Sunday, November 13, 2016

When You Find Yourself in the Middle

The middle days of October found us driving miles east, winding through the last bits of Washington, across the state of Idaho and finally stopping in the middle of the vastness of Montana.

I didn't know what to expect of those days away from home while my four traveled west to spend days with aunties and uncles and cousins and a Nana. 

What I did know is that I would be out of my comfort zone, out of what felt familiar and known. 

It was the height of Autumn as we wound through the foothills and mountains, as the light felt heavy with the gold of Fall and as the sky grew large and blue my eyes kept being drawn to the the rich dark of the pine trees that had grown up the sides of peaked rock.

The atmosphere around all of us has felt heavy...I'm sure you have felt it too? It doesn't seem to matter whether one lives in the middle of the inner city or in the open expanse of the prairies, the air has felt oppressive, thick with apprehension and anxiety.

They popped their heads around the corner back in September, two boys who are often unruly and difficult to handle and I felt the sigh creep up my throat. The bright and sunny renovated classroom  was ready to welcome the new group of kids to be tutored this year and they were the first ones in the door.

How does one love another who doesn't know how to receive love but instead pushes away kindness and grace?

How does one not give up?

Because I was ready to, if I am to be honest here in this space.

That week, I stood up in front of our motley crew of little ones gathered around tables and small group leaders to lead the new Bible Study we had chosen for the year: the impossible task of teaching a small number of children the large number of Names of our even unfathomably larger God.

This day though, we would start small.

We would learn that our own names had meaning and what those meanings were.

The oldest of these two boys was sitting beside Tony with his paper in front of him, waiting for his turn to find out what his name said about him.

Only, he didn't want to know the meaning of his name, because his name was the same as his father's, and to him the result of that name search could only mean bad things for him.

Tony paused in that moment, and then he opened the pages of his Bible because his name was found right there in the Words that hold Life. And this particular name found throughout the Old and New Testaments speaks of God-given bravery, strength and courage. 

Those small shoulders so often hunched over in defeat or scrunched up in anger, for the first time seemed relaxed. 

He sat up straighter.

After leaving the beauty of Montana, the quiet, almost Canadian-ness of it that made me homesick and nostalgic all at the same time, we gathered together as our family of six and traveled down the coast to the ocean and beaches of Oregon.

It was the same there as it was on the foothills and prairies of the east - the dark pine and spruce that covered the ground we were passing. But it was on this trip that I realized why my eyes were drawn there.

It was the brilliant and wild light of the maple trees, the aspen and birch trees. Each leaf that reflected gold and burnt orange and the deepest crimson was held in stark contrast to the depth of dark around it.

I kept trying to capture it in picture as Tony drove, as the lesson was sinking in.

Yes, so much around us feels uncertain and tense. Fear seems to be everywhere. Nowhere online seems safe from anger and outrage while families and friendships and communities fracture and break apart. How do we lament and grieve together for one another no matter what side of the mess you find yourself on?

Jesus, Light of the World, has placed His Light incredibly within the brokenness of His own children. That means, in the dark of the chaos around us right now, we are to stand and let His light blaze out through us while we stand with, not against, those who stand next to us. 

Joshua, before he was to take the land of Jericho, looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a sword drawn.  Joshua approached and asked the question that I think we all have, 

Are you for us, or for our adversaries?

The armed man spoke words that echo across thousands of years and still ring true today,

No; but I am the Commander of the Army of the Lord. Now I have come.

We are out of line when we think Jesus takes sides. We are out of line when we demand He takes our side. Instead, we are to press into and align ourselves with Him.

When Joshua realized Who it was standing there before him, he fell to the ground and in worship asked what he was to do.

This Commander's only order?

Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy. 

The spaces around us, where we have the awesome privilege of speaking with those around us online or face to face...these spaces become holy with the presence of Christ. As a follower of Jesus, this holds weight.

The pastor spoke it from the front of the sanctuary this morning, the words that brought everything together and held me still. He said that it was in the dying of the leaf that the brilliant colors came out.

Until the maple leaf began to die, the deepest red could never bleed out. The gold of the aspen leaf would never be seen unless its life began to fade away.

It is the same for the one who loves Jesus.

Our life becomes His as we die to ourselves, and it is here in this dying that we are transformed and made into His likeness, 

and this is how His Light shines through.

And how all the ground around us becomes holy.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

When He Writes Love {A Post by Tony}

I was speaking with someone the other day about a job I needed done on my house. 

Near the end of the conversation they made some comment about Madison House and then followed up with this,

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.”

I hesitated for a second and then responded with a smile,

“Thanks. If you hear anything bad about me I would think that is true as well.”

They laughed, but not really. I think the nakedness of the idea caught them off guard. They recovered quickly, a very classy man, he was.  

Kimberley is an amazing woman. She’s always writing incredible things about me. I don’t have her same perspective on me.  I see a never ending mess ahead of me that I’m struggling to give back to Christ on daily basis, mostly failing but with patches of light that help me continue.

Kimberley is electric, an Adonis, a blazing fire on a long bitterly cold day.  She is entirely the funniest woman I’ve ever met and the gentlest heart.

To hear other men talk about their wives, then listen as Kimberley imparts to me marriages she catches glimpses of, I feel sorrow and joy and the guilt of a survivor.  With Kimberley in my life I KNOW I went through the war and came out on the other side; wife, children, and job, all intact and accounted for. 

So here it goes: Kimberley is always writing down lists of things she is thankful for, so here is my list of Kimberley’s joys and the treasure that I have found in being with her.

1.     She gets up and does devotions for over an hour.
2.     No, seriously, she gets up EVERY MORNING and does devotions for over an hour!
3.     She never nags. I can’t explain that, it never happens. I’ve never felt nagged.
4.     She is incredibly respectful of me in front of the kids.
5.     She is respectful of me in front of the kids and others even though I don’t deserve it.
6.     Kimberly respects me in private, public, socially, and at work, even when we’re in the middle of an idiotic fight.
7.     She spends hours sitting with me and gently rubbing her hands over my back while we read and listen to music together in the evenings.
8.     During this time a kid will inevitably poke their messed head of hair around the corner and yell, “Mommy, I poop my pants!” or, “Mommy, Lyla throw up on her bed and it stinky!” Kimberley works with me to clean up any mess.
9.     I sleep very little but when I do I may as well be dead, and Kimberley, who Is a lite sleeper will deal with most of the 2am kid problems without trying to wake me or making me feel bad the next day.
10.  I interrupt people. It’s a really bad habit, worse than smoking, and Kimberley quietly waits while I jibber jabber about whatever nonsense was in my head and then quietly continues after I’ve wound down.
11.  Kimberley is amazing at taking a dollar and making it stretch out to the end of forever.
12.  The bed is always made. It is with great joy that I enter our bedroom to find that the covers are clean, warm, and soft.
13.  I wake up with Kimberley’s arms wrapped around me. 
14.  If I complain, it’s not at Kimberley. It is for more time with Kimberley. The communication is strong; I want to be with her, I want more of her, she is the safest place on earth.  Whenever there is gunfire and sirens outside the house, I’m not worried; Christ is with us and Kimberley is with me.
15.  Don’t you think Kimberley is a sexy name?  I do. Kimberley, Kimberley, Kimberley…
16.  Hair, make-up, clothes, I don’t know how she does it but she always looks like fire from the gods and I often find myself staring like an idiot.  Yes, idiot. Wake up you fool! But I don’t want to wake up, I want to stay here forever, with only you.
17.  Other women just aren’t getting in the door. They may as well be blind. Where is the door?  Only Kimberley knows, and she can let herself in and take up residence whenever she pleases.
18.  I love making Kimberley laugh. I’m so thankful she likes my sense of humor because it gives me great pleasure to see her throw her head back and enjoy the peace of laughing.
19.  In an age of such sexual, unmitigated, dis-holy catastrophe, Kimberley is a very modest dresser. Not Amish, stylish.
20.  Eric Clapton said it better, “Yellow Tigers crouched in jungles in her dark eyes.”
21.  Not much phases me, but I have to admit, if Kimberley is gone 15 minutes later than she said she would be I get dry mouth and start internally freaking out that she is dead or maimed or has been kidnapped by terrorists or all other manner of hideous horrible.  Then she breezes in the door, laughs, and kisses away all the ugly manifestations of the monsters of my imagination.
22.  Lastly, for this list, “My baby don’t mess around because she loves me so and this I know for sure.”  -Andre 3000-

I love you Kimberley and it is a logistical impossibility for a me to encapsulate the essence of your radiance with a list of poorly stated, “22 reasons.”
You are the only woman that can break me with a flash of her eyes and a tilt of her head.  All other woman are wax candles, dissolving in a river of imprecations before your insatiable flame.  I have only ever been with you; I will only ever be with you.  16 years have been too short to know you and a 1000 more will never do.

Eternity will have to suffice. 

I love you, I love you, I love you.          


e00 more will never do,f humor,y guy, he was. o suffice.  i  fire. s of the monters of imagination. ll other mannner s into, i
e00 more will never do,f humor,y guy, he was. o suffice.  i  fire. s of the monters of imagination. ll other mannner s into, i

Thursday, October 6, 2016

For the First Fifteen

I walked down that aisle 16 days before he turned 27.

I can never forget that look on his face.

I don't ever want to.

There are men who use words as cruelly as they use their weapons and their fists.

Men who see a weakness and exploit it,

abuse it,

break it even further down.

There are men who see their work as an escape, an excuse to stay far away from the women they married, the children who call them Daddy, the life they said yes to as a covenant was being formed with words and bodies and love.

It was in a little country church that I met him all dressed in white with a bouquet of roses and heather clutched tightly in my hand, saying those ancient words that would entwine my life with his as long as both our hearts were beating.

There were words I had never said to him - words about my life and my mistakes that I had never shared with him. Afraid of rejection, afraid of not being his.

He lifted that veil over my face to seal those vows with the only kiss we had ever shared, but I allowed a veil to remain over my heart.

It took well over a decade of days with this man and his loving and our 4 babies to loosen my tongue - to unveil a veiled life and lay myself bare.

Jesus, He had taken my life that wanted Him in name only, wanted nothing to do with His Church or His people or His Word and over a decade of days He wooed my heart and made me desperate for Him and His holy grace.

It was Jesus who loved me into lifting every veil from my heart and it was Tony who, in the middle of his own pain, tenderly took the bloody mess of my hidden secrets and helped me lift them up to the Light of forgiveness.

There is a man who walks fearlessly in the dark places. I've watched him from the quiet of our front porch. He reaches out to those who others would turn away from and loves deeply enough to point hard and broken hearts back to the truth of Jesus and His Word.

I've heard this man's strong voice call hope into the mess of a drunken haze leaning on those old front steps of ours - the firm words that reminded as long as there was breath in the lungs, no one was ever too far gone.

My ears have caught his voice singing hope to our children as he prays words over bowed and sleepy heads.

I know a man who walks with me on a road that leads us to Jesus, who lovingly traces the scars of my past and lifts my eyes off of those broken days and points to the One Who is calling His Bride to Himself.

I know a man whose life has been one with my own for fifteen years. His arms hold the dearest comfort, his heartbeat is more familiar than the thrum of my own. 

I know a man who walks in the ways of our Savior, whose eyes hold the Light of Life. 

Fifteen years of moments and days and I selfishly want more of more gift of him. 

My dearest Tony,

Your love has been the greatest gift I have ever received. Thank you for the ways that you give yourself to us. Thank you for loving me and for leading me back to the love of Jesus. Thank you for loving me as Christ has loved the Church - for giving me a glimpse of the beauty of our Heavenly Bridegroom and the way that He loves us.

Thank you for fifteen incredible years.  You have my heart and my love.



Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday's Sabbath {List Two}

The sunflowers hang heavy in the front flower beds while the sweet peas blaze bright pink in the softening autumn light.

We left church this morning and my heart was aching.

We eat lunch and while Tony lays on the floor watching football, I curl my body around his and sleep with my forehead pressed into his back.

There is much to prepare for the coming week, but for a hour or two I rest, pressed close to the one who shows me Christ's love and the ache that was there has eased a little.

And while I wait for the oven to heat, I'll slip over here and share what has been filling my book bag of late.

None Like Him ~ Jen Wilkin

I didn't really know what to expect from this book. I was born into the church before I was ever born again, and so there are times that I wrestle with thinking I've heard it all before. And while many of the truths in this small book are ones that I have lived my whole life knowing, they are presented in a way that rarely is in the church. How often are our eyes positioned fully onto God and His glory? How often do we hear sermons or read articles that end up focusing our eyes and our hearts and our minds on us. The glory and majesty of God is so much larger than we could ever fathom and this book here has been redirecting my selfish thinking and I'm so grateful.

(And if you would like to hear a glimpse of Mrs. Wilkin's thoughts on the way the Church tends to view scripture and present God - listen to this. I loved every minute of it and was so grateful for the tender and funny admonition.)

Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins ~ James Runcie

Apparently, this book series has been turned into a TV series ~ but I didn't know that until I read the back cover of this book just today, and I'm already halfway through these pages!  If you have been watching The Granchester Mysteries on PBS I would love to hear your thoughts. All I know is that when Autumn rolls around, my love of Mysteries comes out and these books set in 1964 London, England are the perfect fit to the darkening days and cooler air. If you love the Mitford Series, you would probably love the nosy and loving Curator as he tries to balance family, ministry and crime. I think the New York Times sums up this series the best:

The coziest of cozy murder mysteries...These stories present a 
consistently charming and occasionally cutting commentary on
a postwar landscape.  

The Hole in Our Holiness ~ Kevin deYoung

Tony and I spent my birthday out in a little house nestled in the quiet of an apple orchard. This house, during the school year, is used for one of the most beautiful ministries I have come across. During the quiet evenings we were there, I would slip down to the little coffee shop area where they had a wall full of books and this one caught my eye. I had mentioned to the wife of the director that I wanted to purchase it and she said she would bring it to church on a Sunday we would both be there. When she placed it in my hands, it was wrapped in a ribbon and she refused to take payment for it. This has proven to be a powerful gift that has both convicted and challenged me. This is another book that I am working through slowly, but I don't think it's meant to be rushed. I highly recommend this book to new and not-so-new believers.

The Holy Bible - ESV

This past month, I have found myself in the books of Isaiah, Philippians and now Romans and while I am still not a morning person, and probably never will be, the morning hours have solidly become my favorite time of day to spend within these pages.  I once listened to a sermon of John Piper's where he shared his prayer that he prayed before he ever opened the pages of scripture and I have begun to make it my own. It is something like this:

Lord, open your Word to speak to my heart
and open my heart to receive Your Word.

Most mornings, I have kids running around me, but most of the time, in all the sleepy chaos, He settles my heart and my mind to meet with Him there at my desk in the kitchen.

I'm including a link to the printable schedule here.

I also enrolled myself and Lyla, Olivia and Elias into a weekly BSF class and we're digging into the first portion of the book of John and this has become our Bible lessons that we use as we begin school each day. If you are part of a local BSF class, I would love to hear how you are doing! I've already loved being a part of this.

May your coming week be filled with Christ's steadfast love and faithfulness. May His peace surround you, no matter the circumstances you find yourself in. May the rest that He gives on this day be one that sustains you until the next.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

For the Golden Edges

Maybe it was the late arriving curriculum that put that pit right there in the center of my stomach.

I don't know.

All I know is that somehow, over the summer, my oldest daughter is now only 10 1/2 inches shorter than my 5'11".

She is all smiles about this,

but me?

Her small, downy head used to fit in the palm of my hand while her toes curled into the crook of my elbow. That's all I needed - one arm to support all 9 pounds of her and when did she unfurl into all arms and legs and emotions?  There are times when it feels like the whole of me can't be enough.

The pictures are all over Facebook and Instagram, those "first day of school" pictures with rosy cheeks and nervous smiles and brand new clothes and backpacks with zippers that are working. Even the homeschoolers join in the fun.

Only this year, I sat there shocked.

When did all of these children hit middle school? And high school? Even the sweet babies are now in kindergarten.

I'm on my porch in the early morning light this past Tuesday, putting food in the dog dish and I hear my name being called. Sleepy smiles greet me as they walk to middle school and these faces on the other side of the fence used to be so much younger. They used to be small.

When we started at Madison House just over 4 years ago this past August, the ones who spend their days in High School were the same ages as Lyla and Olivia are now.

4 years.

I'm sure I only blinked.

I used to inwardly groan when I heard the saying,

Enjoy it. It goes by so fast.

Only, a full decade plus of diapers feels slow moving in the middle of it, until the littlest one finally decides that she's a big girl who will do big girl things and while the Costco bill seems a bit lighter, I felt a certain wonder when I looked at Tony Saturday night and marveled: we bought diapers for 10 years and now we're done.


How did a decade go by that fast?

The leaves are beginning to turn golden around the edges and I find myself beginning to understand.

There is an ache in this mothering that I didn't even think of in those days of dreaming of these days before life ever lit up the dark spaces within me.

I'm sure I still don't understand it, and maybe I never will, but it's those leaves that Jesus is using to turn my eyes on to Him.

The years are growing shorter, no matter how much I long for it all to slow, but in the midst of vibrant life, it's the glowing, golden edges whispering of one season moving on to the next that is causing a tendering within me:

Let's not rush around the table,

let's linger over spelling lists and math problems and science experiments.

Let's read one more chapter in our read aloud because all of us snuggled together on the couch has us asking questions and imagining the sights and sounds of a time long passed.

Where there are struggles, let's slow and breathe and ask one another how we can give God glory right here in this moment where we want to give up, and then laugh, because the sound of someone blowing their nose really and truly is funny.

My little notebook has stayed closer than ever this past week. September comes and Fall's air already feels so different.

I don't want to miss the wonder of them, or this life that God has so graciously given to us.

I want to remember these days when only 10 1/2 inches separated my oldest girl and me.

31. Psalm 107
32. His Hope that lifts my eyes
33. Acts 14:22 ~ What my words should do
34. Slow dancing in the kitchen with Zee
35. The last of the farm fresh eggs
36. Clouds that whisper of Fall
37. 5:45am
38. Rain that fell through the night
39. A boy and his dog all curled up in sleep
40. Quiet hush before everyone wakes
41. Psalm 106
42. Isaiah 40:11
43. Apple muffins baking.

So teach us to number our days that
we may get a heart of wisdom. 
Psalm 90:12

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunday's Sabbath {List One}

The light is shifting,

do you notice?

September begins to unfurl her colors and I just want to sit and whisper,


September makes me long for a slowing, even though I know acutely that with school beginning in just 2 short days the feeling to urge a rushing of small hearts will be strong and I will wrestle.


August holds days of heat and a rhythm that follows the tune of the unstructured.

It was lovely and good and needed.

And in the wild and lazy chaos of days to just be - to just paint, to just nap, to just do nothing at all, I felt the stirring of a desire for Sabbath.

Growing up, Sundays were for church and for napping and I hated the forced rest. When I fell in love with reading, I would sneak a book under my pillow and reach my fingers around those covers after the sounds of sleep filled the hallways and I would read until my eyes couldn't stay open anymore.

I'm still processing what Sabbath is to look like now as an adult with a choice, but I thought, no matter how silly it might be to put here, that Sundays could maybe be a day to slip a listing of books on screen of what I'm reading, so maybe you too might be able to still for a time - find a time of rest on this day that God has given as a gift.

Monday's Thankful List will be moved to Wednesday, because by Wednesday, my heart needs a reminder that there is joy in the very middle of the mundane and ordinary and that if I'm at the middle of the week, there is hope -Rest is coming.

It's rare for me to only read one book at a time - I tend to have 4 or 5 books going at once. I don't know if this is due to the digital age where attention span is short, or if it is the security blanket of the introverted. Regardless, I have a bag that is sagging and worn and within it's ripping seams sits a pile that weighs gloriously heavy on my shoulder.

So, without further ado, here is Sunday's Sabbath {List One}

How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare, by Ken Ludwig.
This is a book I have been wanting to read for awhile, especially as our focus in both History and English will have some Shakespearean flair this year. I'm barely a third of the way in, but I am already encouraged and greatly inspired, and John Lithgow's intro alone had me convinced that this was a *very* good choice.

Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler

I don't read much fiction, but when one comes highly recommended, I place it on the holds list at the library and wait impatiently to finally get the text that it is in. I really just started it this afternoon and found the first page to be perfectly charming. And the fact that it's a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew makes me feel like my ordering of the title above this one is a very happy one indeed.

Disciplines of a Godly Woman, by Barbara Hughes

I have been reading through this book slowly - I think I ordered it in May and just now only have 1 or 2 chapters to go. This is an older book, written in 2001, or 2003 and so her thoughts on the future of the church are both alarming and encouraging. I read somewhere once, that when mentors are few to find them in the pages of a book, and this is what Mrs. Hughes has been to me, a mentor of sorts who continually points my eyes and heart onto the glory and holiness of God. I highly, *highly* recommend this book.

Moments and Days, by Michelle Van Loon
I have always loved the beauty and sacredness of liturgy and the Church Calendar but feel lost in how to observe this rich heritage passed on through the millennia in the context of our North American churches that no longer observe the days that have marked our faith. This book arrived on the porch on Friday and so I haven't really had a chance to get to far into it, but Mrs. Van Loon begins by going through the Jewish Holy Days and how they have laid the foundation for the Church. She includes this quote by Pastor Tom Olson, "Learning to number our days means recognizing the unnumbered days of God".  I know already I will love this book.

ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, Crossway

I'll just say right here that this will be featured every week. For almost 2 years now I've been following the #365daysoftruth through the She Reads Truth App and I have (to be horribly cliche) fallen completely in love with God's Word. I have no other way to put it. I feel it deeply when I miss a day, not out of legalism, but because I haven't stilled my heart before Jesus. These holy words alone are foundational to everything else.

Honorable Mention:

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Butterfield

There are some books that Tony and I will read to each other in the evenings once the kids are in bed and quiet is finally descending around us. This book was the latest and it was life changing for me. Everyone should read this book, no matter your views on a subject that needs to be discussed and viewed in the Light of God's Word and covered with the tenderness of His Grace and Mercy. Her second book came out this year and it should be landing on our porch later this month. I. Can. Hardly. Wait.

{None of the links listed above are affiliate links - it's just a fun sharing of what is in my book bag.}