Sunday, January 24, 2016

An invitation to sit down

“I know it goes against all the words the world says are admirable:

self-reliant, capable, strong, and resilient.

 But I am in desperate need of a source outside of myself 
all the time. 

And so are you.”

Grace for the Good Girl, p 14 

I know this, but I need to hear it again, and again and again.

I need God's help. I need his help not just to deal with the big things that flatten me, but the little things, too. I need His help with my attitude, with my heart as it cleans this house and breaks up fights and tries not to eat yet another cookie. I need more than coffee to give me patience. I need God's grace, His forgiveness, and His help every single day.

And He is here, right in the middle of the mess of things, to walk with me and love me through this normal day.  We do not serve a God who stands far off.  We do not serve a God who waits for us to get our acts together before He helps. We are, in fact, served by God, right in the midst of our brokenness and need.

What does it mean to "sit down on the inside?"  What does that even look like?

It doesn't look like following that one magic formula that will finally make life "work." It doesn't look like being in control of schedules and children and emotions at all times. It doesn't look like faking happy or manufacturing holy feelings in tough circumstances. It doesn't look like completing the daily checklist and receiving a gold star.

It doesn't look like the little boy FLIPPING OUT because his brother got a cupcake for dessert and he hasn't gotten his yet and MOM MIGHT RUN OUT OF CUPCAKES, and he just might really shrivel up and die! Dear child, has mommy ever once let you leave the table hungry? I know what you need, what is good for you. I'm working on it. 

Sit down. Wait.

It looks like something we can't quantify or copy, but we can see glimpses, and we should savor them when we see them.  It looks like the preemie resting on her daddy's chest, receiving love from her parents, and IV pokes, too, and meanwhile her heart keeps beating even though she doesn't tell it to beat, and she sleeps. It looks like going to work and receiving whatever mess God sends you to handle that day, and when it gets tough, leaning on Him for strength instead of trying to manufacture it.  It looks like  pastor, pouring his gifts into his sermon, praying for the congregations he loves, and then trusting God alone with the growth.

Sitting down on the inside means sitting down in the pew and opening ears and heart to the Word God sends for that day. It means sitting down in prayer before the huge task. It means sitting down at the end of the day, with the jobs left undone, the messes still tangled, and the questions unanswered, and laying it all at His feet, and receiving back from Him the gift of sleep.

Today, for me, it looks like being interrupted ten times while writing this post. And dinner is late, and the kids spent too much time in front of screens, but God sent us time with friends, and a fire in the fireplace, too.

Sitting down, right here, means not worrying about what grade I got for this day, because nobody is keeping score.  The mix of ugly and beautiful in me and around me, it is all covered, all covered by the grace of God in Christ.

The main thing is settled. The main need of our souls has been met. The main problem has been solved.  The sin that had separated us from God has been atoned for by Jesus.

Will He not also give us all things?
We need only to trust, and wait.
He will not let us leave His table hungry.
He knows what we need.

Sit down.
Our God knows what He is doing.

Our soul waits for the Lord;

    he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

(Psalm 33:20-22)

What does it look like to "sit down" where you are, today?

updated from original post 9/3/12

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

scrawling grace

I keep a book in our church bag for sermon notes, and I actually use it. It's odd, I know, but I think better with a pen in my hand. Plus, the pastor sometimes quizzes me when we get home! (Ok, he quizzes the children, not me, but he does ask me for feedback.)

You would laugh to see my pages. My handwriting is terrible, and I can't simply blame the children, though sometimes I am forced to write at odd angles while one sleeps on my lap.

Under the date you might see things like "considering a call," or "dad in the hospital," or "first Sunday at Eastpointe," or "healing from motorcycle wreck."  This is me before church starts, writing down the loudest things on my mind, in the presence of God. It helps me to put a name to the things on my heart, and then set them down at God's feet... or, sometimes, sit with them clinging to me, but be with God there at the same time.

You'd see random names: prayer requests, or people I see or think of that might need a word of encouragement in the coming week.  Sometimes, I send a card, or bring them to God in prayer. Sometimes, I do not see the names again until the next church service, and then I bring my guilt to God along with those names.

You'd see an occasional note about our schedule, or food, which I write quickly to get it out of my head so I can try to go back to listening.  It doesn't always work.

You would see exclamation points, smiley faces, and big Xs, and I may or may not remember why I scribbled them.

In the middle of one sermon record, you'd see a hand traced, and then made into a turkey.

Last Sunday, at the top of the page about our new life in Christ and losing our lives to find life, there's a list of the littlest boys' names with check marks next to them. That's a record of their naughtiness, and a count of the laps they had to run around the cemetery when church was over.

The Divine Service is often not the straightforward soul-rest I wish it would be. I have this image in my mind of me going to church, frazzled and nuts with the kids (per usual), and then sitting down in service and being just... calmed.  Maybe I'd have angels tending to me, rubbing my feet and smoothing my hair and feeding me Jesus and letting me take a little nap.  I'd curl up in the forgiveness of sins like a pillow, cover up with a blanket of God's promises, and just rest.  Then I'd wake up refreshed and healthy and happy, and the children would be fully sanctified, no more hitting and teasing but telling each other jokes and racing to see who could be first to do the chores.

But it's not like that, is it? In this world we will have trouble, and yes, even right in the middle of church.  Yet as I look over the messy church notes, I see more than just life. I see the Christian life: the life of God, with us.

God with us, right in the mess and with the children fighting on laps.  God with us, when the grief is the loudest thing in our minds. God with us, when bones ache and we're not sure if we can stand for the entire gospel reading.

And we, His children come with listening ears and open hearts, with ready pens and eager spirits-- or, none of these things, and yet still, by grace, He comes.

He comes with His feast, and we are asked for no money.  He pours out His Word, and it is recorded with a sloppy hand, and yet it still sustains in that moment, and even throughout the week.

Dear friends loved by God, don't wait to gather the gifts God gives you until you can do it "perfectly." Don't wait until you're healthy or cheerful. Don't wait until the children have grown. Don't wait until you can get rid of those distractions. Don't wait until your handwriting is neat, or you've found the perfect church, or the baby learns to sit still.

Do come, and be fed by God. Come to church, where His Word is preached. Open your own Bible, and receive with open ears, and trace over the Words He gives in your own hand.  Scribble down your concerns, and write His Words of promise beside them.

You're even allowed to use crayon.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

these days

These are the days of getting oriented, reworking the systems, and trying to find our new rhythm; of learning new grocery stores and libraries, finding new doctors, and feeding everyone out of an unfamiliar kitchen. 

These are the days of reading Narnia books, devotions, or novels; of breathing in words instead of pouring them out.

These are the days of lining the littlest boys up for a lecture, the one about how you shouldn't tease big brother about girls, and little boys listen with wide eyes and faces-- trying to be serious -- but then big sister starts playing the piano --that same dance-y song we've heard a hundred times this week-- and little boys’ little hips can’t help but shake and the serious faces start to crack even though the lecture is not done.

These are the days of quiet time on weekend afternoons, little ones napping and older ones reading, when I sit with creative thoughts and my coffee cup is filled on demand by my oldest son, as long as I let him have cookies too. (Yes, you can all have one.)

These are the days of sending all six off to school in the morning, of impending high school years, of marveling how short is our time together, and letting the littlest one fall asleep on me in church even though he's getting too big for that because, hey, this could be the very last time.

These are the days of smiling at strangers, awkward conversations, and new friendships that feel magically familiar, of big ideas, and feeling small, and praying and waiting, and learning how hard that is.

These are the days of Michigan Cherry Coffee, and of new sleds in the basement, perfect and clean, waiting with the children for a real Michigan winter.

These are the days of giving out check marks, running laps, working on memory verses, and monitoring minutes-of-kindle-usage.

These are the days of Elephant and Piggie, and Clifford, and trying to be patient while they sound out the words; of library trips and missing books and imaginations on fire, and I find myself hoping we never outgrow dragons or Narnia or books by the fire. 

These are the days of bringing home stories about "my fireflies" (4yr old preschoolers) for my children, and bringing stories about my children to preschool, and keeping my eyes open to the delightful joys of children, even in and under the work that they are.

These are the days of hearing that song or smelling that smell and feeling the wave of homesickness; of voices on the phone that make me close my eyes and picture the old places, of allowing myself short mental visits, like a guilty pleasure.

These are the days of stability in change, of leaning on the Rock that is our God and finding His love for us still solid; His provision for us unfailing.

These are the days of writing quickly, to keep a snapshot before today disappears like pacifiers have disappeared from our lives.

These are the days
of hymns from the piano
and screams from the trampoline
and squawks from the bird
and text alerts and microwave dings
and arguments and belly laughs
coming together in a one-time-only performance:
today's symphony. 

This gift.

Tell me, what do your days look like?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Simply Tuesday

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving WorldSimply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An invitation to those exhausted from the hustle, to sit on the benches of life, and let your soul breathe. Emily P. Freeman has crafted another soul-refreshing book.

A favorite quote, one that I would like to take into my life, and live it out:

"Unless you become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. This day belongs to the Lord. And he has set out craft paper and Play-Doh. This is the day the Lord has made for me to rejoice and be glad in. This is not the day that Emily has made to toil and strive and earn.” 134

View all my reviews

Friday, January 1, 2016

creating a workspace

A new year, a new workspace for me. So far, my office has been the room I use for the piles of whatnot that I don't feel like putting away. It's time for that to change. 

I wanted some words on my wall, and a big space for me to add more inspiration as the year goes on. I thought I'd spend some Christmas money on a big bulletin board- turns out those things are crazy expensive!

So I did a little googling, and found inspiration for this. 
It's a foam board, covered in fabric. It cost me less than $30 and took about ten minutes to put together. I'm pretty happy about it, actually.

And, the first quotes..

If you want to make your own, check out these sites:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas memory

Embracing the chaos(or at least, trying to.)

Christmas morning 2012

He sat behind his pile of presents, wrapping paper stuck to one foot. 
There were no more gifts to open.  He smiled as he chewed a chocolate santa.

The little boy sighed and said, “I guess a lot of people really just love us.”

Yes, son, yes.

That is what I want you to learn and to know deep down in your little souls, that you are loved.
That is why we do the extra things at Christmas. 

That’s why I made the monkey bread late last night so we could have it for breakfast this morning.   
That’s why our family travels to see us, or we travel to see them.

We pour on the candy, the hot cocoa, the soft robes and the toy helicopters.
We light the incense, and we overflow with song.
We dress up for church, we perform and we smile and we hug.
We bake and we shop and we create.

We do it so you will know
You are loved, dear children.

May each moment, each gift, serve only to underline and emphasize that joyful, gospel Word of God for you.

A Savior has been born for you.
 You are loved.

Monday, December 21, 2015

To our White Creek family, at Christmas

To our dear brothers and sisters in Christ, at White Creek, from whom we are separated for the work of the Lord, for this little while.  Grace, mercy and peace be unto you, in the name of Jesus.

Here we are in the big city, where life is so very different, but our God is the same. We live on a six-lane road, and we hear sirens all the time. We miss our quiet little home in Indiana. Marcus even insists that the country smells better: he much prefers the scent of a dairy farm to the mixed aromas of fast food and exhaust fumes. Yet, we are learning that there are a million ways to live faithfully as a Christian, a million different ways God’s grace can pour out of His church.  There is a new kind of beauty to this life, and yet because Jesus is in the midst of it, it is also a familiar beauty.

The children are doing well.  We have often thanked God for their White Creek teachers and the way they poured themselves out to teach and love our children for the years we were there.  Their works were not in vain, and we rejoice to see the fruits of their labor in them as they adjust to their new school.

Pastor is energized by the new challenges here, and simultaneously overwhelmed to his knees, which is a good place for a pastor to be.

I (Emily) am slowly finding my niche. With all six children in school, five days a week, and no sweet Vandercars to babysit, I experienced a season of quiet grief.  God is gently giving me rest, along with new work for a new season. I am working part-time at the church’s preschool and I love it. I am beginning a new group for moms, and hope to foster the kind of support and community among mothers as I experienced in White Creek.

When you pray for us, please pray that God would keep our hearts open to new people and our hands eager to do the new jobs that He sends. Pray that He would give the children good friends, and keep them safe in His care.  Pray also that pastor may be upheld for his enormous task here, and that he would be a faithful and competent steward of God’s Word in this place.

We ache for you often, dear church family. We thank God for our time in your care, and the love that you showed us and our children. We pray for God’s care for each one of you, and for your beautiful church and school.  You are so blessed in that place, and we pray God will continue to provide you with faithful teachers, and also a new pastor, that you may continue to work together in the Lord, faithful to His Word, and loving one another as we have seen you do so well.

God's richest blessings to you this Christmas and always,
With much love,
The Cook family

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-11)

Monday, December 14, 2015

singing, in the meantime

A ten month old is playing happily on the floor, and mom gets up to get a cup of coffee. The boy explodes. Terror! Tears! Panic! How could mama just leave him like that?

Separation anxiety. I remember those days.
I remember going to the bathroom, and even while sitting there, I’d be jabbering away to the little guy, just so he could keep hearing my voice, reassuring him I was still nearby.

Separation can be tough.

Sunday, as I sat in the pew, I sang quietly like I always do. I like to listen to others sing, the ones with the gift for it. The words of grace surrounded me, sung by God’s people, and I was blessed. But I did not recognize the voices. And I began to ache.

I miss the voices I know so well. I miss the way Auntie would sing, usually with a child of mine on her lap, always knowing the hymns better than I do. And her voice, every time it was heard in my home, would cause the children to come running to the door, yelling “Aunt Mary Anne!” at the top of their voices.
I miss the voices withe heavy southern accents. I miss the little ones who would come running to me smiling “Em-WY!” and their arms around my neck. I miss the one who would laugh too loudly during sermons or at the babies playing, with the squeak in her giggle, with the joy that was fresh air to all of us. I miss the voices that cheered with me at games, when we all knew the words, where our daughters had been together for years. I miss having a houseful of children I’ve known since their birth, most of them Baptized by my husband, who I’ve watched learn to crawl and walk and praise and read and fold their hands in prayer.
I miss the smell of the cows and the roar of the combines. I miss the walks to the pond, and I miss the little hands I held while we hunted for frogs and gathered “wal-marts.” (walnuts.)
My favorite elderly people from Indiana called me on my birthday. They sang “Happy Birthday” on my voicemail. Oh, how wonderful it was to hear their sweet voices. As I listened to Don’s song and encouragement on my message, I closed my eyes so I could soak up his voice.

There is something about the voice of a loved one; the way it reawakens that part of your heart that has loved them always.

Separation can be tough.

“Eternal life is a gift we have begun to enjoy now,” pastor reminds us. If we were in a video game, we’d have “unlimited lives.” I remember the freedom of unlimited lives, playing my Nintendo. Having unlimited lives freed me to take risks, to be bold, knowing nothing could really hurt me, nothing could cause a true “game over.”

We have unlimited lives. Alive in Christ for all time, we raise our deathless voices in song. We aren’t always singing together these days, and we ache for the missing ones. Our choirs are too small, and the holes loom large. But that is only today, only for a little while longer.

Because of the gift of God in Christ, we can sing even in our separation. Whether we are separated by distance or by death itself, in God, all distances are small. We are like that baby, whose mama has only gone to the other room for a moment. We are like children, missing grandma, but she’s really only taking a little nap. It will not always be this way.

Shout with joy oh deathless voices,
child of God lift up your head!

Deathless voices: those voices I miss, those voices and songs and stories are truly deathless, even now. I will indeed hear those voices again. Our parting seems epic, the separation seems enormous, but from the perspective of eternity we are really just in the ohter room, really just around the corner, waiting for grandma to finish the turkey, and call us to the great banquet where we will sit together and join in those hymns to our God once again and for all eternity.

Life eternal! heav'n rejoices; 
Jesus lives, who once was dead.
Shout with joy, O deathless voices!
Child of God, lift up your head!
Life eternal! O what wonders
crowd on faith; what joy unknown,
when, amidst earth's closing thunders,
saints shall stand before the throne! 

(Sing with all the saints in glory, LSB 671)

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Homesickness is a two-faced phenomenon, a Janus emotion. It looks two ways at once. When you are in the tropics, you long for the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and the sound of carolers in the snow. When you are home, you miss the blood-red flowers of the hibiscus, the smooth-spun rhythms of a steel drum band, and the pungent whiff of boiling fish from a hut on the beach.
We forget that both types of homesickness are an echo of our soul-deep longing for our real and enduring home: We are citizens of Heaven, and nothing short of that, nothing here -- tropical or temperate -- is a suitable or satisfying substitute.
So be patient. We are going home. We shall arrive on time.
--- Dr. Bauman, Hillsdale College professor

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

receive what's in front of you

 “What you have made me see,” answered the (sinless) Lady, 
“is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before.  

Yet it has happened every day.  

One goes to the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one's mind.  Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of.  One joy was expected and another is given.  

But this I had never noticed before-- that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside.  The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you.  And if you wished-- if it were possible to wish-- 
you could keep it there.  

You could send your soul after the good you had expected, 
instead of turning it to the good you had got. 

You could refuse the real good; 

you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.”

Lewis, Perelandra, p68

Web Analytics