Adventing Still

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What a glorious time Advent is! And I’ve been too caught up in the business of Adventing that I haven’t been taking the time to write about it. Of course traditionally (so we have been hearing, especially, in the Anglican tradition) it is a season not unlike Lent. Advent prepares for Christmas like Lent prepares for Easter. The two glorious hallmark holy days of the Christian faith are preceded by seasons of waiting and anticipation, preparation and repentance. So we don’t party like it’s Christmas until Christmas. There are no flowers on the altar at church. The word “alleluia” is suddenly absent from some of the liturgical texts in worship, and the eucharist liturgy is actually altered a bit during this season too, with an emphasis on sin and repentance ~ and, praise the Lord, plenty of grace to soak in.

It is good to be children sometimes,
and never better than Christmas,
when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.
— Charles Dickens

In our family, we remind our kids of the waiting and the anticipation by giving them tiny tastes, little sips. They get one chocolate each night, and one tiny glass of wine at each Advent dinner (which we’ve been doing on Saturday nights, and we love this tradition!). I ask them questions (“what does Advent mean?” “who is coming?” “what does Emmanuel mean?” and more…). We sing songs (they’ve got O Come O Come Emmanuel memorized, and most of O Come All Ye Faithful). We read little books that are toddler friendly to remind everyone of the real Christmas story, and I sometimes ask the boys to fill in the blanks to see what they can recall (“what did Herod want done?” “what did the angels tell the magi?” “what did Mary say when Gabriel told her about the baby Jesus?” “what did the angels sing at Christ’s birth?” etc…).

And the kids are eagerly counting the days until Christmas. Every morning (and probably half a dozen more times throughout the day) they declare the countdown for everyone to hear. They love their Advent calendars in their rooms to help with this endeavor.

Most notably, the children know that Advent is about anticipation, hope, looking back but also looking ahead. While they only get one chocolate each evening of Advent, Christmas will soon be here ~ and on Christmas, they can have handfuls of chocolates if they want! We get a sugary, gooey breakfast with rich drinks. We get a big brunch, and a beefy dinner. There will be wine and cookies. And gifts ~ oh, there will be gifts!! I have put some under the tree already, because the kids were begging… but they are ones that can not easily be peeked into, haha! or they are ones not for the kids. :) Although even our two year old seems to be embracing obedience about the tree, the ornaments, and the gifts all being off limits for touching. We are thankful for that!

When the kids wake up on Christmas morning, the rest of the gifts will be under the tree, and the stockings will be full. Breakfast will be baking in the oven and coffee & hot cocoa will be steaming. Music will be on, candles lit, fireplace roaring. Gifts and games and laughter and singing and rejoicing will fill the day. And, Lord willing, it will overflow into the days yet to come afterward. Which is just what grace should be like. It should fill  you up, then overflow you. And one of the best ways of showing that to children is by the tangibles. For that matter, it’s a pretty downright good way to remind us adults too!

Thanks be to God for being the perfect Father, the giver of all good and perfect gifts, so that we know Who to imitate! Now… may He give us the grace to joyfully imitate Him with vigor, and the mercy to grow closer in our imitation accuracy year by year.

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“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey;
that Truth might be accused of false witnesses,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
― St. Augustine of Hippo

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First Week of Advent ~ Hope

When do we most need hope?
In hopelessness.

That is when we feel lack of hope most acutely. It is when we need to have our eyes opened to real hope.

“A prison cell in which one waits, hopes,…
and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom
has to be opened from the outside,
is not a bad picture of Advent.”
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

That is what this first week of Advent is all about. Hope.

Anticipating, longing, looking ahead, believing that the fulfillment of promises and prophecies are yet to come.

I love these simple perspectives and tips for observing Advent, even in a family with little (messy, fussy, short-attentioned!) children.

“Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light,
now in the time of this life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;
So that, at the last day, when He shall come again
in His glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal.”
–The Book of Common Prayer

I am pulling out our Advent wreath, our Advent calendar, and a huge amount of chocolates.
Soon, other Christmas-is-coming boxes will be brought up from the basement, as we slowly see hope fulfilled by the advancing of Christmas.
May God give us eyes to see and ears to hear. May He make us awake and ready.
May He give us hope because of Jesus.

Easter Lessons

This year, we went out of our way to do a few more hands-on lessons and Easter preparations with the children. The older they get, of course the more they grasp ~ and it is delightful to hear their own 6, 3, and 2 year old sized insights into why we do the things we do.

On Good Friday, rather than doing our normal homeschooling routine, while the little ones had individual room time (learning to play on their own for a solid hour is a good skill to learn), Gabriel helped me clean the house. We washed windows, cleaned bathrooms, swept floors, mopped floors, did laundry, washed dishes, wiped down cupboards. And while we worked together, we talked about why we were working so hard, and why is this what we chose to do on Good Friday. When I asked Gabriel what he thought, he paused in thought, then profoundly said, “Well, today is the day we remember the whole reason why Jesus came. He came to clean our hearts. So I guess that’s why we should clean our home.” I wanted to just stop the conversation right there, and leave it at that ~ because my kid gets SO much of the Gospel story, and I love hearing his perspective on it. It’s beautiful. But we went on to talk about how Jesus served others, even though He was King of all. We talked about “our people” ~ and who are our neighbors. Gabriel even asked if he could wash my feet when we were done cleaning, because he wanted to bless me and serve me like Jesus.

But I hate to admit, I forgot about the feet-washing, because by the time we were done cleaning the house, the little ones were ready to be done with solitary playtime, and we needed to move on to the phase of dirtying things back up again. Funny how we do that in my line of work: we clean things up so we can make them dirty again!

So after a little lunch, Evangeline was ready for a nap, and the boys & I got out supplies for some crafts that would hold more lessons.

We had already dyed Easter eggs with Grandmama, Auntie, and cousins, complete with super sweet and thoughtful conversations about the metaphors, symbolism, and just plain fun of the tradition. My children and I have talked numerous times this week about the symbolism we can see in the eggs… how they symbolize the rock which closed the tomb, but new life can spring forth from it… how we can take plain eggs and give them new clothing, as we do when we take on new life in Christ… how the yolk in a cracked egg can symbolize the glorious light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dark tomb when He burst forth in glorious array…
Click here to read about Easter Egg traditions throughout the life of the Church, following the Lenten season. Even plain old Wikipedia had some great thought-provoking things about Easter Eggs, or Paschal Eggs. And for some fun nuances on Easter Egg traditions, click here and have some fun with the kids in your life.

Romans 6:4
We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death,
in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in newness of life.

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Thanks to Ann Voskamp’s diligent sharing each and every year, I finally felt like my boys were old enough this year to really grasp & enjoy a couple more unique & detailed hands-on projects.

First we had a snack of nuts and figs, while we made a crown of thorns (using a small grapevine wreath and a few dozen coffee-stained toothpicks) and talked a lot about the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Three year old Asher was nearly in tears (I love how his forehead crinkles and his chin quivers when he feels genuine sorrow), talking about Jesus being tortured, bleeding, and dying. He finally smiled again when I reminded Him that this was why Jesus came, and this is how He worked to save US from OUR sins. And in his sweet little voice, Asher proclaimed, “I sure love Jesus, Mommy.”

Matthew 27:29
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head…

Mark 15:17
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him.

John 19:2, 5
And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head and arrayed Him in a purple robe. So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.

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Next we went out on to the back porch and put together our own little Gethsemane. Using a small moss planter (I used this, and don’t let the word “large” fool you!), we filled it with soil. Then we set our tomb carved in the rock in the corner of the garden (I found that aquarium accessories could offer some neat options, like this cichlid stone), before filling the rest of the garden with plants. We used some little succulents we got at a local store along with some pretty decorative moss, and then Gabriel used small smooth stones to make a little pathway through the garden to the tomb. Last of all, the boys went on a stone hunt outside to find something that would serve as a tomb cover.

John 19:41
Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

Luke 23:55-56
The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid.Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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On Good Friday, we used last week’s palm branches and our homemade crown of thorns to decorate our dinner table, when we ate lamb and roasted vegetables and matzo ball soup, along with the Seder plate with all  its elements and plenty of wine.

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Our kitchen island was cleared of all other decorations, and that is where we laid our own little Gethsemane. On Friday evening we closed up the tomb. On Saturday morning we found a little soldier to keep guard outside the tomb. And the children looked forward to seeing what would come of it on Sunday morning.

Matthew 27:59-60, 66
And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. … So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

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Come Sunday morning, the children came downstairs to find the guard fallen down, the stone moved away, and a piece of linen folded inside the tomb.

Matthew 28:2-8
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you.”So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.

Luke 24:1-12
…On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee,that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”And they remembered His words,and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

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They found a table set for a beautiful little breakfast. Fruit salad, hard boiled eggs with sea salt, mimosas, Easter story cookies, and Easter tomb rolls (the kids had helped me make those all on Saturday, which was really wonderful). Candles and music and the excited rush of gathering and eating and praising God together, singing Christ The Lord Is Risen Today. Gifts for each one at their place ~ books and chocolates.

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Once the morning feasting was done, it came time to don our Easter clothing (clothing is hugely metaphorical and meaningful in Scripture and the history of the Church) ~ even the Easter sermon mentioned this, because we had three baptisms during the service and these Scriptures were emphasized.

Ephesians 4:17-24
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus,to put off your old self,which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:12-17
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Galatians 3:27
 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

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And so we got dressed in new matchy-matchy clothes (and my heart ached in all the heaviest and bestest of ways, because I have been given a family to clothe, and children who can wear sickeningly matchy outfits!), and talked about putting on Christ, putting off our old selves, putting on the new self in newness of life and the beauty of holiness, putting on love above all other things.

And then? Then the party really started. Gabriel pointed out, “there sure is a lot of joy around church and everywhere today!” and I couldn’t help but laugh. Because isn’t that just exactly, precisely the way it should be?! May the joy of the gospel, and of the Resurrected Christ, and of the hope He has given His people, shed forth from your homes, your families, your churches, and your wanderings until He comes again and everything is made new and all is set right.

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To the glory of the Father, amen. Allelulia!

The Light Shines!!

John 20:1
…it was still dark…

Darkness. I don’t know how long it has been dark, but it is still dark. I grope around trying to find my way, but I can not see any light. Even the early morning sky is a blanket of obscurity, stars hidden, moon unseen—dawn is not quite here. The garden is around me, lush things growing, dirt wet with morning dew, stones chilly at my touch. Everything hushed—quiet as death. The silence of grief is so loud.
We come with spices to anoint the dead, for He had been quickly buried. The weeping had been almost constant, yet eventually the tears give way to the empty feeling of what happens now? I feel lost, unable to see the One in whom I hope and trust. Is He there? If He is, what is He doing? I just want to see Him, touch Him, care for Him.

Psalm 39:7
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?

My hope is in You.

What happens in the dark womb? The lump of dough? The wine barrel? The pantry?
Children grow, yeasts multiply, sugars ferment, even potatoes and onions sprout in order to grasp for new life. Life happens—growth happens—in the darkness.

A quick word search shows that light + dark shows up in the ESV 68 times, with glorious encouragement to be found there! We quickly find reminders that God is the One who separates darkness from light (Genesis 1:4), who uncovers darkness and brings things to light (Job 12:22), He lightens our darkness (Psalm 18:28), the darkness is even like light to Him (Psalm 139:12), He is—in fact—the One who forms light and creates darkness (Isaiah 45:7) yet there is no darkness within Him (1 John 1:5). And Jesus, the Son of God, is the light of the world who can not be overcome by darkness, who came to overcome our darkness with His light!

But darkness fell on Friday, and grief overwhelmed Saturday because our light was buried in this cave. And now I can not see what is happening in the darkness.

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

In a moment, I see the dawn begin. Grace upon grace, the sky’s black blanket lightens to a dark blue, then a golden halo suddenly explodes in the east—first, a sliver; then, rays that reach and flame and glow and expose. On the horizon now is light. Slowly, the darkness dissipates—the entire sky lightens, which lightens our eyes, which reveals what we must see. Rub our eyes clear of their disbelief. Blink away the shock. The earth shakes, the rock moves, the tomb is opened. The light shines!

John 12:46
I have come into the world as light,
so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.

Come close, peer into the hidden place where darkness has held my Lord, expecting to see His dead body lying in the shadows, still and cold and dim—He isn’t here. Glancing around in the small light of early dawn that barely reaches into the depths of the cave, eyes adjusting to what they see and what they don’t see—eyes falling on a pile of grave clothes, eyes move to a folded piece of linen that was set apart from the rest. Where is the body of my Lord? Who left this pile of His hastily anointed wrappings? Who folded this linen, setting it aside? How could this happen in the pitch black darkness of a cold, dank cave that held nothing but death?! Angels speak—angelic beings before whom we quiver.

Luke 24:6, 8
“He is not here, but has risen.
Remember how He told you…”
And they remembered His words.

Scrambling, trembling, glancing around. Trying to rack our brains to recall what the Rabbi had taught us, suddenly remembering His words and piecing together what He had been teaching us all along.
The angels a beacon of hope for those who came to the tomb in hopelessness, sitting in darkness and weeping in the shadow of death—in our hopeless, dark, miserable, lost place, the angels of the Lord bring words of peace, messages of light.

Luke 1:79
[He gives] light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.

We came in mourning, not knowing that the darkness of our grief would be lifted. We came to bless our Lord, not knowing that He was about to lift our burdens. We came before the dawn, and experienced the true rising of The Son—the glory of God surrounding us as the east brightened, the angels spoke, our eyes rested on the cloths in the tomb. Hope flickers once again in the hearts where despair had quenched, belief glints around the edges of souls earlier filled with doubt.

2 Corinthians 4:6
 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We long to do something, to care for someone, to do something tangible to make sense of our overwhelming intangible grief—so we come to the tomb to anoint, to finish with the fragile care of grieving women what had necessarily been accomplished so quickly by the strength of men two days before. And now not only in our humanity, but also in our femininity, the angels tell us of the risen Son—give us the job of going and spreading the news—engage us in the act of resurrection by arming us with Truth and filling us with Hope. We came in the weakness of distress and leave now in the strength of peace. The sky is bright now, the dew begins to dry and the birds begin to sing morning songs, as our feet swiftly carry us to the disciples—we sing and we cry and we wonder and we run! We are given the gift of sharing the hope and the light, of telling His disciples to meet Him in Galilee. And the hope that had died in our souls when He was crucified is rekindled now, in the faith that we are soon to see Him again, face to face.

Daniel 2:22
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with Him.

Like the women who first knew of Christ’s Resurrection, we too have been given the gift of sharing the light of Jesus which God reveals—the light of the knowledge of the glory of God—when we look to Jesus Christ as our Savior. He took away our darkness, has borne our sin, shows us the light that dwells with Him and lightens our lamp. Because He lives, and because His light can not be extinguished, we may now live in the light, rejoice in the light, hope in the light, trust and rest and believe in the light—where even our shadows and our hidden places are known, seen, forgiven, loved, and redeemed.

He is Risen indeed!

Psalm 18:28
For it is You who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.

Rest & Wait

Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:41-42). They rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb (Mark 15:46) and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard (Matthew 27:66). And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment (Luke 23:56).

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And so today on Saturday,
the day between the darkest death and the brightest resurrection,
we too rest.

And we wait.

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Saturday… Waiting… Where is My Hope?

Job 30:26
But when I hoped for good, evil came,
and when I waited for light, darkness came.

Hope is a double edged sword. Walking through Holy Week, we think along the lines of so many events… It’s so busy! Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem while His people worshipped and called hosanna, He cleansed the temple and taught His people, He is betrayed by one who is unfaithful, He is perfumed by one who is faithful, He gives thanks even in the presence of His betrayer, He hands out bread and wine to His followers, He prays in solitude, He is captured and taken away, He is scrutinized and condemned, He is taken before leaders and stood before multitudes, He is burdened in every imaginable way, He is stripped and scourged, He is hung and nailed through, He cries out, He is forsaken, He bleeds, He dies, He is taken away, He is buried in the dark tomb…

Now what?

The time between death and resurrection feels so dark, so empty, so long. What is happening in this day between Friday and Sunday? What are we to do as we sit outside the tomb? And what is our Lord doing in the darkness, the cold grips of death?

I was asked to guest post for Olive Tree Bible Software’s blog this weekend, so to continue reading, click here

And click here to see what my husband wrote a couple days ago as he shared with us a remembrance that the Lord’s rejection ultimately lead to our acceptance in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-10
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Hosanna in the Highest!

All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King!
to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.
Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’ name comest, the King and Blessed One.

All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King!
to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.
The company of angels is praising Thee on high;
and we with all creation in chorus make reply.

All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King!
to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.
The people of the Hebrews with palms before Thee went;
our praise and prayers and anthems before Thee we present.

All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King!
to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.
To Thee before Thy passion they sang their hymns of praise;
to Thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise.

All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King!
to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.
Thou didst accept their praises, accept the praise we bring;
who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! Hear all the tribes hosanna cry;
O Savior meek, pursue Your road with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, Your triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! The host of angels in the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! Your last and fiercest strife is night.
The Father on His sapphire throne awaits His own anointed Son.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die,
bow down your meek head to mortal pain, then take, O Christ, Your power and reign.

Yesterday in worship, I got to say my son’s name a lot. Hosanna. His name means save Lord and is a cry to the only One who can save to the uttermost. The service began with the choir, pastors, and dozens upon dozens of children processing through the sanctuary with palms in their hands while we all sang to the Lord of His glory and honor, lauding Him with our praise. We cried out to Him beseeching Him to save us! And since we are on the other side of the story, we know with confidence that He is the Savior! He has saved us! He did triumphantly bear our sins and conquer death, saving us from the holds of those shackles! Amen!

But we are still in the midst of the story.

I sat there with my family, in the midst still of our own story of asking the Lord to save and preserve and give us life in place of death…
In front of us was a family whose daughter suffered a terrible cancer some years ago, and the Lord preserved her precious life, and there she sat with parents and siblings, with health glowing in her cheeks and hair and the saving presence of the Lord spilling from her eyes as she sang…
In front of them sat a family who buried another son this very week, the Lord saved Gilead by ushering him to heaven, and now He saves this family every moment by upholding them even in the midst of horrible grief…

I cried repeatedly.

Suffering everywhere I looked. Sometimes already redeemed. Sometimes not yet.
It is hard to wait for the redemption, and wonder whether we will see it here in this life, or whether we will be yet waiting to see it in the next.

And then the sermon came. And Pastor Sumpter spoke on hope & joy.
He said, so much of joy is bound up in hope.
How painfully, purely accurate.

Jesus came to restore the places where suffering and despair have reigned.
He came to save.
He came to give us hope.
~Toby Sumpter~

And so as we begin to walk through this week leading up to Easter, where we consciously focus on the work of Christ in His final days, I am also focusing on His current work even now as His Spirit continues to save and give us hope.

Romans 2:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

This week, I will be reminding myself day by day to be joyful even when I don’t know the end of the story. Because that is why Christ came. I rejoice in hope ~ and this hope is not bound up or settled on the things of this world. This hope in which I rejoice is bound up and settled on the glory of God. And because of this, because of God’s glory, we can rejoice fully! Even when suffering comes. Even when endurance is necessary. When character is tried, tested, affirmed.

This hope is not foolish. Hope that is grounded in God’s glory will not put us to shame. He died for me. So that I could have hope. So that I could rejoice. So that as I remind myself of these things this week, walking toward Easter, I will remember the joy and the hope along with the suffering and the grief. It’s the dichotomy of living the Christian life. May He give us the strength and peace to glorify Him this week through all of this.

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
~Toby Sumpter~

St. Patrick’s Day

Someone is trying to wake me. It’s so hard to shake myself out of a dream. Dreams can be so thick. It holds me, even though two minutes later once my eyes blink into the light and see a familiar face, I have completely forgotten what gripped me so strongly. Long cold drinks of water to say goodbye to sleepiness, and long warm kisses to say goodbye to my husband. He leaves with two baking pans full of fresh cinnamon rolls. One topped with Irish coffee icing, the other drizzled with bright green liquid sugar. I think I deserve a pot of gold for sending in goodies on a Tuesday. Right? Or at least a rainbow maybe?

Rainbow.
I open the blinds. It is raining, the grass suddenly looks so green and the hills so misty. It is a very Irish day.
No rainbow though. Not yet. Keep looking.

CHRIST BE WITH ME

Clothes on. Whoops ~ blue and pink do not make green. And nobody will believe me if I tell them my underthings are green. And I won’t prove it. So green earrings and green scarf. There. Head to the kitchen singing St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Twice.

Coffee made, vitamins swallowed, crockpot turned on (sighing thankful that I put this together last night), recipe for colcannon queued up for the afternoon.
Time to rustle the children. Why is it that the days when they need to be up early are the days their little bodies rest like rag dolls under their blankets? Moist heads with heavy eyelids. I kiss fuzzy cheeks. I snuggle warm bodies. Then I turn on the light and rip back the covers. Oooooh, morning feels so harsh sometimes.

But then they remember. Donuts!!
They hurry to put on clothes. I remember to make them put on something green. Since we will be out in public, and I don’t know if kids are mean these days or not, but when I was little, you got pinched if you didn’t have green on. Whether someone knew you or not, suddenly they thought they had the right to squeeze your flesh between their fingernails if you were not wearing a proper color. Strange tradition. My mommy bear instinct kicks in, and I make sure the boys wear their brightest green sweaters of all. Top their coppertops with Irish hats straight from the island herself, and there we go. We are channeling all our Irish heritage we can at the moment.

Take a sip of coffee, shuffle the boys off to the bathroom, head down to dress the girl. She has a splendid green dress with orange flowers and butterflies. The orange accents please her father, as he annually reminds me that green is for Catholics and orange is for Protestants. I don’t know if I have ever taken the time to even so much as google the truth or tradition behind that… but I believe him, and I take a moment of delight in the fact that my daughter can wear both green & orange with much success. Little bow on her head, little shoes on her feet. Don’t forget blankie and baby doll! The day would be ever so rough without them.

Pop these little people in the car. Oh bother: where are my keys? These things really should come with radar tracking systems built in. Why are there so many purses and diaper bags to search through? Jacket pockets? Nooks & crannies? Hmm. Good thing there are travel cups of milk to pass out to the kids along with granola bars and apple slices, to keep them blissfully unaware in their carseats while I frantically search through the house for the fob. Honestly. A second car key might be nice (hint, hint, darling: Mother’s Day is coming!).

Finally, it emerges from the bottom of a third diaper bag. Of course. I can never remember which bag I took last. On my to do list: improve my memory. One of these days. Perhaps my large cup of morning vitamins needs some additional zinc or ginko biloba or some such magic.

CHRIST WITHIN ME

Here we go! Ten minutes late, but nobody the wiser.
Driving in a misty morning with coffee in hand is delightful. It is St. Patrick’s Day though, so perhaps I should have thought better and splashed in a dash of whiskey to make it Irish coffee. Oh wait, no, better that I didn’t ~ I am driving, after all.
Rain. Potholes. Puddles. Ponds! Windshield wipers. No umbrellas though. I might not have channeled enough Irish in me to remember that far.

I am able to take some back roads to make up time, and we get to the donut shop only three minutes late. The homeschool tour hasn’t quite started yet. About twenty children dolled up in all kinds of bright green shirts and shoes and headbands are lined up, waiting. We walk in just as a Krispy Kreme employee says good morning, leprechauns. My boys tug at my shirt, wanting to know what in the world is a leprechaun and why were they called such a strange word? They are an obvious combination of offended and concerned. A man stands here with a big blob of stretchy dough that looks like it has green sprinkles in it and asks if everyone would like to touch it. Evangeline takes one look at it & declares, rather loudly, messy. The boys suddenly revert to shy copies of themselves, and hide behind my blue jeans.

Watching through glass walls. Mixers, dough, ovens, bakers, bowls of green icing, conveyer belts covered in donuts like bugs processing on my sidewalk, a lustrous white waterfall that glazes them while the children press noses against the windows & make impressed oooooohing sounds. Children all around me, my own three little copper tops buzzing around from window to window, trying to figure out the best viewing point for the baking process.

CHRIST BEHIND ME

An employee scrubs and squeegies the walls of windows. Goodbye fingerprints. Goodbye breath ghosts. Goodbye residual sneezes. Goodbye splatters of icing and melted cooking oil. Children are enthralled with the scrubbing and the squeegie. Especially the squeegie.
Gabriel asks, if I buy him a squeegie, will I pay him to wash all our windows?
Dollar signs and overflowing piggy banks fill his brain.
Clean windows without the aching arms and streak-free countryside views fill mine.
How big of an investment is a squeegie, I wonder?

The window washing is done. Another employee emerges from the kitchen with two boxes of perfectly shaped, perfectly golden, perfectly warm, perfectly glossy donuts. We are given free glazed donuts, and the children squirm their bums onto a green faux-leather booth with delight. They grab at sugary rounds. Fingers and faces suddenly glazed with the familiar white sheen. Wiggles and giggles ensue. They return to the glass walls to peer once again at the baking process. Windows are no longer clean. Hello fingerprints. Hello breath ghosts. Hello sneezes.

CHRIST BEFORE ME

People eventually leave. We are the last to file out of the donut shop, complete with two dozen donuts in hand. Why not? St. Patrick brought the Gospel to people, why shouldn’t we bring donuts to people?
A phone call to one friend who lives nearby – they are in Seattle. Hm, no donuts for them I guess.
Another phone call to another nearby friend – unfortunately the day is just not going to work out for a visit there either. Bah humbug.
Sticky-fingered children buckled in their seats. Mommy, who remembers her love for the gooey deliciousness of Krispy Kremes but is not allowed to indulge in such a sugary glutinous delicacy, still smelling the twenty-four donuts on the seat beside me, making one more phone call.

This friend knows we are coming. They are ready for playtime and chats and donuts. Ten minutes of driving and chatting with little ones about donuts and baking and legends of leprechauns, and we pull into the driveway of dear friends. It feels familiar and wonderful to see faces of loved ones, exchange hugs, tell stories of recent life, play ball, build a fort out of cardboard & couch cushions. Children play loudly. Mommies try to converse over the din. We take turns taking a child out for discipline or potty trips. My friend scales their staircase three separate times to retrieve more superhero costume pieces for super boys. Conversation helps us share life ~ conversing in the same physical space not parted by computers or cell phone towers makes the sharing extra tangible.

CHRIST BESIDE ME

Then the crying begins. My daughter is screaming almost inconsolably. This is a mind-boggling moment, where the little girl clings to me, clings to her blankie, clings to her baby doll ~ but cannot tell me why she is crying, if she is sad or hurting or scared. We take this as our exit, pack up our things, take turns at the potty, leave two (only two of twenty-four!) donuts behind us with our friends, I shuffle two happy boy and one unhappy girl out to the car. It is still sprinkling, the clouds still rest in wispy tufts around the tall pine trees, and I stumble in a little puddle. After I buckle the carseats once again, and my sad girl continues in her weeping punctuated by little gaspy sobs every couple of breaths, I shut the door for a moment. I put my hands on my hips superman-style and take a deep breath. It is a beautiful day, and my car is filled with life. Life strapped into protective seats simply because these lives are particularly precious and life itself is so volatile in its unpredictability. Before strapping myself into a seat where the noisy chaos of playful boys, crying girl, and cranked up Jamie Soles on the speakers would pound in my head, I breathe in the fresh air of March. I think of how cooling and life-giving the raindrops are. Even the mist. I quickly glance around for a rainbow. Still no rainbow in sight.

I climb in the car, take one of a few remaining sips of my morning coffee, and accelerate down the road. I tell myself to smile, tell the boys to be cheerful, even though our joy girl remains inconsolable. The very present picture of unrest, of joy trying to take over sadness, of comfort banging heads with discomfort, of pain having victory over peace… it busied my brain while I drove. I just kept driving. And driving.

 

CHRIST TO WIN ME

Unfortunately, I had a couple of errands to run. Oh Lord, be with me, as these tired little souls and their weary wee bodies in the backseat want nothing more than more donuts, and a cozy movie on the couch while the rain splatters down on the green fields by our country home. But here we remain, zooming along big roads and a busy highway, in the city.

Suddenly it hits me: call my hubby.
Darling, I’m coming! Please come sit with the children so I can run my important, time-sensitive errand!

And he does. Oh! Isn’t it just like a husband to put his things aside, and come to the wife’s rescue? To humbly sit in a car where his daughter is screaming, another son has begun to cry because nasty molars are slicing caverns into the gums in the back of his jaw, and the remaining son begs simply for another green donut.

CHRIST TO COMFORT AND RESTORE ME

I go inside a tall, boring beige building. But I don’t particularly find this building boring. I have spent blood and tears in this building many times, let me tell you. I run my errand. It takes twenty-five minutes. And during this time, I have quiet around me. I know that my husband is gently leading our children, even if that just means letting them cry the tears that need to be shed and filling mouths & bellies with another round of donuts.

And while I quietly go about my errand, and my thoughts wander to each one of my children and their various current wellbeings, my mind goes to my Savior. And how many times He has saved me before, saved my children, saved my family. In so many varied, both complicated and simple, scenarios. Knowing that this omnipresent Savior is both with me in this quiet moment and in the car with the rest of my family in their discordant moments is comforting, sweet. He is holding us up, and gives us the strength to stand, to endure, the continue on. Even with this day’s tasks and joys and struggles and hiccups. Sometimes He gives us psalms, sometimes He gives us outstretched arms of His people, sometimes He gives us green sugary donuts. Sometimes all three.

CHRIST BENEATH ME

Upon my return to the car, it seems that everyone is about in the same shape that I had left them. None the worse is sometimes all that we can ask for, right? And it’s still a gift. One entire donut box is empty now, so there’s that at least.

With a kiss and a knowing smile, my husband heads back to work, and I head back to the fray of the car, facing another 25 mile drive with crying children. I feel so hungry, dizzy, faint. I can’t reach my water bottle, my coffee cup is empty. The only snacks left in the car are literally oozing with gluten. Why did I let the kids eat all the grapes, oranges, and apples without leaving any for myself? My ears start to ring, my tummy growls, my palms get clammy. In the distance on the right I see, no, not a rainbow, but it might as well have been: golden arches! Yessss. Just what we need to drive out the hissing snakes of tears and fears and dizzy hunger pangs. I swerve into the turn lane, and immediately find myself in the McDonald’s drive thru. Some solutions are greasy and salty, and perfectly scrumptious with every bite. I pass the french fries around and find my water bottle. Ah! Christ’s banishing of evil things are sometimes such little gifts, but you know what they say: good things come in small packages. Red paper cups filled with hot shoe-string potatoes definitely qualify.

We keep driving. The crying won’t stop once the french fries run out. So I call our friendly neighborhood pediatrician and tell him, without explanation, that we are on our way. I divert our course and we head a different direction, off to see Dr. Grandpapa. Stethoscope, thermometer, otoscope. Rather than driving the children to further tears, they bring calmness and peace. Funny how familiarity is so comforting, even when it invades our personal bubble in strange ways.

Another ear infection for the daughter. Aha. Now it begins to make sense. A molar pushing its way through a gum for a son, its iceberg nature causing more trauma beneath the surface than we can even understand. So we head out for antibiotics and acetaminophen. And movies. We simply have to make a quick run to the library while we’re at it, and see what kind of videos I can grab to keep these little guys happy. Such a gift from the digital era!

CHRIST ABOVE ME

Finally. Home. Windshield wipers are tired. The clouds still hang. I tuck boys in beds with blankets and set up a laptop so they can begin cycling through library dvds. It begins with Mickey Mouse. It ends with superheroes. Of course.

I unload the car while she cries, and then my arms are finally free. Open and ready for her. Desperate to cling to her and snuggle her, to put my chin on top of her head, to whisper in her aching ear that everything is going to be okay. She seems to believe me. Oh wait: her eyes have caught sight of Sofia The First. Well. If that’s all it takes right now to make her world a beautiful place of sunshine and rainbows, even while the clouds continue to drop their rains outside, that’s good enough for me. She lift her onto my bed with me. Push play. Snuggle deep into pillows. She climbs onto my lap, and rests a weary head against my breast. Chest still heaves with occasional leftover sobs. Little dimpled hand holds onto my finger. I kiss her moist head. Rest my cheek on her ruffled locks. She watches princesses on the television. I watch her, my princess, and cry because of the beauty of moments like this.

CHRIST IN QUIET

Eventually she is ready to lie down on her own in her bed. Medications are such a gift to the hurting, the sick, the suffering. Blankies and babies and nightlights, likewise. God gives us tangible things to take with us for the slaying of dragons, whether the dragons are owies or infections, bullies or nightmares. It is so easy to give way in our spirits to dread or doubt or fear or anxiety, or all combined together. While my daughter takes blankie and baby doll to the comfort of her bed with the nightlight shedding some peace in the room, I turn to books and blogs for my own armor. I have felt evil prowling about even today. If I wanted to deliver donuts in the place of gospel this morning, I guess now I fight inward serpents who threaten to bite and constrict rather than Irish snakes. But regardless of the littleness of my battles in my world, they are still battles. And I am still thankful for the strong together to whom I run, and for the armor He provides. I drink it in through my eyes, my fingers, my brain, my heart, my soul. I am fortified. Because He is my Fortress.

And I’m ready to face what’s next. And that’s when my husband walks in, and causes me to remember that’s what’s next is dinner. And while the crockpot has done its wonderful magic all day, corned beef is only one part of the sustenance I’ve got planned. Time to go weild knives and light fires, people: it’s time to cook dinner. Fight for victory!

CHRIST IN DANGER

We spend the evening sharing food with one another, and even my daddy joins us around our table. The house smells of beef and spices, onions and cabbage. I mash potatoes with leeks and cabbage, smothering it all with milk and butter and salt. Humble things, yes, but delicious, and it has a really fun name, colcannon. Undeniably Irish sounding, isn’t it? Asher, at one point, thought I said Uncle Colin rather than colcannon, but I assured him that they are two distinctively different delights. There is Guinness on the table, and a hard apple cider, and even the children delight in the tasting. Cool water is guzzled as though we have had salt and sugar in abundance today… oh, I guess, perhaps that is because we have. The child on my right asks for thirds on corned beef. The child on my left asks only for colcannon… four times, I fill her plate with large dollops of colcannon. The child across the table from me pretty much just wants another green donut… I rack my brain to do the math to figure out how many donuts that child has eaten today already… it might be half a dozen, give or take.

When the middle child goes potty and calls out for someone to clean his bum, we are all called in for a serious look at what has happened. We get a very visual education on the idea that “what goes in must come out,” and we realize that Krispy Kreme must use a very lively green food coloring for their donuts. What Asher produces, and is rather proud of, looks nearly radioactive. I don’t think I will ever eat a green donut again, even if I were to find a low-sugar gluten-free version. Asher has taken the surprise out of green donuts for me forever.

Dinner is a jovial hour of eating, drinking, chatting, laughing around the table. The grandfather tells jokes with us. He does math problems with the 3 year old, using green grapes for manipulatives. I didn’t know my young boy already knew 2+2 and 3+1, for instance. Grapes make math delicious and graspable. Then the 6 year old takes the grandfather aside to have some kind of deep conversations for ten minutes in private, as he so loves to do. Sometimes they discuss medical cases, sometimes theological questions, sometimes science experiments, sometimes knock knock jokes. On this particular night, I am not given a hint, I am left in the dark. Eventually, the 2 year old gets a turn with her grandfather, and once she is in jammies, he rocks her in the dimly light nursery. He sings at her request: Holy Holy, Glory Be, Blessed The Man, Lord’s Prayer. He sings things, thirty years in the making, that he used to sing to her mother in a like rocking fashion. Her pain seems gone, her heart seems encouraged, her thumb wet and wrinkly, her blankie clutched at her cheek, her eyes droopy. Grandpapa eventually lays her down in the comforting solace of her crib.

CHRIST IN HEARTS OF ALL THAT LOVE ME

With children in bed, my father gone home, my husband getting ready to call it a night, I go to my instruments. I play St. Patrick’s Breastplate on both piano and harp. I sing. I tinker. I try to find pieces of music with titles that are Irish, Scottish, Welsh, British. Definitely time to go on Amazon and order another songbook or two of things labeled Celtic, because I just don’t seem to have quite what I’m looking for.

Music played for half an hour of invigorating solitude, children lulled into their dreams, husband waiting.
I quickly shower and crawl beneath the duvet. We hold hands while we watch a little television and enjoy some random distraction from the day’s duties & delights. Then it’s lights-out finally, and I can almost feel the nightly rest grab me and pull me down into my pillow.

He says goodnight, we kiss & kiss again, we spoon, we draw the covers close around our chins and scootch our heads into the best positions on our pillows. The rain still falls lightly outside, but I know the stars are out there. The children are sleeping, their cries are silenced and their pains are numbed, their dreams have begun and their little bodies are snuggled like as many cocoons in their own beds under their own comforters. And what Comforter is here holding us all, in our own rooms and our own beds?

Our Father, the Christ, the true Comforter. He is here with us. We know His gospel, we have felt His peace, we have experienced His sustaining grace not only before but today. In the moments that He gave us on this day. In the donuts and the corned beef. In the friends and the store clerks. In the children, the parents, the siblings, the strangers. And even now with our eyes closed and our breaths slowing into rhythms we don’t even know how to replicate, He continues to give us His grace. And He is our rainbow, our promise of peace and life, the sign and seal that God is always good in all things. That no matter what happens when we rise tomorrow, He will again be here with us. And we can not escape Him. Like St. Patrick before us who went hither and thither, we too know that our Lord is always with us, and His gospel is always the foundation, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and priceless to carry with us to all we meet.

With this in mind, I quietly praise the Lord for my husband, my children, my home, my Christ.
And I fall asleep, ready and hoping to meet Him under rainbows in my dreams.

CHRIST IN MOUTH OF FRIEND AND STRANGER

 

Resting in His Image on His Day

Above all you shall keep My Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you… a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord It is a sign forever between Me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.
Exodus 31:13-17

Around here, we love Sundays. We love the routines it carries, the rest it brings. It is an anchor for our week, the most predictable day of all.

A Sunday here is typically quite simple in structure yet profound in what it represents. Rest is indisputably delightful, in its various manifestations and representations! All five of us cling to the joy of resting on the Lord’s Day. We go to bed earlier than normal on Saturdays so we are well rested—in order to be prepared for the day of rest! (What could be more wonderful preparation than that?!) We have some of our best & favorite foods and wear some of our best & favorite clothes. We go to church to worship the King and be with His people. One of my favorite things about Sundays, personally, is how we covenantally ascend into heaven (just read Hebrews 12 for yourself) during corporate worship, because it makes me feel so intimately close with my nine babies in heaven. We commune through bread and wine with the Lord and with one another. We sing and pray, pass the peace of Christ to one another and find ways to shower grace upon each other, share conversation and fellowship and food and handshakes or hugs. While sometimes Sundays include hospitality, family parties and meals at the grandparents’ house, or spending hours with friends, we do sincerely love Sunday afternoons that offer us quiet hours at home—not to fret over schoolwork and house projects and cleaning nooks & crannies, but to play together and rest together. We love enjoying God’s creation on His day, from many vantage points and in varied ways. We have a special family tradition on Sunday evenings of eating goodies and doing something fun—for this current season of our little family’s life, it usually looks like eating popcorn & ice cream while snuggling & watching movies. After kids are tucked in their beds, it also means date night for my husband & me—with wine, chocolate, cheese, and sometimes a movie just for us.

Sundays—the Lord’s Day—our Sabbath—is a foretaste of heavenly rest, and a recurrent (utterly joyful and blessed!) reminder that our hardworking life should be predictably punctuated by worship and delight. And it isn’t just because in our human frailty we need a break from the six other days where we run around working hard, being as productive as we can manage, and having an undercurrent of diligent & dedicated labors. It is, after all, a good reminder that God did not rest on the seventh day of creation because He was exhausted. He rested to delight in His work.

God did not rest because He was tired.
He rested so that those made in His image
would share in His rest through worship.
He rested so that He could turn Adam and Eve’s attention
from the creation to the Creator.
In a sense, God was saying to Adam and Eve and all humanity,
“Come and rest in who I am and what I have accomplished.
Enjoy with me the goodness of all I have made.”
This was to establish a rhythm of
engagement with the world through work
and then thankful enjoyment of the world through worship.
~Nancy Guthrie, The Promised One, p45~

Some Sundays are more placid than others. Sometimes our resting is kind of… well… flat out energetic and lively and noisy or busy enough to even border on chaotic.

In fact, at this very moment—while I might be reclining on a comfy bed with a cozy comforter snuggled on top of me and a cup of tea within reach—I have an excessively wiggly and noisy two year old girl going up and down, up and down, up and down… screaming and giggling and babbling, trying to grab at the computer keys or spill my tea cup… while a video booms with bright images and loud soundtrack in a corner of the room and children carry on with continual commentary, occasionally interspersing requests for a water bottle, popcorn or ice cream refill, or simply expressing utter delight in sharing goodies with one another on this special day of the week.

And this is after lots of lively fellowship & projects at Sunday school, loud singing during worship (although I must confess that the entire corporate worship service is beautifully rich and peaceful even in our busy pew), a boisterous lunch at a crowded Red Robin restaurant (mac & cheese, ketchup, and juicy orange segments seemed to get absolutely everywhere!), and a long chatterbox-filled 26-mile drive home.

But these in fact are some of the best ways that we see Christ, His goodness, His rest, His future hope—in the people He put around us, and especially those in our own home under our own discipleship. We turn our hearts to Him and tune our souls to His praise, resting in who He is, what He has done, and delightfully embracing these living temples where He lives right here among us—but sometimes the resting is clamorous and rollicking rather than quiet and what you might describe as serene.

But whichever way our Sabbath rest takes us on a given day, we delight in the gift of the Lord’s Day (Mark 2:27), knowing that the Lord accepts our worship, covers us with grace, and fills us up on this day that He has set aside for us (and in return, we set it aside for Him) so that we can once again go forth to labor for another six days in His creation before being called again to this sanctified day—this day where we enjoy all that God has made, and where we delight in six days of productivity and rest in enjoyment of His sweet grace in so many of its innumerable manifestations.

Serenity, silence, and solitude are good things.
God uses quietness to tune our heart to listen to Him through His Word.
Silence can help us pray without added distractions.
In the peacefulness of our surroundings,
the Lord can still our busy heart.
“Truly alone” time with the Lord is a gift.
But so are the times when you’re ringmastering your family circus.
The Lord is just as near to you when you’re
using a bulb sucker on a tiny, congested nose
and as you’re summoning the wisdom of Solomon
to settle a spat over a disputed toy.
~Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, p72~

And now it’s clear that I need to move on to ringmastering my family circus down for the night… the three rings are busy and the tents are bouncing. I have a little girl here who can’t seem to decide whether she is a dancing poodle, a trapeze artist, or toy juggler—and it’s always fun to wrangle acrobats into their beds. So excuse me please while I go tuck these little God-images into their beds, and watch them drift into the rest of sleep as the rest from His day prepares them (and me!) for another six days of working the ground the Lord has put into our hands.

Lenten Thoughts, III

Soup, it seems, is the ultimate comfort food—
warm, soft, slipping down the throat with ease.
We eat soup when we’re sick,
when we’re snowed in,
when we’re heartbroken,
when even cutting and chewing seem too much,
when we need to be soothed in some deep way.
Soup is cold-weather-dark-sky food.
Soup is peasant food—odds and ends, bits and pieces,
a way to stretch a piece of meat or a handful of rice.
And the best soups are made, I think,
when we treat them as such—
earthy, simple, slow, soothing.
Soup is the wool sweater, not the little black dress.
It’s the cardigan with elbow patched, not the pressed shirt and tie.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p161~

 

Each Wednesday evening during Lent we have been gathering in the fellowship hall of our church with dozens of saints, eager for fellowship and sharing of life and breaking of bread. Once people are there and food is set out, the pastor says “the peace of the Lord be with you” and everyone responds “and also with you” & he opens the evening with prayer. The evening ends with a compline service, which is a short call & response to end the evening with prayer & Scripture & singing the Lord’s prayer. The evening really is a beautiful way of incorporating the gloriously high with the beautifully low, the elegant with the casual, the special with the mundane. Everyone fills bowls with soup, and grabs chunks of warm bread in hands. We sit around tables with one another to fill our bellies as well as our souls.

In the middle of it all, a man—friend of ours, but also new local author—shares exhortations and encouragement and experiences on the subject of deep suffering, physical and spiritual.

Hearts are poured out, theologies discussed, Scripture opened, prayers ascend, bowls emptied.

It is a blessing, and while my little world might not be shattered or rebuilt by the conversations in any truly monumental way, I am still lifted up and filled. By being with believers who love one another and love the Lord—who spill actual grace into the lives of each other—who emphasize unity in essentials and diversity in nonessentials—who care for one another by cooking soup, baking bread, donning aprons, washing dishes, spending a weeknight together not because we have to but because we can.

And God’s blessing abounds in big and little ways, some that we can see and some that we cannot yet see. But I know He is there, and He is working.

And that feeds us in temporal and eternal ways I can only begin to grasp.

 

P1180946

The meal itself wasn’t spectacular by any means, but it didn’t need to be.
It was simple and it was good and it gave us something to gather around.
It filled our bellies and let us laugh and connect
and settle into our chairs while the kids played under the table.
It did what food is supposed to do:
it fed us, in all sorts of big and small ways.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p216~