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!

 

 

That Incorrigible, Incorruptible Seed

Have you ever come to a dry place in your walk with the Lord? Has it ever seemed that the heavens were brass? I’ve experienced this, with the sick realization that I once loved the Lord much more than I did now and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d known joy, or any other fruit of the Spirit, for that matter.

Before looking at spiritual answers to this dilemma, we should address one common sense remedy.

1) Rest
Oftentimes the spiritual dryness I feel is closely related to physical exhaustion. Our society moves at a frenetic pace, and sometimes I have to step back, reprioritize and simply rest.

There is an amazing practicality in keeping a rule of 8, eight hours to sleep, eight hours to work, eight hours to play (create, workout, spend time with loved ones, practice spiritual disciplines). Also, there is a reason for the command of the Sabbath. I think that, especially as a mother, I need to recognize my human frailty and need to rest.

I think this often also goes for times of sickness, grief, trial or great crisis. Sometimes it is hard for us to experience the Presence of God in our lives simply because, though he is Good and surely at work through it all, our whole being is focused on healing some ill.

Now as for spiritual concerns:

2)Repentance
Our Heavenly Father never changes

He is and always was our Abba, father, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. He has laid out the banqueting table, but we must come. Too often, we stand like poor Olivers begging another tin of porridge when he has laid a lavish feast before us, if we would but come!
Isaiah 55 says

Come, all you who are thirsty,

come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without cost.

2Why spend money on what is not bread,

and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

and you will delight in the richest of fare.

3Give ear and come to me;

listen, that you may live.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you,

my faithful love promised to David.

4See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,

a ruler and commander of the peoples.

5Surely you will summon nations you know not,

and nations you do not know will come running to you,

because of the Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel,

for he has endowed you with splendor.”

6Seek the Lord while he may be found;

call on him while he is near.

7Let the wicked forsake their ways

and the unrighteous their thoughts.

Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,

and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

God is gracious. He pardons, heals, and saves to the uttermost, if we will but lift our eyes to Him.

3. Rebirth
We Need to walk in Communion with the Holy Spirit
Dear Christian, have you received the Holy Spirit? Have you been baptized both with water and with fire? You must be born again! At our baptism, we are given an incorruptible seed, the seal of the Holy Spirit. God comes and dwells with us. This is what is meant by “Jesus living in our hearts”, though that is a misnomer. Jesus is seated in heavenly places at the right hand of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the person of the trinity that dwells with men and women on earth. We can live a life of communion with God, because we have been given the mind of Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit.

It is not enough for us to know or believe the right things about God, we MUST be born from above, through a power that is outside of our own. God must take our hearts of stone and replace them with tender hearts of flesh. If you are unsure if God has done this work in your heart, do not despair. Cry out to God, right now, that He will send His Spirit and do what ONLY He can. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus explains:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Active Abiding

I wrestle with an old question as I prepare to teach a group of kids a Lenten bible study on the fruit of the Spirit. As I rejoice in the  matchless grace of God in Galatians, I also find myself nodding along  with another book I am reading by a Catholic homeschooling mom about establishing godly habits as a training in virtue, to build character and spiritual discipline. How do we abide in Christ and produce fruit?

The first Lenten lesson is a meditation on Galatians, and the object lesson was to go begin something like this:
I have potting soil and seeds and water. I demonstrate that adding water the potting soil produces mud. There are no tomatoes or watermelons or grapes or strawberries, just mud. Dirt follows it’s own nature and only produces dirt, not fruit.

In order to get fruit, there needs to be a seed, a deposit. As Christians, we are given the Holy Spirit. That is God’s deposit into us. Mud cannot produce fruit, fruit seeds produce fruit.

Here is were I get a little caught up. The just shall live by faith. It is God who sends the rain. And yet, faith comes by hearing the word of God. If I cover my ears and refuse to hear, will that little seed bear fruit?

The Psalmist says, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help” The Psalmist cannot help himself, but he does turn his face toward the Son of Righteousness who arises with healing in His wings.

I know that our Heavenly Father loves his children, that He will keep them and save them to the uttermost. I have often struggled in my own Christian walk with trying to add dead works to the glorious freedom that is found in Christ Jesus.

This is the question I ponder today, before I finish my children’s lesson: What place do the spiritual disciplines have in the life of the believer? What does it mean to abide in Christ? Is this abiding an active verb or a state of being?

What do you think?

 

The Interdependent Women

I got up this morning a little after I realized that my husband’s warm body was no longer next to mine. As he got ready for work, I did not put on a burka or a veil, or any other religiously or culturally mandated article of clothing. Instead, I rifled through the clean wash for a shirt and sniff tested yesterday’s jeans. As my oldest daughter started a pot of coffee, I read a New York Times article about Camille Paglia and considered her response to the pink hats worn at the Women’s March.

She loved the idea of the march, but was a bit embarrassed by the hats. I posted a quote from her on my Facebook newsfeed, as it expressed something I have been trying to put words to for a while: “I want dignity and authority for women,” she said. “My code is Amazonism. I want weapons.” My thoughts immediately turned to women like Deborah and Jael. Women who were considered mothers in Israel. Women like Mary, who braved the scorn of society that she might submit to God. This is the feminism that I want for my five daughters.

As we got ready for family devotions, I watched my daughters brush each other’s hair. I observed the beauty of sisterhood and community. I understand the desire that compels women to march today, but I think we’ve missed the mark.

There is oppression in the world and we must, as image bearers of God, stand against it. At the same time, we are people. Men are people. People need people. I need a man as much as a man needs me. Not in sick codependence. Not under a man’s heal, nor he under mine.  Men need mothers and sisters and women need brothers and fathers. We’ve boiled it all down to sex and sexual politics, but I think we may have reduced too much.

In the book of Jeremiah, in the Old Testament, a false prophet came saying it was time the throw off the yoke of the oppressor. Jeremiah rebuked him, telling him that if they threw off the wooden yoke, it would be replaced by one of iron. Israel didn’t listen. They rebelled against imperfect leadership , and ended up crushed by cruel tyrants.

I feel like that in our rush to prove our  independence of men and equality with them, we may have, in some instances, thrown off an easy yoke for an iron one. Let me explain:

My interdependent life is comparatively easier than that of most women in the world. I live in a free country. We live near what would be considered our nation’s poverty line, but we are able to live on my husband’s income. I spend my days caring for my children and my home. I have enough to eat. We have electricity and indoor plumbing, appliances and plenty of modern convenience.  I have time to pursue my own interests. Many women do not have these things, but not many women in this country.

My husband works hard, but his career is subordinate to the needs of our family. (When did careers become an end unto themselves?).  We budget, but we never go without. I have a creative outlet through writing and volunteer work in the community. I benefit, in that though we live a simple life, it is not a harried one. I have time to write, take walks in nature, and think my thoughts.  My family benefits in that I am able to devote my energy to keeping our home running well. My community benefits in that I have time to teach a class or start a literacy program or help a neighborhood child with their homework.

This is a pleasant land. There will always be a yoke, because as human beings we all need each other, and in order for us to labor together effectively, there will always be ties. But this yoke is easy, burden light, and the work most pleasant.

A Week in the Homeschool Life: Mawwage

As my husband left for work ton February 14th , he sent a kid in to make sure I’d seen this handmade card he’d left for me on my desk. There is a lot of story that goes into a Shane-made card on my desk Valentines 2017…


In the beginning, before children and home repairs and the stresses of life, I was perfectly content in the fact that I loved my husband and he loved me. No flowers, cards or presents necessary. I looked down on women who seemed to demand tokens of affection from their husbands. We didn’t need those trappings to trumpet the reality of a lifelong commitment to each other. They paled in comparison.

An average day at that time had both of us working, then coming home to have a meal and spend time together. Our only weekend obligation was church. We wiled away hours curled up reading together or just holding hands

Then we started having children. Life got busy, then it got busier. My husband works 6 days a week. So do I. That commitment we made to each other became a star that continues to draw more people and stories and drama into its orbit.

This week, I’ve given you a glimpse into what we do during a day when Shane is at work. Monday nights the kids have bell choir, and tonight Shane and I go to Bible Study. Yesterday was one of our freer evenings. I didn’t make it home from Music lessons/library run/Lego Club/errands/grocery shopping until 6. We made waffles, but it was 7 before we’d gotten everyone fed and supper cleaned up. Shane read the little girls a book while I worked on some paperwork for our home business. By the time we got everyone to get baths and jammies, it was 8, almost time for Shane to pick up Emily from the rescue squad. We watched half of a TV show and finished it when he got back. I exercised while we had the TV on, so no cuddling on the couch. Then we stocked the fire and collapsed into bed, worn out from a busy day. Three children sprawled out on couches in the living room with us, as we are in the process of putting new floor down in their bedroom.

A few years ago, I think it was probably when we were fostering and were even busier, tokens of affection started to matter to me, like, a lot. Not that I’m a gifts person, but in the face of an overwhelming to do list and an absence of quality time, I felt like I needed…something. Some sort of cracker jack or consolation prize. One Mother’s Day, as I prepared to make lunch and he sat with a self-satisfied smirk that we don’t waste time and money on a made-up commercialized holiday, I had a meltdown.

It didn’t really help. My dear husband and I were both in the same boat, both just trying to make it through another day. When did he actually have time to go get me flowers?

Shane tried (and still does). Being an immensely practical person, he got online and ordered me cookware. It didn’t help, and I felt bad that he’d spent the money. (although I am still using the pots)

Through the years, we are discovering ways to bless our marriage that are more consistent with our lifestyle and budget. One of the biggest things that has helped is me making time for self care, so that I am not expecting my husband to do for me what I am not willing to do for myself. It is hard for me to pull back when my tank starts to run on empty, but it is vital for the wellbeing of our family. An hour several afternoons a week to write goes a long way in helping me stay engaged in reality the rest of the time. This also goes for Shane, we’ve realized that he needs time each day just to sit quietly or read.

Right now, home repairs have a higher place in the budget than date nights, but we do TRY to make time every day to spend time alone together, and do go out every couple of months and take time to just sit and dream.

It’s not perfect. There are still times of tension and frustration, but it is Good…
and I really do love that he thought to make me Valentine

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A week in the life of a homeschool family Day 1

I love Sundays. We really, truly rest. We attend church, take naps, eat convenience food, and do very little housework. With 5 kids, however, this means that the house is just short of a disaster by the time Monday morning rolls around.

We sleep in on Mondays. The rest of the week, every morning the whole (most of them, anyway) crew is dressed to shoes, has eaten breakfast and ready to start Bible by 9. It is now 9:30 and I am waiting for the a few stragglers to finish breakfast. Not Emily though, Emily is rarely ever a straggler. Emily is usually up just after Shane, in order to feed her animals, and has taken on making the morning coffee. Every family should have an Emily.

I slept too late this morning. Shane and I moved our bed downstairs to be close to the woodstove and keep it stocked during the coldest months of winter. It is a fun adventure for the first couple of weeks, but by the middle of February I truly miss the privacy of sleeping in our bedroom and even when we don’t keep the stove going through the night, I don’t sleep as well. This morning I think I was the last person in the house to get up, dreaming frantically of waking, but never quite getting there.

In another minute, I’ll start Bible. Most mornings, we do Bible time before Shane leaves for work and he leads it. Not so on Mondays. We’ll take turns reading a chapter in Romans, sing a Psalm, and then I’ll read the kids a chapter from their history. We’ve made it to around 1820, and I’d like to get through civil rights by the end of the year.

After history, we normally do PE and grammar. This is Monday, so we’ll take an hour or so to restore some order to the house. I’ll send the kids upstairs to start while I begin in the kitchen. When things look a little better, we’ll cycle through spelling, reading, outside nature study (or play), and music, hopefully getting all that in before Shane comes home for lunch. After lunch, we’ll do Math and a science video, and if it is pretty I will send the kids back outside to play. Emily will study to retake her written EMT test. I’ll finish the lunch clean up and have a little devotional time. If we get done early enough, I may even write or get time to exercise before starting supper.

Normally, I would grocery shop on Monday afternoons, but I really don’t need to this week. I can hit the grocery store in Bridgewater for some odds and ends tomorrow when I bring Gracie and Maggie to their respective piano and ukulele lessons. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow our friend Trev will be here to do school with us, and we’ll keep a more structured day. But this is Monday…

and I need to start.

The laundry monster must be vanquished!

Emily works on spelling and her high school reading list

Maggie on the Uke

Gracie hammering out the melody to the “old 100th”

Two little girls pack walkie talkies, colored pencils, and sketch pads as they prepare to join an older sister on a walk through the woods

2017: the Year to Abide, Focus, and Remain

I’m not doing a garden this year. Besides the fact that I have never successfully gotten both vegetables to grow and our livestock not to eat them, I really don’t enjoy gardening. I’m not particularly good at it. Our walnut tree soil is not well suited for it. Every year I’ve wasted money on fences and soil remediation only to give up some time in July. Every year I am flooded with produce from friends and neighbors. I’ve tried to do a garden because I love the IDEA of a garden and felt that it is something that SHOULD be done if one lives in the country.

Instead, I’m investing my time and  garden money into something I really am passionate about: getting children to our church’s summer literacy program. I love books and reading and kids and evangelism. If I only do one thing well this year, I want it to be that thing.

This year I’m letting go of a lot of SHOULDS and GOOD IDEAS for the RIGHT and the GOD IDEAS. I’m spending more time ABIDING, more time seeking His face, more time in prayer. I’m going to write, because the discipline of writing tames my disordered mind. I’m going to get those stinking 10,000 steps a day in because, darn it, my health really does improve when I do.

We’ll continue with the things we are doing for school. We’ll continue to disciple our children, to attempt to walk out the gospel in our dealings with them.  We’ll PERSIST, but it will never be a magazine cover. I’m giving up on the thought of having an uncluttered office, but finding ways to be more consistent in ensuring the rest of the house is clean. We really can’t do everything, but this year, I can hope to do a few things well.

John 15:4-5

Abide in Me and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine and you are the branches, he who abides in ME and I in Him will bear much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.