Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Compel me to look up

The grace alone of Christ's words cases aside every lie that hinders and the striving after the wind that so easily entangles. This grace is the promise that Jesus was broken for you, that He did it all in order to save you. This grace it the promise that the weight of the Me ever seeking to drag your chin back down to look inside yourself for answers cannot overcome the antidote of His words, which are constantly and totally true, doubly so because they are outside of you. This grace calls the devil's bluff for you, in your place, replacing it with a voice of guidance shouting out to you over and over again so that you don't have a chance to look down for long, but are compelled to look back up and there to see hte new man, the man who is outside of you, crucified for you, constantly giving you yet more grace alone. ( Broken by Johnathan Fisk, p. 275)

If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend that you add it to your summer reading list. (What? I'm not crazy. Theology on the beach is a taste of heaven!)

Our bible study group is finishing it up this week, and it has been a challenging and wonderful study.
This might not be your normal genre, but seriously, read it.

Read my full review here.

Father, in your mercy, compel us to look up,
to behold Jesus.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Embrace the mess: The messes return

Did you hear that screaming a few minutes ago? 
That was my organized self, the part of me that likes to be able to see the floor and find the scissors... she just had a visit with the calendar, and she started screaming. Because she knows what is coming... 


Eight weeks of fun, of kids and mama wanting to "seize the day," and every minute of every day, for that matter. Eight weeks of ditching the schedules and the order and the boring jobs for the sake of the sunshine, and for another walk down to the pond to catch a bullfrog.  Eight weeks of travel, and camp, and fair projects.  Eight weeks of crunchier-than-normal floors, and "how many times do I have to tell you to HANG up those TOWELS!"

Summer is coming, and I can feel myself getting twitchy because of the messes. 

And so today, the messes return to the blog.
In truth, the messes never really left. But my appreciation for the messes has.. waned. 

For some reason, when I look at the messes through the lens of a camera, my perspective changes. 

This afternoon, we painted the sidewalk with cornstarch paint. 
Sometimes, creative outlet can refresh me, even if it is on the sidewalk with kids everywhere, and not with my easel on the beach like I might perfer.  I painted an iris. One boy painted "a people!" and another boy painted a bomb.  My sweet daugther painted a heart. 

I moved to a clean area and wrote some joy-filled words. As I went to get the camera, a little boy walked on it and spilled yellow paint everywhere.

Point taken, God.

This is the day, this is the mess, right here, right now. This is the moment God has made. Help me rejoice and be glad in it! Despite the splatters EVERYWHERE, and the sticky remote control, and the chocolate smears on the window!

Here are a few more recent messes...

"Look mama I painted me!"

 The iris, the bomb, the people, the heart, the other bomb, and also, another bomb.

The dog water dish, used to make "stew."

The really good idea, right before we go grocery shopping...
(we didn't.)

"You chalked my what for me?"

Painted turtle

Sucker Bouquet

Shirtless bouquet

A flower he shouldn't have picked,
given with a genuine boy grab.
(made be think of this awesome boy post 10 boy Musts- read it!)

Clean up?
Bring it on, dad.

Mommas, will you join me?
This summer, let's embrace the mess!

By which I mean, not exactly embracing the MESS, but the children IN the mess...
who create the mess,
who are a mess...

So yes, embrace the mess. 
And try not to twitch... at least not in front of them.

“Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived...
Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation... 
Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, 
while messes are the artist's true friend. 

What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children 
was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”  

Any messes in your life?
I'd love to see your pictures!
I'll be doing this again next monday if all goes to plan- so please, email me your pictures or share them on my facebook page!

(Bloggers- I will also have a link-up next week if you prefer!)

Now, tell me,
are you getting twitchy thinking about summer chaos?
What photo above is your favorite?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

living art

We are up before seven on vacation, but nobody is complaining. Daddy and I got them up early- we are the excited children, we are the ones who couldn't wait to get down to the ocean early in the morning. We eat powdered donuts on an old sheet at low tide.

People walk the beach, looking for treasures. Perhaps they are walking slowly through memories.
Meanwhile, little boys eat quickly so they can dig, run, and tease the waves. Daddy and I linger on the old sheet, with coffee and open eyes. The ocean roars, and we sit in comfortable silence. The sea and the sky are blue with a million blues, and I am glad that I brought my watercolors.

But for now, I stay still, marveling at the living artwork made by the hand of God. I watch those precious little boy bodies playing in the surf. They scream when the waves come, and I do not tell them to be quiet. Little legs cannot seem to outrun the ocean; waves grab ankles, and a boy trips, laughing as he spits salt water.

A woman smiles at me through wrinkles, a smile rich with memories and understanding, a smile from a mother to a mother. She keeps walking. She does not tell me to seize the day, to enjoy every moment, and that they grow so quickly. I see her slow steps, her sun-spotted skin, and the slight curve of her back as she walks away. I hear the speech she did not give.

My husband hands me his glasses and runs into the water with the boys. I observe his figure and smile. Yes, I still like watching him play in the water. I remember before kids, when I had to drag him in to play with me; when he was so in love that he let me talk him into swimming in the rain. (Perhaps that old blue bikini was a factor.) Now, my boys drag him, and he flings one over his shoulder.

Fatherhood looks so good on him.

Florida is for romance: romance and babies, and I smile thinking how these things are all tangled together in this life we have been given. The blue bikini has been packed away forever, but I do not grieve. My heart, life, and figure are full. I embrace this season of fullness.*

I towel-dry sandy little boy bodies, and as we pack up, I hand them things to carry. Even the littlest will carry something, and he will insist on doing it by his “OWN self.” Our family is growing up, growing out of things, into other things.

While the boys stop to dig just one more hole, an elderly man tells us about the sea turtles, and low tide, and the best pizza place “just around the corner.” His wife hides in her book, and I wonder if we will be like that someday. I suddenly miss my grandpa.

When my arms no longer carry Mickey Mouse towels and tiny sunglasses, of what will they be full?

Perhaps I'll wear an enormous sun hat, and it will shade my workspace as I write and paint. Perhaps he will have a tan bald head, and he will be reading his 3,000th book on his Kindle. And nobody will be running after seagulls or digging for crabs. And I'll be the only one drinking from my water bottle.

Unless there are grandkids, of course.

“I found a gold doubloon!” my son yells, holding a seashell. “I'm going to use it to buy my very own motorcycle!” He hands me another piece of God's living art, and I almost try to explain how there are things of value that cannot be exchanged for motorcycles... but I just ruffle his hair instead.

“Leave the seashells at the beach, boys.” He drops the “doubloon” and grabs my hand without looking back. I let him drag me through the broken shells, through the sand, and up the stairs towards showers and naps.

I look back at the ocean, but he pulls me on.
He's right, of course.
Carrying today with me will not keep me full tomorrow.

Then, and now, fullness comes from living with hands open before God who gives. To be sure, the sun will still feel good on wrinkled skin, and sand on crooked toes. 

And perhaps, God's living art is even more beautiful through aged eyes.

*(Full disclosure: I deleted a few pictures of myself, but only the ones that were totally exaggerating.)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dear Sin-Sick Soul

Dear sin-sick soul,
soul afraid,
soul staring wide-eyed at sin exposed:

You there, with the knees sore and hands dirty from weeding, weeding, always weeding... are you discouraged, when the weeds keep coming back?

but I'm such a big helper!
Do you fear because of the strong ones, the ones that will not give up their roots? You pluck off the top and cover the rest, you smooth down the surface, but you know what is underneath. The roots, growing stronger, too strong for your hands or even your shovel. You fear the day when it breaks through the surface again, where everyone can see.

Stop it.
Just... stop.
You are not the gardener.
You are in the Gardener's care.
It is God who will finish this thing.

Those weeds that seek your destruction, that sin-sickness that threatens to devour you-- it is too much for you. But it is not too much for Him.

Safe in His grace, let His Word diagnose that ugliness, and fear it, fear it so that it will drive you to Him, to help and healing.

Lay down your tools and your crutches, and see the powerlessness of your own two hands.

Be still.
Wait on the Lord with open hands and infested heart.

Wait- and remember who you are.
Who- by grace- you are.

You are a child of God, weak and loved.
You are covered in the perfect forgiveness of Jesus.
Your sins have been answered for with His own blood,
blood that gets down to the deepest roots, destroying evil and growing new life.
Your sin-sickness, your terminal illness is no match for Him.
Jesus came precisely for this: to seek and save the lost-
to seek and save YOU.

It is God who will finish this thing.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you 
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Phillipians 1:6

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hey big head. (Or, How Does the Gospel Affect my To Do List?)

A little body jumps in bed with me, and my day begins. A hug, a sigh, and a Big Question. "Mommy," he looks into my crusty eyes, "when will I get a big head like your big head?"


I laugh and he forgets to press me for an answer. He forgets because another brother is climbing on him with an urgent tattle about the other brother and the remote control. And somebody has bubble gum and it's not even 7am. And why is the dog barking? I try to process all of this, but all I can think about is the coffee I have not yet had. And the Pop-tarts I did not buy.

We are loved, and God is good, but how does this help me order my day? Jesus died for me, but He doesn't promise to call the insurance company for me. And these kids need to eat.

On my table sits a devotional and a Bible, which I have been neglecting, a Sunday School lesson, a hymnal, a book about having “Talks” with big kids, a Consumer Reports Magazine, a newspaper, and our new favorite story about Elephant and Piggie. Which book do I open first? Where do I even start?

What is this day? Is it a puzzle to solve? Is there a hidden Plan of God that I have to discern under all this clutter? If I figure it out, will the day be a happy one? And will I finally feel caught up, good enough, and accepted?

How does the gospel affect my to do list?

I spill coffee on the Piggie book, and that just figures. Someone cries and I growl, and I turn on another cartoon. I am not good enough, not wise enough, not loving enough. I will never be caught up, never be able to satisfy the debt I owe God and others with my own two hands.

But, I am Jesus' and He is mine. He takes my lack and gives me his fullness. He forgives my sin and makes me clean, accepted, and loved. And it is enough. The most important jobs have been done. By grace, my soul is truly caught up, and it is finished.

What is this day? It is not a puzzle to solve. It is a day to live in God's grace, to receive His gifts with thanksgiving. It is a day to let love overflow to my neighbor, whatever neighbor God sends me, with whatever need. I am free to find my identity in Jesus, not in the works of my hands, therefore I am free to give that which my neighbor truly needs.

I no longer need to be frantic. I no longer need to feel the weight of doing all things perfectly, of seeking God, for it is He Who seeks, and Jesus Who finds. I am found, and I am free.

I am free to set aside the pile of books so that I can measure my big head, and his little head, and we can marvel together at the growth God gives.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

On owning the wishing well and faith

We were in the land of Disney, the land of magic.

As we waited to board It’s a Small World, my son begged for money to throw in the water. “Can I make a wish mama? Please?” Sorry, bud, I don’t carry change. I almost lectured him about the silliness of throwing money away, but I refrained. We were at Disneyworld, after all.

Later that day, the little guy found a dime.

“Look mom! A dime! I can make a wish now!” He danced with glee, as only a five year old boy can.  He held that dime in his sweaty little hands during the bus ride and as we walked into the park.  All through the journey he chattered excitedly.  “I’m going to wish that I can fly! No, that the whole family can fly! Mom, maybe you should wish it for me. Wait, no, I’ll wish it. I’ll wish that I can fly. OH I want to FLY! I want all of us to fly!”

Daddy and I looked at each other, smiling, shrugging, not sure if we should temper his excitement or wait for reality to do that for us.  We waited.

Finally, the moment came. He closed his eyes, wished with all his heart, and threw his dime in the water.


He stared. He stomped. He crossed his arms.

He sulked for the entire ride.

He did not fly.

His heart was crushed, his faith, shattered.

He's a year older now, and wiser. Recently, the subject returned to his mind. "Mama, if you make a wish in a wishing well, will it come true?"  He knew the answer, but he was just checking.

"Only if you wish the right thing," I said, wisely. "Like, you can say, 'I wish I didn't have so much money!'  Then when you throw your penny in, your wish will come true just like that! Amazing!"

He laughed hard at my example, probably imagining one of his brothers doing something so silly.
Then he said, "Mom, I know how it could work. What if YOU owned the wishing well."

His eyes sparkled, as he thought of all the people making silly wishes and throwing money into his well.

What kind of six-year-old thinks this way!?  I stand in awe of his faith.


When he was four, his faith in wishing wells was shattered that fateful day at Disney. But his faith? His hope in making all of his dreams come true with his own two hands?  That "faith" is very much alive. That part of his heart is now trying to find a way to purchase a wishing well.

"Faith" definied: complete trust or confidence in someone or something

We cast things into wishing wells, too, don't we? We scheme and plant and fertilize and pray for rain. We lend so that we can borrow later.  We diet to feel loved.  We say we are "fine" as if "fine" is a magic word that can somehow make itself come true.

And sometimes, we see the futility of these pennies tossed into the well.  We see that our little efforts to control the universe are futile. 

We repent, sort of. We realize we have put our faith in something futile.  We are silly little kids throwing pennies in a  hole. Nobody wants to be that kid.   So, we repent.

And then we go buy our own wishing well.  We search for better ways to take control, to make our own dreams come true. We diet AND exercise. We join groups and make resolutions. We never, ever give up. Why? Because we have faith. 

"Faith" definied: complete trust or confidence in someone or something

We have faith in ourselves.

And this is the heart of the matter, isn't it? This is why we squirm before Jesus, why we so quickly jump to defend our perpetual activity against the Word of God.

We do not like to hear that our works are mere pennies, our resolutions "filthy rags." We do not like to hear that our faith has been misplaced, that we have trusted in that which cannot save.  We do not like to face the reality of pennies poured down a hole, of years wasted.

It is hard to let go of the scheming. 
How is it even possible?
Shouldn't I be the one in control of this thing?
How do I know I can trust the One Who is?

God has not left us to seek Him everywhere.  We do not need to go to the woods or the wells or the ouiji boards.   We simply meet Him where He is found: In His Word and Sacraments.

There, He shows us Himself.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth, whose heart overflows in bloody mercy for those He has made.

This wellspring of grace- it is not something we can own. We cannot add to God, or work Him like a vending machine.  But we can stand in Him, under Him, and allow ourselves to be covered by the living water of mercy and grace in Jesus.

Our God is a God who pours Himself out for us, daily and richly,
that we may be His own.

May He grow our roots down deep in His Word,
and may he open our souls up to the sky, that we may comprehend with all the saints
the height and width and depth and breadth of His great love for us.

Or in other words, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.  Grant me faith, for without you I can do nothing."

Small Catechism Second Article: Redemption

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean?
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
This is most certainly true.

How about you?

Do you "wish in wells?" Or are you more likely to try to own the well?


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