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.

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,

Welcome.





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.

Again.


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.} 

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Grief Revisited {A Post by Tony}

1989. 



We are all sitting around the table at our home in Hailey, Idaho playing Trivial Pursuit; teams boys vs. girls.  The girls are at a serious disadvantage for three reasons:

v                              ~ they are just playing to be nice
v                              ~ my father is fiercely competitive
v                              ~ he has an amazing memory.

My mother pulls the next card and reads to my dad and I, “What is the name of the theme song of MASH?”

Since I’m only in 9th grade the question is way before my time, but after a long pause my dad says, “Suicide is Painless”. There is a weighted look between my mother and father, a look only they understand that will take me years to grasp, and only in a memory.





We roll the dice and move forward, or is it around in circles?



1966. 



On a bridge overlooking the Willamette River outside Portland, Oregon the police pull a young man from the edge. He looked ready to jump and friends and family had been searching for him for hours. He was the president of his high school student body and was supposed to make a speech at graduation but skipped the festivities for a bottle of pills - the police also take these.  I don’t know of this story until it’s too late to do anything about it.  Days like that day are when I hate H. G. Wells, nothing but false hope. At least I can channel my rage onto someone dead, inanimate, without hurting anyone.

December 31st 2009. 



We’ve driven miles up into the mountains, almost at 10,000 feet now and still no trace of my father.  My two younger brothers are in the truck ahead of me and we’ve already been nearly stuck or gone off the road half a dozen times.  My father taught us to love the wilderness and outdoors when we were very young.  He used to say, “A day above 10,000 feet is better than 365 days at on the flatland.”  Made me laugh.  Nothing makes me laugh today.   We finally spot his white truck covered in new snow and leap from our vehicles but his is empty.   Up the hill there’s a ladder next to a tree and our minds break, after this everything will be broken, forever, and now I know it always has been and always will be, until the end of the world.  That’s all I need to share about that day except to say that the last time a son hugs his father it should never be around his legs.






Yesterday. 



I have three beautiful daughters and one amazing son.  Like all 7-year-old boys, my son loves cars and playing guns and yelling excitedly at explosions on TV.  I have tried hard to train him up in God’s Word like my father did for me.  He’s tucked into bed and is smiling up at me and as I lean down to give him a hug goodnight I say, “Grandpa would have loved you.”  He frowns slightly and then says, “Dad, how did Grandpa die?” 





I have been avoiding this for too long,

it is time. 

I start to tell him but find out our middle daughter beat me to punch, “Olivia says it was ‘sewer side’ what is sewer side?” 





He is so eager to know, and I am grating to acquiesce.  I plunge.

“It’s called suicide, we hurt ourselves so badly that our consequence is death.”  He understands consequences, he gets them whenever he is disrespectful to his parents or mean to his sisters. 

“It’s death. Why is it death?” 

“Well, when you hurt your sister, dad and mom take away your toys or you don’t get to play on the family tablet for a few days right?”

He nods.  

I continue.

“To God, all sin is sin but some sin carries a heavier penalty than just toys being absconded - the penalty is death.  The worse the sin you commit, the greater the payment.  That’s why Jesus died, to cover the sins of the whole world so we would have eternal life with Him.”  I am internally collapsing now and just want to run from the room and vomit but I know the conversation is not over and I need to be strong for my son.  Quitting on him in this conversation would be everything I promised myself I wouldn’t do.

He’s just staring at me now and I take his little hands in mine and looking him right in the eye I say, 

“Don’t be afraid, I am never going to do anything to hurt myself, I will always be here for you as long as God allows and whenever you feel like you are going to do the wrong thing you can pray and ask Jesus to help.   He nods affirmatively, I stand up and mess his hair one last time.  “I love you son.”

“I love you too, dad.”



So many parts of me died that day in the mountains.  But something else was also born. 

I told my wife that evening, “This is it, Satan is coming, he is going to use this to destroy us and destroy our family and with Dad gone there will be no one left to stand in the gap.  I’m not going to let that happen.  Jesus will guide us through this but we have to trust Him no matter how dark it gets.”


It was dark, fast, faster than I could have thought possible; in less than a year nearly everything was taken from me except my wife and children and I had to start all over in a different country, state, city. 



I can never remember a time where I have been more at peace than this last year.  Six years of separation from falling down in the snow and nearly going insane have proved to be an incredible adventure.  Beth Moore, in a teaching she did once said, “Daniel is not in heaven regretting having been in the lions’ den, he is in heaven reaping the reward of having trusted God through the lions’ den. “

I will not be taken down by generational sin, and there are many to choose from, but as Paul said,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 


Found in chapter 4 verse 7 of the book my father was named after.



All photos from here

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

For When it All Falls Apart

The fridge goes first, warming instead of cooling the food inside.

Then the car, with smoke pouring out from under the hood.


And it all happens suddenly - no one is prepared. One day the milk is ice cold - the next day, I reach in and grab hold of a jug that pours out lukewarm and soured liquid.




I'm reminded that there's no preparation for when everything begins to go sideways. Just when one begins to think that everything is moving along smoothly, that all four kids have been playing peacefully, the neighbourhood is quiet and calm, the car will get us from point A to point B with no problems...that's when everything begins to fall apart.


Can I write here, how much I loved my fridge?

Because I did.

It was the fridge that I had always wanted with almost all the bells and whistles that could be had.

Tony had purchased it as a surprise and grinned from ear to ear the day it was delivered.


And when it started to go - when I discovered how much the repairs *could* be on this bells-and-whistles-fridge, I began to wrestle.

Because no matter how much one has let go of - there's always more.

Even a fridge can become an idol.





And so on the evening that our car broke down, the evening before the repair man was coming to assess the cried-over fridge, I sat in my green chair in the dark and the quiet and I prayed.

I knew we couldn't afford this repair on top of the car - and I knew that holding on to the illusion of control was only going to make things worse and so I opened my hands and let it go.

Kneeling before Jesus, acknowledging Him as Sovereign over all things, coming before Him as a child before her Father, I lifted up our needs before Him. The fridge could go - it really could. Just a plain simple white fridge would do. I was done with fancy.


I have a print hanging in our dining room that boldly proclaim the words of Matthew 6:25-26

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

As I went to bed, leaving our needs and my dependence on possessions at the feet of Jesus, I fell asleep thinking of those verses.




Morning came and Tony woke up to a text on his phone, letting him know that a rental had sold and the buyers didn't want the fridge - would we like to have it?

Tony's mom texted, asking if she could drive over the mountains and stay at our home for a couple of days - and there was relief knowing that by the time she arrived we would have a working fridge and food of the right temperature to feed her.

Only, she had a surprise of her own...

Even before our car had broken down, even before she knew about the uncertain future of our vehicle, she had wandered through a car lot after seeing a flyer with the words, "Matthew 6:33" printed on it. She had written down our story and handed it in with the hopes that maybe a donation could be given.

And it was - Because God knew.

So she drove that car over the mountains and in the middle of the girls soccer game, she smiled wide and told us that car parked in the back was ours and then waited for that realization to sink into our weary heads.


There's the temptation to feel foolish writing this down in light of loss of tragedy and pain all around me...all around the world.

And yet.




I go back to the early years of our marriage, when I would begin to panic over all the "what-if's" that could happen, the hypothetical scary things that would keep me awake at night. In those moments, Tony would go back over all the ways that God had shown Himself faithful in my life, in his life and in our life together, and my heart would slow and I would nod and those moments of His faithfulness became strongholds for me to cling to.

Because the moments of shock and pain and devastation were sure to come, and they *did* come in huge and unrelenting waves, but because of Christ's faithfulness, His steadfast love that He made evident over and over, I knew that He was trustworthy and sure.





So, yes, it's just a fridge, just a car, in some ways. But in the other ways, in the ways that matter most, it's a demonstration of His care for His own, His provision for His children who are learning what it is to be dependent on Him. It's another marker to look to when more moments come that threaten to undo my faith.

They are two more tangible gifts that lift my eyes off of the fleeting and uncertain moments of now and lock them firmly onto the beauty and greatness of the Most Holy God Who calls me daughter.

And grace becomes just a little bit more understood.




11. ice cream on the porch before bed
12. arms aching from the painting
13. hearing our four laugh with their daddy
14. the way Tony determinedly gives thanks when everything begins to fall apart
15. the friend who steps in to take care of animals when the car has broken down
16. the way Jesus tenderly lets me wrestle
17. a fridge!
18. a car!
19. moments with Nana
20. teasing Liv
21. afternoons at the farm
22. those crazy tall sunflowers
23. picking peaches
24. even when everyone is overheating
25. even when everyone is crying
26. even when we have to drive another hour
27. front porch meetings
28. golf cart afternoons with him
29. Olivia's last night being 8
30. breakfast birthday cake tradition and how everyone looks forward to it, year after year.




Monday, August 1, 2016

Going Back to What I Know

I sat down this evening to finalize lesson plans and curriculum choices and organize them all neatly and send them in.

That was the plan, but there are so many choices.

Last year we stepped back from practically everything and just focused on rebuilding small hearts, and it was a good thing and a needed thing and in the praying over this coming year, I'm sensing that we are to begin to open up again. Slowly, yes, but with intention and grace.

Ah, grace. The word I have wrestled with so much this year.







August comes and the heat lessens and I look ahead to a school year with a knowing of all the hard work that comes with it. The temptation to rush, when small ones need to slow and absorb. The temptation to be lax, when self-discipline needs to be exercised.

This life we have been called to is one that I love, one that I'm still learning to navigate all the tensions of, one that I'm still learning to turn over to Jesus completely.

In the quiet of my Bible reading each day, there has been one phrase that has been jumping out at me over and over again to the point that I finally took note of it and realized it's what I've let go of in the rush of living.

It seemed almost cliche, you know? It all began for me in the late fall of 2010 in the middle of upheaval and deep sadness. I came across this blog and I grabbed hold onto her idea of writing down 1000 gifts. And I did it. And then I slowly stopped after the popularity started to fizzle and it seemed silly to continue when even the posts on her page slowly ended and disappeared.

I just stopped giving thanks.





And as I look back over the last 2 or 3 years, I can see a hardening in my heart - a sort of callous that I've allowed to form to protect myself from a life in ministry. 


But the truth is, giving thanks isn't a movement or a novel idea or something reserved for certain holidays and seasons.

Paul exhorts us, in the middle of his darkest moments while chained in the darkness of a prison to,

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, 
kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving
each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above
all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And 
let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one
body. And be thankful.  Colossians 3:12-15


Giving thanks is to happen in all things. Why? I'm sure there are many reasons, but the one that seems to be resonating with my heart most deeply is it's a way to remind my heart that God is faithful and good and sovereign when everything else around me feels shaky and uncertain.

Protecting my heart only hardens me and makes the situations around me more difficult. But pausing and choosing to see the goodness of God, even in the darkest moment, it keeps my heart open and it makes my faith in Jesus stronger.





So, I start again. Every Monday I'll sneak back here and add to the growing list with no goal, no end number in sight. I'll just keep building a foundation to remind my heart in the trustworthiness of the One Who created me and placed us here.

1. That sunflower *almost* ready to bloom
2. The lavender beginning to blossom
3. Those tomatoes on the vine
4. The smell of bacon frying on the stove
5. The way Lyla chooses to watch Anne of Green Gables over and over
6. Visits on the porch with the dearest of friends
7. Summer sun and finally, almost, beginning to love it
8. Hint of Fall in the air
9. Those 2 books wrapped in ribbon handed to me at church
10. The sister who holds me accountable