May 02 2017

Praying for Nate

This morning, we continue in our prayers for one of our Christian brothers. The son of the pastor who baptized me twenty years ago. A man who married a girl from Santa Cruz, whose family and mine intersected about thirty years ago through our churches under the California sun. A man who has broadly and deeply blessed my home through his writings. Nate Wilson, known as the author N.D. Wilson… which, by the way, he took that signage practically on a dare from his sisters when he was a teenager, and because his favorite authors also went by initials (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton…).

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Nate’s nonfiction books Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl and Death By Living have made a huge impact on me. If you have not read them, you seriously need to pick up copies! Of course, my children would tell you that you have to read Leepike Ridge and 100 Cupboards and Boys of Blur and Ashtown Burials and Outlaws of Time. My boys were thrilled to be able to hear Mr. Wilson talk at a conference last month, and then the next week to attend a lecture he gave at a local Classical Christian school. Each boy even got their own copy of Outlaws of Time autographed by Mr. Wilson, and then they both spent the rest of the day devouring their books and becoming fast friends with Sam Miracle.

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But now their beloved author (right up there with Shel Silverstein and J.K. Rowling for Asher & Gabriel respectively) is undergoing brain surgery to remove a tumor… in fact, at this very moment he is under the knife in Los Angeles… we have been praying daily for him over the last couple of weeks. The boys wanted to send handmade cards and a banner they made, so we were able to share tangible reminders for Nate, Heather, & their 5 kids that they are brought to the Lord by many people during this trial.

I was able to listen to this podcast for a beautiful testimony from Nate himself (along with his sisters) about “Steve” the tumor and how this new trial has impacted their family life, their faith, and challenged the Wilsons to live truthfully & without hypocrisy. I think my favorite line was something to the effect of, if we will accept chocolate chip cookies from God’s hand, I need to also be willing to accept things like brain tumors.
And this morning the kids and I watched this video where Nate spoke about Steve (the tumor!), the gnarly scar he will bear around the left side of his head, and his gratitude for the trial & for the particular type of tumor it is. I wish I could tell you how it blessed my sons to see Mr. Wilson’s demeanor. Asher was touched deeply by Nate’s humor, and Gabriel was encouraged by his blatant bravery.

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The hand of the Lord has done this
in whose hand is the life
of every living thing
& the breath of all mankind

He uncovers deep things
out of darkness

& brings the shadow of death
to Light

~Job 12:9, 10, 22~

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We will continue praying lots today for this Christian brother of ours, for his family, and for the testimony God is giving him in this new way. Won’t you join us today in praying for his surgery? And in coming days for his recovery? Let’s gather around God’s throne and remind him constantly of His image-bearing son N.D. Wilson. Nate writes trials and suffering and challenges into his stories for the characters he creates… and now he is embracing his own trial & suffering & challenge as a character in God’s story. Let’s cheer this man on as he rests in Christ, riding this bull with grip & glory, drinking in Living Water while his branches groan.

If life is a story, how shall we then live?
It isn’t complicated (just hard).

Take up your life and follow Him.

Face trouble.
Pursue it.
Climb it.

Smile at its roar like a tree planted by cool water,
even when your branches groan.

~N.D. Wilson, Death By Living p83~

…and just for fun, I am going to show some financial support to Nate’s family today by padding his paycheck today via Amazon, and getting some books to keep for gifts ~ I encourage others to do the same, if you are able. You won’t be disappointed…

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Apr 22 2017

Walking in the Way

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Come, sweetheart… come for a walk with your mama. It was not long ago that I carried you every time I went walking, but then you grew a bit and began to stretch your legs. Another little one came along then, and I carried him in my arms while holding your hand tightly in my grasp. Keep you from tripping, stumbling, sidling into the ditch or losing your boot in a puddle.

But today my arms are swinging, my palms holding nothing but the breeze. You are walking on your own, but not too far away. The little brother is having his first ride in the stroller. Big sister pushing. Mama’s eyes constantly on you both, giving direction and correction, gently guiding without grasping.

Parts of the path are smoother than others. When you walk along the smooth parts without the dips, the bumps, the stray gravel, things feel more carefree. The burden of the stroller is easier to push. Isn’t it fun to run and laugh and feel that sunshine all around?

Other parts of the path are muddy… watch out, don’t get stuck there… dig your heels in, really use those muscles, push through. If you go helterskelter through the muck, it is going to splash onto you, stick to your boots, cling to the hem of your dress… better to have diligence and self control and constancy as you work through the muddy puddly parts. Keep the little one protected from the muck. If you get too messy, it’s likely that it will slosh onto him too. Get that burden through the puddle and onto the other side.

Yes, I will help you… take it? okay, this time I will… I can see you are weary. I’ve done this before, I know this walk and I recognize the muddy puddle to. Take my hand, I’ve got you. Let me push the stroller for a little while as you catch your breath. It’s good to know you don’t walk alone, isn’t it? I love to feel your hand in mine, see you smile up at me, little image of who I once was, the one urging me on toward who I am becoming. We go together along this path, at the same time, hand in hand, yet in different places. I started along it sooner, I will stop before you do. Until then, let’s keep walking.

Oh yes, sure, you may have the stroller back. I’ll let your hand go again and keep my eyes on you as you continue pushing that burden ahead.
I love to see you delighting in the world around you, my girl. I love watching you take it all in, observe, indulge, taste and discern.

Why do you keep looking backward, glancing behind you with a look of fear? No, there is no car coming on our little path. No, there are no mountain lions here. How do I know?… oh… um… I just do.
Things are getting a bit wobbly now, sweetie, keep going forward and watch where you are walking. I know it’s fun to make zigzags and loopy lines along the way, but you must be careful not to stray. Mommy is not holding your hand… oh sweetheart, can I take the stroller now? Can I hold your hand? Will you stay closer and walk more carefully with me? I worry you may trip… don’t stumble… what if I can’t catch you?

You are running forward while looking behind… you are forgetting to care well over the burden you are pushing… look out! a ditch!
Silly little girl I love, look at the wheels, stuck in the stones, baby nearly toppled over, you slightly scraped your knee.
Do not run from Mommy, do not fear what is behind you, you do not have to fret so.

There we are, let me help you back onto the path. Let me settle the stroller wheels for you in the right direction. Hold firmly to the burden while you are moving forward, and keep your eyes focused mostly on where you are going. There, that’s it. Good job… much better! Doesn’t it feel good to keep set on the right way?

Oh, do you see those puddles up ahead? How will you prepare to meet them? Is there a wise way around them? Is the only way through them, with steady step and a firm grip on the burden you are pushing along? What did you say? Oh, yes of course I can help you push it through this set of puddles. That was a wise way to work through them. You saw the trouble coming and knew to ask for someone with a firmer grip and more experience with the puddles and the path and the burden. Well done. Keep your hands on it and your gaze fixed where you need to go… I will simply add my hands to yours and give you the confidence that you don’t have to do it alone. Together, we have more strength, more solidity, more stalwart tenacity. Companionship does ease the burden. I would rather laugh with you and cry with you than do either one alone.

You did well, my sweet. Look at you, smiling in the sun and making your own breeze with your speed. Yes, your eyes are facing where you should be going, I see the skip in your step, your face to the sun, your hair blowing like a veil. Yes, I see those beautiful little flowers growing there beside the path. You’re right, they are lovely. Would you like to stop for a moment to enjoy this expression of beauty? Shall we pick one to tuck behind your ear, carrying with you a token of delight? You are bringing some mud along the way, it would be a nice counterpart to have a sweet violet also.

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What’s that you say? Why yes, I do see that patch of bumpy gravel. Yes, you may try to push through it on your own. Remember, I am here if you need me. I will encourage you with my words unless and until you need me to give you a boost with my hands. I think you’re prepared for this. Your eyes are focused on what is coming, your hands are gripping the burden. You have traces of both past difficulty and past ease… on your hem, tucked behind your ear… determination in your eyes, fire in your soul.

Don’t forget the little one you are caring for! It’s not just about you anymore. Be watchful and take care over that which has been entrusted to you.
Yes, you came across the bumps without falling to the side nor losing a handle on the burden you carry. You were watchful, careful, alert. Continue steadily on, yes, you are doing fine. I’m watching you, the same path beneath our feet… I am slowing down, you are moving on ahead…

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Oh my sweet little girl, yes… yes, I am proud of you… we made it to the end of our walk for today. You did well. You proved true. You did faithfully.

And tomorrow, let’s walk along the way again, shall we? I’ll stay near to you again. We will face the same walk with possibly different terrain. Perhaps there will be rain, with more mud and deeper puddles and sticky ruts. Perhaps the sun will burn our necks, and the path will be so dusty we can’t help but cough. The violets? Hmm, I don’t know… keep your eyes open for whatever beauty pops up along the way, because often there are different beautiful flowers at different times in different places… simply watch for them, and when you find them, recognize them and delight in them… and yes of course, do remember to carry some of that fresh beauty with you.

We will continue walking together as the days go on. I will enjoy it while we have it. Each other. And the way to walk. Together.
I no longer carry you, but I walk beside you. I’ll still be near.
The day is coming all too soon when you will be making the walk on your own.

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Apr 17 2017

Because

I just put my one year old down for a nap. He went kicking and screaming, quite literally. He did not want to go down for his nap, very clearly. But he also had not wanted to color, had not wanted a snack (without feeding it to the dog), and had not wanted to nurse. Changed, full, and fussy, it was naptime. I kissed him, snuggled him in my arms, and whispered to his teary little face, I’m sorry you aren’t happy. You may not fuss at Mommy. It’s time for night-night, but I love you.

And it struck me, that it really should have been …because I love you.

Just before putting the baby down for his overdue nap, my five year old had read 1 Peter 5:7 to us at the table.
“…casting all your cares on Him because He cares for you.”

Do you notice that the text doesn’t say, “cast your cares on Him, but He cares for you”?

It’s the because that seals the deal, isn’t it?
Because I love Simeon, I was putting him down for his much needed nap (and need I add that he was sound asleep within forty seconds?).
Because God cares for me, I can confidently cast my cares on Him.

Because!!
Not but.
Not in spite of it all.
Rather, due to the foundational truth of agape.

Oh that I would live my life and accept my hardships with open hands, not only knowing intellectually but also embracing organically, in light of the fact that God gives me what He does, and carries my anxieties FOR me when I have cast them onto Him because He cares for me.
I can quickly think so highly of myself sometimes, patting myself on the back for knowing my baby well enough that I know what he needs even when he is kicking tooth & nail against the goads. And then I remember Matthew 7:11. How much more will my Father be good to me!! I am simply an evil-hearted human (saved by the grace of God), and He is the Perfect Creator of all. Talk about giving myself a humility check.

After thinking about these things for a few minutes, I read this, and feel even more convicted and encouraged now.
God is good.
It is good to be humbled, because He does it with a purpose.
It is good to have anxieties so I can give them to Him.
It is good to know that, underneath and above and around it all, it’s because the King of the universe cares for me.

The One who conquered the grave and gained the victory over death cares for me.

 

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Apr 14 2017

Christ Died

While we were yet sinners.
Christ suffered for us.
Died for me.

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He was stricken. Smitted. Afflicted. Forsaken. Dead in a completely gory trauma.

 

And there was darkness.
Despair.
Agony.
Unknowns.
Hell.

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Many Questions

What about that tree–
the one that would be
sawn asunder,
its limbs
lashed to a T
to brace his
bruised body?
Did he plant it?
Give it water?
Did he bless
or curse it
like the fig?
As a sapling
did it foresee
a day when nails
would join
its marrow,
its meat,
to the hands
and feet
of the Lord?

One Answer

They made my sturdy limbs
a party to their mutiny.

Forgive Man, Lord,
and me.

~Nikki Grimes,
“The cross is often referred to as a tree – a poetic reference perhaps,
but a tree did provide the material
from which the cross was made.
According to John’s Gospel,
Jesus was the Lord of Creation.
Among other things, that means the tree on which he hung
owed its life to him.
I was intrigued by the idea of relationship
between Christ and the tree.
The first poem led to the second.”

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Mar 30 2017

This Is Our Newest Must-Read

 

You know those times when you stumble upon a great book that you just read over and over again because it’s that good?
Usually I would say my favorites that fall into that category are things like The One Year Book of HopeTeaching from RestStreams in the Desert, or other things in that type of category. Maybe something like Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie or even the Brambleberry Hedge collection… I don’t know. But I wouldn’t say that I usually fall in love with short, simple picture books from the children’s section at the library. I feel like it is pretty rare that I want to run to the bookstore (or open up Amazon, because, really – I’m an hour from bookstores, and I’ve got four busy little people in tow!) because I have fallen in love with a picture book.

Confessedly, I did buy Papa’s Mechanical Fish for my dad’s birthday not long ago, after having gotten it at the library for my kids… and it was too much right up my dad’s alley NOT to get him a copy. (Whizz-bang-thump-whirrrrr!)

But this one? My newest favorite? I can’t help but share it with all of you. :)

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I love the artwork, I love the simple wording, I love the reality, I love the humor.
I love seeing my own life reflected in something as simple as a picture book.
This is My Home, This is My School by Jonathan Bean is one of our newest favorite books.

It will be arriving on my doorstep when my dear old 2-day shipping comes through.
And just because it’s that perfect, it will also be arriving on the doorstep of some of our dearest friends. (hint, hint!)

If you aren’t a homeschooling family, you might not quite get the apt humor and nuances, but perhaps it would help give you a little glimpse into what the homeschool can be like.
And if you ARE a homeschooling family, I would take a leap and say that this is a total must-have for your home library!!

  

Of course, the boys might take pleasure in calling our dog “the bully” and me “the grumpy cafeteria lady” now… but it’s all in hilarious good fun!

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3 responses so far

Mar 29 2017

Our Daily Reads

We have been doing a lot of reading aloud together lately. A lot. Maybe it’s because I realized that I really can not split myself up to have one-on-one reading time with each kid every day of the week. So they get lumped together a bit. It is also partly because I like the children to take turns reading aloud to one another. And I want them to each have opportunities to listen to books they love, but also listen to books they don’t love or are not initially drawn to.

Of course I recently poured my soul out to you about our Family Loves here, and books was one of our top three. If my description of my recent purchases and library runs didn’t convince you, allow me to show you through some quick snapshots (sorry for the photo-editing flubs… I’m new at this…) what our current reads are. And yes, I’m pretty serious that we go through a stack as tall as my daughter almost every day. Our daily reads are quite broad, you could say. And we love it

So let me just share with you some of the books we have been reading (and most, we’ve been loving) lately.
The boys want me to point out, however, that this is not a complete list because they didn’t want me to bring down the books currently at their bedsides. I know one of those is The Action Bible because Gabriel has read through that multiple times, and just keeps repeating it! And there are usually a couple Calvin & Hobbes and some Magic Treehouse books stashed by Asher’s pillow.

Those are the books that we tend to read in the morning (just Mommy & the kids), and then a couple of them are what Daddy read aloud to the whole family… the slew of N.D. Wilson and C.S. Lewis, for instance.

This is the stack of seasonal books we picked up at the library recently, which the kids and I have been loving. Books about gardens, spring, animals, Easter, nature, bugs, dirt…
All totally lovable things, and perfect for these sometimes-rainy, sometimes-sunny school days!

And do you want to see some of the things we have yet to read as a family?
Some of these we will do as a family of six at the dinner table in the evening (because the adults always finish our plates first, so Mommy washes the dishes & Daddy reads aloud while the kids keep munching and listen intently).

It looks like kind of a daunting stack, especially when I consider the ones that belong to the county library, because those actually have official due dates… whereas at least the ones from our own little family library here at home don’t have to be completed & returned to the shelf at any specific date!

And honestly, you know, life wouldn’t feel quite rounded out if I didn’t have my own little stash of personal reading on my bedside table for nights and mornings…
I’ve been asked if I would consider reviewing a couple of these, so we’ll see if I end up following through on that or not. :)

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What are your current reads?
What are you reading with the children in your life?
What do you like to fall asleep reading at night?
What do you read when you need a laugh, or encouragement, or a quiet moment?
What books would you choose to write a review on, if someone gave you that open opportunity?

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Mar 26 2017

Family Loves

I said a few days ago that in my journey of teaching people, one of the main things I am doing is teaching my children what to love and how to love. Over the last few days I have thought numerous times about my children someday no longer being children. It’s happening right before my eyes. Every day, I’m one day closer to my empty nest, to their wings carrying them off, to my grandbaby birds peeping around. There are times I can get so downright caught up in the daily living of life and training of my little people that I can honestly lose sight of the bigger picture.

When I am up to my elbows in crockpot meals, dirty dishes, laundry to fold, books to read, worksheets to check, diapers to change, bills to pay, phone calls to return, appointments to keep, seasons & holidays to embrace… I can forget the big rocks in the jar. How in the world it can be so easy to overlook those… it’s beyond me… but I get so buried in all the little pebbles that I no longer see the cornerstones.

So it’s helpful to ask myself occasionally, when my children fly the coop, what are those cornerstones I want them to see when they look back over their shoulders toward childhood? What solid rocks do I want them to carry on their own journeys forward?

I suppose the biggest answer is a pretty obvious one. I want my children to have their Triune God as the absolute overriding pillar of their childhood. I want joy to be the feeling they recall. I want their memories plastered with family and the family loves.

So since y’all know I come from a Christian background and am seeking to do my utmost for the Kingdom in the raising of these little saints for Him, I’m going to just skip over the first two points, assuming that you would nod in agreement with me and think, well duh.

But when it comes to the memories plastered with family and the loves of our family… I think that is where our own little family cultures start to take their unique beauties and precious forms. No two quite exactly alike.
Some families have football and classical education at the top of their Family Loves list.
Some families have speech club and farm-to-table gardening in first place on their Family Loves list.
Some give precedence to family birthday parties, Sabbath meals, and Winnebago journeys across the country.

I have been evaluating the Family Loves of my home.
What Loves do I emphasize for my children to embrace, so that they know God and feel joy through the Loves?
I feel like I can somewhat confidently narrow it down to three:
Food, Music, & Books.

When I expressed this to someone recently, I was met with a hearty laugh, a hand clapped on my shoulder, and an encouraging word: “well, then I can see you are on the right path. It’s pretty clear that those are the loves in this home.”

Maybe it’s the excitement the kids have three times a day about gathering around our table for food & fellowship. Maybe it’s the almost incessant cycle of making sourdough bread in our home. Maybe it’s the freezer full of muffins, scones, cookies, and bread. Maybe it’s the beef, the balsamic covered salads, the homemade pesto on al denta pasta. Maybe it’s the ice cream every Sunday night with the family movie. Maybe it’s the dinners at Grandmama’s house with all the cousins, and the heaps of food that fill bellies & fatten souls.

Maybe it’s the grand piano and two harps that take a bit of center stage in our family room. Maybe it’s the fact that we start almost every day with singing around the breakfast table. Maybe it’s that the kids have music instruments at their disposal from the time they know how to blow a whistle or shake a tambourine. Maybe it’s the fact that they have a mother with a degree in music. Maybe it’s the fact that their mother believes music should be a foundational pillar in a Christian home. Maybe it’s the fact that these little redheads honestly just can’t stop singing. All day long. They sing about everything. Maybe it’s how they beg me to play piano for them at night after I tuck them in; that is as much a part of our bedtime liturgy as brushing teeth, tucking them in, praying for them, and singing their blessing.

Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t go a week without bringing more books home from somewhere. Maybe it’s because between my husband & me, we have gone to the library every day this week. Maybe because I found an amazing woman on craigslist who literally runs a bookmobile side business out of her minivan, and I brought home 70 books two days ago… and then hit the library sale for another 30 books yesterday… and then decided today that it was time to figure out some of next year’s curriculum for the boys, so of course that involved buying books from Amazon and Veritas. And if you know me very well at all, you know I have an addiction to the 49-cent children’s books on the shelves of Goodwill. Maybe it’s because we don’t have a television in the family room, but we do have a wall of bookshelves, and about five other storage containers for books all in that room (plus more in the schoolroom and every bedroom and Steven’s study). Maybe it’s because we spend about half our waking hours reading books in this house.

But wait.

Are those the causes? or the effects?
Are those the reasons these things are our main Family Loves?
Or are these the outworkings of them being our main Family Loves?
Both, in fact, I should think.

If you were to designate a few main Family Loves in your home, what would they be? And why?
What is it about those specific things that makes you want your children to love them?
And how do you envision creating a culture of loving those things in your home?

One response so far

Mar 20 2017

Dear Curmudgeonly Congregant…

Dear Curmudgeonly Congregant,

I saw you cringe, I saw you glare, I saw your chest heave with a sigh. Each time, it coincided with little noises of little people. If I knew how to properly, appropriately address you with the grace and respect I feel you deserve, I would love to share my perspective with you. Maybe if I write down my thoughts, I can find a way to do that which would increase our peace and fellowship in our congregation, rather than sour it or divide it in any way.

I want you to know that I believe worshiping God corporately on the Lord’s Day is a truly important act of obedience and faith for every Christian. I want you to know that I take it seriously. The joy and the reverence. The duty and the delight.

And in light of the belief that this is one of the most important things I will teach my children and my children’s children, I want you to know what a weighty burden I feel as I bring my children into the presence of the Lord corporately each week. It isn’t easy. I don’t simply have to get myself up, dressed, fed, & out the door. I also have four little people to get up, dress, feed, and buckle into their carseats for our fifty-minute drive to the church. It is a real act of dedication and faith in action just to have this as a top priority for our family’s life. It is rare for me to show up at church feeling well rested and fully charged. I seek to show up with my family joyful, bodies beautifully clad for the special event of worshiping the King, bellies filled, bladders emptied. But I confess, there are some days where simply showing up feels like a morning of hard work.

I only have four children, but I also only have two hands. There are some days where my husband and I are able to each take responsibility for two kids in the pew. In fact, there are some days where my parents are sitting with us, and it essentially works out to a one-to-one adult-to-child ratio. But let me tell you, that does not make my job easy-peasy as the mother who takes responsibility to train my children.
Then there are other days, like yesterday, where my parents were away and my husband & our 8 year old son were serving as acolytes in the service… which left me on my own in the pew with my younger three children (ages 5, 4, and 16 months).
By the time we had gotten through an hour of Sunday School, ninety minutes of worship, and then an hour long church potluck… not to mention the almost-hour-long-drive-each-way… I was well ready for a nap!

But the reason I lay this out to you is because I want you to know that every thread of my being believes that it is worth the sacrifice. As a homeschooling mom, I teach my kids just about everything they need to know. Math, English, handwriting, cooking, money smarts, geography, history, reading, recitation, memorization, habits of homemaking and cleanliness, manners… you name it, I teach it. (At this point! I mean, hey, my 8 year old is not ready for calculus II yet, okay?)

And yet absolutely nothing I teach my kids the other six days of the week is half as important as what I teach them in the pew on Sunday mornings.

I know what you’re thinking: “why can’t you teach them to worship before you get here for the service?”
Well, we do the best we can with that: we train them in worship principles throughout the week. We practice listening reverently when Mommy reads the Scripture every morning. We practice praying, with quiet hands and still bodies so that we can focus on speaking in our spirits with God. We practice singing robustly. We practice confession of sin. We practice reciting the creed and other liturgical parts of the service.
But like in so many other things, we can practice in a separate situation until we’re blue in the face, but it isn’t until actual gametime that it really matters. That is truly when the rubber hits the road.

You won’t have watched me train and prep my kids at home throughout the week.
But you have my word, with God as my witness, that we seek to practice for this good work throughout the week.

You can listen to me pep talk my kids before the worship service begins, in the bathroom after we have made sure that bladders are emptied, hands are freshly washed, whistles are wet and water bottles filled.
You can watch me organize my children in the pew with the best of my wisdom helping not only choose a pew’s location, but also each child’s location in that pew.
You can see my set out my bag of tricks – a diaper bag for myself and the baby, and a “church case” for each of the three older children.
You can watch me hand out liturgy booklets, bulletins, and hymnals… and blankies to the two youngest.
You might even see me pray God’s grace over our pew and take a few deep breaths.

I hope you see me encouraging my kids to participate in the service. I don’t want you to think that my endeavor is to teach my kids how to simply sit down, be quiet, and doodle or dawdle away the worship service.
I tell my kids to speak and sing when I speak and sing.
You can hear their words trailing a beat or so behind the adults.
You might hear my one year old chiming in with a loud amen at all kinds of random points during the service (although he is quite good at paying attention to when he hears others say it, and he follows suit a breath later).
My children don’t always have a good grasp on volume control: so if they know a hymn particularly well, they might belt it out at what nearly seems like a shout if you’re sitting in front of us.
I encourage the baby to make joyful noises during these times too, but I can assure you that in his one year old way, it doesn’t exactly sound recognizable as the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, or the Sanctus.
But the children are doing exactly what I am asking them to do: participate. To the level which they are able, they are participating in the liturgy of our corporate worship service.
And it’s beautiful.

You could very well notice me putting my finger to my lips often during the service. And yes, you might hear me “sssshhhhh” the kids (which, yes, I know is not a silent thing… but sometimes the kid isn’t looking at me with my finger to my lips so I absolutely have to grab their attention so they recognize that they are not being as quiet as they think they are).
You can watch my fingers point to words in hymnals and bulletins to encourage the eyes of my children to follow along, even if two of them can not yet read fluently (or at all).
You can watch me put my hands on little thighs when legs are kicking, or on little hands that are suddenly zooming around like rocketships, or on little knees that are teeter-tottering on the kneeler rather than quietly knelt in confession.
You can see me have my children stand, sit, kneel, turn, raise hands, etc. along with me.
And no, they don’t always do it perfectly or cheerfully. But they are learning. And I’m doing my best.

You can watch me rock back and forth or sway side to side, as I attempt to keep the baby quiet during Scripture readings and prayers.
You will definitely notice me teaching the baby how to quiet the noises his mouth makes.
You may notice sometimes that I give him little flicks to communicate discipline (not in the sense of punishment, but in the sense of training).
And yep, you’re right, there are times where he gets fed up with the little flicks and starts to let out a full-blown howl. When this happens, I sure hope you notice that I do my best to leave my pew swiftly.
But sometimes I need to whisper quick directions to another child (“make sure you stay seated and listen quietly to the sermon”) while I shuffle out of my pew (which is full of little legs, the diaper bag, the kneeler, and other random articles) and make my way out of the nave.

Yes, I know there is a “cry room” on the side of the sanctuary.
Yes, I have used it when I needed a place of privacy for my own sense of modesty.
But it is not sound proof by any means, so I recognize that going in there with a wailing child is not helpful.
So I do have to walk all the way out through the lines of pews to the back of the church and down the hallway. And yes the hallway echoes terribly.
I know this. Trust me, my ears are not numb to these things, but are more accutely tuned in than anyone else’s.
I know your ears are stunned when my children make noise.
I see you turn around with your furrowed brow.
I feel like every pair of eyes in the place is burning a hole into some part of me or my child.

Do you know that I often leave the worship service feeling more tired than when I arrived?
That even if my soul has been fed in some way, that my physical self feels depleted?
Do you know that there are times I’m tempted to wonder if it’s worth it?
Do you know that I can feel jealous of people who think it’s okay to stay in bed and let the kids sleep in rather than go through the hard work and routine of getting to worship put together & on time?
Do you know how self-conscious I feel about bringing my little pew full of redheads into the sanctuary and up to the altar each week?

But what I need to remember (and what I would like to encourage you to think about) is that my children belong in the worship service. I will not hinder them. Of children is the kingdom of heaven. I want faith like theirs.
When my children are here, they contribute to the joyful noise. (And when it isn’t joyful noise, I seek to take their fussing out of the worship service when it gets out of control.)
I love being in a congregation where all ages and stages are present and relevant.
But just like I am so thankful to have grey, white, and balding heads in the pews around us, I also recognize that the little saints filling my pew help to round out the body of Christ present in this worship service.
They are part of His body, too, and they are a visual reminder that Christ came for all peoples.

The corporate worship service is not about individualistic study, contemplation, or introspection. It is about coming together as one body made up of many parts, sharing together as a community in the Word and Sacrament.
When my children are here, it reminds all of us that Jesus loves the children. That we should have faith like the children. That Christianity isn’t just for the adult version of faith.

My children are learning that worship is important. That it is beautiful. That it is a priority. That it is a worthy sacrifice. That it is the high point, the pinnacle, and the start of every week.

My children might make noise with their pencils and papers. Or perhaps you’ll hear a slurp from a water bottle, regardless of our best intentions. Or the baby might make bodily noises that really will eventually be trained out of him. But my prayer is that their loud singing, their bold amens, their enthusiastically raised hands in the Doxology, their energetic passing of the peace to as many pews full of folks as possible, and their skipping up the aisle to receive communion at the altar would be a blessing to you. I pray that you would have the grace to cover their shortcomings… and grace to cover mine. I pray that your heart would look ahead in faith and thankfulness, because if children are filling the pews now, we hope it means that the pews won’t be empty in another ten or twenty years. I pray that you would send me looks of smiling encouragement and joy rather than glares that feel like judgment.

I ask that you pray for my family during the week, as we seek to walk in faithfulness all seven days of the week.
I ask that you pray for my family on Sunday mornings, as we seek to come to worship as a family and as part of this community of our congregation so that our children know that Jesus loves them just as much as He loves the adults (who aren’t perfect either!).
I ask that you pray for me during worship as I direct my reading-capable children to follow along, as I encourage my preschooler to participate with an obedient & joyful countenance, as I bounce my baby on my hip… all the while, as I too am seeking to bring my sacrifice of praise to my Heavenly Father.
I ask that you forgive me when I stumble, because I know I will.
I ask that you embrace each member of my family as part of your Christian family – because, while you have not been tasked with training these specific children in the nurture & admonition of the Lord (in which training in worship belongs), you have been tasked with loving these neighbors as yourself.

My children are your brothers and sisters in Christ ~ I ask that your have their spiritual good in mind, that you put their interests above your own, and that you aim (so far as you are able) to be at peace with them & their little frames.
Like you, I seek these same goals.
Like us, they are but dust.

Thank you for bringing your aged glory to our congregation. Thank you for bringing your aching bones, your walkers and canes, your hearing aids, your grey hair and wrinkles. Thank you for showing my children that God will still love them, value them, and not forsake them in their old age.
Please hear my words here with grace and respect, because I feel both toward you.

May each of us, as Christ’s disciples, know that we are not only tolerated in worship, but that we are embraced, needed, loved, vital. Young and old alike.

With sincere love in our Lord Jesus,
the mommy with arms & pew overflowing with blessings

3 responses so far

Mar 19 2017

Little Saints in Worship

There have been more than a few times in my life where I have been truly humbled by someone at church asking me how in the world I do it, getting my kids to “sit still and be quiet” for an entire worship service. I usually respond with it’s definitely God’s grace, and we work hard at it right from birth. They certainly are not born this way!

But then the next thought in my head is usually something along the lines of recalling how I do not instruct them to simply sit still and be quiet for ninety minutes every Sunday morning. Nope, not at all. That is not what I am training them to do. And if there are certain moments where I fall into that ditch (and there are), I ask that God would open my eyes and remind me of who I am, who my children are, and what we are doing!

And what are we doing? In what am I instructing them?
We are worshiping. I am instructing them in worship.
I am teaching & training them to worship their King.

My children have just as much standing before the Lord as I do. Christ died for all of us. I have no more right to be worshipping and receiving communion than they do. My own quiet reflection, focused singing, note-taking, etc. should not take precedence over that of my child.

But how do the children learn to worship?
Just like I teach my children to self-soothe, to drink from a cup, to fold their hands for prayers, to hold a pencil, to sound out words, to recite catechisms, to ride a bike, to memorize verses put to song… I also teach them to worship.

Both through direction and example, my husband and I (but as the mama, I tend to do 80% or more of it) teach our children from their earliest days to participate in worship. They make noise when we make noise (singing, responsive reading, prayer responses, the creed, etc), they are quiet when we are quiet (prayer, Scriptures being read, sermon), they stand and kneel and sit and pass the peace when we do.
Little by little, they grow up worshiping.
The worship service is not something that is for the adults.
It is for God’s people.
All of His people.
For His glory.

Does that mean my children worship perfectly?
Nope! And neither do I.

But what it does mean is that they belong in the worship service.
They, as part of Christ’s body, are called to worship Him.
They need to enter His gates with thanksgiving, making joyful noise!
They learn reverence by participating in it.
They learn from the get-go that man does not live by bread alone.
They know that the bread & wine they receive at communion is a mystery but that it’s vital.
They know that they belong to Christ, and that He is theirs.

But what we all must remember (the children, the parents, the clergy, and the other parishioners as well) is that worship, like all other aspects of our life, is something that must be learned, practiced, implemented, worked on.
Worship is not so much about the ones worshiping, but rather it is about the One who is worshiped.

Since this involves training, that implies that it isn’t something that you wake up knowing how to do one day.
Like training for a marathon. It is hard work for the long haul, with a big end goal in mind.
My child doesn’t reach three years old and suddenly have the ability to participate seamlessly.
There are times when I too have a hard time not fidgeting, not making noises, keeping up with the liturgy.
I need to remind myself, too, to go potty before the service and get a drink too.
I don’t have it down pat, and I’ve been at this for over thirty years already!
It’s simply my job to bring my children along on the journey with me.

As a friend of mine said yesterday, “it’s training. Which can be bumpy.”
Yes.
Bumpy.
But these little saints are not to be hindered from coming to Jesus.
He loves them, He lays His blessing on their heads, He longs for their joyful noises.
Jesus taught us that we need to become like little children, to have faith like theirs.

Who are we, that we think we have more clout in the Kingdom (or simply in the church pew) than they?
Oh that God would give me eyes to see and a heart to understand,
so that I can more beautifully reflect Him, show a worshipful heart to my children, exemplify faith in action, and ooze grace through our pew that seeps throughout the nave.

He is the faithful One. These little saints are His.
It’s simply my job to train them by His grace to work out their faith with fear and trembling,
and to worship Him on the Lord’s Day in spirit and in truth.
(And I seriously love Mr & Mrs Piper’s expression on the subject here, and this article too, if you’d like to keep reading…)

4 responses so far

Mar 17 2017

Teaching People…

I have been contemplating a lot about teaching lately… Everyone says that there comes some kind of slump at the end of February… it seems to coincide with spring fever! So I decided to talk to myself, and pray with my Lord, about things quite a bit this week.

I finally got tired of constantly re-requesting Teaching From Rest from the local library, so last week I went ahead & Amazoned it (yep, I used that as a verb – I’m cool like that). It’s much happier to have this sweet, encouraging, accessible book at home on my own desk.
I have recently gotten more addicted to perusing Sarah Mackenzie’s website and instagram. Last year, her ideas about spiral notebooks totally changed the way our homeschool (and life!) works – this year is far and wide smoother and sweeter than previous years. Steven and I credit a lot of that to the simple, wise implementation of our spiral bound notebooks (our children simply refer to The Lists, and yes, in their eyes they are quite capitalization-worthy). Hands-down without a question, we will be doing it this away again next year, in case you were wondering!

I’ve been teaching some fun music classes at our weekly homeschool co op this winter, and am about to jump into teaching some new things in the spring session! I’m pretty excited about it. And I actually enjoyed teaching music theory this winter a lot more than I thought I would. :) My students were great, and the curriculum/notebooks I was able to compile over Christmas break worked really well! I am so thankful for God’s grace in the details.
I do find that I am still a newbie at teaching other peoples’ kids, and some of the more seasoned moms have reminded me recently that when I am sassed or disrespected, it is not only in the best interest of the classroom at the time but also just one more way I am teaching a student, to send the student to their mother for instruction and correction. I am ever so thankful for the more seasoned mamas who have so much grace and generosity with newbies like me!

Yesterday I was also approached on the subject of teaching children about Sunday worship. It was an interesting little conversation, and got me pondering the issue a great deal more. Interestingly, I had just listened to a podcast on the subject last week, so I had already been mulling over some principles and methods before the conversation even came up yesterday.

Sometimes I get caught up in the idea that I am teaching math, teaching English, teaching music… teaching subjects.
But the reality is that I am not teaching things.

I am teaching people.
In fact, I’m teaching my favorite people in the whole world!
While I am teaching brains, shaping cultures, instilling eternal souls with a variety of life,
I’m essentially continuing on my journey of creating people.
Sculpting, molding, shaping, filling.

I show them what to love and how to love.
It’s a big job. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming.
I don’t want to get caught in the trap of stressing over methods, curricula, schools of thought, schedules.
I want to focus on teaching precious people how to love true, good, beautiful things.

This takes time and thought and joy and peace and grace.
It also does happen to take books and pencils and instruments and keyboards and recitation and repetition and trying-again.

And yes, it definitely also takes a sense of humor and a pot of coffee every morning. :)

 

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