A new thing

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November blows over us in beautiful death, the swan song of creation before it withers and shrivels in on its own creases and falls one by one to the icy ground. The last harvest before death sucks the final cold breath from the world and the stillness of December settles and hems us in. The colors fade to grey. The crispness of the air goes flat. The birds caw their farewell and exit in silhouettes of arrows pointing to the life and warmth they will find elsewhere. And we are left in silent anticipation. Surely the cornucopia that was bursting mere days ago will be full again. Surely this frozen silence isn’t going to last forever. Where life was so abundant just a few harvest sunsets prior, now desolation, isolation begins to penetrate the walls of our homes, the walls of our hearts even.

It is in that December-  that brink of despair where the rug seems to have been pulled out from under us as we celebrate abundance, surrounded by last breaths that hover in the air, that Christmas chimes in and hastens us to listen to its song.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”. Isaiah 43:19
Oh, the gospel of Christmas. A new thing. New beginnings-wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. As the sun sets on abundance, as hope flickers like a candle-flame threatened by the breath of death, God is doing something new. If the month leading up to Christmas doesn’t resemble a wasteland around here, than the month following Christmas certainly does. The new thing doesn’t stop here. It doesn’t end when we pack away the decorations and the last Christmas cookie is eaten. God is in the business of making things new, turning darkness into light and death into life. He comes to us in our Novembers and Decembers and makes them burst forth with new life. And while I brim over with joy at Christmastime: the idea of the newness of the God-child,the same hands that made the universe in its splendid entirety held by the very human hands He knit together, the Comforter and Sustainer of the world clutching for comfort and sustenance at the breast of a new mother; the joy that has been planted within me starts to germinate and grow after Christmas. In the most desolate time of the calendar year. In the midst of the winter. And yet more beauty: this hope isn’t only for Christmas Day. It isn’t only for December. The hope that came new into the world, the tidings of comfort and joy, are enough for a lifetime. Enough to carry us through any struggle, to nourish and sustain us through any winter. That is the hope of “God with us”, the new work of God. The labor of love and piercing through frozen ground and hearts to bud and bloom.

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Let it be so with me, Lord. In the desolation of my soul, in the ugliness of my bent, in the grief, the sin, the withering of the harvest, the flickering of hope-do something new. Make a way in the wilderness. Bring streams to the wasteland of my being. Just as you brought tender and triumphant life at the first Christmas, bring that same humble and honorable life to me in the midst of my winter. Not only at Christmas, but just as the hope you sent into world grew along with Jesus, may it grow inside of me, with eager anticipation of the new things you have in store for my soul.
Emmanuel. God with us. Hope came down. Noel.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on them. See, I am doing a new thing! Now, it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland…I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Isaiah 43:18-21

a letter to my daughter as she turns 2

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Roycie Adelyn,
Two year olds are the best and worst of human beings, wrapped up into one. They carry no pretense. Wear no disguises. What you see is what you get, complete with pillow cheeks, bouncing curls and a waddle-run that always appears perilously close to a tumble. Two year olds have yet to figure out manners or etiquette or how to be tactful or politically correct. It is refreshing. And it is adorable. And it is aggravating…and exhausting.

I love this age because I get to see you for who you really are, Roycie. I get to see the nooks and crannies of you, before you learn how to tidy them up for company, or throw a slip-cover over the stains and tears. From the day you were born, I became about the task of learning you. Partially because I adore you and I just can’t help myself. And partially because I feel it is my job to learn you, so I can teach you about yourself-the person God made you to be, the rawest essence of you. And mostly I relish it, this unfurling of a brand new person before my very eyes. I find myself a bit like Mary, Jesus’ mother, as she treasures all these things up in her heart. I make note of the way your lips purse when you know you are being slightly naughty, and the way your eyes squint under the weight of you cheeks when you laugh, and the way you twirl your hair and hum the same cadence each time you are drifting off to sleep. I memorize your language so as to decipher it when no one else can. I have learned through trial and error that the best way to comfort you is to hold you with your cheek on my shoulder facing out, one hand pressed resolutely on your head and the other reassuradly patting your bottom. Yes, I love to learn you. And I have made it one of my ventures.

In the last two years of learning you and loving you I have come to realize how wonderful you are, and at the same time just how much you need Jesus. Two year olds have this amazing quality of being able to filter nearly nothing. So lately I spend much of my time seeing and hearing exactly what comes into that witty and willful little brain of yours. You give me the opportunity hourly (and if I am being honest more like quarter-hourly) to see exactly where your sin-struggles are- the same sin struggles that anyone has. As challenging as raising a strong-willed toddler can be, it is also my job made easy…in a way. I don’t have to dig and pry to find your dark areas, so I can try to let some light in. I don’t have to peel back the layers that you have learned to hide your sin under to avoid detection and judgment from your peers. It is all there for me to see. It is tempting to wish for the days (that will come soon enough) when you will learn to mask your emotions, play by the rules and please people. It is tempting to think that then you are “getting it” because you can walk a straight line and keep the temper tantrums at bay. But in reality now is perhaps my best chance to see where you need Jesus. Now, at just freshly two years old, is a time for me to begin pointing you to Him, because we all can see your need- the same need we all have.

The past few days and weeks have not been so sweet between you and me, my Roycie. You have challenged my authority. We have battled and butt heads. I have been tempted in my weak will to cave in to your strong will. And I have thrown up my hands in frustration and near defeat, thrown my hands up to the heavens and pleaded for wisdom, for strength, for help. I have begged God to let me see these loud and hazy moments as a fleeting opportunity to dazzle you with God’s grace, and harder still: for me to give it. Who would have thought that a little toddler, one with a giggle that could melt Scrooge, could turn a grown woman into such twisted mess? Yes, you have twisted me up, Royce. You twist me up, full of emotions I never felt in this capacity before. From the day you were born you have had my heart in a knot, in a way no one did before you. There is just something about the way God knit you together that is almost too much and yet so perfectly enough. You empty me out, every last drop of me. And you fill me up, to over-flowing, bubbling and brimming over with joy I didn’t know I was missing. You have forever touched and blessed my heart and our home with the bits and pieces of you that invade and inspire us. What a gift you are, Royce Adelyn.


It is my most fervant prayer for you that you will know the depths of God's love and that you will walk in His Truth, captivated by His love, spurred on my His love, defined by His love, held in His love. As I have recently been learning myself in new ways, we love because He first loved us. So, know that He loves you more than I could ever put into words,  more than earthly words could ever say or earthly minds could every comprehend. He loved you to death, my dear. To death. Actually, and as my mommy-mind sees it- more sacrificially, He loves you to His son's death. He sees the dark, hidden places of us even after we have left our toddler years and learned to hide them, and, get this: He loves you enough to love you anyway. He loves you enough to send beams of His light and grace past the "no trepassing sign", past the creeky door of our hears, past the dust and cob webs, past the monsters and skeletons in the closet, to the deepest, darkest crevices of our being. He loves you that deeply, and though the penetrating and tearing down of the old brokeness might not always feel like love, it is my sweet darling. Trust me. But more than that, trust Him. Where all else has failed (you, me, all of us), and where all else will crumble and fade, He loves you enough.

Yesterday found us in that place again, that place of exhaustion. We were in corners nursing our battle wounds and preparing for the inevitable next round of battle. It is so hard for a mommy to remember who the fight is really against. I knew my heart couldn’t take another one. I knew your spirit just might break if we clashed again. It was only 9am as I stood elbow deep in dish suds, with you wrapped around my shins begging for, I didn’t even know what. I don’t think you did either. Already I was bent under a day’s work. The light was just coming in the kitchen window the way it does at that time of day, casting rainbow light across the room. When Hayleigh is home sometimes she dances in it. A smile crept across my face at the thought. I let the dish splash into the pool of soap, wiped my hands and threw in the towel. It was time for the softer side of grace. Together we hauled a dining room chair into the kitchen, so your pudgy hands could reach the mixing bowl. You giggled as we stirred and mashed the bananas. You giggled so much I had to catch you as you nearly tumbled from the chair. As I caught you, I could almost feel God’s hands catching both of us, as we tumbled tangled up in each other in this relationship of battles and giggles.

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For the rest of the day the house smelled of chocolate, bananas and sweet grace. I wanted to dance in the wafts of it, so we did. You and I, we danced to our own music in the wafts of banana muffins and beams of rainbow light. Your cheek was pressed against mine and then made its way to my shoulder. My hand lay atop your messy locks while my other reassuradly patted your diapered bottom. We swayed and we hummed and you twirled my hair in your batter-y fingers. Because sometimes a person needs a swat on the bottom. And sometimes a person needs to bake banana muffins in the morning light and to dance in the softer side of grace.

I love you so, my Bee-bah. I am always here to dance and plod through life with you in the sweetness of grace.



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Who do you say that I am? Advent.

“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

Advent. I didn’t really understand it until recently. As a child I considered it to be a time of counting down until Christmas. As an adult I have often viewed it not as much as a countdown, but a letdown, as I tried to dissuade the tugging guilt and the strain of what appeared to be a dichotomy. “Celebrate Jesus’ birthday. This is about Jesus. Everything else is fluff. Everything else takes away from Jesus.” But yet, I still gave and received presents. I still gave and received joy from time spent with family, from traditions, from generosity, from the magic that surrounds this season. Every Advent I felt so torn, so compartmentalized, so guilt ridden, so anxious about getting it right, so timid in my joy, just so letdown.

During his sermon this past Sunday our pastor talked about Charlie Brown from the Peanuts. In the Christmas Special from 1965, Charlie Brown was distraught at everyone missing the true meaning of Christmas, so distraught in fact that he, himself, missed the real reason for the celebration. Looking back on Advent Seasons of my life I can relate a lot to Charlie Brown. I never quite got it. I mean I knew what Christmas was all about. I just didn’t know how to celebrate it without guilt, without hypocrisy, without doubt. So I divided myself. I let myself enjoy the Christmas the rest of the world celebrates-to a degree. And I went through the motions of celebrating the CHRIST in CHRISTmas. But I don’t think I ever really celebrated. I don’t think I ever really got it more than our of obligation, recitation or fear. I don’t think I was able to ever really let go of the guilt and celebrate all of Christmas in its entirety, with joyful abandon, enraptured by the beauty and truth of the meaning of this holiday. I never let it spill into every compartment of my life.

Last year and this year I determined that Advent would not be a season merely of countdown and letdown. I determined that I would let my heart prepare Him room, that I would allow Jesus-you know, the “reason for the season”, the one who started it all in the first place, redeem this holiday season for me. Turns out Jesus is pretty good at redeeming things. Its kinda His specialty. So often I let my perceptions or feelings determine “reality” for me. If I sense God as being _____ than that is an attribute of His that I celebrate. That isn’t entirely wrong. But I wanted to let the Bible, not my own musings, determine the God I know.

As part of my Bible reading this month I have been considering many of the names of God and what they mean-not just in their original Hebrew, but what they really mean for me, in my life, right now. I figured if I really wanted the meaning of “Immanuel-God with us” to have a true depth of meaning for me than I had better get a more complete picture of the God who was with me. I had heard many of these names of God before since I grew up in church. But it was so life-giving to just read through these names of God aloud and let them wash over me. The more I know of God, the more I am head over heels in love with Him. I just wanted to share a few of the names of God that impacted me the most as I thought about that the God of the Bible, the one true God, the God of all these names chose to come to be Immanuel-God with us. God with me.

Word of God- when I was a child the passage from John that talked about “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” never made sense to me. But now I understand how poetically God wrapped his own words, his own likeness in flesh and bones. He gave His very words-his very essence, ligaments and muscles and a heart beat. A heart that beat just as mine does, that yearns to be loved and chosen just as mine does, that breaks just as mine does, that aches for more than this temporary life just as mine does. A heart that does everything my heart does, besides sin and lie and hate and serve itself. The God the whole Bible points to, and prophesizes about, and praises; those same words off the pages of scripture, that same God who created the universe with a spoken word, that same God who crafted me together with love and tenderness and purpose, that same God who parted the Red Sea, who guided David’s slingshot to defeat Goliath, who turned a dungeon of roaring lions into a den of purring kittens, that same God wrapped His likeness in flesh. Flesh that burns and blemishes and bruises and bleeds. That same God-heart that has beat for always, even before the beginning of time, beat as a human heart for the first time in a tiny, stinky stable in Bethlehem. And that same God-heart broke along with the human one, thirty-some-odd years later on the Hill of Calvary. So when I say Immanuel I don’t just mean a God who is with us in Spirit-though He is that too! I mean a God who literally left his throne to be with us, in our stench, in our filth, in our victories, in our defeat, in all that comes with our humanness. The very words of God morphed into our likeness, wrapped in skin and bones. That is how much God loves me.

Cornerstone-the One on who it all rests, the foundation of my faith. The one who can hold it all. All my doubts, all my pain, all the burdens I can’t carry on my own. I rest my sanity, my joy, my hope, my identity, my very eternity on this Cornerstone. And every bit of who I am, every bit of the life of those who follow Him, every bit of the story of the legacy of faith is upheld by Jesus.

Everlasting Father- As I look at this Christmas and can’t help but wonder what next Christmas will look like…and the one after that, I am so comforted to call God my Everlasting Father. How many more Christmases will I have with my dad? I watch pieces of him slip away. We were not built to last here on this earth. We were made for more. As much as I love my dad, and as much as I have trusted and relied on him over the years, his body will fail him. His mind will fail him. And my dad will leave us, in pieces at first and then, one day, he will be gone. But long after the last piece of my dad slip away and he is made whole again in the presence of our Father, God will be hemming me in behind and before me-my Everlasting Father.

There are so many more. I could write forever. Bread of Life. Friend of Sinners. Anointed One. The Gate. First born among brothers. Deliverer. Rescuer. Redeemer. Wonderful Counselor. Prince of Peace. Comforter. Blessed Hope. Star out of Jacob. Root of David. Horn of Salvation. High Priest. Mediator. Refuge. Rock. Shepherd. Lamb of God. Jehovah. Carpenter. Glory of God. Door. Perfect Sacrifice. Bridegroom. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Son of the Most High. Servant. Shalom. Alpha and Omega. Dayspring. Light of the World. Messiah. Lion of Judah. Vine. Teacher. Physician. Refiner. Passover Lamb. Savior. Way. Truth. Life. Jesus.

What are some of your favorite names of God? What ones are especially meaningful to you at Christmas time, or more specifically at this particular Christmas in light of what your life looks like? I would love to know how God is revealing Himself to you this Advent Season!

School rules, Prodigals and Pharisees

This Fall I have a new appreciation for “secondary” holidays. As soon as the school calendar came in the mail in August I flipped through it and put all the school holidays in my calendar with little smiley faces next to them knowing that it meant that Hayleigh would be home and we would have sporadic days of our old normal. I am so much more grateful for Christopher Columbus, our Veterans, and Martin Luther King now. I know it sounds totally shallow to say I am appreciative of these incredible people merely because it means my daughter gets a day off from school to cuddle and craft with me, but call me shallow then, because it is true. I love having all my kids home with me. I love not having to change out of our pajamas. And I love just devoting a day to devoting myself to them, even if nothing else gets done (besides sleeping in and a late breakfast). So, call me lazy too I guess. Hayleigh is off school today and tomorrow. Lazy, shallow days like this make me feel guilty for ever taking it for-granted all those years when I had my hands on her all day long. It makes me try to make the most of those precious hours and moments I have with her now.

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All that being said, I feel I should also say that school is going really well. Hayleigh loves school. Early on she struggled a bit socially to find her niche, which I am not going to lie was pretty near heart-breaking for me. When she came home many days crying with stories of mean girls that sent me spiraling back and re-living my elementary years drama/trauma, it was all I could do not to swoop in and decide we really were going to move to that cabin in the woods and be hermits. But I stuck with it, and so did she.
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I knew having a child in school would be an adjustment for all of us. We braced ourselves to adjust, because despite reading books and blogs or talking to other parents, you never know exactly how your family will need to flex until you are living it. I have had to be a bit more structured with my time. I have had to become more organized. No more scrambling the morning of. I want Hayleigh to leave for school with a full bucket, not just a full belly. I would hate to have her leave without a feeling of peace and be gone for 7 hours. This has been a tough one for us at times because we had become so accustomed to leisurely mornings since Peter begins work around 9:30-10 am and Hayleigh was in afternoon preschool last year.  I have had to say “no” to more things so I can say “yes” to other things-like being very present and available from 3 o-clock until bedtime. I am not saying this is how it has to be. It is just what works best for our family, and I am thankful every single day that I get to be home with Braxton and Royce all day and there to pick be the one to see Hayleigh’s face light up as we pick her up every afternoon in the school cafeteria. I love being the first one to hear her stories, even if I often have to remind myself this is not an interrogation and the poor girl needs some breathing room.

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The first few weeks Peter and I were ready for a personality shift. We had heard stories of sweet 5 years olds becoming almost unrecognizable for the first month or so until they adjusted to being “on” all day. We were ready to give grace, ready to coach her (and ourselves) through the emotional tornado we had been told about. But it didn’t come, at least not in the way we expected. She held up really well to the physical toll. She was fairly engaged and energetic when she came home. She obviously missed Braxton and Royce and would jump right in to pretend play with them. We would hear stories from school, learn kids names and hear about her “specials”. What I was not ready for is her neediness and how it would manifest in unfamiliar ways. The past month or so has actually been harder than the first month. Hayleigh’s teacher is tough at times. I remember it from when she was my teacher. I have witnessed it first hand this year and heard some stories from Hayleigh. We know her job is not to nurture; it is to teach. And Hayleigh IS learning. It is so cool to see her learning the beginning stages of reading and math! Hayleigh is very much a “words of encouragement” love language girl. Her teacher does not give much positive reinforcement or really any warm, fuzzy feelings what-so-ever. Again, it is not her job to hug, nurture or praise my girl. And this is not how God has made her. We trusted that God would give Hayleigh the exact teacher he wanted her to have in order to mold her into the person He wants her to be. We are confident that the teacher Hayleigh has is that teacher. But many days Hayleigh comes home with her bucket leaking and nearly empty. She is craving all the attention and affection I can give, sometimes even more than I think I have to offer. When she isn’t getting what she craves some new behavior has arisen. Our once rule-following daughter, who is obsessed with the rules/ adult approval at school,  is testing the limits at home when she rarely ever has before.

I am feeling a bit drained from it all, but trying to remember what a wonderful opportunity this presents to remind Hayleigh of the Gospel. She and I are so alike. We are rule-following, people pleasers. Sometimes it is easy to kind of let Hayleigh “slip through the cracks” in my parenting because she is “easy” and “good”. Braxton and Royce are younger and have different personalities that demand more of my energy (and often force me to my knees in prayer). I am reading “Give them Grace” by Elise Fitzpatrick (Mommy friends, read it. Read it. Read it.) She talks about two types of children: Little Prodigals and Little Pharisees. It is easy for me to discipline my prodigals. Okay, not so much easy to discipline, as easy to see the need for discipline. I have ample opportunities to remind them of their need for Jesus’ forgiveness, to encourage them that Jesus has the power to help them do what is right even if their hearts still need Him, and to tell them how wonderful it is that God rescued us from our sins. It really seems like good news to the prodigals. Prodigals know they need help. Us Pharisees though, we are the ones to whom the good news doesn’t always seem as good. We are the ones who often receive praise based on our behavior or performance. We start to think we have got this figured out. Exhaustion and overwhelming guilt and anxiety often follow pretty closely, but when we are clicking along following the rules, getting the nods of approval, pats on the back and stars on our papers, we feel like “we got this.” We thrive on rules. Positive reinforcement is our friend. “Go ahead, tell me how good I am. Did you notice how I not only followed that rule, but I also made a newer rule to follow just so I wouldn’t even come close to breaking that rule??…just so you would think I am awesome?” Ummm….hello modern day Pharisee. Yuck.

School (and all the rules that come with it) and new behavior at home have presented me with fresh ways to share the grace of God with Hayleigh. Rules are never enough to make us “good”. We are good because of Jesus. Hayleigh has been very relieved to hear that while obeying the rules is important it doesn’t make God look at her and see goodness. The reason God sees her as good is because He looks at her and sees His Son. She will often pray “Thank you God for putting the Holy Spirit in my heart so I can never be alone, so I can make good choices and so you see Jesus.” Oh, what a sweet reminder that is for me, a Pharisee. The Prodigals obviously need Him. The Prodigals were Jesus’ friends. Us Pharisees have farther to go, even though we think we are just steps away. I want so desperately to raise children who know they need Jesus, not children who know how to keep all the rules. I want kids who know that their value lies not in what they do, but in what has been done for them-on the cross. I want to raise kids who know God could never love them less or more than He already does. And I want to know that myself.
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Lately I have been having such amazing and beautiful heart changes when it comes to understanding God, His love, His grace. I could go on and on, and maybe I will someday (lucky you!). But for now, I will leave it at this. I wasn’t prepared for this rule following-Prodigal-Pharisee-stuff to be the way God grew us as we entered the school stage. I was expecting for it to be in conflict resolution, peer pressure, curriculum issues, learned behaviors that needed to be unlearned etc. But once again, God has surprised me. Once again God is using Mommyhood to teach me things about myself, and more importantly, about Him.

"Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:12-13
I want my kids to know they need a Doctor, just like I do. I want to introduce them to the Great Physician. I think that is the best possible way I can love them.
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striving to be marginal

Along with his many lines from “Anchorman” (“Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”), and his “hat trick” where he puts a baseball hat on and looks like he is in his 20’s and then takes it off and looks at least 45 (poor bald guy), Peter has another “go-to” that always makes me chuckle. He will say he “strives to be marginal”. I don’t know why, but for some reason jokes about laziness and mediocrity just tickle my funny bone. I mean why not set the bar low, right? Especially when it comes to the things in life that don’t matter much, like marriage, parenting, ministry, personal hygiene. And it is a good thing that those categories are things that aren’t at all important because I feel like I have been blowing it lately in every one of them (and also a few more important categories, like matching socks).

No but really, lately I have been feeling pretty marginal in almost every thing I get my hands on. Instead of everything I touch turning to gold, it seems to just kind of turn to an ugly grey-ish color with a little bit of mildew forming on the corners. (Ugh. That reminds me I need to clean the bathroom.) I feel like all my striving and striving leads me to one place:marginal. Whenever I get like this,  I tend to react in what, for the sake of continuing the sarcasm, we will call “the best possible way”. I wallow. I bemoan, and actually audibly moan, about how awful I am and how everything around me is grey-ish and mildew-y. I have found that this makes things none percent better. So in an attempt to kinda, sorta stop wallowing, but not really get too far out of my mud pit, I look for something to latch on to. Then the twig I have lassoed myself to snaps and I slump back into the pit and wallow some more. It is really pretty and incredibly mature. You should never try it.

Last night I was escaping my family. It was, as my dad often said/says, “so loud I couldn’t hear myself think”. Since I am not quite so far below marginal to completely desert my family, (for more than maybe a couple hours), I just zipped over to Joann’s to buy some crafty things for myself and let my head compartmentalize some things without people singing “Let it go” at about 10,000 decibels above “enjoyable” and for the 10,000th time past “oh, that’s sweet”, or fighting over who was fighting over the sting from the bow and arrow toy, and someone being almost two, and someone losing their poop because there was a bruise on one bit of banana and they really wanted apples slices annnnnyyywwwaaaayyyy. As I was driving and my head was sorting things as they fell  Tetris style, a song came on the radio, just faintly enough for me to hear it over my own thoughts. It was one of my favorites, so I turned it up and temporally turned my brain volume down.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name
Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Savior's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all
When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

I have sung this song countless times. I have whispered it to myself in the noise. I have shouted it with buckled knees as I thought about my trials and my sin and my suffering. But for some reason I have never applied it to being a Mommy, ya know, the thing I spend my days (and nights) doing. I guess maybe because other things although they don’t necessarily seem more important to me, they may seem bigger. Does that make sense? “The darkness” in the song has always seemed to me to be speaking of extreme pain and suffering, or big tests and trials, not something as mundane as the dark moments of  motherhood.  But there are dark moments here. Moments where it all seems to be unraveling and the one who is supposed to be winding it back up into a nice, neat spool that makes sense and has a smiley face sticker smacked on top ,and is wrapped in a Biblical principle, is unraveling just as fast as everything else.  It is when you screw up again, yell at the kids again, model the same sinful behavior you are trying to discipline them for and don’t feel like you have a leg to stand on (or the leg you want to stand on just stepped on another Lego). Yeah, there are dark moments here in Mommy-land. Lately I have really been wallowing in that darkness. And it seems to hide His face a bit in this arena of my life.

Last night as I drove, the line “I dare not trust the sweetest frame” cut to the core of me (Baxter…that’s for you, Peter). What am I trusting in when it comes to my parenting? I try to parent with scripture. I try to shepherd their hearts.  I pray for and over them. I try to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not like I am doing this thing apart from Christ. But in my exhaustion and heaviness I realized that since Jesus says His burden is light, clearly I am not carrying His burden. I am trusting in some other frame. Am I relying more on my parenting books and blogs than on Christ…alone? Am I putting more weight into the heartfelt advice from beautiful friends that Christ…alone? Am I expecting a formula to “save” my kids? Even the “formula” that “no formula will save them”? Is the “sweetest frame” that I am relying on myself? (Now normally I would never call my frame “sweet”, but for the case of this example, and because as you can see clearly from this post both my self-esteem and personal hygiene are lacking, just humor me on that one.)

I had another thought this morning as I was vacuuming the down stairs in an attempt to drown out the noise. Yeah, I was vacuuming so it would seem quiet…or at least so it would be uniform droning. And I would rather deal with the kids waging war against the vacuum cleaner as it “attacked their house” than waging war on each other. Anyway, so I was vacuuming in the quiet. As I fend off arrows and swords and one screaming toddler with more than her fair share of snot, I was mulling over a verse that came up in my “quiet time” (ha!) this morning, a verse that our pastor spoke about a little while back: Philippians 2:12-13.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
The balance here seems so hard for me to grasp. I am the person who wants to be told exactly what to do and I will do it. Tell me how to achieve success. Tell me how to make you happy, God. Give me instructions on how to obey you, a formula even, and I will follow it. I am trying to get away from that tendency as I “grow up” but all to often I find myself falling back there. So, these verses about working out my salvation and God working in me, seem to contradict. Am I supposed to be working my butt off for God or am I supposed to be resting in Him allowing Him to work in me??? Tell me what to doooo!!! Our pastor explained it really well. I am going to butcher it as I try to summarize. What I took away from the explanation he gave was: God works in us to make us want to want what He wants. Then when we want what He wants, we go for it. Makes total sense, right?
Okay, here is a link to the first sermon in the series if my totally clear summary was somehow murky to you.
While I was vacuuming I was still wrestling with making sense of those verses, along with other verses about doing verses abiding etc. Those thoughts, coupled with how mediocre I have been at life lately and a desire to stop being so marginal, left me crying out for answers. Do I do? Or do I wait? Do I press on? Or do I allow God to bring about my fruit? Then where these verses have often left me feeling agitated, now I suddenly saw them as encouraging. It is a comforting thing that it is God works in me. I can’t work in myself. I wallow, remember? I am thankful that He is the frame I should cling to; He is the name I should trust in. He is the anchor that holds, even amidst the strongest, loudest (or the most mundane) storm. He compels me. He equips me. He makes me want to want what He wants. From another passage I have been reading/memorizing “He redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion”. (Psalm 103:4). Sahweet. Because I want that. I need that. Isn’t love and compassion what I was backwardly trying to find in my mud pit anyway?
And since He is all those things I chose to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. No more wallowing in my pit. I have been given a crown. And even if the trembling is from feeble limbs not used to striving and working out their salvation, I will step forward. I will stagger and limp along the path He has for me, until He raises me up to walk or even jog (with a soft “j”…again for you, Peter). I am not sure of the balance quite yet. But God is working on me…and in me. And instead of feeling bogged down and confused by those passages, I will chose to rejoice that it is God who prunes me back, God who tends my fruit. It is God who planted the seeds to begin with. And it is for God’s glory that I have any fruit to offer at all. So, because of Him , I am lifting this “sweet frame” out of the pit and working it out. (Don’t act like you’re not impressed.) And yes, there is fear and trembling. But “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”

Apple picking 2014

I figured since we went apple-picking close to 2 months ago that maaaayyybee it was time to put the pictures on the blog. Apple picking is one of my favorite traditions. I love to look back and see our family grow from year to year. It is amazing how much God has done in and for us over the past year. Traditions are a wonderful reminder of His faithfulness. So, here is a recap of our apple picking adventures over the years
2008-2011: here
2012: here
2013: here

And this year.
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I picked only one apple this year (one more than last year) but somehow we ended up with 62 pounds of apples!

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