Industrious Insects

AESOP’S FABLE:

One fine day in winter some ants were busy drying their store of corn, which had got rather damp during a long spell of rain. Presently up came a grasshopper and begged them to spare her a few grains. “For,” she said, “I’m simply starving.” The ants stopped work for a moment, though this was against their principles. “May we ask,” said they, “what you were doing with yourself all last summer? Why didn’t you collect a store of food for the winter?” “The fact is,” replied the grasshopper, “I was so busy singing that I hadn’t the time.” “Well, if you spent the summer singing,” replied the ants, “you can’t do better than to spend the winter dancing.” And they chuckled, and went on with their work.

Proverbs 6:6-8
Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.

Proverbs 30:24-25
Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer…

What is a sluggard?

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Sluggishness is slow, slothful laziness..
t is opposite of diligence and hard work.

When the Proverbs say to “go to the ant,” he is telling a lazy man to look at their opposite. Proverbs says that it is wise to observe the ways of the tiny ant. An insect, of all things! Usually when Scripture talks about insects, it is in a less favorable light. Gnats, flies, locusts, bees, hornets, grasshoppers, insects in general—they are usually demonstrating acts of war, judgment, pain, sorrow. Even when spiders are mentioned (as being in kings’ palaces, or as someone’s trust being as flimsy as a spider web), they are not mentioned particularly favorably… even though I think culturally we consider spiders to be creative, clever, resourceful, and good. Maybe I don’t want them in my house, but I definitely want them in my garden… so there’s that to consider!

But what is interesting about ants in Scripture is that they are only mentioned favorably. They are known as being planners, hard workers, strong, wise, not needing to be bossed around but rather seamlessly working together for the good of their community.

Sometimes when I have a child not wanting to do the work that has been put before them, I can cheerfully remind them (with a wink and a grin) to “go to the ant, you sluggard! Be wise!” and they will remember to attack their jobs with a pleasant countenance and strong muscles. I sometimes remind myself of this same thing. Like when I don’t feel like changing the bed sheets, or cooking dinner, or prepping lesson plans. I too need to go to the ant! I need to seek wisdom! I need to turn away from the ways of a sluggard.

POEM:

Nimble little ants
Incredible ants
You flock in groups
You flock as troops

You search everywhere in quest for dine
Without a shiver running down spine
You pick from soil, you pick from roots
You climb tall trees to catch the fruits
You haul bigger things here and there
Even my sugar you do not spare
You work so hard while the sky is dry
To kick hunger out when ugly clouds cry.

Keen little ants
Hardworking ants
You work together to attain a goal
And carry out tasks with body and soul
Believing in each other, you stick and cling
And without a penny, your riches are of the king
You have a colony guarded by soldiers
And a queen you save from dangers
You capture slaves to reinforce workers
In a world of cutters farming to feed others
You farm for soldiers
You farm for workers
Queen needs food
Pupae need food
So many to feed, no time to rest
You work day and night to give your best.

Valiant little ants
Soldier ants
You dig, you crawl
You climb, you haul
You rove underground
You journey on land
While on a quest
You match abreast
With flawless braveness
And premium eagerness
With just a sting
You shoo the jungle’s king
and without a sword
You get enemies floored.

Incredible ants!
Amazing ants!
Learn from ants, so He says,
For they are incredible in a million ways.

–Sesan Falade

So as we go through another day of education together, and another week at home with our families, let us remember to consider the ways of the wee little ant: who works surprisingly hard, who does not give up easily, who doesn’t rely on bossiness but rests in their diligent frame. Turn away from the folly of the grasshopper, and pursue the wisdom of the ant!

Confidence & Joy

There are so many big things echoing around the world right now, but none of it ultimately changes what I do on a day to day basis. Absolutely nothing about my life or routine has to alter because of politics or viruses or broader cultural unrest. I praise the Lord for my “quiet, peaceable life.” I praise Him for the work He has put into my hands, for the calling and position and pursuits He has ordained for me.

As I continue to pursue knowledge, wisdom, grace, and love by the mercy of God and His continual provision and guidance, my endeavors remain unshaken: to raise my five children for the Lord and His kingdom, to educate them in His paideia and according to His law, to love my husband and grow in helpmeeting skills, to be a keeper at home who cultivates things that are healthy and helpful and lovely. My job is all about consistency and faithfulness in truth, goodness, and beauty. We pursue most of that in the daily routines of home and education and faith: worship, fellowship, books, music, food, forgiveness, celebrating, encouraging, praying.

We struggle through sibling squabbles, parental pride, miscommunication, unmet desires, selfishness and self-deprecation. We continue step by step down the path of sanctification, and thanks be to God we are not called that way in isolation. We are called in community to be His people. We fight the good fight of faith, equipped with His armor and wielding His weaponry, not as lone soldiers but alongside one another and surrounded by His cloud of witnesses. Let me repeat: We are not alone!

To confidently stride onward, knowing that He does all things well… to know that His justice shall prevail… to know that not a single cell of creation is out of His control… this is my comfort, my consolation, my confidence. This is my Christ.

And so as we prepare to plod into another week by faith, my days will look very similar to last week… and last month… and last year. I will cook good food, read good books, teach my kids good things, take them good places, encourage them in good works. Why?! Because our Christ is on the Throne. And what we are called to do is nothing more nor less than doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with Him.

Please praise Him with me, in thanks for the snippets of joy He strews along the way!
Crackling fires in the woodstove
Homemade pizza that seemed to multiply: it lasted for three huge meals
Fresh lemonade to make the Sabbath sweet
A new-to-us vehicle that is big enough for my whole family AND a load of groceries
Stories that make my children beg for “just one more chapter!”
Little voices that recite catechism and poetry with skill and adorableness
Friends with whom I engage in mutual prayer
Voxer messages that encourage and exhort me
Fitbit challenges that remind me to keep moving
Neighbors stopping by on a Sunday afternoon
Finishing audiobooks while getting my steps
Board games with big kids
Crafts with little kids
Reading challenges x3
Silicone earplugs
Teaching kids to blow gum bubbles
Husband combing his fingers through my hair at night

Current books:
The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase by Wendy Mass
Radiant by Richard Hannula
Pages of History, Vol 1 by Etter and Detweiler
The Door at the End of the World by Caroline Carlson
Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat
Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

Recently read:
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
Home Front by Kristin Hannah
The Winter King by Christine Cohen
Alice’s Farm by Maryrose Wood
Alexander the Great by Jacob Abbott

Upcoming books:
The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl
Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes du Mez

Introduction to Christian Work

Last week for a Tuesday meditation on the idea of work, we simply read a fable, a poem, and a Scripture. This week, we are jumping into a slightly larger perspective on the place of work in Scripture. The kids I am sharing this with at our co op are ages 5-13, and I try to lean into the Socratic method of asking questions to find forward motion and uncover wisdom through didactic conversation. I don’t speak to this group as a pastor, but as a facilitator. I am a fellow-learning, and we are pursuing spiritual health and wisdom and intellect together in community.

That said, what are some things we can find out about work, in the context of Scripture??

GOD WAS THE FIRST WORKER
Genesis 2:3
“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that He had done.”

GOD PUT HUMANS TO WORK BEFORE THE FALL
Genesis 2:15
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

HARD WORK BRINGS PROFIT
Proverbs 14:23
“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

WE ARE TO WORK FOR THE LORD
Colossians 3:23
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

WE WORK IN ORDER TO SHARE
Ephesians 4:28
“Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”

GOD IS THE ONE WHO MAKES OUR WORK A BLESSING
Psalm 90:17
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.”

So obviously, this shows us that work is mentioned in the Bible right from the very beginning! In fact, the very very VERY beginning! The first verse in Scripture says that “God MADE” something. Making something requires work, doesn’t it? Soon after that we learn that God made HUMANS, specifically made in His image, which means that He made us to be workers. Like Him. For Him. Blessed by Him.

What does it mean to work?

William Bennett’s “Book of Virtues” says that “work is applied effort: it is whatever we put ourselves into, whatever we expend our energy on for the sake of accomplishing something or achieving something.

When I say the word “work,” what do you think of? What images come to mind? What kind of work/jobs/activities come to mind?

Who works? Just grownups?

Do YOU work?

What kind of work do you do?

How do you know if it is good work?

Do you know if work is virtuous?

How can we know that work is good?

A lot of people probably ask you, “what are you going to be when you grow up?” What do they mean by that? They usually mean, “What job are you going to do in order to earn a paycheck?” But what we really ought to be asking is, “what is your work in the world going to be?” “What will be your works?” “What work will you spend your body and soul pursuing until you reach heaven?”

Perhaps you can see by now that work in its fundamental sense is not what we do FOR a living, but what we do WITH our living. And as Christian workers, WHO we are working for, and spending our life on is really the most important nuance.
Work for its own sake might be good. But it is actually a virtue?

We will continue to explore the virtue of work over the next two weeks, but for today let us close with a poem:

TRUE NOBILITY (by Edgar Guest)

Who does his task from day to day
And meets whatever comes his way,
Believing God has willed it so,
Has found real greatness here below.

Who guards his post, no matter where,
Believing God must need him there,
Although but lowly toil it be,
Has risen to nobility.

For great and low there’s but one test:
‘Tis that each man shall do his best.
Who works with all the strength he can
Shall never die in debt to man.

Monday Morning Time, 1.11.21

Copywork:
Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls– yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.
To the Chief Musician with my stringed instruments.

……

Scripture Readings:
Psalm 128
A Song of Ascents.
Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be life a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!

Proverbs 18:1-24
(the following verses are some that my children specifically wanted to comment and meditate on)
(1) A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.
(2) A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.
(7) A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
(9) He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.
(10) The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
(14) The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?
(15) The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
(19) A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.
(24) A man who has friends but himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
2 Samuel 6:1-23
The kids thought it was interesting to revisit the Ark of the Covenant, and to observe the behavior of King David. We discussed behaviors of political rulers, and the overlapping of political & religious realms. We talked about the use of music and feasting in both political & religious events.
……

Hymn of the Month (January)
www.happyhymnody.com
All The Way My Savior Leads Me

Psalm of the Month (January)
instagram.com/sacredpsalmody
Psalm 2

Singing:
Psalm 148 (Book of Psalms for Singing)
Psalm 100 (Old Hundredth)
Psalm 8 (Erb)
Fruits of the Spirit (Erb)
Books of the Bible (Soles)
Kings of Israel (Soles)

……

Poetry:
All the kids:
The Odyssey, lines 1-20, by Homer
Speak, Memory–
Of the cunning hero,
The wanderer, blown off course time and again
After he plundered Troy’s sacred heights.
Speak of all the cities he saw, the minds he grasped,
The suffering deep in his heart at sea
As he struggled to survive and bring his men home
But could not save them, hard as he tried–
The fools– destroyed by their own recklessness
When they ate the oxen of Hyperion the Sun,
And that god snuffed out their day of return.
Of these things,
Speak, Immortal One,
And tell the tale once more in our time.
By now, all the others who had fought at Troy–
At least those who had survived the war and the sea–
Were safely back home. Only Odysseus
Still longed to return to his home and his wife.
The nymph Calypso, a powerful goddess–
And beautiful– was clinging to him
In her caverns and yearned to possess him.

All the kids:
Eternity, by William Blake
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunshine

Gabriel:
Winter Morning by Ogden Nash
Winter is the king of showmen,
Turning tree stumps into snow men
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white,
The world looks good enough to bite.
That’s the season to be young,
Catching snowflakes on your tongue.
Snow is snowy when it’s snowing,
I’m sorry it’s slushy when it’s going.

Asher:
Spellbound by Emily Brontë
The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.
The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow,
And the storm is fast descending
And yet I cannot go.
Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

Evangeline:
Winter Time by Robert Louis Stevenson
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.
Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.
Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.
When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap,
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.
Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house and hill and lake
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

Simeon:
White Fields by James Stephens
In winter-time we go
Walking in the fields of snow;
Where there is no grass at all;
Where the top of every wall,
Every fence, and every tree
Is as white as white can be.
Pointing out the way we came–
Every one of them the same–
All across the fields there be
Prints in silver filigree;
And our mothers always know,
By the footprints in the snow,
Where it is the children go.

……

Catechism:
Three kids working on New City Catechism:
Question 11. What does God require in the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments?
A.
Sixth, that we do not hurt, or hate, or be hostile to our neighbor, but be patient and peaceful, pursuing even our enemies with love. Seventh, that we abstain from sexual immorality and live purely and faithfully, whether in marriage or in single life, avoiding all impure actions, looks, words, thoughts, or desires, and whatever might lead to them. Eighth, that we do not take without permission that which belongs to someone else, nor withhold any good from someone we might benefit.
Question 48. What is the church?
A.
God chooses and preserves for Himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another.
One child in the Westminster Shorter Catechism for Children:
Question 66. How is Christ a prophet?
A. Because He teaches us the will of God.
One child in the Small Children’s Catechism:
Question 1. Who made you?
A. God.

……

Read-Aloud Selections:
The Door at the End of the World by Caroline Carlson
Pages of History, Volume 1 by Etter and Detweiler
Radiant by Richard Hannula

Whose Work

Whose work have you been called to do, and when have you been called to do it? Today we are reading a short poem, a Scandinavian folktale from which a lesson can be easily derived, and a wee dram of Scripture. As we introduce the virtue of WORK, I want to encourage you to each think about two things: WHOSE work have you been called to do? WHEN are you called to do this work?

Mr. Meant-To by Marva Collins

Mr. Meant-To has a comrade,
And his name is Didn’t-Do;
Have you ever chanced to meet them?
Did they ever call on you?

These two fellows live together
In the house of Never-Win,
And I’m told that it is haunted
By the ghost of Might-Have-Been.

Hear these famous words of Benjamin Franklin: “Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”

“The Husband Who Was to Mind the House” ~ a Scandinavian folktale

Once upon a time there was a man who was so bad tempered and cross that he never thought his wife did anything right in the house. One evening, in haymaking time, he came home, scolding and grumpy, and showing his teeth and making a commotion.
“Dear love, don’t be so angry. That’s a good man,” said his wife, “tomorrow let’s change jobs. I’ll go out with the mowers and cut hay, and you can mind the house at home.”
Yes, the husband thought that would do very well. He was quite willing, he said.
So early the next morning, his wife took a scythe over her neck, and went out into the hay field with the mowers and began to mow. But the man was to mind the house and do the work at home.
First of all he wanted to churn the butter. But when he had churned a while, he got thirsty and went down to the cellar to tap a barrel of ale. He had just knocked in the bung and was putting in the tap, when he heard the pig come into the kitchen above. As fast as he could,
he ran up the cellar steps, with the tap in his hand, to keep the pig from upsetting the churn. But when he got there he saw that the pig had already knocked the churn over, and was standing there routing and grunting in the cream which was running all over the floor.
He got so angry that he quite forgot the ale barrel and ran at the pig as hard as he could. He caught it, too, just as it ran out of doors, and gave it such a powerful kick that he killed it on the spot.
Then he remembered he had the tap in his hand. But when he returned to the cellar, all the ale had run out of the barrel. Then he went into the milk-shed and found enough cream left to fill the churn again, and so he began to churn, for they had to have butter for dinner.
When he had churned a bit, he remembered that their milk cow was still shut up in the barn and hadn’t had a bit to eat or a drop to drink all morning, although the sun was high. It occurred to him that it was too far to take her down to the meadow, so he’d just get her up onto the roof, for it was a sod roof, and a fine crop of grass was growing there. The house was close against a steep hill, and he thought if he laid a plank across to the back of the roof he’d easily get the cow up.
But he couldn’t leave the churn, for his little baby was crawling about on the floor. “If I leave it,” he thought, “the child will tip it over.” So he put the churn on his back, and went out with it. But then he thought he’d better first water the cow before he put her onto the roof, so he picked up a bucket to draw water out of the well. But as he stooped over the
edge of the well all the cream ran out of the churn over his shoulder and down into the well.
Now it was nearly dinner time, and he hadn’t even finished the butter yet, so he thought he’d best boil the porridge. He filled the pot with water and hung it over the fire. When he had done that, it occurred to him that the cow might fall off the roof and break her legs or her neck, so he climbed up onto the house to tie her up. He tied one end of the rope around the cow’s neck. He slipped the other end down the chimney and tied it around his own leg.
Then he had to hurry, for the water was now boiling in the pot, and he still had to grind the oatmeal. He began to grind away; but while he was hard at it, the cow fell off the roof, dragging the man up the chimney by the rope. There he stuck fast. As for the cow, she hung halfway down the wall, swinging between heaven and earth, for she could neither get down nor up.
Now the wife waited seven lengths and seven breadths for her husband to come and call her home to dinner, but he never came. At last she thought she’d waited long enough, and she went home. But when she arrived home and saw the cow hanging there, she ran up and cut the rope with her scythe. When she did this, her husband fell down from within the chimney. When the woman came inside, she found him with his head in the porridge pot.
“Welcome back,” he said, after she had fished him out. “I have something to say to you, my dear.” And so he said he was sorry, and gave her a kiss, and never complained again about the work he was given to do. He learned to appreciate his own work, and also the hard work of his diligent wife.

The Husband Who Was to Mind the House' | ASBJØRN et al. East of the Sun and  West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North. Kay Nielsen… | Картинки,  Иллюстратор, Книги

Here is a lovely little video version at Around The Hearth:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMlFq-8Ng-o

Philippians 2:14-15
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…”

Galatians 6:9
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Well-Read

“Well-read” may be an adjective attached to someone you know, and I am quite confident that I have many friends who fall well within this category, but I am not positive I have ever thought of myself as well-read. Of course, it technically means that a person is knowledgeable and informed as a result of extensive reading: which perhaps is only allocated to a specific subject or realm. Perhaps well-rounded and well-read do not always overlap, or perhaps the Venn diagram would show only a minor connection between the two. Regardless, as we come to the close of another calendar year, I am looking back at my reading journal and consider myself as growing towards the well-read. My friends at scholesisters.com have encouraged and challenged me to read widely, think deeply, and apply faithfully this last year… and now I am gearing up to jump in again.

A year ago when I created my first 5×5 reading challenge with the Scholé Sisters, I chose five categories and assigned myself five books within each. I thought it might have been lofty, especially as I do not always stick to a set reading stack, but tend to read a good bit on a whim, particularly when relying on library holds because those are absolutely unpredictable. I can put twelve things on hold at once, and never know whether they will be doled out one by one or all arrive the very same day. And if they are a popular title at the time, I may only have a month (or, in some cases, a mere 14 days if it is a newly released title) to finish the book before it is due back for the next person in line on holds. Let’s just say, I do find this more than a little anxiety-provoking.

But I gave it a shot, and apparently it went well enough for me this last year that I am willing to give it a go again! In fact, I have friends telling me to add the Literary Life reading challenge to my year… perhaps if I can overlap them enough, I might just see how far I can get on that one… but I make no promise and will not hold my breath.

I thought about going through my entire reading list in a post, but realize that isn’t necessarily helpful or even fun. I’m not entirely sure I want to read the lists of others, so I decided not to share mine either. 😉 The point is: I read widely, I thought deeply (and enjoyed deeply), and have been seeking to apply faithfully. I set out to read 25 specific books for the 5×5 challenge, and completed 23 of them. One is still untouched on my shelf, and one was a “through the year” prayer book that I wasn’t nearly as faithful to as I had hoped so I am not counting it. But when I received an email from the Scholé Sisters which said “twenty books counts as complete for 2020,” I was pretty stoked.

In all, I have read (combining audiobooks with handheld paper books) 115 books this year… plus countless picture books that I would never even begin pretending to keep track of. I am actually really surprised that I have that many titles under my belt for 2020! While some people have said this year brought them a superabundance of free time, or time for different pursuits, I absolutely did not find that true for myself. As a fulltime homemaker and home educator already, this year did not give me less time commitments or responsibilities: if anything, it added to my plate. The presupposition that homeschoolers didn’t find 2020 bringing alterations to habits or routines is completely false. Let me tell you: we were thrown for a loop as much as anybody.

I read 60 books on my own this year: 31 nonfiction, 29 fiction. I had zero plan of seeking to balance fiction with nonfiction, but I am rather pleased that it happened to shake out that way. I also did 40 read alouds with all my children (please note that when you live out in the country, you can make a lot of headway in audiobooks while driving over the course of a year), and 15 more read alouds with just certain children (some with just my daughter, a couple with my younger set, a few with just one son at a time and a few with my two oldest sons).

I knew that I was always keeping my reading stack going as well as always keeping my earbuds at the ready. I went through this year continually acknowledging that I wanted to be engaging in both fiction and nonfiction, with and without my children, on a regularly ongoing basis. But on a day to day, or week to week, basis I never really knew how much progress I was making. The plod of my daily and weekly routines as worker, wife, mother, educator, and friend kept me so constantly on my toes that I simply kept reading, kept listening, kept writing titles down upon completion… and only now have finally gone back to count them up and see the real accomplishment. Honestly, it is super satisfying, gratifying: a blessing.

I may not have read as well-rounded of a list as some others I know, but this was a year where I branched out, planned ahead, kept moving forward, and honestly grew. I didn’t know I could grow even deeper in my love of reading… but I actually did. Just when I thought I was already passionately in love with books, I realize there is always more to learn, more to apply, more to love, more to read.

I have always known that I loved historical fiction, but Susan Meissner and Ruta Sepetys have shown me that there is a bittersweet depth to it which I had not previously plumbed. I have also always known that I loved books which marry cooking with memoir (thank you, Robert Capon), but I discovered Ruth Reichl this year with great pleasure. I learned that I feel a much stronger gravitational pull toward Christian nonfiction than secular, particularly when habits or disciplines are discussed: for instance, while I really gleaned goodness from Atomic Habits, I can not get over how much more it would have left an impression if James Clear had backed up his philosophy with fruit of the Spirit. (I genuinely missed Jesus in that book.) I learned anew how much my children love a good series, and are much disdained if I ever feel tempted to give up a series before its completion. They are diehards and love to complete a story arc. I also learned this year that it is okay NOT to complete a series, or even to set a book aside that isn’t whetting the appetite. There are too many marvelous books to read in my one short life to waste hours on something that doesn’t spur me on to love, good works, blessing, or fancy. And honestly: I want my kids to learn that lesson too.

As I type this, my five year old is sitting beside me with exactly twenty picture books splayed all around… he is reading them aloud to himself, and each time he picks up a new book, he declares with glee: “ooooh I love this one!” That’s my boy. (Let’s be honest: I only produce bibliophiles. Ginger book-lovers, all five.)

Are you setting reading goals for 2021? Do you put together a literal TBR stack? How do you keep track of your reading habits or completed books? What reading challenge(s) are you signing up for this year?

I will occasionally share more bookish updates here as I seek to become ever more well-read. It brings me joy right here in the center of my domestic little life. Bring on the books!

Merriest Christmas

Merriest of Christmases to you, my friends! From my family of gingers, we wish you many blessings as the hope of Advent ushers us into the joy of Christmas! We look forward to the light of coming Epiphany, for the light of the nations has come. Sing loud, sing long, sing with gladness ~ sing of this joy, come to all the world!

“Then let us all with one accord,
sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
[who] hath made heav’n and earth of nought,
And with His blood mankind hath bought!”

“Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!”

Feasting Through Advent

A practice that I have enjoyed with my family in the last few years is focusing on feasting and hospitality for the duration of the Advent season, and actually right up through Epiphany when possible. I think it stemmed from two different traditions: one, with family; the other, with friends.

The first, with family, stems from my childhood. I grew up in a Silicon Valley suburb in California, living within two miles of my entire maternal side of the family, which consisted of five generations for almost a decade. Many of us attended church together every Sunday morning, and I still love remembering the long pew we filled in the balcony of my childhood Bible Church. A pillar for about a dozen years in my formative years, that place still makes cameo appearances in my dreams and holds a tender spot in my heart. But even the relatives who didn’t join us in worship on Sunday mornings, joined us for Family Dinner on Sunday evening. There was always a standing invitation (and, honestly, expectation) for family members: 6pm Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s house. Those evenings of food, loud table conversation, helping in the kitchen, reading the funny papers with my Great Grandpa, watching America’s Funniest Home Videos with my uncles, and pitching in with my little cousins planted in me the love of tradition, family dinners, and generational living. After we moved away from CA, and all of our relatives, the tradition died – and it was dearly missed.

The second tradition root is the annual habit of sharing an Epiphany feast with friends (alternating between their home and our home). As a way to reconnect and celebrate with longtime friends at the conclusion of the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany narrative, we have actually managed to keep this annual celebration for roughly a decade already, and I thought it would be fun to extend that idea to other friends as well.

Those are the two backstories which grew into my current practice of Advent weekends. It makes for an intense month of hospitality – but what is the Incarnation about? Ultimately, it is about the most intense hospitality imaginable. It is my joy to nibble at the edges of that glorious example of generosity and grace.

On Saturday evenings, we have an open invitation to family to join us for our Advent feast. This is the uppercrust version, where we have fancier foods, use goblets and china, sing hymns, read Scripture & a liturgy, have candles flickering all over the room to light the darkness, and light the candles in our advent wreath. We also give a group gift to our children after the meal, reminding them that the reason we give gifts is because we have been recipients of the ultimate gift of Christ. The gifts this year have been Advent calendars (the classic chocolate-a-day), matching flannel pajamas, a board game, and an outdoor game. This year, my parents and my grandma have joined us every Saturday evening, and it has been an enormous gift.

On Advent Sundays after corporate worship, we have a family over to share a simpler meal and fellowship & play & rest together, in the wake of Jesus coming to make all things new and spread the Gospel to all peoples. We usually have some variance of soup and bread and dessert to share, although a casserole in lieu of soup has been just as simple this year. We set up the meal buffet-style, often use paper plates/bowls, and have no set liturgy (but are always glad to hand out hymnals and carol together).

These four weeks of hospitality, fellowship, feasting, and anticipation are something our family looks forward to throughout the year. And each year, I think I grow personally in my skill & joy of hosting. Be not deceived: it is hard work! But by God’s grace, I am learning to focus on the aspects of it which actually matter (filling bellies, fattening souls, engaging minds, encouraging hearts), and letting go what is unnecessary or selfish or perfectionistic.

The hope of Advent is almost fulfilled… the joy of Christmas is almost here… the light of Epiphany is on its way…

We are Christmas people! Let us feast together & rejoice!

Friendship in the Christmas Narrative

“He who walks with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (Prov. 13:20)

O who will walk a mile with me
Along life’s merry way?
A comrade blithe and full of glee,
Who dares to laugh out loud and free
And let his frolic fancy play,
Like a happy child, through the flowers gay
That fill the field and fringe the way
Where he walks a mile with me.

And who will walk a mile with me
Along life’s weary way?
A friend whose heart has eyes to see
The stars shine out o’er the darkening lea,
And the quiet rest at the end o’ the day—
A friend who knows, and dares to say,
The brave, sweet words that cheer the way
Where he walks a mile with me.

With such a comrade, such a friend,
I fain would walk till journey’s end,
Through summer sunshine, winter rain,
And then?—Farewell, we shall meet again!

–Henry van Dyke

As we walk through the season of Advent, ever closer to Christmas day and on toward Epiphany, my question for us this morning is simply, where do we see friendship in the overall Christmas narrative?

……

Zacharias and Elizabeth (were of old age, without children—shared grief and longing can breed friendship)

Elizabeth and Mary (similar situations often grow friendship, and we know Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months during pregnancy)

Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoiced with her (rejoicing with others shows friendship or friendliness)

Mary and Joseph (betrothed, destined for marriage and life together—and if nothing else, they had shared experiences of angel visitation! I imagine their conversations together could have been awesome)

Shepherds who worked together in fields (work often builds friendship)

Wise men, magi, from the East (worked or studied together: again, common interests and communal work are solid ground for friendship building)

John and Jesus (cousins and comrades, both working toward the same Kingdom goals)

……

But where do we see the deepest friendship of all?

The deepest and truest embodiment of friendship is in Jesus Himself. And we don’t just see that in the Christmas narrative, but we live even today in the reality of that friendship.

In John chapter 15, Jesus tells us of His deep love for us—for those who abide in Him, and abide in His love. He wants our joy to be full. (What better description of friendship could there be than that? A desire that another’s joy would be full!) And then listen to what He says: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)

Jesus calls His people—His disciples then, and all of us now who are called by His name—He calls us His FRIENDS.

He took on human flesh because He was sacrificing Himself for us. And when He says that the greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends—He is reminding us that it is friendship with Him that ought to be our deepest love, our biggest desire, our truest relationship. He laid down His heavenly glory to be clothed in flesh. He laid down His flesh to be slaughtered as the sacrifice to atone for our sins. He sent us His Spirit to be our Comforter. He promises to come back.

Jesus is the one who walks with us along life’s merry way, life’s weary way, all the way until journey’s end—and beyond. Because He is such a Friend, we can see other friendships in Advent, in the nativity, in the Word made flesh, in the magi’s journey, in the presentation at the temple, in the Gospel arising and being the light to the nations!

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!

Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness

Precious Savior, still our refuge

Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.

–Joseph Scriven (excerpts)

Indeed, we will find friendship there. We DO find friendship with Jesus. Those who are called by His name are called His friends, and He was born to lay down His life for us so that we can go and do likewise.

The Virtue of Friendship

Friendship needs no studied phrases,
Polished face, or winning wiles;
Friendship deals no lavish praises,
Friendship dons no surface smiles.

Friendship follows Nature’s diction,
Shuns the blandishments of art,
Boldly severs truth from fiction,
Speaks the language of the heart.

Friendship favors no condition,
Scorns a narrow-minded creed,
Lovingly fulfills its mission,
Be it word or be it deed.

Friendship cheers the faint and weary,
Makes the timid spirit brave,
Warns the erring, lights the dreary,
Smooths the passage to the grave.

Friendship–pure, unselfish friendship,
All through life’s allotted span,
Nurtures, strengthens, widens, lengthens,
Man’s relationship with man.

The ancients listed friendship among the highest of virtues. It was an essential element in the happy or fully flourishing life. “For without friends,” said Aristotle, “no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” Words worth remembering in a world of perishable “goods,” and in a season when we can so easily put long lists together of more perishable goods we would like to unwrap on Christmas morning!

According to Aristotle, friendship either is, or it involves, a state of character: a virtue. There are three kinds of friendship argued for, with different bases: pleasure in another’s company (friendship of pleasure), usefulness in association (friendship of utility), or mutual admiration (friendships in virtue). All are essential to the good life, and the best sorts of friends will not only admire each other’s excellence, but take pleasure in each other’s company, and find their association of mutual advantage.

Steve Wilkins said in his wonderful book Face To Face that friends are not a luxury but a necessity. They are not optional but vital. God, in His mercy, does not save us in isolation from other people but rather in community with other people. If we are to be all that God commands us to be, we must realize that having godly relationships with friends is vital to the whole process.

Proverbs 18:1 says that “a man who isolates himself seeks his own desire, and rages against all wise judgment.” The isolated man does not realize what he is doing, but he is in grave danger. He needs friends! Why? To hold him accountable. To add to his joy. To spur him on to love and good works. For mutual sharpening of one another. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He that walks with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” Without godly friends, Scripture tells us we will spiral toward destruction. Godly friendship is absolute necessity because of how God created us (in His triune image, borne for community), the consequences of the fall, and the manner of God’s dispensing of His grace corporately.

All this talk about friendship of course reminds us of what a blessed thing it is to have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, our kinsman-redeemer, our truest holy Friend. Without Christ as our closest companion, we would be of all men to be most pitied. It is vitally important to have faithful companions for He is the One who is the ultimate companion and friend of His people. We need more Christians to live with one another in the manner of Christ: always with us, never leaving or forsaking, but rather causing us to grow in grace and faithfulness for the sake of God’s glory.

This is the kind of friend we need. This is the kind of friend we should seek to be. This is the kind of friendship we see all throughout the Christmas story during this season of Advent.

Have you ever thought about that? Have you seen friendship in the Advent narrative? The next post about friendship will be concentrating on seeing examples in that particular story arc. But as we ponder this throughout this current week, notice the friendliness or the friendships or the charity or the compassion… in short, notice the acts or words of one person toward another which shout: “now THAT is acting like a godly friend!” and be ready to ponder that anew with me next time.