lean on Him.

Snow day on a February morning. Wind blows, snow piles, schools close. Light candles, breathe deep, plan for slow.

A favorite verse from childhood, a melody I’ve sung hundreds of times in moments of fear, anxiety, and overwhelm:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. (Isaiah 26)

Keep: to keep, guard, watch; preserve, guard from dangers
Stayed: to lean or lay upon, rest upon, lean against; to support, uphold, sustain; to sustain, refresh, revive
Trusteth: to trust in, have confidence, be secure; to feel safe; bold, secure, confident, hope, sure

The God who is wants to guard you — you! — as you lean completely upon Him. You can trust Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

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.

sisters

And then there are my girls. I have so much I could say, and will another time. But for now, their days together are so perfectly summed up in this little video I managed to snatch the other day. Oh, it made me smile to walk in and find them making music together! The little girl-tribe, finding joy and friendship in one another each day. Their hearts find fullness, yes, but aren’t the rest of us the blessed ones, to be living around the bubbling-over fount of joy?

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sons

This photo popped up today in the ever-changing reel of favorites Ryan set up on my phone’s home screen. Certainly there’s nothing particularly fabulous about this, and yet it made it into that elite collection of hearted (yes, that’s now a word, of course) pictures.

Because this is my three boys and me.

So much here makes me smile: the fact that it doesn’t matter what clothes I supply; my sons will always wear the same favorite sweatpants or gym shorts ad nauseam. The position of their arms, each with their particular stance when in conversation. Me looking up at Jameson, who by now is about two inches taller than in this photo.

But mostly I smile because I just love these boys so, so much. Well, I say boys, but really, these two men and a baby. Because men is what they are becoming, right before my eyes.

I’ve prayed Psalm 144:12 for my children, and set it often before my eyes as a godly goal as I disciple them, and this year when I was reflecting on answered prayers of 2021, this rose up in my heart:

“That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars,
sculptured in palace style.”

Sons who are not trapped in perpetual boyhood, abdicating responsibility and acting on childish impulse forever. Sons who bear the yoke in their youth and grow strong shoulders. Sons who understand sacrificial leadership and oversight, learning to care about the state of their flock. Sons who are called to answer for words and deeds, stare those things straight in the face, and seek true repentance. Sons who show honor and deference to their father and do not despise their mother. Sons who seek after the Lord today rather than arrogantly putting it off till tomorrow.

Is this a tall order? Is this beyond the scope of my parenting ability, beyond Ryan’s?

Yes. Yes, it is.

And yet, this is what I see emerging before my eyes, and I am awed and humbled.

We are in the thick of it, in so many ways, the moments of greatest tension before the arrow is released, and it will grow only more so in the coming years. We are desperately in need of wisdom, and do our best to follow the Holy Spirit as we serve Him in discipling these young men, but more than wisdom we need Him to show up in our hearts, in their hearts, in transforming ways.

But we are seeing mature plants even in youth, the work of God right in our midst, the beauty of His design in shaping beautiful boys into strong young men with tender hearts.

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.

my seven wonders.

There’s this idea in my head that I need to write more, as writing is such a large part of my life processing. But something about my current reality — the one where the limited time I have to my own musings is mostly consumed with Bible reading and prayer, and tackling actual life management strategies — comes crashing in to burst such bubbles.

Still. I wish I was keeping a better record here of words and pictures. There’s so much to make me smile and sigh and be thankful.

Today, as the cold nips my nose with the furnace cranked and fire blazing, a quick oldest-to-youngest sort of glance at the month so far. Perhaps when I’m finished, I will have mustered the courage to greet the sub-zero air head on for a brisk walk.

The boys and Ryan skied a new mountain this week, and I got this amazing photo from them. Ryan kept exclaiming to me that it was too amazing to even seem real, the stunning beauty all around them. Last night they arrived home late after four solid days of exertion, and they were a laughing, talking, inside-joking trio off MAN that made me smile. Life at home with the five younger ones had been simple and special, quiet and full of conversation relevant to my girls, but we missed these tall, loud, leave a wake wherever they go boys of ours.

Of course, they left the week we finally got real snow, and so I spent quite a few hours shoveling. Beatrice poked her head out the door: “Can I help you, Mom?” And so we shoveled together in the gathering dusk, watching the white snow turn to blue, pausing for conversation now and then, suddenly not minding how long the task was at all. I love her so.

And having left them home one evening, I returned to find this vignette: a girl and her baby. He’d been hysterical and she patiently held him minute after long minute until at last, he surrendered and slept. What a capacity this girl has for leading and caring with understanding. And so tender — ready to burst into tears when I got home because his sadness had broken her heart.

Cecily is growing before my eyes. Helpful, aware, conscientious, and the biggest eyes and ears as she takes in the world. She loves to get a laugh out of us and is generally successful in her humor. And oh my, she loves babies at a whole new level. Everywhere we go, she finds a baby to hold and love.

And this one? There are no words. She is non-stop, independent, always thinking hard and would prefer you to NOT get in her way. She sleds and plays as hard as any of them, tumbles and spills her way through life without skipping a beat. She’s sweet and sincere and so thoughtful, despite how impetuous she seems.

My baby and me. I don’t know who took this picture, or when, but I love seeing us together from someone else’s perspective. He runs now, and his top speed makes us just laugh and laugh. He loves his siblings and is another happy, loves-to-laugh kid in a long line of them. He’s losing his crazy chub but still is so fun to hold, when he allows that. Fortunately, although he’ll eat bowls and bowls of curry and rice, he mostly just loves to nurse, so for now… he’s my baby. We adore him.