Wednesday, November 27, 2013

aching for slowness

It is almost Thanksgiving, almost Advent, almost Christmas, and there is much to do.. yet I ache for slowness, for rest.  

And it seems impossible, because my list-- it is filled to overflowing, filled with good things, important things, works of love to be poured out on those around me. Giving and doing: these things are important, and I cannot cross them off the list simply because I am overwhelmed, because life is moving too fast, because I can't seem to find time to breathe and just be with so much to do.  If only there were a pause button, so that I could freeze moments, stare at them, dwell in them and enjoy them without feeling like I am simply falling more behind.

The list of good things can drive me like a slave if I let it.  It can consume me and break me. And I know from experience that a mama consumed, a mama broken is not able to serve her family with love.

A welcoming home, and a welcoming lap- can I not have both of these things?

Not in my own strength I can't. I only know how to be a goat, to barrel through, and keep my head down and my feet moving. But feet that never stop-- they step on little toes.  And eyes that look only to the next thing to be done-- they miss the beauty of the falling snow, and the gifts of God outpoured day after day after day, from His heavens.


I don't want to stampede through the holidays. I don't want to miss Him.

So here's hoping for some slowness, for some rest. No, more than hoping- here's praying. Join me, won't you?

Father,
The busy season is upon us again, and it is so easy for us to become slaves to the things of this world. Slow down our pace, Lord, even if only for brief moments each day.  Teach us to rest in You, to dwell with you.  Fill our ears with Your Word, open our eyes to Your presence with us.  Jesus, our refuge from sin and death, be also our refuge from busyness and anxiety.  Dwell in our homes, in our families, in our mealtimes, our parties, and our days of travel.  And by Your grace, help us to see you, God with us, and welcome you in faith and love.  Amen





Recommended reading, for those who desire slowness, and rest in Jesus

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
Her poetic writing style invites thoughtfulness, rest, and meditation.
Plus, this book includes an optional Jesse tree activity for the children.

The Infant Priest by Chad L. Bird
A collection of powerful poetry and hymns- with vivid (and sometimes shocking) imagery.
I am reading this one slowly and enjoying it thoroughly.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Sparkle Box

The Sparkle BoxThe Sparkle Box by Jill Hardie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary
A child is excited for Christmas and all the toys he will receive. Weeks before Christmas, the boy notices a special sparkly box. His parents do not tell him what is in it. As Christmas approaches, the family performs various acts of kindness. Finally, on Christmas day, the boy is allowed to open the sparkle box. In it are slips of paper detailing those kind acts, and the mother explains, “these are our gifts to Jesus.”

The central message: God delights in our gifts to others, and counts them as gifts to Him. In other words, “as you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, with certain qualifications. I believe the message is a good one, but must be taught in the context of the full gospel. (We are sinners, saved by grace through Christ, who then learn to give in joyful response to God’s love first received.)

How it could go wrong:
In the book, Jesus is not mentioned until the very end, and then, He is the one receiving the gifts given by the family. If this book is the entire lesson a child receives about Jesus, they will be taught that He is simply someone who expects sacrifice from us, not the One Who made His very life a sacrifice for us.

Further, there is a danger in making lists of good works. If not done carefully, it could lead to self-righteousness, one upmanship, comparing, and all kinds of other problems. Good works ought not to be recorded as if we are trying to keep score.

That said, I do not think either of these errors are intrinsic to the book if it is taught in the proper, Christ-centered context.

Why I like this book:
When the Christmas season comes, I always find myself longing to fight materialism and encourage generosity in my children. And often when I try to do this, I find the children become swept away in the joy of giving, and often, their generosity exceeds my own. I rejoice deeply in this-- this work of God in my children-- and I believe God does as well.

The things I do and teach as a mother help define the word “good” for my children. The sparkle box activity is an excellent opportunity to spell out what is good, what generosity looks like. It encourages the children to see themselves as God’s hands of mercy to the people around them.

My children do not know this, but I have started adding to our own sparkle box. (A cute little box comes with the purchase of this book!) I’ve noted how one child gave sacrificially to a friend in need, and how another simply let his sister have the last piece of garlic bread. I’m watching for acts of kindness both inside and outside this house, and I am getting excited to share these insights with my children.
In this home, the weeks before Christmas will be focused on Jesus: He comes, He seeks, He finds, He dies, He rises, He loves, He protects us. We will bask in His gifts to us and practice receiving His daily help and encouragement in His Word. We will learn and relearn of the new life He has given us, and the ways He helps us overcome sin and love and serve those around us. We will pray that He uses our hands to be a blessing to others, and to glorify Him.

And finally, we will open the sparkle box, and we will rejoice.

In Christ and through Christ, God blesses the works of our hands, our small and imperfect works, and He delights in those works. And (grace upon grace!) He delights in us.

Praise be to Jesus!


View all my reviews

Do you have a favorite Christmas book for children?  
What do you think of the sparkle box idea?

Sunday Rest


Find rest, O my soul, in God alone,
my hope comes from Him
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.


My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge.

Psalm 62:5-8

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fly

Five minute friday: Fly

It's naptime, and I'm trying to fill myself up in a hurry before round two starts, when they wake up. No, make that round 2, 345, 222.  There is always a sense of urgency about this filling-up, and there should be, I think.  This mommy job is not easy.  It wears on me, drains me, exhausts me. It is urgent, essential, necessary to the health of my family and probably the fate of the world, that I take my resting time seriously.

So I grab a book, and a cup of coffee, and my l laptop, and I set my mind to soul-filling, resting, breathing in.

And a fly lands on my leg. Two flies. It's November, why the flies? Can I not sit for five minutes without being pestered?

I want to flail my arms and fight against all that pesters.

And the flies make me feel itchy, and I look up and see that my living room is messy, and I should probably be cleaning the house. The cat looks at me, shedding on my couch, probably knowing how much I hate that.

The universe seems to conspire to interrupt my rest.

But I shoo it away, try to block out the buzzing, and the shedding, and the books on the floor, and the orange peels in the kitchen, and the sticky dining room table.  It can wait, it can all wait.

And I read a Psalm, and God is my shield, against the foe, and even, for a moment, against the constant calls of the urgent little tasks.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

recommended posts

Boring men and the women who live with them
This post made me want to pull my husband close and rejoice in our little life together, one more time.

Glory vs. the Cross
on living realistically.

Finding God in the middle of pain
and the voice of God thunders through my kitchen...

How to give yourself grace
struggling with the hard truth that you are still a sinner?

How to raise a pagan kid in a Christian home
Are you making the Veggie Tales mistake?

A few on a topic that is high-priority in my mind at the moment: Teaching kids about Sex
A parent's guide... (Book coming soon.)
"I want my children to have great sex."  Do you agree?
Don't give plutonium to a preschooler
Focus on the Family: Talking to Kids about Sex
How do I start? And why is this so hard?

And because not even THAT issue can make us totally "mature" and serious in this house...
some fun.

Has Dinovember spread to your home yet?
I LOVE how my boys are now jumping out of bed, excited, running around the house to figure out what the dinosaurs did in the night!




And finally, just some wonderful posts.  I enjoyed looking at each of these with my kids.
God's creation is wonderful.
Cheap Camera, Amazing photos
Twins born but don't seem to notice
50perfectly timed photos
Mirror photos 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My heart song


My friend Amy just made this wonderful sign for me!  

I am so excited to hang these words that have become my heart song in my home!

(Would you like one of these, or another custom sign? Contact Amy at Blue Sky Originals!)

Monday, November 18, 2013

ten minute glimpse inside my brain

Ten minute freewrite, just because.


This running around, is it ever going to stop? And yet I have not found time to run in days.  I am waiting for the bread to rise, and I should probably clean, or sort through that pile of paperwork with school notes, but the papers will just put more things on my list, and I just need to hide from the lists for a moment.


It’s November, and the leaves have fallen. Yet when I think I know what to expect-- snow, quiet, hibernation-- God sends 70 degrees, and tornado warnings. So we hide in the basement for a few hours, and I laugh at the sweet kids who insist that we gather the dog, the cats, and the birds.  We are spared, and I am not surprised, though perhaps I should be.


Bedtime followed soon after that, and one child could not sleep. He was sure the weatherman was wrong, that the storms had not passed, that a tornado would sweep him away in his sleep.  He begged to sleep in the basement. I prayed with him, yet he continued to cry. I assured him of the alert system, told him mom and dad are always on duty, that we would keep watch even while he slept.


We will always keep you safe, or at least, we would if we could, I thought. And I remembered the talk with my daughter about big girl things, about the birds and the bees, and the strange facts of growing up.  I’m not ready for this sort of thing, I thought, to the music of Counting Crows, and I remembered how those very words played in my head when I learned to love and risk with the man who would become my husband.


During the storms yesterday, wind blew through a window in the basement, and as I gathered leaves and tried to fight back the wind, I discovered an old box of keepsakes. My drawing pad from high school, and a few pieces of art from college.  “Mommy!” they exclaimed, “You did these things? Why don’t you draw anymore?” and we got out the pencils and the pastels.  But it was much more difficult than I remembered, to make art, and it requires time I no longer have, not when a family needs to eat dinner. Maybe someday, or maybe not.  But it is fun to remember, and wonderful to watch children, inspired, even if I just feed them.


And in that box was another box of keepsakes, movie tickets, and letters from a young man at war, serving in Kosovo, writing to his college girlfriend. He teased, spoke of marriage, begged for marriage.  He made promises and plans, he prayed, he flirted.  And as I read those words from long ago, I looked at the man in the living room next to me.  It was so wonderful to be pursued like that, I told him. And he smiled, “I am a good hunter, aren’t I?” and though he has yet to bring me home a deer this year, I agreed.  Those giddy college kids now sit in a calm, comfortable love, in a house filled with life and love spilled over.  Promises kept, fulfilled, and lived-in; the work of God, making two sinners strong in love, making them one.


Next morning, the scared boy woke up safe, and when I gave thanks about that, he shrugged, trying to pretend his fears had never happened.  The girl, my first baby, my young woman, woke up with more wide-eyed questions that she whispered to me while I taught her how to pop a pimple. And she calls her younger sister “cute,” though there are only 20 months between them.  That younger sister joins us in the bathroom, runs a quick brush through her hair, and declares, “I wish I had long pointy ears like Peter Pan.” She starts as we laugh, as if she were surprised she said that out loud.  She is cute.


Big ones go off to school, and the littlest one has unexplainable crying fits. We snuggle, and that turns into sleep.  I ignore the lists and forget the meat in the oven.  I will catch up later. After I sort those papers and reply to those emails, and run on the treadmill, and read, and pray, and create, and give thanks.

Or I won’t.  The bread has risen.

Friday, November 15, 2013

and without words...

Off to bed, boys, and quickly. I have plans for naptime.

There are words to read, words to write.  There is coffee to drink in silence. Mama has a soul that needs to be fed, a brain that wants to be exercised.  Can’t you see I’m bored, boys? I’ve done my time with matchbox cars, wooden puzzles, baby stuff.  I need to exercise my grown-up muscles. I need to think big thoughts, say big things… and I need you little people out of my way so I can do that.

But the youngest one cries, and he begs for snuggles, again.

I lay with them both, pretend I will stay.  They’ll fall asleep faster this way. I set a silent alarm for 20 minutes.

And the older boy reaches for my hand.  The younger one sighs, curls up close, and puts his hand on my cheek.  The tear streaks on his face slowly dry.  My feet slowly warm, and my muscles slowly unclench.

In this big bed with these small people, I see something I have missed all day long:

It is not my word that sustains the world.

But it is my arm in this gray sweatshirt that sustains his little world.

I turn off my alarm.
Two hours. No words. And we are refreshed.


Links recommended

Why creative people sometimes make no sense
I relate to many of these things!

Flesh of my Flesh
must read.

Kissing the Bride through the Veil

Why you should get up close and personal.

wedding sermon
theologically rich and lovely!

A husband took these photos...
love and loss- so moving.

The truth about boring men and the women who live with them.
God grand me this rich, boring kind of love.

Unloosed
It doesn’t feel like we are fighting for the future of our country as we drive strollers with one elbow so we can hold one fat defiant hand while sloshing coffee on ourselves with the other.
But His strength is made perfect in our weakness. He loves the obedience of the widows mite – the offering of the littlest thing that is our everything.
Finally, for fun
Public Radio Interviews his Daughters after One Gives the Other Worst Haircut Ever


Sunday, November 10, 2013

“What happens when God makes art? We do. We happen.” (Book Review: A Million Little Ways)

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to LiveA Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


God’s grace is multi-colored, says John Kleinig: He gives Himself always through His Word, but also He relates in specific ways to specific people, as we have been created to receive Him. This book celebrates the beauty of those multiple colors, graces, gifts received by God’s children, and then shared with the world through art.

“I don’t believe there is one great thing I was made to do in this world. I believe there is one great God I was made to glorify. And there will be many ways, even a million little ways, I will declare his glory with my life.”

In her new book, Emily P. Freeman gives a gift you will want to receive: she gives herself. She shares her honest struggles and joys in her life as an artist, as a child of God. “What happens when God makes art? We do. We happen.” We are God’s poem, and like God, we create, each in our own way. She walks with her reader through the fear, the glory-grabbing, the sin, the anxiety we feel as we consider what this means for our lives. She entreats the musicians, the bankers, the mothers of this world, helping us all to see our vocations as God’s creative work in and through us.

The message of this book is one I will carry with me. A summary (my words, not hers):

Know who you are, Christian- a child of God, saved by grace, fully known and loved by Him. Live in His presence, and let your dreams and desires hang out in front of Him. Know that He made you, and He will use you to bless the people around you, where you are. You are His poem; His living art. Sink into Him, let Him fill you, and pour yourself out generously for others.

Recommended for everyone.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 9, 2013

sipping truth

Five minute friday. (on Saturday)

Truth.
Go.

I'm trying to start my days with coffee and truth, and today, for once, I'm actually caught up on the daily assigned reading. I sip my coffee and sit in truth.

"Deliver us from evil," I read and pray, and "stay awake, for you do not know the hour."  I look out  my window and the nearly-bear tree and I know the hour is coming. I welcome it, or at least, that small, faith-filled part of me does.  Deliver us, Lord, into Your hands, Your kingdom.

I sip my rich Saturday coffee again, and suddenly I notice the sounds in this place. Boys downstairs, on bikes, pretending, yelling, and for the moment, not fighting. A girl in the bathroom, singing loudly, off-key.  And that country song that brought me to tears yesterday comes into my head again. "It won't be like this for long."

All of my babies, healthy, and here: truly this is a moment to treasure. I listen to the sounds, and I give thanks for them one by one as they pass me by.

The rush of time does not stop, but it seems to slow as I pause in gratitude, in noticing. And when I slow I notice Him who holds my time and eternity.  God gives God, to me, His presence, Himself, for me.

I sip my coffee, and I rest with Truth.

-----------

This post was written in just five minutes with no editing.
Part of five minute friday, where we write like we used to run-- with abandon.

Friday, November 8, 2013

That was weird

We came home from town today, and this little fella was in my kitchen.




I got him (gently) before the kitty did, and set him free.
The little ones were quite excited about the whole thing, of course.

What an odd interruption.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

reccommended posts


Worth your time...

Let the slaughter begin and On the Flipside
Do older children wear you out, too?

The Measuring Stick Principle
Poetic, Wise words on comparison from Ann



The Hard Work of Rest
How do you find rest during this season of your life?

Replacing Sunday Mornings
From a woman who left the church, and what she found in her searching.

In sickness and In Health
A few words, powerful words, that will inspire you to love and pray.

Marraige isn't for you
The post that went viral... and don't miss this great reply

Celebrate Harvest with your kids with these hilarious videos!
What does the Farmer Say?
The Peterson Farm Brothers



Monday, November 4, 2013

A gust of icy wind (on Depression)


I (re)learned something this week. Maybe if I write it down I will remember it forever.

The energy to clean my kitchen and smile at my children
can vanish in an instant.

The energy to clean my kitchen and smile at my children
is not a given.

The energy to clean my kitchen and smile at my children
is precious when I have it.

The energy to clean my kitchen and smile at my children
is not the reason I am loved.



Fall. My favorite tree is bright red and I can see it out of our kitchen window.
Lovely, deep red predominates, but the second glance reveals orange, yellow, and even green toward the middle.   The blue October sky as a backdrop-- it is a breathtaking sight.

Today I sit in a lawnchair by this tree.
The wind is gentle, but a strong burst comes, and it begins.
The stripping.

Red leaves cascade around me. Lovely, for a moment, but I see what is happening.
The stripping.

I think of this stripping, and how I have felt it in my own heart.

My patience, my energy, my zeal for life-- it is shocking how it can all just vanish. When the cold hands of depression reach up and grab me by the ankles, what else can I do?  I fall on my face, and all of my beautiful leaves fell off into the grass. There in the pit, I am left with nothing but my own filthy rags.

I cannot get up and clean the kitchen. I have no sincere smile for my children.
They are unsettled, and I am unsettled, and bare.  And so very cold.

A leaf lands on my computer. What was glorious and red from a distance now reveals to me its imperfections. Rotting spots. Discoloration.  
The stripping continues.

Unlike the tree, I do not stand still and accept the gusts of wind.  It hurts too much, so I question God’s work, His presence. I do not know whether to repent or fight or cower or quit, so I try to do everything at once, until I collapse, exhausted.

And then, the seasons change, orchestrated by the loving hand of my Father.  
The climate changes, and suddenly, I can feel the sun again.

I did not make the season change again. I cannot call up the sun. But today, it shines, and as it shines God fills in the coldest parts of my heart, sending the truth of His love that I already know down deeper, deeper.

As for me, I am poor and needy
but the Lord takes thought for me
He is my help and my deliverer 
(Psalm 40:17)

He who directs the seasons also directs my ways, even when I do not understand them.
In this, I can rest.

Weak and Loved.


Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Hide us in Your Word, in Christ, that we may weather all seasons. Amen.


If you know exactly what I'm talking about, read all of Psalm 40.
Click here for more of my thoughts on depression

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bless the Lord


Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

(Psalm 103 read the whole psalm here)


For these words of praise to God,
echoing down through the centuries
reverberating in my soul today,
praise the Lord!

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