The Printed Word

The five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation in Europe is kind of a big deal right now. As in, I feel like I have seen it pretty much everywhere online, I attended a conference themed on it, I know local churches with Reformation Day parties this year (even ones that wouldn’t normally have gone to the trouble), etc. It is pretty amazing. Now, while I was trying to focus on United States history with my kids this year, for a two week period (last week and this coming week), we are putting it all aside and replacing it with a unit study on the Reformation. What a great time we have been having! Our focus in this Reformation unit is primarily art and literature, which necessarily includes copywork and theology and singing and other such wonderful things. Yesterday my children and I sang David Erb’s version of Psalm 46 (which they had learned at music camp in the summer), and then Martin Luther’s famous Mighty Fortress. And I think, especially for the big boys, it really meant a lot to them, having known more about the history of the music and the words and the musicianship represented there.
We are essentially jumping in deep with these books for our unit:

FullSizeRender (50)

I introduced the subject, era, and keynote people with ABCs of the Reformation and some excerpts of The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History. And the kids each had books on Martin Luther they read on their own. But as the kids asked questions about the “whys” behind the Reformation, we ended up leaving the theological men and their stances of the mid-1500s behind and stepped further back into the world of Johannes Gutenberg. We very much loved Fine Print and are currently enjoying Ink on His Fingers as well, plus some other little snippets on him, his life, his work that have simply repeated & filled out what we found in those books.

FullSizeRender (49)

Undoubtedly the most stunning thing we realized, though, is that my family has a unique bookcollector right next door… my father collects old Bibles… he has studied them, loved them, researched them, worked with other collectors, learned some dying craft of mending pages and bindings, and he has even traveled in order to acquire or restore Bibles. So I asked him if we could take a peek at one of his early copies. Not only did he allow us to take a peek at it, but he dropped it off so we could fully explore its pages at our leisure. What a gift! This particular copy was printed in 1549, using the sort of mechanisms, leather-over-wood binding, goldleaf, moveable type, handmade ink, etc. that Gutenberg himself created and implemented.

FullSizeRender (51)

The kids took turns gently turning pages, smelling & feeling the cotton paper, examining the old inks, following worm holes through sections of pages, fingering the thick embossed leather on the cover. This particular copy was not printed until 1549 (let’s be honest: that’s pretty old!! And to have it in the family, where we don’t need to wear special gloves or keep it under glass, etc. is a special gift we don’t take for granted), so the kids wanted to figure out if someone like Martin Luther or John Calvin could have touched this book. They wanted to know if this would have been chained up to keep it from being stolen; if it would have belonged to a church, a common family, or an elite; they wanted to know about the gold leaf & the leather – where would they have come from? While I don’t have specific answers to most of those specific questions about this specific copy of God’s Word, it was really fun to talk about and imagine and ponder. Who else has held this book and read its pages and had their soul fed in the last 468 years?!

FullSizeRender (53)

We then spent an hour over lunchtime yesterday watching this video, where Stephen Fry walked through a lot of Gutenberg’s footsteps and recreated his craft and science and system of creating the printing press which changed the world. It has been really fun to learn, through books and the video, about the process of setting the type. I love the odd spellings and letters in the old English copy here!! I read Psalm 23 to the kids, which even Evangeline knows by memory in the ESV, and had them all follow along with it in this book… which doesn’t even have verse designations… and they were impressed by the difficulty of discerning the words because of the spellings and the spacing and such. The video really touched on that too, so that was a helpful nuance.

FullSizeRender (52)

What a contrast I noticed… little Simeon had just received his own little tiny pocket-sized Bible this week… which I picked up for 49-cents when I was grabbing another armload of used children’s books at Goodwill… and this little thing has no real monetary value, no big dramatic story behind it, it was probably printed with very little effort along with thousands of identical copies… yet it is a treasure to this tiny boy who now walks around with it tucked in his arm, and sets it beside him while he plays (such as here, below, when he was playing in the little toy kitchen)…

FullSizeRender (54)

And it is the Reformation that makes this kind of thing possible. Where there was chaos, God brought order. Where there was unrest, God brought peace. With a family so deeply in love with books and written words, this is a unit study that hits home deeply. It makes me speechless and just boggles my brain. The world had only manuscripts reproduced by scribes and owned only by the truly elite. The “paper” (vellum from calf skins) was even hard to come by, let alone inks and reeds, and then the immensity of time it took to copy it all! Wow. It’s utterly phenomenal how God brought Johannes Gutenberg to the apex of art & science to bring us the printing press.

I guess I’d say personally speaking, the internet and the printing press are the two biggest things that I think God created through mankind to change the world. And while I am not ready yet to wrap my head around studying the history and creation and implementation of the internet with the kids, I am absolutely stunned by the breathtaking world of the printing press’s creation.

The printed words brought us the printed Word.
What better gift could the Reformation have brought us?!
And then, because this 1549 copy of course is in English, we have so very much to be thankful for in the Reformation fight for Scripture in the vulgate too. We get to worship in our native language, we get to have more copies of the Bible than we even need (and we even carry it around in our pockets, thanks to places like OliveTree!).

The Reformation was a tool our King used to give us these gifts.
As for me my household, we are grateful.

FullSizeRender (55)

 

Rest & Adventure

A couple weeks ago during communion, where the pastor prayed over my children, he included a phrase asking God to be their rest and be their adventure.

I can not tell you how that has stuck with me.
It has been repeated in my own prayers and in my discussions with my children, and it informs my outlook frequently as we face day to day scenarios as a Christian family.
It is even reflected in how I hope my children look back on their own childhoods: that it was both restful and adventurous.

FullSizeRender (38)

Oh God, even in Your 23rd Psalm I can see both Your rest and Your adventure. You take us on daring journeys, through all types of landscape, You show us both darkness and light, shadow and glory. You provide for us with strength, yet You carry us when we are void of it. Thank You for proving Your faithfulness. In the calm and in the storm, in the peace and in the drama.

Isaiah 26:3
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
Exodus 33:14
And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Psalm 4:8
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 16:11
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession,
and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.
1 Timothy 6:12 / 2 Timothy 4:7
Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called
and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Thank You, Father, for Your Word. For how You meet us at every time and in every place.
Thank You, Lord, that my children are Your children; that they belong to You, that You have numbered their days, formed their intellects, nuanced their delights. Thank You for giving them Your love. Thank You for giving them a love for You. Thank You for knitting their hearts in faithfulness.
Do, oh my God, do be their rest. Do be their adventure. Both now and forever. Amen.

Teach Them Diligently

This week, I participated in a conversation about how to keep a Bible routine with the children in your home. It seems both super simple and overwhelmingly complicated at the same time. God granted me four precious children to train for His Kingdom. What an immense responsibility! In some sense, I’ve only got one shot at this parenting gig. In another sense, the Lord’s mercies are new each morning so I’ve got an endless amount of shots at this parenting gig. It is seeking to live a life of balance by His grace, with faith in Him, where I need to focus my eyes as I work day in and day out training & educating & discipling these children of His.

FullSizeRender (36)

As a stay at home, full time homeschooling mama, I don’t have to rush out of the door in the mornings, so I aim to do Bible time with my kids around the breakfast table. Steven and I were recently discussing how we can get him incorporated into it more (which is super tricky with his long work days), so we are thinking of having him lead that on Saturday mornings after breakfast (although Saturdays have been crazy because of rushing out for bowling league & ballet lessons right after breakfast… so we will need to do some planning before that starts up again next month), and then also on Sunday afternoon just before we start our weekly “family fun night” (which includes board games, a movie, special snacks, etc).

Part of me misses the old bedtime routine we used to have with our older boys (in the quieter days pre “real” homeschooling, with fewer rascals bouncing around), which involved rocking and reading books, singing as many songs as they would beg for, etc. Now it has turned totally different, because our evenings are spent more in the family room or playing soccer outside or something. And then the “bedtime routine” is just a rush of necessities rather than a special time of bonding. And that’s okay! We tidy up, we get in jams, we brush teeth, sometimes there are baths… and with four young kids to take through the routine of basic necessities, it draws things out and has resulted in needing to cut short the snuggly part of the bedtime routine. It’s just a different season now, and I’m slowly learning how to embrace that. But I also don’t mind admitting that I miss the old bedtime snuggle phase.

Anyway.
During our morning time together each day, I read from Scripture (we always do something from Psalms and Proverbs, and then I am reading straight through the Bible with the kids – we are currently in Ecclesiastes), I read from a picture storybook Bible, we sing “psalms & hymns & spiritual songs” (it varies day to day… we are working on memorizing a couple Psalms right now, and also the old hymn Praise To The Lord, The Almighty), I quiz the kids on their catechism (Gabriel is through Q68 in this Westminster Shorter, & I the one my 3 little guys do is called The Small Child’s Catechism – Simeon knows three Qs, Evangeline knows 27, and Asher just about has all 50 down pat), we pray together, I read a page from The Boy’s Devotional, and then I read a chapter of an allegory (we did Pilgrim’s Progress, Basket Of Flowers, Hedge Of Thorns, Hind’s Feet On High Places, and are now in Mountains Of Spices – I love the Lamplighter books for this, and when I purchased the Boys of Grit collection this week I also might have just signed up for the 4-book-per-month book club!).

FullSizeRender (30)

Honestly, our “Bible time” really sounds more intense and complicated than it actually is, now that I’ve typed it out. :blink:

It only “needs” to take about ten minutes, and sometimes on days when we have places to rush to, I just pick and choose two or three of those things. On “at home/school days” we do the whole routine and it takes about an hour. It’s the kids’ favorite hour of the day, though, pretty much. I try to start it while they are eating breakfast, and then while they are still sitting in their seats at the table, I give them copywork to do (I give them a verse each day that they copy… Evangeline is just now barely beginning to copy them properly into the actual words/sentences in a readable way, mostly now that she knows how to read so she can tell the actual difference), coloring (especially Bible themed coloring books that you can even get from the Dollar Store!), and my nine-year-old does some Bible word searches and Scripture/catechism copywork, and then both of my big boys (ages 9 and 5) have sketchbooks they draw in. So I keep their hands busy as much as I can so they pay attention. It’s my own attitude that sometimes gets most in the way because I get sick of being interrupted every three sentences with someone needing something or the kids just get noisy.

But I am trying hard to humbly realize that the important thing is just to cover them in Scripture, and make it a normal part of their life. It honestly doesn’t matter so much how I do it, or how much I do it, or how well I do it!!! It’s just that we seek to live a life that is saturated with Scripture. It’s all over our walls in pictures and on chalkboards. We have cds playing nonstop all day, and about 90% of the music I play is Christian music or straight up Scripture set to music. We are currently on an Indelible Grace streak. ;)

My little ones (ages 5 and under for sure) looooooove the Jesus Storybook Bible. They also love the old Children’s Illustrated Bible that I picked up for fifty cents at Goodwill! And the Lindvall series of Read-Aloud Bible Stories (there are five volumes I think). We have others we read at a variety of times also: The Garden, the Curtain, and the CrossThe Biggest StoryRead Aloud NTRead Aloud OT. They love the app on my phone, too, Bible For Kids, which they really only rarely get to play, but they get totally addicted to it and into it! My big boys (especially the 9 year old) love The Action Bible. When it comes to reading the Bible storybooks, sometimes I do add my own little commentary to include things that I  might notice missing/incomplete. But I am constantly emphasizing to my kids (even from before they understand, like my 21 month old) that these are Bible storybooks, not Scripture. When I read the Bible with my kids, I read them a real translation of Scripture (usually ESV or NKJV because those are what I have handy). But we make sure to train their sensibilities to know that there is a difference between Bible stories and Scripture. Both are good, so we use both! But making that distinction is one of my key points even with the littlest. After I read Scripture to them, I say “the Word of the Lord” and all four of my kids strongly respond “thanks be to God” – but we don’t do that after reading stories out of the Bible storybooks. That is just one way we practice reiterating that and putting teeth to it, so to speak.

FullSizeRender (32)

We pray a lot during the day, so they are constantly bathed in prayer being a normal part of life as well.
Before each meal, when we do “Bible time”, when we arrive somewhere (while kids are still buckled in, after I’ve turned off the car, we usually quickly pray for all of us to have self control and joy etc while we are doing whatever it is we are about to do), before bed, and just at random times throughout the day like if someone gets an owie or needs a prayer for self-control or faithfulness or diligence, we pray during our discipline routines, we pray when we get a parking spot right next to the cart return, we pray when we see an emergency vehicle rushing by us…

FullSizeRender (35)

As I seek to prioritize the education of my children to line up with what I most see in Scripture, these are just some the things I am personally doing at this current time with my kids. It’s the most structured and formal it has ever been yet in our family, largely because I am homeschooling fulltime so it works out well in that way (which is one of the reasons we wanted to homeschool, actually). But I do not think it has to be super structured. I do not want my children growing up in at atmosphere of legalism, emphasizing works over faith, or being pressured into “spiritual disciplines” as though our entire lives were not an act of worship & spiritual discipline. I honestly firmly believe that if you just spend your hours with your children loving Jesus, it will happen naturally.

Praying for my children, I think, is hands down the biggest and best blessing for them and their souls. Both in the short term and in the longterm. I am seeking to grow in that area. I love praying for them when they are listening, because I think it feeds their souls as well as helps to shape their own prayers. But I also need to be truly purposed about praying for them when I am alone with God as well. I got Andrew Case’s book “Setting Their Hope in God” as a springboard for praying for my children, largely because I am lazy about it. :blush: But I know that… and acknowledging that and humbling myself should be the first step in growing in that area and asking God to gird my resolve to pray more frequently and more passionately for my children.

Also, back to that idea of seeking to find balance & grace without slipping into the ditch of legalism, I have learned to realize and & embrace that it doesn’t have to be every day.

Seriously. Are you shocked that I would say that publicly? Hah!

If you pour into them little bits at a time, even if it only feels like you’re “doing adequately” once a week (or whatever), God does not turn that away void.
Give what you can give to your children in faith.
Offer up those bits of time as loaves and fishes to Him, and let Him multiply it for your children.
Be gracious with yourself.
God is not constrained by our work schedules, our noisy & silly kids, our wiggly or consistent prayer times.
He gathered the children onto His lap and blessed them.

Honestly. It’s enough.
It’s enough because He takes what you offer in faith, and He multiplies it, makes it fruitful, and brings the increase.

We end every day with singing Numbers 6:24 over the kids, and saying “God bless you, I love you, peace be with you.”
Even if that is all I manage to sneak into the day, God knows my heart. He knows the hearts of my kids. He is at work. :happytears:

 

FullSizeRender (33)

Praying for Nate

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

FullSizeRender (19)

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

FullSizeRender (21)

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

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

FullSizeRender (22)

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

He uncovers deep things
out of darkness

& brings the shadow of death
to Light

~Job 12:9, 10, 22~

FullSizeRender (20)

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

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

Take up your life and follow Him.

Face trouble.
Pursue it.
Climb it.

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

~N.D. Wilson, Death By Living p83~

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

Dear Curmudgeonly Congregant…

Dear Curmudgeonly Congregant,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Saints in Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Celebrating Life with Hope

We are continuing to celebrate life! Simeon’s lungs filled with oxygen 36 days ago. Yesterday Simeon’s head was covered with water and oil. He has always belonged to Christ, but yesterday he was officially welcomed into the Church by receiving the sacrament of baptism. He is officially a son of the covenant, heir of God’s Kingdom, full participant in the body of Christ as a member of His bride. Hallelujah! What hope! What a perfect thing to celebrate on the first Sunday of Advent, where we lit the candle of hope. Please rejoice with us and celebrate the life of Christ in our little son.

DSC_0083 DSC_0048 DSC_0067

IMG_2030

DSC_0106 DSC_0141

DSC_0194 DSC_0203

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off,
everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.
Acts 2:39

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them
 in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to
 the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

When My Heart Aches

P1210056

Job 30:22
You lift me up on the wind; You make me ride on it,
    and You toss me about in the roar of the storm.

There are many types of suffering, and I understand that the sovereign Lord allots for each of us what He deigns best for us and greatest for His glory. I don’t always understand the nuts and bolts of it playing out “in real life” but I acknowledge it from my heart and from my mind. I understand He is that way, and He is the author of life, even when I can not explicitly understand the whys and the hows behind it all. He is God, and I am not.

I can not count the number of days (let alone hours or moments) when my heart has been in utter and complete anguish within me. And for the large part, in what the sovereign Lord has allotted for me personally, my anguish has been related to miscarriage and its many nuances. I’ve had the deepest anguish, suffering, pain, and grief from burying nine children. There are other reaches of this, though, where the pain seeps ~ basically any conversation about pregnancy, about morning sickness, about surprise pregnancies, about family size, about babies, about childrearing, about being pro-life, about stairstep children, about family vacations, about schooling, about siblings… some anguishes ooze into so many aspects of life that you lose count. And really, to be honest, you don’t want to keep count. That is too painful, too!

Psalm 55:4
My heart is in anguish within me

But one of the biggest blessings for me, both in the midst of the anguish and “on the other side” (to some extent…) of it, has been the giving and receiving of comfort through this journey.
I have been on the receiving end of so much comfort! Some of it has been well-done and some of it has been less-so, but all of it, I truly believe, has been heartfelt and genuine.
I have also been given the opportunity to be on the giving side of comfort through the years, both in various online communities & capacities and in real life (friends or friends-of-friends suddenly facing the grief of miscarriage themselves). I am sure that the comfort I have sought to give has been occasionally well-done and occasionally much less-so as well, but I can honestly say that the comfort I have extended has also been heartfelt and genuine.

Regardless of the years I have spent in the trenches of grief…
regardless too of the years I have spent in the trenches of lifting up others downtrodden in similar griefs…
I still feel thoroughly unequipped to offer much specific counsel or advice on how to come alongside someone who is suffering a miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, other death, other infertility, other anguish of heart.

When I posted my open-ended question a couple days ago, I was so overjoyed and blessed to have some of you chime in on how you have been comforted when you needed comfort, and how you too seek to extend comfort to others in need of that blessing! Thank you for participating in the conversation! (and please do keep it coming!)

I am going to spend just the next few posts here at Joyful Domesticity sharing some thoughts and experiences I have had.
I’ll share some tangible things that have been a comfort to me from others, books that have blessed me, activities I have done myself that have brought comfort or healing to my own aches, as well as links to online communities & resources that have ministered to me and given me opportunities for ministry as well.
If you are looking for something specific, don’t be afraid to ask; I would love to have some prodding as I go back in my memory banks to some of the darkest days of my life. So many things have actually been blocked from my memory (PTSD style) that sometimes I need a prod to even recall certain days or events or seasons.

The upcoming posts may be redundant to many of you, especially those who have walked alongside me for years through my own miscarriages and sorrows. But whether this is old news or new news, I pray that it would be good news: that it would remind you of how the Lord has ministered to me and been faithful to me! I don’t forget His faithfulness through my anguish!! I don’t want you to forget either, simply because He has been so good to me, and He deserves to be continually praised for it. And I also pray that this would be good news to those of you who are suffering, or ministering to those who are suffering: to see what has blessed others, and to see if the Lord has equipped you to share any of these (or similar) things with those around you, or even to ask for these blessings yourself ~ or at least to extend some of these graces to yourself if you are the one in the trench of anguish.

And remember… if you leave me a comment… I am just a click away, and my heart is ready to step alongside yours wherever you are on this journey of grief… I will pray with you, email you, share resources with you, simply even be a listening ear.
You may have to endure suffering, but you certainly don’t have to do it alone.

More soon.
And in the meanwhile, peace be with you.

Isaiah 25:1-4
O Lord, You are my God;
I will exalt You; I will praise Your name,
for You have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For You have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners’ palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify You;
cities of ruthless nations will fear You.
For You have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall…

Litany for Christian Marriage

Last week after church, we were given a couple of articles to read as we in the Church face new-but-not-so-new battles against the institution of marriage. One of them included this article, where part of it is a litany for marriage which I have prayed a couple times in the last week. For my own marriage. For the marriages of people I love. For those in my church. For the marriages in the Church at large. Our marriages speak of the mystery of Christ and His Church ~ oh, what are we preaching these days?! May the Lord have mercy upon us.May He be glorified by our returning to Him as the Church, His bride, and may we seek to honor Him, one another, and our marriage vows because we belong to Him ~ and so does the institution of marriage.

A Litany for Marriage

We thank you, heavenly Father, for graciously creating us in your image, male and female, and for ordaining that a man and woman shall be joined as one flesh in the covenant of marriage.
We thank you, O Father.

We thank you for the gift and heritage of children and for placing them in homes which may be havens of blessing and peace.
We thank you, O Father.

We thank you for the love between fathers and mothers and sons and daughters that binds together the generations and undergirds our country’s social fabric.
We thank you, O Father.

Lord Jesus Christ, divine Bridegroom, we repent for all the situations in which we have dishonored the covenant of marriage through selfishness or unfaithfulness.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

We repent as a Church where we have failed to prepare our children for holy matrimony, or to care for those who are widowed, divorced or single.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

We repent where as citizens we have become complacent and neglected the defense of marriage in the public square.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

We pray you, Holy Spirit, to restore marriage to its due honor in our country and to revive our marriages and families as emblems of your love.
Deliver us by your grace and power.

We pray you to strengthen our bishops and other leaders as they join with faithful churches to make a strong God-honoring defense of your design for marriage.
Deliver us by your grace and power.

We pray you to have mercy on those who have promoted false teaching about marriage and on those who have been led astray and harmed by it.
Deliver us by your grace and power.

Grant us courage, O Triune God, to hold fast to the truth of your Word, and give grace to those who are counted worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

A Prayer for Marriage Almighty God our heavenly Father, you have created us male and female in your image and have ordained that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. Look down in mercy, we pray, on our families, our church and our nation. Knit together in constant affection those who, in Holy Matrimony, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, the hearts of the children to the parents, and the hearts of all to those who are single or alone. Finally, grant that your Church may steadfastly defend the unchangeable bond of marriage which embodies the mystery of Christ’s love for us; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and forever.

Suggested Hymns: “O God of Earth and Altar”; “God of Grace and God of Glory”