Figuring Out Homemaking–How God Wants To Teach Us His Heart

What have I been given? What does it mean to make a home? Am I adequate to the task? What is it that God has given me, given me to work with, given me to be happy? Do I even see it all, know it all? Do I see what is right in front of me? I am jolted out of my daydream…”Mama, you gotta paint my finganailsth.” And I think it, and almost don’t say it, but then it comes out anyway, “Bella, I already painted your fingernails several times.” I remember how stubborn she was when I asked her to say thank you. “Bella, are you going to tell Mama thank you for painting your nails?” And I knew that I wanted something that she wouldn’t {couldn’t} give. I am not sure if it was her acting like the child, or me.

She is teaching me again. Here she is, she has come to me, asking to be served. Who else would need so much from me, demand so much, ask to be served this way, and give me the opportunity to learn what it is that God wants to teach me? Didn’t I ask Him to teach me patience? Didn’t I pray, brokenhearted over my wretchedness, “God, give me patience, teach me to be more like you, gentle and help me to understand kindness and how to speak and act with gentleness, meekness and kindness. Let my words be soft to them.”?
So I tell her, “Lay out your fingers like this”, and I grab the drippy red bottle. I see her fingers splayed out like my heart is splayed out, and in these moments He speaks to me, and Jesus says, “My body was splayed out like this for you, and my heart, open and exposed for the world to see, ached for you and for my Father. The blood that ran, ran for you, for these moments, so that you can have life, so that you can give to her what I have given you. Grace.” And I know that I, being the vilest of creatures that spat on Him on that sacred cross with my hateful heart, the heart that just wants to be left alone, and does not want to serve–it is I that He has come to save. In this light, the light of His gospel, it is not hard to serve. And yet, underneath all of this grace being shed, is a heart that is fearful and is afraid to ask the question, “How am I going to serve and be good, and be all of these things that You have called me to be, when my mind is battered and weary, and I cannot see straight, cannot think straight, cannot sleep, cannot feel normal?”

Husband has been gone out of town. I know that it will be late, and I know that he will be tired when I finally kissed him at the door. I know I will not see him, know that I will be busy getting the children to bed, that he will eat, take a shower, and finally fall into sleep that he desperately needs. So I am astounded at how much joy and satisfaction there is in my evening. I marvel at how God can change my heart. I do get a little stressed and I do forget and yell. But I guess thats where the grace part comes in, because we are all unworthy. I don’t let Satan win this round. To finally be in the place again, that I was meant to be, after so much sensless toiling over books, late at night, til my body felt it would break in half –my heart rings out and sings “YES” –this is where I find joy. The little nitch that God has created me to be in–the nitch of serving my family, of making a happy home, of creating a safe resting place, and gently (sometimes not so gently) teaching and guiding my girls. I feel Him calling to me, saying “Come up here, come up now, my Beloved…rest in my arms, and let me be your shephard. Let go of the things that you worry and fret over and let me lead you to the place that I will plant you and make you blossom with the fullness of all that I am”.

The girls and I clean and make home tidy, have supper at the table and play the “love game” as Ivy calls it, where you go ’round the table and each person says something they love about someone else, or why they love them. Lorna says, “I love Mama because….she takes care of us even when she doesn’t want to.”

These love games are hard for me, but very needed to scrape the dull surface and get underneath where the deep dark crevices are that need filling with God’s light. And it is SO satisfying–it brings me so much joy that they do this love-game without being prompted. A knock at the door, it is dark, and Husband’s shadow can just be made in the dim light and glare of glass, his hands full of gifts from family he’s been with. Candles lit, and towel laid out for his bath, he goes and we are left to the elation of the tearing and ripping of paper, and shrieks of delight. I indulge in their happy, glowy faces, and Bella saying, “Isth my baby!”

After we clean everything up, I lay the baby down and go to the older girls’ room and climb in bed with them. I have the book, “Stepping Heavenward” in my hand. Lorna says, with a frown,” What is that?” I read the cover to her, “Stepping Heavenward–One Woman’s Journey to Godliness”. She says “What does godliness mean?” “It means to be like God and this is one girl’s journey, or a story about how she became more like God”. “Oh”. I read the first entry to her, about Katherine’s birthday, and how she feels she is getting so old at 16, and about how she can’t be good and wants to be kind to her mother but just when she means to be good, the most awful things come out of her mouth. And when we are done, Lorna says,”This book is very interesting! I love this book! Can we read it together until the book is finished?” I say, with amazement, and a smile of satisfaction, “Yes, of course”. Amazement that she is so interested in “godliness”, satisfaction that she loves the book, amazed that my idea worked, amazed that she knows what all the words mean, satisfaction and wonder at how the moment I climb into the bed with them, just that simple act, opens the wild childhood closet of time, and they just talk to me, and I learn things about them I would not have known. This is so, so priceless.

And as I tuck blankets around little shoulders, so thankful that I can have this effect–that I can comfort and love–I think I see what it is that God has given and what it is He is saying. I see that I can open my heart to Him and receive His grace, His blood shed, love and cherish that cross, that blood spilled, and when my heart is connected to Him this way, then I can love my children this way as well. When I throw open my heart’s doors to Him in wild abandon, then He fills it with so much love to give, so much grace. And my heart is opened to my little ones and then serving isn’t hard, because I begin to crave these moments, when the scales fall off and I see that these moments are holy. And I see so clearly, He has answered me with His light, His Cross, His Word, His Gospel–this is how to make a home.

And I don’t have to be afraid.

#71 tiny red nails

#72 Mama needs a journal to write down thanks, and Lorna’s response

#73 how Lorna says, “I’ll let you have my journal—it’s small; i don’t write in it anymore. I’ll just tear out my secrets.”

#74 how when I ask her what kind of secrets these are, she says, “none of your business—that’s why they invented diaries—it’s none of anyone’s beeswax!”

#75 babies wet and clean wrapped in towels, skin soaked and shiny

#76 three little heads hiding under covers in the thunderstorm

#77 candles glowing warm and making home cozy

#78 story making eyes sleepy

#79 how a bedtime story can make any bad day seem good

#80 how when trying to ply a thank you out of Bella, she just looks at me wide-eyed, and says in an almost-whisper, “your eyes are big”.

#81 how I melt and forget about my adamant request, kiss her little rose lips

#82 how Lilly climbs like a little monkey up in a chair next to me and says “ooh-ooh” like a little monkey. Maybe she is a monkey. She knows how to get Mama’s attention and I love it.

#83 how Bella comes to me when i’m at the computer, and says “Mama, I wanna get in you lap and watch heppalump
(emphasis with a pop on the “p”)

#84 that she asks so sweet, that she wants to be held, because if not, i may forget to hold her

#85 unexpected gifts on such a normal, exhausting, base day

#86 joy on their faces and hearing their little excited voices

#87 Bella’s cute three year old lisp

#88 Ivy asking to take pictures with the camera while we read

#89 strap around her neck, camera in hand, making pretend she is a professional photographer, just like Mama

#90 posing with her book, already endeared to her because we share it together at night

#91 Lorna so tired from helping Mama and taking care of littles, laying her head and falling asleep on her pillow while sisters laugh giddy

#92 Christ’s body splayed out on that cross for me

#93 the blood that ran for me, and covers me, makes everything new

#94 how God is teaching me that His plans are grander than my plans

#95 that He is healing me, by helping me open my heart to His way

#96 this verse shared by husband: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107: 8,9

#97 that husband was gone so that i could learn to serve, and find joy even in the hard, pushing through the angst moments

i am joining in the counting a couple days late, as usual, but counting still. to join in the counting, and to connect with other mommies, grandmommies, and singles who are doing the same, slip on over to Ann’s site with this button:

It’s The Simple Things In Life That Make Us Happy

I want to bask in the sun, go for walks, watch little hands pick up leaves from hardened ground. I want to push the tire swing round and round, feel the breeze as little voices squeal with delight, be drawn into childhood by the smiling sun faces, and forget there is a thing such as worry, time that ticks, things that need doing.

I wrote this to a friend, and I was so weary-worn with life, and now that life has happened (as I’m learning it always does), again I’m reminded that He gives me all things I ask. Hasn’t He given me that? Hasn’t he answered prayers that fell silent on my lips, prayers my heart did not want to pray? Stubbornly stayed quiet and forgot how? Even forgot how to hope, forgot what faith was? Hasn’t my heart been cold and listless, angry like a child just wanting and demanding and screaming at the world, “Give me what I want”?

And here I am, after all of my stubborn silence and watered down faith, once again enjoying the breeze and freedom. just seeing her swing in the sky, smile the whole country wide, cornsilk hair flowing and she’s flying and this is the way of happiness because when she’s flying so am I. And this moment is teaching me the real secret, the real secret to divine happiness, divine grace, grace that dissolves my angry, weary, hopeless heart and lets the light in.

In my heart I know what I was before I was set free. Like a caged bird I was driven half mad by the constant time-ticking, assignments due, cranky, crying baby and toddler, shuffling papers, chiming ear-piercing sing-songs, college instructors expecting live online study sessions, demands of meals to be fixed, mountain of dirty laundry, spelling words to be called out, and “Mama I have no uniform for tomorrow”, “F” math paper that needs working on, fuzzy head that won’t think, heart that won’t melt because it must be strong, and chest that won’t stop hurting because it can’t take anymore, and I didn’t know which world I was apart of. How could I, with so many conflicting duties?

I know, and remember how I yelled at Bella, like an insane woman when she would rattle paper, or sing about the chu-chu-train coming when she would hear the whiste blowing. I had no joy at all; did not like hearing my children singing or chanting, talking, did but at the same time didnt want to be in the kitchen with my family, making supper, helping with math, and spelling words–I just wanted, needed to escape, like a prisoner worn with the years of nothingness and hoplessness of being behind bars. I was cracked and stressed, the chipped edges falling away like pieces of hard clay being pounded off the rim of smooth bowl with hammer.

Just simply giving a smile to my child, so that she didnt feel the hard blow of a mother always disapproving felt like trying to peel concrete off of the ground. And the pain of that was excruciating, because this was not who I wanted to be, and she deserves a smile of grace, especially after changing diapers, helping prepare supper, lighting candles for Daddy, and making home joyful with her innocent eyes, always seeking approval, and angel voice, so quiet and reverant.

Now i can smile happy when Bella rejoices with her sing-song voice, “chu chu train coming–chu chu train coming..” She chants over and over in her little obsessive three year old imaginative world, and I laugh softly to myself, knowing that these moments fade all too soon.

So i must give God glory for all of the things He is doing in my life, even the hard things, the very, very, hard things. I am learning, what is it?<a href="“>eucharisteo–the word with the hard meaning and the even harder meaning to live, as Ann Voskamp so beautifully and cleverly pens it.

So this is my prayer, that this simple life of grace would always be known by me, that I will not forget what I have learned. I ask only to delight in the simple things in life: hand-me-down sweaters, holey jeans, socks that need mending

wildflowers picked for Mama because Mama likes pretty things, a favorite worn-out t shirt, one pair of nice shoes that took all of Mama and Daddy’s savings

laundry folded and put neatly away (or laying in the open where everyone can grab away), finding a robin’s nest in a tree, saying hello to a caterpillar making his way across the sidewalk

love-games at the supper table, lazy summer afternoons swinging on the porch, simple birthday celebrations with family

reading a good novel with my girls in bed, a low luminous white moon, a cotton candy cloud sunset, playing, talking, reading, and painting with my children…having talks about Jesus…

hilarious fun…

and laughing just because my heart is light, it feels good, and i know that it is good for their heart too…

God, Let me always be thankful for the small things. Let me slow to see You in everything. This is how I am healed, how I am made whole.

#46 how Lilly toddles and follows Elvis around, and when she gets him, she holds tight like an obsessed sumo wrestler

#47 sisters helping each other climb and laughing as they miss the mark

#48 Ivy and Lorna holding Lilly’s hand and taking care of her so lovingly

#49 Lilly’s intrigued shreak when she sees Elvis

#50 yellow flowers crushed in her palm, giving to me because she hopes i’ll like them

#51 knowing that God has given me the grace to enjoy the simple things

#52 that i’m learning to live my one life well

#53 how Bella says, in her sweet soft voice, “Mama, you gotta get me down”.

#54 that she always calls me when she is in trouble or needs help

#55 sweet and wet and glowy baby smiles

#56 her cornsilk hair streaming in the wind

#57 Bella’s quietness and how she teaches me to just slow and still

#58 how this moment makes me realize all that i have to give

#59 that i have been given this opportunity to be free

#60 that i can live the moments that make up a life and not waste them; i dont have to let them slip right through

#61 i can hold these moments and treasure them, because God is holding me, and He has said it is holy

#62 that God has given me the grace to see this season as a time of hope for the future, and not a time of waste or loss or failure

#63 girls hanging from trees like monkeys

#65 tire swing going round and round, higher and higher, blinding sun the destination

#66 that the SON is my destination; i am only here for a moment, but a weary pilgrim passing through

#67 that Jesus is real, touchable, He was with His disciples (“then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples”–John 6:3)

#68 that eucharisteo always precedes the miracle–i am learning through this book–(“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted..”–John 6:11)–if you read further, Jesus retreats into a mountain alone–i dont think this was easy for him–it was hard thanks.

#69 this word, eucharisteo, meaning hard thanks, opens my eyes to how my life has had holes in it–places that are broken that need mending

#70 that God can mend all the brokenness with His grace, love, hope, and joy when i give the hard thanks. thanks always–even when its hard.

To share in the counting and connect with other women (mommies, grandmommies, and singles alike) who are doing the same, slip over to Ann Voskamp’s site with this button:

Letting Go Gracefully {and sometimes not so gracefully}

I am cold, hurting, sad and despondent and he says, “get dressed and come outside with me–it’s such a nice, warm day”. Something inside me jumps at the thought of being in the sunshine after so much grey cloudiness and rain in my life. It has been a long time coming–this spring rejuvenating joyousness!

As I throw my clothes on, not caring if my hair hasn’t been washed {i’m going to the sunlight}, girls all dressed and I step outside, this change is hard. Hard because my emotions don’t feel it. But I’ve been here before, and I know that the emotions are not always in sync with what my heart and soul {God’s Spirit speaking?} are saying is vital, purposeful, helpful, and joy-creating. Human emotions don’t so easily give way to the joy-creating and peace-creating moments. My emotions stand hard and stubborn as brick, and they are not easily destroyed and replaced with God’s love, gentleness, patience, and hope.

Hope is a funny thing….it’s like stepping outside to the sun’s blinding when I’ve been hibernating inside my comfort place, my isolation for too long. It all feels raw, open, it hurts and blinds and in the same breath feels like warmth to the soul, the soul slowly waking, and the Son telling me time to get up.

He turns on the radio, and says, “You ARE ready–wow! Let’s go!” And my heart is so easily led because it craves it and needs it. My heart craves, this heart that is only for him. And it is this that God is trying to show me–yes, my heart craves, and it is truly HIM that i crave, that my heart yearns to follow.

In the sunlight, always the blinding light, I am so thankful that He gives spring….and I see it. I see that the leaves, the brown, black and grey, the dead things must come for life to come forth. All of the wretched things, the things I hate the most, the things that seem so evil to me–cloudy days that offer no hope, rain that never gives any light or warmth, no life or beauty to be found, all of the loneliness and disappointment, the anguish, the desperate pleas for help, and the trudging through of the feet–all of these must be so that HOPE can come.

So that LIFE can push really hard, can push hard and long against the surface, so hard until it seems I will give way, and when I think that my weary heart and soul can take no more, there it is! Life to be felt, touched, all warmth and sun and the SON comes in strong, like a team of wild stallions beating back ocean waves, and He calms me with His steady hand, touches me, ME who doesn’t deserve anything, feeling like a silly child for asking, for reaching out, and He gently cradles me like summer sun, blinding the eyes and letting lids drift off asleep.

And then I see, I see the brown leaves, {so happy to be picking up those brown leaves, everyone pitching in, the warm sun our helper}, and I know what they have covered up this whole time–it has been life growing underneath.

In the front yard, where he is raking strong and ferocious, we meander and follow him, walking and looking, taking in beauty, holding hands, snapping our happy day in freeze-frames.

 Then it happens: I hear him say, “No, Bella, you know Mama doesn’t want you to do that”. It is always Mama that doesn’t want the children to run and frollick and make mischief, always Mama that has a hard time with letting go. And in an instant I see that Bella has plucked all my lovely daffodils from the front garden, the only sign of life in this deadness, the only beauty that I loved, and before I think, I say sternly, “NO, Bella!” and now her tiny shoulders droop, her joyous flower-possessing countenance falls, and straightaway, she is a mess, and so am I.

 I go to her, drawn like the pull of heartache, and kneel down beside her. I say, “It is okay, Bella. You can have Mama’s flowers”. And these words are hard for me to say, and they are pulled out like weeds stuck in the hard winter ground. I hurt, I am torn, and my anger dissolving, I know that I must let go. I know that this is good for me and for her. I hug her and keep saying it over and over, and of course, in Bella’s usual style, she has to punish me just a bit. She can’t move past it right away, and oh, she is MY child; she definitely came from my womb, this child that has it hard letting go.
And suddenly I realize that it is not I that is supposed to be teaching her in this moment, but it is she that is teaching me, and she is teaching me well.
 I am a broken Mama, throwing myself against the stubborness of this child, and breaking over and over and over. God knows that this is what this sinful, hard heart of mine needs. 

WHY is my first reaction to sternly correct and break littles’ spirits? Couldn’t I, being fully aware of her possessing my prize, just have let my laugh carry on the wind, reach her with a warm enveloping smile and let her know that I will always, always give her what is mine?

I will never, ever forbid her to come close and I will always, only embrace her fully, mistakes and all.

Isn’t this what the Father has done for me? Yes, He gave it all.

I want to shed this cloak of doubt and fear and despondency and turn face full to the sun, grab my child’s hand and show her that things here don’t matter.

I want to run over and wildly pluck a flower, tuck it behind her ear and whisper it on the gentle spring breeze, “You are free to love, child, free as your Father in Heaven has loved you and made you free.”

I imagine she turns to me, smiles, her eyes alight, and she looks up at me like maybe I’m God and it just makes me want to always, only walk towards that narrow gate.

I take her hand and lead her there.

#22 green life pushing up under all that deadness
#23 knowing that this is God’s plan for me too
#24 joy in the realization that spring always comes, even in the winter of my heart
#25 bright sun warming my weary soul
#26 children so cute, sunhats on
#27 family helping as a unit and it can always be this way if we learn
#28 Bella’s small hands and his large gloved hand
#29 two curious heads, pawing and digging at the ground in hopes of finding some roly poly or other sort of lone stragler.
#30 Ivy’s cheery face as she picks up leaves and how she smiles as soon as she sees me watching
#31 Even little Bella helping, and how she heaves strong the sticks that are bigger than her
#32 Lorna convincing him to let her ride, so easily made happy 
#33 that God gave me sweet faces to take pictures of
#34 all of this glorious sunshine
#35 Bella’s sweet little hand in mine and the silky-soft feel of it 
#36 her blinded by the sun and cannot open her eyes, even for a picture
#37feeling the strength in my arms as i work, thankful for the arms to do it with
#38 the beauty and smell of freshly raked grass, moss, and acorns

#39 brown leaves, just the brown leaves, all in a heap

#40 that he came and took over for me when i was getting tired and irritable–such comfort in that
#41 Bella picking my flowers and teaching me more love-lessons
#42 beautiful daffodils and chubby fingers
#43 a safe place out of the blinding sun and potting her stolen daffodils just like Mama does it
#44 child-like wonder at tiny round pebbles
#45 knowing that for all of my kicking, pounding on chest, and yelling, that i can only find rest when i just let it all go  and lay in HIS arms

To jump into letting go, and connect with other women who are doing the same, slip over to Ann’s site with this button –or just click on this link:

Just a tiny correction…but a heavy effect

This started out just as a simple correction, and turned into something else, taking on a life of it’s own, but that is sort of how it is with us scatterbrained writers.
***I want to clarify something that I wrote on my last blog. Whenever I say that something or someone changed me, I always recognize that it (or they) is only a vessel or source that God uses! I do get excited and forget to say that sometimes. A dear friend sent an email today, and asked me to read John Piper’s blog. It reminded me of the importance of God’s Word (something that I can never get very far away from–He is always pulling me back). So I wanted to make sure that, in my excitement and determined focus to be well, that I am not forgetting, even for one moment, the Creator who made me, and who is also my Healer, my portion. And any glory for changing this depraved heart of mine must go to Him! I do believe that He uses people in our lives and that is vital to our survival. In the midst of wailing children, sticky gum on the floor, poo accidents– the wake destruction of which Mama spends an hour cleaning, folded clothes all spilled in the floor, neverending assignments, errands, and requests, hopelessly sleepless nights frought with worry, the forcing to cope with stress and failing miserably, the daily attempt to give my children grace, and failing even more miserably, desperately trying to steal a quiet while to blog, write, and gather my senses–in the midst of all of that, it is easy to get wrapped up in just trying to be well, just trying to survive, and forget the One who is the author of it all. I so quickly overlook His healing hand in my life…the one who loves me more than anyone could fathom, and can change all this for me, into something joyous…that One, the only One is my Jesus and He is my portion, my Healer, my friend, and He holds this messy heart of mine and transforms it into beauty.

And this is what makes life worth living….

March 14, 2011–The first post on my new blog, a delayed post–I wanted to start off where I started counting, and capturing moments with my camera. This is all about counting the ways He loves…it all started with Ann Voskamp’s website and her book, “One Thousand Gifts”, and she inspired me to start this blog, and to start writing again. Because of her, and her book, my life has been changed forever.  The first of these changes was the “love bouquet” that we made on Valentine’s Day. It was an idea that I got from a posting on Ann’s site, so I want to give credit for that. We SO enjoyed doing this together–it made for a delightful Valentine’s Day!
And this is what makes life worth living….
Counting the ways He loves, counting every grace filled moment. And I thank God for this book, because it has jolted me awake. I was no use to anyone asleep. Now, now I am alive to the moments.
I have learned that moments are all we have.

When I lie awake in the night, body warm, heart beating fast and acutely, suddenly realizing that I have wasted moments, moments I can’t get back–I take comfort knowing I can start fresh on a clean slate.

Like chalkboard washed shiny, and each moment is waiting for me, completely made new.
#1 treasure of a book, i have found
#2 how he arranges the bears, cards and flowers for all his girls
#3 how he said i have all of him
#4 black, white, & pink acrylics, paint brushes, two shoeboxes
#5 how Bella says in her angel voice, “it my valuntine day”
#6 how a big sister stays up late painting boxes that will hold gifts
#7after i’ve blurted out so many words, how he takes my hand and says “im holding it now”
#8 the feeling of knowing i’ve comforted my hurting little one in the night 
#9 how that we didnt wake him and he rested
#10 knowing this is true love’s sacrifice
#11 satisfaction in serving
#12 how Ivy comes to me and says “Mama, im so happy you got pregnant with Lilly because i love her!”
#13 him whipping into the parking lot of my favorite restaurant on a whim
#14 sharing a good meal, wine, and laughter together
#15 after all these years and all these tears, he is the only one for me
#16 how he makes my heart skip wildly, makes my eyes get wet
#17 Lilly, toddling unsteadlily on polished pine, her tiny voice like music
#18 Ivy’s startling little fairy voice, “Mama, look!”, and curious little floating specks in rays of light
#19 Lorna whispers in his ear, “get dressed, go to the store, get the candy for the bags and then Mama wont be upset”
#20 he helps her arrange cookies in heart outlined bags
#21 knowing that when i wake in the morning after giving sleep over to words, numbers, books, and sick children–His grace will be there for the drinking…..

to drink in more grace, or just to get more of an understanding of what inspired me so, and what changed my life forever…go to this site…it is simply amazing, and a breath of fresh air……. or just click the button at the bottom of the page: