life, to the hilt

Oh, life! So, so, so much. Little toes to tickle, letters to learn, papers to grade, hearts to win, arguments to hear, schedules to straighten, rides to give, priorities to sort, a husband to love, passports to procure, ballet buns to pin, beds to change, hair to trim, smiles to give, cheeks to kiss, tantrums to tame, worship to lead, scripture to share, phone calls to receive, wisdom to seek, meals to plan, choirs to teach, friends to connect with, sisters to keep up with, vitamin C to pass out, baths to run, clothing to sort, plants to water, parties to host and dinners to serve, visitors to welcome, and oh yes! Exercise and water and feeding my soul.

So something has to give, and I see it in my sparse camera roll, my neglected writing (and let’s be honest, my dirty refrigerator, my dresser-top piles, and the barely-noticed daffodils.)

I find this to be a season summed up in two favorite quotes by two favorite heroes, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot:

“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
“Just do the next thing.”

We are living to the hilt, for sure, and while there is the knowledge of being stretched, of much being demanded of Ryan and me, there is abundance and running over. Laughter of children and excitement over what we’re all doing and rich moments gathered together in prayer and putting our backs into it, as it were, all together, heave ho. I may not quite recall all the fuzzy moments of March and April, but we lived it!

Jesus is so good. So faithful and so near. He is the answer for every befuddling encounter we have in life — mine, yours, all of it. The small cares and anxieties, the global conflict that is larger than any man. He stands forever as the Savior of the world, and He is the Way of life and overcoming.

love what you do.

Once in awhile I’ll have a kid observe me performing some menial task and ask, “Mama, do you like changing diapers/washing the toilet/matching socks/cooking dinner/making the bed?”

It’s always a funny question because on the one hand, most often it’s asked in relation to a chore that no one in their right mind would list as their favorite activity. But it’s become an increasingly funny question over the years because I generally find myself trying to explain why YES, in fact, I do kind of like doing this boring or dirty or endless job.

You know what the secret to living a fulfilled life of purpose is?

Love what you do.

No, that’s not a typo and I didn’t get it backwards. While everything around us (and our carnal hearts within us) screams, “Do what you love! Settle for nothing less!”, we find ourselves transformed by the Holy Spirit until one day we’re confessing crazy things like, “I delight to do YOUR will, oh my God!”

His will becomes a delight. He calls me, and enables me, to love what I do.

And what is His will?

He shows me. He shines the light of His Truth on the shadows of life, and suddenly daily acts of service are seen to have meaning and worth. Nothing is beneath me, because nothing is beneath His notice. Making a name for myself starts to seem a bit like vanity when I see the incredible value of the people around me. Better is one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. Wherever His presence is, there I find joy.

What has God called you to today?

Maybe it’s not your dream job. Maybe you feel like a square peg in a round hole. Maybe you’re hoping this is a stepping stone on the way to somewhere else.

But maybe it doesn’t matter.

Not in the equation of purpose and joy. Those things exist in nowhere and in nothing else but Jesus.

Maybe you’re raising babies and feeling like you’re not cut out for it, and overwhelmed by the never ending cycles of mundane work that are not what you were picturing. Maybe it’s older kids who are giving you a run for your money.

Maybe you were born a woman and that mere fact chafes against your soul.

I’m telling you: the secret to a life of purpose and meaning is found right here, right in this moment, right inside the lines He drew for you. You can love what you do when you realize it’s the thing He’s asking of you. “I delight to do You will, o my God!”

Do you? Do you delight in that?

Oh, many times have I paused and confessed in anger, in weariness, in frustration: My soul is freaking out and I’m not good at this and I hate it. God, show me Your ways. Let me see this in Your light. Set me free from selfishness and striving. I want to delight in Your will!

And He answers. Through His Word, by His Spirit, He washes me with truth and leads me in paths of righteousness.

And somehow, years later, a kid asks me, “Do you like making dinner every night?”, and I pause and realize, there is delight in this task because I am doing it with Jesus, for the people He’s asked me to give my life to.

Pretty much, kid. Pretty much I love what I do.

a morning in January.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

It’s early. The horizon is just now turning pink, the dark canopy overhead fading to a moody blue-gray that is reflected on snowy field. Fire is noisily burning while oldest son occupies the choice seat on its hearth, reading Acts by the light of flicker and flame.

I sit with my journal, Bible, planner, and the laptop that gives me instant access to Naves and Strongs and countless translations. This is my routine, and while it is disrupted now and again, it’s the baseline I return to. I dump the noisy nagging of my brain onto planner and push it away — no more, be done, time for still. I open my journal and awkwardly pen “2022.” It’ll take approximately 11 more months for that to feel normal, just in time for “2023” to make its entrance. My journal has been woefully ignored this last year, and I am determined to recover that habit. I love to flip through the pages and be reminded of the prayers I prayed, the struggles large and small, the testimonies to accompany those. And so I write.

A head cold that passed quickly: thankful.
William’s knee, still sore and swollen: praying, asking.
Another regular school day dawning, the third in a row!: testimony

I am, of late, studying “peace” in the Bible. Today landed me in Romans 14, and so I read verses 17-19, read the chapter, check the Greek, read it in other translations. And I mull it over, deeply aware that whatever this all means, it’s attainable only through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in my life.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The kingdom of heaven is never about what I bring, but about the supernatural move of God in my heart. I am struck by this. Yes, righteousness and peace and joy work themselves out through my doing and my decisions and my convictions, but those doings and decisions and convictions are not THE kingdom of God, but rather its outworking. The wellspring of life bubbling up within — that’s the precious thing. Lean into that. Guard that. Oh, for more and more of that!

Baby cries, little girls wake, and clock says it’s time for breakfast preparations. We will honor the Lord today in what we do, eating and drinking and working as unto Him, but with hearts that are hungry for His Kingdom come: Righteousness, peace, and joy in abundance.

pleasant places

When I was 14 or 15, or maybe 16 (what a blur), Andrew Eastmond recorded an album that was on repeat for an entire summer, and made a regular reappearance for many years after. Beautiful songs that were more than just songs — lines of scripture that did exactly what the Word is meant to do: bring life. I’m laughing at the memory of extension cords strung together so that we could listen to music while weeding gardens or painting front porches. Clumsy technology, but it worked, and so did that Living Word. It divided, like a sword, my emotions and motives. It lit up shadows, exposing garbage and imparting the grace to toss it out. It renewed my mind, washing away false ideas and leaving behind the strength of truth. And it became Rock I stand on, am defined by, decades later.

And all to beautiful melodies that I’ll never forget. Music is such a powerful way to memorize scripture.

The one that stands out, that has hemmed me in so beautifully through so many moments of my life, is from Psalm 16.

“O Lord You are — you’re my portion and my life
You’re my inheritance and cup.
You maintain my lot,
And the lines have fallen to me
In pleasant places, oh my God.”

When I was 14, 15, 16 — the oldest daughter of 8 (at the time), called upon to serve every day. A young disciple making decisions to follow Jesus, regardless of what others chose to do.

When I was 18 and trying to discern which way to go, which path to follow.

When I was single, in my 20s, following a step at a time on a unique journey.

When I was in labor with my first baby, trusting that life is a gift from the Lord and He would walk with me through every step of this endeavor.

When seasons of pressure and difficulty came, and it was tempting to wish for their lot rather than mine.

Over and over, when things went differently than I’d imagined or anticipated, instead of wondering why, there was this bedrock in my soul: “You maintain my lot, and the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.” And not only is He governing the days of my life, creating something unique and beautiful through my surrender to Him, but — how wondrous is this! — He is my portion!!

God Himself. My portion. My life.

And now I am raising another generation, lives formed and created by God, just as I believe mine to be. Called to love Him and serve Him, whatever path that may lead them on. But not just someday — now. I can look at each of them and confidently say, “The lines that have fallen to you today are good, and Jesus is here to be found.”

Oh Jesus, You are and always will be enough.
“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”



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celebrating NEW

The sun keeps rising and setting, the earth spinning over and over again. Seasons repeat in their familiar pattern, life in its age-old way. You could certainly say, There is nothing new under the sun.

And yet, there is: the mercies of God, fresh, clean, enough, every morning. God is a God of faithfulness, unchanging and certain. And yet, He is a God of new — and one day He will make all things new, but for now, we delight in the glimpses of that “new”. We could miss it, dismiss it, be bored and tired and uncaring, or we can notice and delight and be refreshed.

New: the theme I couldn’t help but see in the recent weeks’ photos.


New bathroom, so close to done.


New shoes needed, and the sweetest note.


New opportunities for a new generation of worshippers.


New babies to love.


New accomplishments.


New discovery in our backyard of new birds.


New blooms.


New toys.


New braces!


New guitar.


New braids.


New bows made by friends.


New treasures for Mama.

forty.

40.

It feels like just a number, it feels like “the new 30,” it feels like I was just 20 and I still think I am. But the Psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Wisdom is to look that number right in the face and recognize: my years on earth are numbered, and they are fleeting. How will I live them?

This morning I ponder that, and my heart is stirred by the favorite scriptures that shaped me so many years ago, gave direction to my steps and fire to my soul. The grace of God in my early life looked like amazing men and women, among whom my parents stand out as chief, who lived and spoke these truths with zeal in their eyes and passion in their hearts. That living Word was passed on to me as treasure and life.

And so I share these today — a few passages and a song — because I am challenged again to live in the fear of the Lord, laying hold of wisdom for the next leg of my race. Maybe they will stir you afresh, too.

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 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. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3)

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12)

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3)

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing You, Jesus
Knowing You
There is no greater thing
You’re my all, You’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love You, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know You more
To be found in You and known as Yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Knowing You, Jesus
Knowing You
There is no greater thing
You’re my all, You’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love You, Lord

Oh, to know the power of Your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like You in Your death, my Lord
So with You to live and never die
(All I Once Held Dear, Robin Mark)