking, cleaning, and schooling and is involved with every other thing, too, in church and community. And beyond this unseen force that pressures me to stop being a loser and start doing something with my life, there’s of course the desire in me that every once in awhile makes me really really really want to do ALL THE THINGS. The fun things, the important things, the things that SOMEBODY has to do. There are so many things. Shouldn’t I be able to do them, too?

Because if you’re really good at being a mom, those kids will barely be a blip on the screen of your go-go-go and productivity. Right?


We want to have the kids, be a good mom, and have none of that leave any impact on how we look or run our lives.

We want it all.

And yet, shouldn’t there be a mark? Shouldn’t there be an obvious impact? Shouldn’t our lives look like they are being sown into the field of our children’s lives?

It’s okay that your children “tie your feet.” It’s okay that their need for the gospel in word an deed requires every ounce of your energy and creativity. It’s okay that the fearful and wonderful design of them left your belly wrinkled and squishy — with no sign of ever returning. It’s what we were made for: to lay down our lives for these little ones.

If Jesus can stand in eternity, bearing the marks of sacrifice in His hands and feet, I think it’s probably okay to expect that our sacrifices may also leave their mark, on our bodies and time and energy.

We can’t have “it all”. But we can have ALL of the abundant life we so desire as we follow our Savior. And the best part? Chains fall, and we run freely into joy and peace — soft tummies and all.

cultivate faithfulness

This Mary Engelbreit illustration has been the theme of my day. It could make you cry, but it could make you laugh, too, right? Come on — with crazy red hair like that, at least the rest of the world is laughing!

This morning I made a list of to-do’s. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it keeps me on track, sometimes it just beats me over the head. It’s a toss up. But this morning I jotted a bunch of seemingly-ambitious tasks down and hoped for the best.

Well, little William took 3.5 hours to eat his granola this morning, and since I pretty much had to stay within line-of-sight, wouldn’t you know I banged out that list of chores in no time. Granola made — check. Easter put away — check. School with Jameson — check. Clean the fridge before the Health Department comes and takes it away — check.

And all well before noon.

(Which is when I finally cleaned up the final breakfast dish — check.)

The funny thing is that even though I got way more done in one morning than I often do, it didn’t feel productive. By the time I rinsed that granola bowl and was at last free to go take a shower and get dressed, I was thinking, “What a waste of a day. (big sigh)” Isn’t that silly?

If you’re like me, you feel much better about yourself and life in general when you feel productive. But the truth is, life is just so daily. The tests aren’t how well we survive mountain tops and valleys as much as they are what we do in the middle.

Feeling abandoned? Feeling like life is just droning on? Feeling like you’re living with a bunch of sheep on the back side of a mountain? Well, God is on His way. And when He comes, let Him find you doing what you’re supposed to be doing: cultivating faithfulness.

All sorts of days come and go — they go, that’s the best of them. Don’t let the dull days pass without giving you what only dullness ever can give. It isn’t the days of high tension that try us most, and so give us most; it’s the days that seem all grey and dull. They test the quality of the gold. –Amy Carmichael, on Grey Days

beatrice, and a bit of amy

I realized that I haven’t written much about Beatrice. Beatrice, who confounds and delights me daily. The fact that I can lay her on the couch, and she quietly stares at the ceiling fan and then finally dozes off for a 2+ hour nap is simply a marvel to me. I loved my boys, yes I did, and didn’t begrudge them any of the hours we spent nursing to sleep (only to wake up 15 minutes after being laid down.) Babies are meant to be cared for, whatever that may mean. But this Baby Beatrice — she is definitely easier! She loves to suck her thumb, and with the free hand she either squeezes her own chubby cheek or plays with her ear. She loves to laugh and smiles freely at anyone who will simply look her in the eye. In the late evening, she breaks into a stream of babble that is quite delightful. And her brothers can’t get enough of her — or of her girly wardrobe with ruffles and rosettes and ballet socks!

She’s growing so much. I realized the poor thing has rather been denied in the arena of toys and such, as I still have it in my head that she’s far too young for such things. Not true! Time to replenish the baby toy stash. Maybe her Christmas stocking won’t be so empty after all.

I absolutely love this little doll of mine.


This letter, written by Amy Carmichael, has been often read these last two weeks:

I have been thinking of you as you begin work today. The story of the man who said, “I have nothing to set before him”, has been helping me this morning (not for the first time). It says so exactly what I so often feel. “A friend of mine in his journey has come to me and I have nothing to set before him” — no, not even a crumb.

I expect you also often feel like that. I can well understand how the devil will make you feel like that poor man who had nothing to give and went in the night to borrow three loaves. But the end of the story is very comforting, “He will rise and give him as many as he needs.” As much as you need to do His will and help others, these travellers in life’s difficult journey, will be given to you to give. There will be no shortage from the heavenly point of view. So meet the devil’s depressing whisper, as I pray this morning that I may, with that dear word, “as many as he needs”, and be at peace.

a. carmichael: useless

Another letter from the collection, Candles In The Dark

To one who felt useless

My first feeling was to write and tell you that you are mistaken, but though I think you are, in part, I won’t write so. Instead, I will say what our heavenly Father said to me a long time ago, and says to me still very often: “See in it a chance to die.”

Perhaps the brave love of God is touching is touching with death the I in you, that it may be in very truth “not I but Christ”. This is your heart’s desire, your deepest desire, and He counts nothing too much to do, that it may be fully fulfilled. “Ponder the voice of my humble desire.” He has pondered it; He is answering it. So be of good cheer. Don’t heed the devil’s whisper about uselessness. Is he not the father of lies? Why believe a liar? God is working out a most beautiful purpose.

Not good night, and let the Lord give His beloved sleep untroubled by the unkind remarks of the enemy. Believe me, he is not at all trustworthy, and you well know your Lord is. Does He ever break His word? No, never, and He knows that you know it. “For Thou, Lord, has never failed them that fear Thee.” No, nor ever will.

a. carmichael: soldiering

A bit more Amy?

It matters a good deal that your book-food should be strong meat. We are what we think about. Think about trivial things or weak things and somehow one loses fibre and becomes flabby in spirit. Soldiers need to be strong.

Soldiers have not time for everything. ‘I have no time for anything outside my profession,’ a young officer said once, and in measure that is true. We can’t be entangled in the affairs of this life if we are to be real soldiers. By its affairs I mean its chatter and its ways of thinking and deciding questions, its whole aspect and trend. emphasis mine

Am I filling my time with weak or trivial things? Am I spending precious moments on things “outside my profession?” Most of all, am I caught up — in any way, on any subject — with the world’s way of thinking, its trends, its chatter?

(Related: 2 Timothy 2:4; Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 2:8)

a. carmichael: grey days

When I was 16, I spent two months in India. It was my first overseas trip, my first independent travel, and my first length of time away from home. A special friend gifted me with this small book before I left — a compilation of letters written by one of our heroes, missionary to India Amy Carmichael. (Do you read this blog, Erin? If you do: this book is the most well-worn on my bookshelf, save for my first Bible. It has been read over and over and over. Thank you.) May I recommend it to you? Small little snippets — deeply inspiring, convicting, and full of love for the Savior.

I remember the first time I read a particular page from this book for real. I was sitting in the library at school. The windows behind me let in the dull gray light of a wet, dreary day. I was taking a break from the monotony of study on a totally routine day. This booklet had made its way, again, to my devotional rotation, and so I pulled it out, ready to read anything that had nothing to do with polytonality.

I read, and the words burned in my heart:

All sorts of days come and go — they go, that’s the best of them. Don’t let the dull days pass without giving you what only dullness ever can give. It isn’t the days of high tension that try us most, and so give us most; it’s the days that seem all grey and dull. They test the quality of the gold.

Of all the truths I stumbled upon in my singleness, perhaps this one has helped me most on the path of motherhood. Learning to value gray days. Realizing they do happen. And realizing that the question asked of me is, Will I be found faithful? Even on the days that could easily be discounted, wasted, seen as not really counting — will I serve 100%? There is the ability, when you’re single (or at least childless) to get a “gray” moment and immediately squirm your way out of it — go somewhere, do something, you know. Add some spark. Live from high to high, drama to drama, event to event. I know. Hey, it’s more fun. But learning to just do my best and plod on when it was an active choice was phenomenal training for this role in which I now find myself.

Certainly there are plenty of dull moments, if not entire days, of dullness in this current season. I’m not trying to be negative; there simply are. Sometimes I think I must have done something wrong to have landed such a dreary day, but no, not always. Sometimes they’re there because there is gold that needs testing: my faithfulness and steadfastness of heart.

Most of all, it’s reassuring to know that God can be found, even on days when there’s no prayer meeting scheduled, no cell group meeting at your house, no emergency that requires ten hours of speaking in tongues. He’s there, watching for my response in those moments that don’t seem to matter. Smiling when I choose diligent service. And encouraging my heart with His songs of delight.

So whatever season you’re in, don’t discount the gray days. Sometimes they’re the best ones.