Feet to the Mountains, Splash in the Streams

The drafts are piling up again. A months worth of blog posts that I start and either never finish or decide not to publish. One is a meditation on Mother’s Day and Pentecost. Another about Isaiah 58, and rebuilding ancient ruins and restoring broken dreams. Another about how I am done writing  for a while. Another about the need for foster parents. Another about how the words are all spilled and now is the time to “chop wood and carry water”. Another about being “All In”.

The common thread: it’s time to do the thing, regardless of what anyone thinks. Personally, I’m done doing everything else but the thing. I am tired of trying to measure up to anyone else’s convictions. I am tired of hiding, of pretending, of writing voiceless protagonists carried away by circumstances beyond their control. I am tired of measuring my obedience to Christ by a handful of verses in Titus and Timothy without taking into account the mighty women of the Old and New Testament.

Ain’t nobody got time for all that. There’s been no room for slave women  since the crucifixion, and no time for timidity since Pentecost.  The Kingdom must advance.

What is the thing? It looks a little different for everyone, in how it plays out. But it is the work Christ began and commanded and empowered the church to carry out. It is the only thing that matters, the place of joy in God and bringing Him glory. It is walking in step with the Spirit, and in the heart of the Father, for our families, community, nation and world.

We are given one life. Just one. At the end of it, the only opinion that will matter is the one of the GodMan who said “whatsoever you have done for the least of these, my brethren…”  He who pointed out fields white for the harvest and commanded his followers to go out into all the world has promised the power to carry out the task.

Right now, there is a huge need for foster and adoptive families in our community. Beyond that, we must remedy the circumstances bringing families  to that point. There is a need to bring the gospel into the darkness of addiction, the hopelessness of poverty, physical and mental affliction, and to pierce the veil of illiteracy and ignorance.

I remember when He first called me. I know where He brought me from, and it ain’t pretty. The good news of Christ met me in many of the areas I listed above. That alone should compel me to extravagant worship, untiring labor, faithful dominion, and ceaseless praise.  He has proven His sustaining power again and again.

God  has proven Himself mighty on my behalf and I want to be where He is, doing what He does. This is the place of joy, the place of the Shepherd’s leading.

So today, obedience to that call looks like caring for my family and continuing to get the house ready for an adoption home study.  In a couple of weeks it will look like finalizing lesson plans for our church’s literacy program. Next fall, it might include an online class or two, because I’ve pretty much maxed out what I can do with the tools I already have, and some of my  Samaria and End of the Earth dreams require a bit more learning.

What about you? What is your Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria? What mountains has Christ called you to? When is the last time you played in the streams?  What joy unspeakable, full of glory, waits over that next rise? He is joy unspeakable, full of glory,  and He has called us to come and to follow Him!

 

 

On Our 12 Year Anniversary

I asked for ten years. It’s all I was expecting. I’d read about Friedrich’s Ataxia, knew the life expectancy, knew what I was getting into before we ever married.

He knew too. He knew about my medical issues- that we probably wouldn’t ever be able to have children. We weren’t expecting much.

We would live as long as we could in a crumbling farmhouse filled with books.

But God…

It’s been 12 years. He was stronger than I ever imagined.  He’s exceeded the life expectancy for FA by many years and isn’t even in a wheelchair. That diagnoses has changed several times over the years. More recent medical knowledge points to a much milder condition.

We have children. Five now, sometimes more. Four by birth. It was never easy. I had difficult pregnancies and we fostered over those years. We adopted. I recovered from c-sections. Life was never sparse, though, but always brimming at the edges threatening to overwhelm in a flood.

Life, that fleeting thing that we looked to be sparing with us, exploded into abundance.

We’ve plastered, dry walled and run pipes in a frenzy to keep up. The house is looks different, and bursting at the seems with living epistles.

We’re not the same people we were then.

We’ve come to expect so much more.

Tomorrow we’ll go out to eat and dream our dreams for the coming year. They still won’t be big enough.

 

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Numbering Our Days

So, I’m a little worried that my house is going to burn down in 2017. Even if the house burns down, it’s all good. Let me ‘splain

We’ve been focusing on a word each year. My experience with this whole “Word of the Year” thing thus far has involved some testing of my faith.

2016’s word was abundance.

According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia : abundance can mean “to cast together,” “to increase.”  “to be heavy” “to overflow””to plait together,” “to augment,” “to multiply” “strength” “tumult,” “crowd” “to fill to satiety” “fulness”; “excellence”  “a full breast”  “copiousness”

Here’s how that played out this year:

Wealth: We didn’t win the lottery. I didn’t write a bestselling novel. In fact, Shane was out of work for 4 months.  We never went hungry.  Shane being home for a while allowed us to sure up the foundations a bit in our own home (foundations was, ironically, his word of the year). We got  back into a better regular habit with family devotions.  We worked with the kids on good habits and routines. We completed some home projects.

An Augmented  Crowd: My youngest sister came to live with us. For most of the year, we had at least one sojourner, visitor, traveler or extra person living with us. There may have been a tumult and a crowd at a few points, but each person brought with them their own unique gifts and abilities, adding positively to the mix rather than detracting.

Power: Abundance can also have the connotation of dunamis, as in the might of the Holy Spirit. I experienced a miraculous work of the Spirit in my own heart this year.

A Full Breast: I also learned to see that so often I operate from a paradigm of scarcity–feeling like I don’t have the time or emotional resources to extend myself to others–rather than a paradigm of being connected to the Source of unending streams of Living Water. I extended myself a little more this year.

All in all, it was good. Everything from His hand is good. I just don’t understand some of that goodness at the time.

I think 2017’s word is going to be “abide”  as “dwelling in the land” has been something that’s come up a lot in our scripture reading and devotions.

According to Webster, abide means:

1. (v. i.) To stay; to continue in a place; to have one’s abode; to dwell; to sojourn; — with before a person, and commonly with at or in before a place.

2. (v. i.) To wait; to pause; to delay.

3. (v. i.) To remain stable or fixed in some state or condition; to continue; to remain.

4. (v. t.) To wait for; to be prepared for; to await; to watch for; as, I abide my time.

5. (v. t.) To endure; to sustain; to submit to.

6. (v. t.) To bear patiently; to tolerate; to put up with.

7. (v. t.) To stand the consequences of; to answer for; to suffer for.

The words dwell and sojourn also have a connotation of waiting or tarrying. Tarrying as in tarrying in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes or tarrying in prayer. It is waiting in an attitude of quiet submission.

I see the connotations of bearing patiently, of suffering for. I see a usage of abide that involves sheltering in place in a deep cave. I can’t rule any of this out. He doesn’t promise ease in this world, but gives us Himself, riches greater than we can ask for or imagine. At least the word of the year isn’t “faith”*.

 

*Hebrews 11: 35 By faith…Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mommy Works

I just steamed and ironed a check, which makes sense, as it is the afternoon, and by this time in my day all vainglorious dreams of “smooth and easy” have given way to “the scanner ate it, the printer wont work, the web site is down, and I’d forgotten we were supposed to be _______ 45 minutes ago.”

I stumble out of bed every morning, wishing I could remember whatever party I’d been to while I appeared to be sleeping.  I mumble something incoherent to my family and I try to have a quiet time. I’ve been reading Galatians this week. Mostly the first two chapters, as somehow all hell breaks lose by the time I get to chapter 3.

That being said, I’ve had some time to meditate on these 3 points:

  1. Jesus is the One who delivers us from this present evil age. Not my perfect parenting. Not my Pinterest worthy house. Not the fact that I manage to perfectly apply my make-up every morning before preparing my family a nutritious breakfast. (who am I kidding? I went three days this week without brushing my hair). No politician can do it. No model or method can do it. Only the captain of our Salvation can preserve me and my family.
  2. I have been crucified with Christ. It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Sometimes the “interruptions” to my day are the work of Christ. Jesus never had a house to keep up with, but He never failed to reach out to a leper. Jesus never had little children to worry about preparing meals and snacks for, but He broke bread and fed 5000. Jesus didn’t worry about what the other rabbis were doing, He commanded the wind and waves. How often do I miss the miraculous because I am too focused on the mundane? Am I wiping noses, quieting tears and cleaning floors in the knowledge that 1) He loves Me! 2)the same power that rose Christ from the dead is at work in me, in my life, in my circumstances, and in my children?
  3. The just shall live by faith. That’s it. We hold to the Promise, that He will send His Spirit, and do that which we could NEVER, NEVER do in our own strength.

O thank God, that it doesn’t rely on me! I could never save my children. I could never save myself. He freely gives of His Spirit and enables us to walk in step with Him. Sometimes those steps lead to some very strange places indeed! But even strange places are good, for HE is Good. And He loves us. And He is Love. He is Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self Control. He is Good and He does not change. We work, not for righteousness sake, but leaning in to Him and joining Him in what He does.

Mommy friends, He gently leads those who are with young! No more condemnation over not being able to do more than is humanly possible in a day. (And isn’t it crazy how we’ve made up this law that has nothing to do with the law of Moses or with grace or even with loving our neighbor? ). Why do we feel guilty over things that have nothing to do with true Goodness.

I stumble through my day and He meets me.

Lessons and Blessings

I wrote this post over the summer when Shane was off work. I hesitated to publish it then. Fast forward three months: Shane has been back to work for over a month, and our family has now entered a very busy season with my sister moving in and needing rides to work,  Emily taking EMT classes, Shane and I doing foster parent training, and a full homeschool year. I am thankful for the season of rest we had before things picked up again

” Lord, what are you trying to teach us?”

I find myself asking that a lot, especially in the recent twists and turns with Shane’s work situation. Shane was finally hired as a career employee at the post office a little over a year ago. We were overjoyed that he would no longer have to go through a yearly rehiring as a temporary employee, and that he could continue in the job he loved at the Mount Solon Post Office. Due to a need at another office, he was sent to work there, to a job he was unable to perform with his ataxia.  Both he and his immediate supervisor agreed he would be a danger to both himself and others. It took nearly a month for Shane to get the right paperwork, but he  submitted a formal ADA request.  His neurologist was super helpful in filling out stacks of forms from the post office. The Post Office had a month to evaluate his request to return to Mount Solon. Shane was supposed to teleconference with  a postal committee in Richmond last Thursday, but the person who was to conduct the interview had a family emergency. Meanwhile, Shane has been out of work.

We’re OK. We have other sources of income and a healthy savings account. Thanks to Shane’s wise handling of our finances, we were on a fast track to pay off credit card debt and home repairs, and we’ve only had to slow that down a bit.

God has provided. Even for some of the small stuff.

Last year, I received an inheritance from my grandmother. I splurged a subscription to an editing program, determined to finally carry out my dream to write. This year, I panicked when I saw an unexpected charge to our bank account as the subscription renewed. I wrote an abrupt email to the company, insisting they return the money and cancel the renewal. They did so within hours of my Saturday morning email. Not only that, but when I gave my reason for not purchasing another year, they gave me the service for another year at no cost (even though the link to my Paypal account was deactivated, making it impossible for them to auto renew again).

During the time Shane was off, one of our kiddos needed some extensive and rather expensive dental work. Our insurance through Shane’s work only covered a small portion of it. Him being off work was the kick in the rear I needed to apply for medical insurance coverage though the state, and all of the dental work was covered retroactively.

God has used this time of enforced stillness.

With Shane home, our family has been able to respond to the needs of others. Shane and I were able to drive to DC a couple times for visiting family. I was able to stay with a family member who was in the hospital. We’ve been able to provide hospitality and be more involved with the needs around us. I’ve had time to write, and get in a better diet and exercise routine We’ve both had more time to read and pray.

As we prayed for a friend  facing overwhelming demands in the midst of life and foster caring, we began to hear that little voice again, pointing out that even though we say we have no more space, we really do. We had to do a little shuffling and reorganizing, but Shane being off work gave us time to do a little fixing up around the house in preparation.

So what’s up with all the posts?

You’ll notice I’m posting a little more on my blog. You might even get a pop up now and then to subscribe to my mailing list.

Have I finally gone off and done it? Left my family for some mountain retreat in order to devote myself to writing? No.

I decided to get serious about building an audience for my books. I combined my author site with “Underhill Manor”. I figured out how to add the button so that people can subscribe to a newsletter (which you should so totally do as 1) I am only sending a newsletter once a month and 2)  I am sending out links for a ton of free stuff).

In the process, I realized that I had a ton of unpublished posts. Some should never see the light of day. Some I’m dragging from the archives as a testament to the journey we’ve been on as a family over the last couple of years.

Anyway, grab a cuppa tea and sit with me a spell. We can talk about faith, and parenting, stories and folk tales. Join me here, in this little farmhouse under the hill.

Homeschooling week 1

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I slept till 10:00 this morning, took a long shower, and set the children to their chores as I drank my coffee slowly. I used to feel guilty about such indulgence. I don’t anymore. I can safely scroll past all the wonderful things other social media mommies are doing, without even a smidgen of remorse. In fact, besides Saturday morning, I fully intend to schedule shorter times every day (Holy Hours) when my children leave me at rest. Why?

This week  my 5th and 10th grader learned how to write a coherent essay  while 1st and third grader worked on proper letter formation and my preschooler practiced her name. I read history lessons, oversaw Bible reading, and listened to scripture memory. I taught comparing fractions, unions and intersections, the concept of greater than and less than, and how to write the number 12. We worked together selecting classics appropriate to each child reading level and discussed  daily narrations of their chapters read. We conjugated Latin verbs.I assigned spelling lists and science videos, listened to a first grader labor over her reading, checked grammar work.

We played with play dough. We slept under the stars. We explored miles of hiking trails. One day, we ate ice cream for lunch. We got up at four one morning to see a meteor shower.

We made plans for activities outside the home. My oldest is studying to pass the written portion of the drivers test before  starting  8-16 hours of classes a week to train as an EMT. Child 2 is reviewing the notes of the treble and bass clef and old piano music as she prepares to return to lessons at the end of the month. In September, my four youngest  are really excited to be returning to Creative Kids Co-op, where they will take fun classes with other kids their age.

This homeschooling thing is fun. I love to teach. I like being around my kids, and seeing them grow and make new discoveries. I delight in the joy they find in learning new things. It also leaves me pretty spent. I am thankful for slow Saturday mornings. My coffee cup is empty now, so I suppose my tale it done!